Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Two Leaders Speak Out - Which One Will Be Heard?

Two world leaders spoke this past week on the topic of the Middle East. While one leader introduced a new formula for obtaining peace in that region, the other spoke with realism. Last Thursday, May 19, President Obama gave a policy speech on the Middle East while visiting the State Department. Instead of stating, as others have in the past, that the borders for two states in the region would be based upon negotiation, President Obama declared that the pre-Six Day War of 1967 should be the starting point. The leaders of Hamas were quick to go even further, stating, in an article in one of today's Jerusalem papers, that they wanted to go back to the lines drawn up by the United Nations in 1947. Funny, though, as in 1947 the Arab world rejected those borders outright. The pre-armistice borders of 1949 would shrink Israel even more.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his speech before a joint session of Congress this past Tuesday, reiterated that the Pre-67 borders are not negotiable as they would create an indefensible border for Israel. He recalled that in 1967 then Prime Minister Abba Eban had called those borders the "Auschwitz borders" because no one could defend them; they would be the target of constant attack.

President Obama, in a speech before the AIPAC convention in Washington on Sunday evening, somewhat backtracked on his statement at the State Department. Now he indicated that Israel might include some "land swaps" to include major Jewish centers now in the West Bank. You remember playing the "swap game" as kids: I'll swap you my red marble for two of your green ones. That might work in marbles, but hardly in the Middle East. One problem is who will make the determination of value. What will I have to trade to get a Hebron? How much land will I have to give up to keep Jerusalem as a whole entity? I would not want some United Nations committee making those decisions, and I am sure that Israel would not want that either.

Prime Minister Netanyahu clarified the Middle East when he stated: "Israel is not what is wrong in the Middle East; it is what is right." Israel is not the cause of the problems; really it is the solution to the problems. The freedoms that many in the Arab world are seeking, Israeli-Arabs have enjoyed for decades. Instead of looking at Israel as being the villain, we need to look at Israel as being the lifeline.

Two men with two ideas for resolving one of the most troubled areas in the world. One spoke with an idealism that has been found wanting in the past; the other spoke with a realism that has been ignored in the past. Time will tell as to whose viewpoint will prevail, but I know whose I am hoping will rise to the top.

Just a quick word about Harold Camping and his failed prophecy of the world coming to an end on May 21 at 6:00 p.m. Obviously that did not happen. Now he has gone on record as stating that he missed the mark by five months - the new date is October 21. Friends, if we lived in Old Testament times, Mr. Camping would now be buried beneath a pile of stones with this marker placed upon it: "A False Prophet Gains His Own Reward." Jesus told His disciples that no one - and that includes Mr. Camping - knows the day or the hour of His return. So, don't count days; just be ready when the trumpet sounds.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Revisionist History and Truth in the Middle East

On Tuesday, in an Op-Ed piece for the "New York Times", Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas outlined not only his plans of the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State but also described the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To be brutally honest, his view of the history of the conflict is certainly seen through the eyes of a revisionist. Abbas made this statement, "The last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, the Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued."

Let's examine that statement. First, Chairman Abbas is correct when he states that the last time the United Nations General Assembly considered the question of the Middle East - the actual vote came on November 29, 1947 - the land was partitioned into two states: one Arab and one Jewish. But that is the only truth in his statement. When, on May 14, 1948, Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared that Israel was a new sovereign nation born within the partitions agreed by the UN General Assembly, war was declared by five neighboring Arab states on May 15. The Arab world rejected the two state solution in 1948 just as they had in 1936 when the British Foreign Secretary Lord Robert Peel made his report outlining a two state solution to end the hostilities between the Jews and Arabs. Israel did not declare war in 1948; they were forced into defending that portion of land which had been granted to them by the United Nations. It was not the Jews who left, but the Arabs who left their homes behind, not because of war, but because of the urging of their leadership that the war would soon be over and to the victor would go the spoils - of course, they felt they would be the victors.

Now the Palestinian leader wants the United Nations in September to declare unilaterally that a Palestinian state exists within the borders of the 1948 ceasefire agreement. Furthermore, he wants the United Nations to agree that the descendants of those Arabs who fled their homes in 1948 be given the right to return - a number conservatively estimated to be around six million Arabs. Of course he has already gone on record as saying that not one single Jew will be found in the new Palestinian state.

On Thursday, President Obama gives a major speech on the Middle East, outlining his strategy for the creation of two states. My guess is that it will be the same old worn out ideas. Then on Friday he will be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House. One can only hope that this meeting will go better than previous ones have.

Meanwhile Hamas and Fatah leaders continue their work in Cairo hammering out the details of their newly created unity government. According to reports, Fatah leaders have agreed with the principles of Hamas, namely that Israel must be destroyed. The Hamas charter puts its this way: "The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. Peace initiatives, so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement." so much for peace.

May I recommend an excellent resource if you would like to read a very well written and yet unbiased report of the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The book is titled, "War without End" and was written by Anton La Guardia. I think you will find it a most helpful read. Or, if you are more into historical fiction, I would recommend the "Zion Chronicles" series by Bodie Thoene. Makes for some great summer reading.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Birthday and a Threat

I want to begin by wishing my friends in Israel a very happy 63rd Independence Day celebration. On the Jewish calendar, the day for celebration was yesterday; on our calendar, it is this coming Saturday, May 14. It was on that date in 1948 that David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, officially declared that Israel was a free and independent nation and the Israeli flag - the Star of David - flew over Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. You will then remember that five Arab nations - Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia - declared war against the newly created nation. But, through a series of miracles, the nation of Israel survived and has now grown to one of the most powerful nations on the earth. So, happy 63rd Birthday, Israel. May God bless you with many more.

It has been a while since we have touched base with what is happening in Egypt since the overthrowing of President Mubarak last January. Our media has been quick to assert that the forces of democracy have been victorious and a new Egypt will arise out of the failed and corrupt policies of its now deposed president. But, is that the real story? Let's take a look inside Egypt.

First, the persecution of the Coptic Christians in Egypt has escalated tremendously since the demise of Mubarak. Churches have been burned; Egyptian Christians have been murdered or severely beaten. The Coptic Christians, who comprise 10% of the Egyptian population have now become the main target of those who want Egypt to become an Islamic state rather than continue as a secular state. Democracy - certainly not according to Western definitions.

Second, the Pew Research Center conducted a recent poll among a thousand Egyptians in April. These were face-to-face interviews. 89% of those interviewed said that the new Egyptian government "should follow the values and principles of Islam." 62% want laws to enforce Shariah Law. 84% favored the death penalty for people who abdicate their Muslim faith; 82% support the stoning of adulterers; and 77% believe that thieves should be punished by having their hands cut off. Democracy - not sure I would want to live there.

Third, again the Pew Research Center poll discovered that nearly 8 in 10 Egyptians still hate the United States. 54% of those polled said that the new Egyptian government should nullify the treaty of 1979 that Egypt made with Israel; only 36% spoke in favor of retaining the treaty. Democracy - doesn't sound that way to me.

Here is the problem Western leaders and media personnel have with the Middle East. We have this idea that those who oppose a government that has been in power for decades are fighting for democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. They simply want to replace one autocratic leader with one of their choosing. In the case of Egypt, the new leadership will be strongly influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, who, in spite of the acclaim given to it by our White House and State Department, is committed to the destruction of Israel. The new Egyptian government will be strongly anti-American and anti-Israel. People will lose even those freedoms that they now enjoy. You might remember that back in January I related what would happen with these rushes toward democracy. The evidence gathered by the Pew Research Center poll bears out the validity of that argument.

How we need to remember in prayer the persecuted Church in Egypt. We need to pray for God's strength to be supplied to them. And then we need to pray that the eyes of our leaders might be opened to truly see what is happening in the nations of the Middle East today. It is not democracy they are seeking but the destruction of Israel.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An Agreement That Could Change the World

Today an event is happening that many around the world will never learn about. Yet it is an event that has the potential of literally changing the face of the Middle East. No, I am not talking about the continued vicious attacks and counter-attacks in Syria and whether President Bashir Assad will retain his power. No, it is not about the potential for a trial for former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek. No, it is not about the escalating violence in Libya as Moammar Qaddafi clings to his power. This event is happening today in Cairo, Egypt. It is the signing of an agreement between the Palestinian Authority (Fatah- the party of Yasir Arafat) and Hamas.

A little background and history. In 2006, in elections held in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, (at the insistence of the American government, I might add) Hamas was clearly the winner. Because they have as one of their strong commitments the destruction of Israel, immediately the American government ruled the elections void. Hamas retreated to the Gaza Strip and there in 2007 forcefully took command of the Strip. Since 2007 the Gaza Strip has become a haven for terrorists, especially those against Israel.

One Israel support group, known as Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI), wrote, "Mahmoud Abbas, our supposed 'peace' partner, has now joined forces with Hamas, the acknowledged terrorist group. This is actually a declaration of war against the State of Israel since Hamas has never disguised its intentions of destroying Israel." Former President Jimmy Carter stated, as reported by his Carter Center, "Based on my years of contacts with Fatah and Hamas, I am confident that, if handled creatively and flexibly by the international community, Hamas' return to unified Palestinian governance can increase the likelihood of a two-state solution and a peaceful outcome." But, is that their intent? Absolutely not!

The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip is one of a handful of Arab countries that actually mourned the death of Osama bin Laden. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said, "We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs."

Elections will be held next year in those areas controlled by the Palestinians. Let's just suppose that Hamas wins the majority of the vote - which, by the way, is probably what will happen, at least that is what many political scholars are thinking. Hamas wins. They begin to transport their brand of terrorism, sponsored by the Iranians, to the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Now there will not any place within Israel that will escape the possibilities of a rocket attack.

How will Israel respond? Their very security is at stake. A pre-emptive strike against Ramallah and Gaza City might seem like logical options. Could it be the shot that ignites the Psalm 83 War? Quite possibly. At least it might coalesce the now hotly divided Arab world around the cry of the destruction of Israel.

Nightly News with Brian Williams and the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric will probably not feature a story on this historic meeting in Cairo today. And, tomorrow you will have to search into the bowels of your newspaper to find its story, if it is there at all. But, friends, this agreement has all the potential of changing the face of the Middle East.