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A Brief History of Israel and the Middle East and Why Muslims Hate Israel and the West

Map 1

Both Jews and Muslims trace their lineage to Abraham—Jews, through Isaac; Arabs, through Ishmael. Genesis 15:17—The LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants, I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates.” The Euphrates runs through current-day Iraq from northwest to southeast into the Persian Gulf, and the Nile runs south to north through Egypt. That land included the present-day Sinai Peninsula, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq.

As Abram and his wife Sarai aged without children, Sarai offered her maid, Hagar, to Abram as a concubine so he could have offspring through her. Hagar became pregnant and gave birth to Ishmael. God told her that his descendants would be too numerous to count. He also added that He will be a wild ass of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand will be against him (Genesis 16:12 RSV). Because of Abram’s impatience with and lack of faith in God, God changed the covenant with him. God told Abram that his name would be changed to Abraham, and Sarai’s name would be changed to Sarah (Genesis 17:1–8). The original promise was to be fulfilled through Isaac (Genesis 21:12), but now Isaac’s descendants would receive only Canaan (the land listed as Israel/Palestine on the map), and the rest of the land would go to other descendants of Abraham--Ishmael, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Suah (Genesis 25:1–4). Today the Jewish people claim only the ancient land of Canaan, and only a little over half of that.

Ishmael settled in the northern Sinai Peninsula between Canaan and Egypt and had twelve sons, and they lived in hostility toward all their brothers (Genesis 25:13–18 NIV). Other descendants of Abraham settled in and around the Sinai Peninsula, north to the east of the Dead Sea (western Jordan today) and southeast into Arabia. Therefore, they became the Arabs.

The Jewish people descended from Abraham through Isaac and then Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. His descendants became a nation about 1250 BC and crowned their first king sometime around 1050 B.C. Internal struggles caused the nation to split in about 960 B.C. Both kingdoms were disobedient to God, and both kingdoms were destroyed; Israel in 722 BC at the hands of Assyria, Judah in 587 BC at the hands of the Babylonian Empire. God restored Judah, but not Israel; however, Judah was never an independent nation again. Judah was under the Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires. Judah fell into such disobedience that they rejected the Messiah and crucified Him. In 70 AD, the temple was destroyed by the Romans, and the Jewish people scattered into Egypt, Arabia, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and Europe.

• 132 A.D.—The Roman Emperor Hadrian, to eradicate any trace of the Jews, changed the name of Israel to Palaestina for the ancient Philistines (Philistia, in Arabic; Palestine, in English). It is still called Palestine today by most of the world. More Jews left Judea and settled in other parts of the world. The people who remained were called Palestinians, and the people who live there today, except for Jews, are still called Palestinians.

• 610 A.D.—Muhammad founded Islam. Following the death of Muhammad in 632, Islam split into two factions--Sunnis and Shiites, and there is still dissension between the two branches to this day. Christianity was being spread by missionaries teaching the love of God and demonstrated through Jesus Christ; Islam began to spread by violence. In 638 A.D., Muslims overran Palestine, and in 688, they began to build the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and it was completed in 692. Islam also spread across northern Africa and then across the Strait of Gibraltar into the Iberian Peninsula (Spain today). It was 1492 before the Muslims were completely expelled from Spain.

• 1095–1291—The Crusades were financed by the Roman Catholic Church in an attempt to drive Muslims from the land of Israel. The Crusades were a colossal failure because Christianity cannot ever be spread through violence.

• Mid-1500s–1914—The Ottoman Empire controlled Palestine, the Fertile Crescent, northern Africa, and both sides of the Red Sea.

• Late 1800—The Zionist movement began, and Jews from Europe and the United States began returning to Palestine in hopes of reestablishing the nation of Israel in their ancient homeland and building the third temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

• 1917—The Allied Forces defeated the Prussian and Ottoman Empires in WWI and took control of both empires. The League of Nations (forerunner of the United Nations) gave the land back to the native peoples. The Turks received Asia Minor (Turkey); the Fertile Crescent was divided into Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. Palestine was separated into Cisjordan (west of the Jordan River) and Transjordan (east of the Jordan) under British authority. 1800s, and after 1917, the migrations increased.

Iraq was formed under British authority and was given independence in 1932.

Syria was formed under French authority. Lebanon was separated from Syria in 1926 and was given independence in 1943. Syria was given independence in 1946.

Israel was to receive Cisjordan, the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Israel declared independence in 1948, but only 56% of Cisjordan was to be Israel, and 44% would make up a Palestinian state. The Palestinian portion would be the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and West Bank which included most of Jerusalem.

Transjordan became Jordan during the 1950s.

Map 2

The League of Nations wanted to help all the people who had been under the domination of the Ottoman Empire to reestablish independence, and in the process, they wanted to help the Jewish people re-establish their ancient homeland with the provision that all Arabs in the state be free to live in peace and to practice their religion. Israel received less the 1% of the land mass of the Near and Middle East, an area that has no oil. Radical Muslims and anti-Semitics are still not satisfied because they want the complete annihilation of Israel and Judaism. The phrase “from the river to the sea” is a call for Palestinians to possess all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which would leave the Jewish people nothing. It is also a call for the eradication of Jews everywhere.

Within days of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, armies from Egypt, Trans-Jordan, Iraq, and Syria marched against Israel. Fighting went on intermittently until July 1949. A peace treaty was signed, but Muslim states rejected it.

1956—Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran from the Gulf of Aqaba into the Red Sea to all Israeli ships. Israel has a major seaport at Elat at the north end of the Gulf of Aqaba. Israel invaded Egypt and forced them to reopen the Straits.

1967—Six-Day War: Egypt again announced the closing of the Straits of Tiran and moved forces into defensive positions along the border while Syria aligned forces to the north and Jordan to the east. On June 5 Israeli fighter jets flew into Egypt and destroyed the bulk of Egypt’s air force, and Israeli ground forces moved into the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank occupying all those areas. By June 8, Egypt and Jordan agreed to a cease-fire, followed by Syria on June 9. Israel eventually returned the occupied areas through a series of peace treaties, but terrorists still call Israel “occupiers.”

The PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) was formed in 1964 in opposition to Israel, and in 1969 Yasser Arafat became chairman. In 1970, the PLO attacked a school bus in Israel, killing nine children and three adults and wounding 19. In 1972, they attacked Israeli athletes at the Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. They killed six coaches, five athletes, and 1 German police officer. Five PLO members were killed, and two escaped. In 1974 the PLO attacked a school in Israel killing 26 children and adults and wounding over 70. They have also hijacked airplanes, attacked hotels, and committed other massacres of men, women, and children.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shiite terrorist group founded in 1982. They receive support from Syria and Iran. Their goal is the annihilation of Israel and Judaism. They have made many attacks on Israel from Southern Lebanon.

Hamas, the "Islamic Resistance Movement," is a Sunni terrorist group founded in 1987 with the destruction of the state of Israel as its goal. An early statement called for “jihad against the Zionist enemy everywhere, in all fronts and by every means” (Slater, Jerome. Mythologies Without End: The US, Israel, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1917–2020, Oxford University Press 2020, p. 280). “Intifada” is an Arab word meaning uprising, and Hamas has used it in reference to skirmishes in 1989–93, 2008–09, 2012, 2014, and 2021. They started out abducting and murdering Israeli military personnel and police officers, but they have expanded into bombing civilian buses and individuals including children and Palestinians they deem as collaborators with Israel. Israel has responded to all attacks against Israelis, and Hamas has accused Israel of the atrocities that Hamas carries out. There have been clashes between Hamas and Israelis since their founding, and each side blames the other. There have also been many attempts to bring peace to the region, but each peace accord has been broken.

Most recently, Hamas attacked Israeli citizens on October 7, 2023, killing over 1400 and capturing over 200 people to use as human shields and bargaining chips. They beheaded babies in front of their parents to inflict the greatest emotional pain before killing the parents, and they murdered parents in front of their small children to permanently traumatize the children. They have raped, tortured, and murdered some of the female hostages. Some hostages have been released in three-for-one exchanges for Palestinian criminals held in Israeli jails. Some of the released hostages have told of the conditions.

Some members of the United States Congress as well as some students and professors in elite universities across the United States support Hamas with all their atrocities and call for the rape of Israeli women and murder of all Jews! How can presidents of elite universities respond, “It depends on the circumstances” when asked by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik if calling for the genocide of Jews was against the code of conduct for their universities!? Are these universities failing to teach the history of what happened in the United States on September 11, 2001, when Islamic terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia?

Israel is not intent on destroying Palestinians, but when faced with constant harassment and violence, many Jews have become quite militant. Hamas fires rockets, artillery, and mortars from civilian neighborhoods and near schools, hospitals, and even mosques. They know Israel does not deliberately strike these locations, and if a round accidentally hits one of these places, the terrorists and their supporters will accuse Israel of war crimes.

Most Muslims, especially Sunnis, and most Jews are ordinary people like all of us. They have their own culture, religion, and way of life, and just want to live their lives in peace. They are not filled with hate, and most of these people are appalled at the actions of the radicals. Radical Muslims, both Shiites and Sunnis, want to force their religion and their way of life on everyone, and they are ready to kill to enforce their creeds. Many terrorist groups have sprung up from the radicals bent on the annihilation of Israel. Among these groups are the Houthis who operate out of Yemen and Islamic Jihad which is operating in Gaza and supporting Hamas. Many of these terrorist groups hate the United States, Great Britain, and France because these countries were instrumental in helping Israel become a nation and for their continued support for Israel.

Jihad is an Arabic term meaning struggle. To moderate Muslims, it means the internal struggle against sin very similar to Paul’s call to put on the full armor of God. However, to radical Muslims, it means to kill the enemies of Allah, especially Jews, Christians, and Westerners, but also other Muslims who disagree with their view of Islam.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He taught three basic principles for life: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; Love your neighbor as yourself; and treat other people the way you want to be treated. If everyone would live by these principles, we would have peace on earth and goodwill among all people.

—By Harry Grubbs

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