From the Sea to the River, Israel is Forever!

Since October 7, the motto "From the River to the Sea Palestine Shall be Free" has been heard on US university campuses, the streets of America and beyond, and all over the internet. Most people think that this is a call for justice in "Palestine." Our younger generation thinks that chanting that motto is a great move for social justice. To be fair, there are quite a few of our young people chanting, who could not identify which river or which sea, not to mention trying to locate Israel on a world map. But let's focus on those who know exactly what they are saying.

The statement describes the land mass between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which can only describe Israel. So, for Palestine to be free, Israel has to be gone...No more Jews. There is no other way to understand that statement. This is not an invitation to a two-state solution or anything else. It is a cry for the annihilation of Israel, period. In other words, this is a euphemism for genocide!

Most people today have the wrong understanding of the terms Israel and Palestine, and this leads to much confusion and allegiance to the wrong group of people based on a false narrative. The first thing to understand is that biblically speaking, Israel can mean the Jewish people or the Land of Israel. When referring to the geographical boundaries of a piece of land given by God to Abraham and his descendants, it is called by many names, including “Israel,” “Land of Promise,” "The Land," “Canaan,” “the United Kingdom,” and “the Divided Kingdom.”

The same Abrahamic Covenant from which we draw the definition of a Jew also tells us that God has promised land to the Jewish people with some very detailed boundaries. In Genesis 12:7, God is brief and to the point: "The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants, I will give this land.” He repeats that promise in Genesis 13:15 and gives the details in Genesis 15:18-21: "On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”

Since the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional AND eternal, that promise remains intact. Following the biblical boundaries of Genesis 15, it is clear that Israel’s biblical makeup has yet to be fulfilled. The current borders based on 1948, 1967, or any other “agreements” come nowhere near God’s promised real estate boundaries found in the Bible. Based on these biblical facts, I disagree with the term “Occupied Territories” and prefer to call them the “Disputed Territories.” Israel today is about the size of New Jersey, and when its full borders are fulfilled in the Messianic kingdom, it will be as large as twice the state of Texas, and you are not an "occupier" or "colonizer" if the land was given to you in the first place.

Biblically speaking, Israel is also the name given to Jacob after he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord at Bethel; and, incidentally, this passage in Genesis 35:9-12, is another place where God re-confirms His promise of a Jewish people and their own land: "Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; You shall no longer be called Jacob, But Israel shall be your name.” Thus He called him Israel. God also said to him, “I am God Almighty; Be fruitful and multiply; A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, And kings shall come forth from you. “The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, And I will give the land to your descendants after you." (The same promise is also reflected in Genesis 32:28, 1 Kings 18:31 and 2 Kings 17:34.)

Since its modern rebirth as a State, Israel as a piece of land has become a bone of contention for the whole world. The modern Palestinian people, in particular, claim historical ownership of that land, reaching back before the Jewish people. It is currently claimed that the Palestinian people ARE an ethnic group, something that is no longer disputed by the vast majority of the world, but is it true? Is it based on facts or fiction? Further investigation is needed to establish the meaning of the word “Palestine” and to assess the validity of such a claim.

To better understand the true meaning of Palestine, we must go back in history quite a bit earlier than the mid-1960s. While the exact origin of the name Palestine is still debated, there are aspects of the word’s meaning that we can surely know. It possibly once described a people group known as the Philistines, but that people group was in no way connected to the current era Palestinians – not ethnically, not linguistically, not historically, and not culturally. In A.D. 132, a Jewish revolt took place against the Romans. It was known as the Bar Kochba revolt (Bar Kochba was a false messiah in Israel at the time ). Things didn't end well for the Jewish people, and in addition to a bloodbath of gigantic proportions, Israel was renamed Palaestina by the Romans. The rebranding of the Land with the name of their enemies, the Philistines, was an effort to undermine Jewish history and humiliate the Jewish people further. Additionally, at the time, Jerusalem was also renamed Aelia Capitolina by Emperor Hadrian. The name Palestine stuck and continued to be used after that time. It is nowhere in the Bible except for the maps section at the end of each Bible, but, of course, these are not inspired.

When the British were in control from 1922 to 1948, the area was governed under what was known as the British Mandate Palestine. In the original text of the Mandate itself, dated 1922, we can read: "Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country."

Let's look at article 4 of that Mandate. We also find two words in the same passage that any modern-day Palestinian would be hard-pressed to associate in a positive light: Palestinian and Zionist. Yet, in the context of the original Mandate, it was to the current leaders of the Zionist movement that the administration and government of Palestine were entrusted, as we can read: "An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognized as a public body for the purpose of advising and co­operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration to assist and take part in the development of the country. The Zionist organization, so long as its organization and constitution are in the opinion of the Mandatory appropriate, shall be recognized as such agency. It shall take steps in consultation with His Britannic Majesty’s Government to secure the co­operation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home."

So, until the early 1960s, Palestine was always synonymous with Israel, the Jewish State. Arabs in neighboring countries never called themselves Palestinians but rather Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Egyptians, etc. Most Arabs in the early 1900s would have argued that Palestinian Arabs were simply Syrians, as Mitchell Bard documents in his well-researched book Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict. He writes: "Prior to partition, Palestinian Arabs did not view themselves as having a separate identity. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, the following resolution was adopted: We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds."

While God uses different names for the Land of Israel, it is never called Palestine even once. In fact, even the Qur’an (Sura Maida 5:21-22) mentions the “Holy Land” in the context of Moses and the spies preparing to enter the Land of Canaan; but never does it call it Palestine. Jerusalem isn’t even mentioned by name in the Qur’an.

Today, nobody questions the etymology of the word "Palestine," and that is a shame. What is really sad is that the Arab refugees who were forced by their own countries to remain in Israel post-1948 ended up having children who then had children. These innocent subsequent generations have been labeled Palestinians for political gain. They are real people who deserve a real home and a decent life. Backtracking to pre-1948 "Palestine" would connect them all with one or another of the neighboring Arab countries, but that doesn't serve the world's current agenda of Israeli occupation, colonization and ethnic cleansing, does it?

From God's perspective, Israel is eternal and given to the Jewish people by divine decree. This never implies that "Palestinians" are lesser people, but simply that they are not the natives of that land. So, to be fair, instead of chanting, "From the River to the Sea, Palestine shall be free," we ought to affirm, "From the Sea to the River, Israel is FOREVER!"

The Six Dangers of Christian Palestinianism

There has been a shift in Christian theology as it pertains to the Church’s relationship with Israel and/or Palestinian Christians. Loyalties once rooted in biblical principles are quickly changing. For followers of Yeshua (Jesus), it should not be much of a struggle to recognize Israel’s right to exist as well as the desperate need of the Jewish people for their Messiah.

Nevertheless, there is a real crisis facing Evangelicals today. A growing number of Bible believers appear to have made it their personal duty to act as theological referees between Jews and Palestinians. One of the key words heard over and over is “reconciliation,” and it often punctuates the various programs and projects aimed at bringing both Jews and Palestinians to Yeshua. It seems to be the ultimate goal of Evangelicals involved in such programs. But is it really? For any reconciliation to work, it must be a two-way street. Reconciliation needs to include forgiveness, mutual acceptance and a desire to press on together towards a common goal. The new trend in question is known as Christian Palestinianism.

Christian Palestinianism is a new way to look at the Middle East. It is almost like a new worldview. It has ramifications politically, historically geographically, archeologically, culturally and even spiritually. In his book For Zion’s Sake, Dr. Paul Wilkinson defines Christian Palestinianism by opposing it to Christian Zionism. He writes: “Christian Palestinianism is an inverted mirror image of Christian Zionism. All the basic elements of a Christian Zionist eschatology are reversed, so that the Bible is seen to be Christian, not Jewish, the land of the Bible is Palestine not Israel, the son of God is a Palestinian not a Jew, the Holocaust is resented not remembered, 1948 is a catastrophe not a miracle, the Jewish people are illegal occupiers not rightful owners, and biblical prophecy is a moral manifesto and not a signpost to the Second Coming.”[1]

I believe that Christian Palestinianism is a distorted view of God’s Word hiding a political agenda behind a reformed theology, resulting in a presentation of Christian Zionism as heretical. The Bible is slowly getting “de-judaized,” paving the way for Islam’s influence to overtake Judeo/ Christian history. This shift from Israel to Palestine in the Christian psyche really is a slap in God’s face and a grave altering of His Word. Postmodernism’s thirst for social justice and tolerance has positioned many Evangelicals on the other side of the spectrum from Christian Zionism to Christian Palestinianism. It could be argued that Christian Palestinianism is Replacement Theology amplified. It presents six dangers as follows:

• A Distortion of God’s Word
The promise of Genesis 12:1-3, made by God to Abraham and the Jewish people, still stands. The land boundaries of Genesis 15:18-20 have never changed and have yet to be fully fulfilled:“To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”

Why is it that almost nobody questions the historical and biblical revisionism of people like Stephen Sizer, Naim Ateek, Elias Chacour and the likes? We are seeing 21st century Christians blinded by reports of occupation and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians completely turn their back on Israel. But even more than changing one’s interpretation of the Bible, we also witness rejection of the inspired Word of God.

• A Rejection of God’s Word
Christian Palestinianist Naim Ateek recently wrote in Sabeel’s newsletter Cornerstone: “The lesson is clear for me: whatever does not agree with the hermeneutic of God’s love for all people has no authority for us and must not be read even if it is written in the Bible…Jesus had a hermeneutic of God’s love for all people and Isaiah’s words did not comply with that criterion.” [2]

This desire to ignore and even reject Scripture from the Tenach simply because it appears to be in conflict with later teachings of Yeshua is strangely reminiscent of Islam’s “Law of Abrogation,” when Qur’anic verses can be annulled, when historically superseded by contradicting ones. Such an approach to God’s Word is inherently wrong, yet many Evangelicals take their lead from people like Naim Ateek on what they perceive to be a valid biblical approach to the Middle East crisis.

Biblical illiteracy is running rampant within the Evangelical Church, and it creates a very shaky foundation upon which historical revisionism can be built with very little challenge, if any. Christian Palestinianists excel at biblical revisionism. They will go as far as painting Yeshua as the first Palestinian. This far-fetched revisionist approach to Yeshua’s origins has been heavily promoted by the Palestinian Authority. [3]

In both cases of distortion and rejection of God’s Word, the authority of the Bible is put in question. The God of the Bible, who is the God of Israel, as well as the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, is made into a different god. This allows for the insertion of a revised agenda favoring the Palestinian people at the expense of Israel and the Jewish people.

The concept of Eretz Yisrael being the Palestinian homeland and that of the existence of a native Palestinian people were already looming over the horizon a couple of decades ago, but today it is no longer discussed. The land ownership is accepted without questions. The false premise of a biblical Palestine was propaganda long enough to become truth, with no longer needing to be checked for biblical accuracy.

• A One-Sided Reconciliation
Accusations of “apartheid,” “colonization,” “ethnic cleansing,” or “nazification” of Palestine are constantly brought-up without ever speaking of terrorism, rocket attacks and human rights violations ordered by Palestinian leadership of both Fatah and Hamas. Islamic terrorism is simply dismissed and, in some cases, even justified. Christian Palestinianism offers a one-sided reconciliation, and that, of course, is no reconciliation at all.

• God the Covenant Breaker
Christian Palestinianism changes God from a covenant maker and keeper to a covenant breaker. While it might not be clear to many Evangelicals yet, for Christian Palestinianism to exist, Israel has to cease to exist.
What better way to postulate that Israel has become irrelevant than to say that God’s covenants with the Jewish people have been changed? If God had reneged on His covenant or changed the original recipients of His covenantal blessings, it would become obvious that He is done with Israel and the Jews.

But God never changed His mind when He said to Abraham: “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

If God were a covenant breaker, He would also have to be a liar. 1 Samuel 15:29 tells us otherwise: “Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”

• A Demonization of Israel
Once one is convinced that God is finished with Israel and the Jews, it becomes easier to extrapolate the generalization that Israel is the cause of evil against the Palestinians. The accusations against Israel come from Palestinians, Liberals and some Evangelicals. They come so strongly that at times, it becomes difficult to define one source from another. Additionally, the liberal media has absolutely no other agenda than demonizing the victims and victimizing the perpetrators. Facts no longer matter in our postmodern global village. As a matter of fact, radical anti-Zionism is now part of the fabric of society and is in the process of becoming the standard by which one measures his/her degree of tolerance and multiculturalism. French author Pierre-André Taguieff develops it further in his recent book Israel et la Question Juive when he writes: “ Intellectual and political conformism moves alongside radical anti-Zionism, having nothing to do with a critique of Israel’s politics but rather aiming at the final destruction of the Jewish State.” [4]

• A Promotion of Islam
In her book Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis, Jewish author and activist, Bat Ye’or, describes Christian Palestinianism as “Palestinian Marcionism:” “The Christian policy that would eliminate the Jewish source of Christianity by suppressing the link between the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels represents an old and lingering trend, always opposed by the Church. Today, Palestinian Marcionism (Palestinianism) paves the way for the Islamization of the Church as it prepares mentalities for an Islamic replacement theology…and encompasses the whole paraphernalia of traditional anti-Semitism.” [5]

Bat Ye’or’s assessment has tragically proven true in the last eight years. Christian Palestinianism is well on its way to de-judaize Yeshua–a job that the gentile branch of Christianity generously contributed to, out of ignorance and sometimes, pure hatred of the Jews over the centuries. Christian Palestinianism will also continue to invalidate much of the Jewish Scriptures as history gets re-written and Jewish references get replaced to accommodate the “Islamization” of the Bible.

While it would be tempting and almost accurate to describe Christian Palestinianism as anti-Semitism, we must be careful in labeling this new trend. Some Christian Palestinianists are clearly anti-Semitic, but this doesn’t allow us to paint with broad strokes and simply say that Christian Palestinianism IS anti-Semitism.

I believe that it is a fair assessment to claim that Christian Zionism and Christian Palestinianism can be found on two opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of the Church’s relationship with Israel and the Jewish people. In fact, Christian Palestinianism is Christian anti- Zionism. But rather than labeling Christian Palestinianism as anti-Semitism, I would rather place it as one of the key components of the latest trend in anti-Semitism: Eschatological anti-Semitism.

Being well aware of the fact that anti-Semitism is the “irrational hatred” of the Jewish people, I see the obvious converging of many unlikely allies against Israel. Islam, Liberals and Evangelicals have many reasons to disagree ideologically and spiritually, yet they find it acceptable to go against Israel in one accord. Campus Intifada, BDS, media bias, historical revisionism, and Holocaust denial are different arrows in Satan’s quiver of hate.

An evangelical might not be as determined to destroy Israel as a radical Muslim is, but they have become co-conspirators and co- perpetrators. As such, they become guilty of the same crime in the eyes of the God of Israel.

God was the first Zionist but He also sent Yeshua for both Jews and Arabs. I am obviously pro-God and thus I am pro-Israel, but being pro- Israel doesn’t mean that one is anti-Palestinian, sadly, and I must say irrationally, the opposite is seldom true!

[1] Wilkinson, Paul R.: For Zion’s Sake (Paternoster, Nottingham, England, 2007) p. 65

[2] Ateek, Naim: Sabeel Newsletter: Cornerstone (Winter/Spring 2014), p.3-4.

[3] http://palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=13536

[4] Taguieff, Pierre-André: Israel et la Question Juive (Les Provinciales, Paris, France, 2011), p. 191-192.

[5] Bat Ye’or, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis (Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, 2006), p. 213.