The Holy Bible and Israelo-Palestinian Conflict: International Politics of Gaza and Global Peace

Bola A. Akinterinwa 

The genesis of the Israelo-Arab, particularly Palestinian, conflict is traceable to the Holy Bible, and more recently to the 1917 William Balfour Declaration in which the British Government promised a Home Land for the Jews. Promising a homeland requires finding a land without a title. Terra nullius in international law and relations is land belonging to no one. It is an unoccupied or uninhabited land, and more importantly, an expression of absence of civilised people capable of land ownership. 

Most unfortunately, however, every land has a title even if it is not yet physically occupied. Consequently, finding a free land that is unoccupied necessarily requires dispossessing people of their land in order to fulfil Prime Minister William Balfour’s promised homeland for the Jews. This is the policy of robbing Paul to pay Peter. This is one major dynamic of the Israelo-Arab misunderstanding. 

But without any jot of doubt, it is apparently because the European colonialists took the land of Africa as a terra nullius and underestimated the local capacity to resist their forceful occupation that they decided to impose themselves and partitioned Africa into zones of influence. The same story is true of the colonised peoples in the Middle East. It is against this background that the Hamas’ surprise missile attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023 and the Israeli’s retaliatory decision the following day to seek the total destruction of the Hamas organisation in the Gaza should be understood. The critical issue to address is land for Israel and Palestine.

Land or territory is a matter of life and death in international relations. It is like an oxygenated blood in physiology. In fact, man came from dust and to dust shall he return as made clear by God. Besides, no State can exist in international relations without a territory over which to exercise its sovereign authority. Existence of People and Government is another required condition for a State to exist. It is no wonder therefore that land dispute is not only frequent among people and communities, but also why border disputes generate conflicts and violence. The recidivist character of the violent conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians since 1948, when the State of Israel was established, should be understood in context. In this regard, we posit that the Israelo-Palestinian conflict is about land title, about right to existence on a common land, and international politics that ignores the right to fairness and justice which most unfortunately, has always been subject of international controversies.

The Bible and the Conflict  

Why is there land dispute between Palestinians and Israelis? Who are the Palestinians and who are the Israelis? Are the two peoples not the people of God? Have the Israelis not been living in Palestine from time in memorial? How do we explain the non-possession of land before 1917 that prompted Prime Minister William Balfour to accept to find a homeland for the Jews? Is there an old and a new Israel and a new Palestine? Were the Israelis and Palestinians not co-existing on the same land in the beginning? 

Many Christians and observers hold the Bible as very holy and sacred. What makes the Bible holy is because it talks about Godliness in all ramifications. It is the factor of Godliness that makes the Bible sacred. In the Holy Bible, mentions were made about Israel and Palestine. In fact, Israel is referred to as the people of God and any attempt to make the people of God to suffer is always severely punished by God. 

In the specific case of the conflict between Israel and Palestinian Arabs in contemporary times, many observers argue that it is because God is on the side of the Israelis that all attacks by the Arab-supported Palestinians that Israel has always defeated the Palestinians on the battle fields even when the wars are not provoked? By implication, the victory of Israel on the battle fields which has always engendered excessive brutal punishment of the Palestinians, which raises the question as to whether God supports the violations of international humanitarian law by the Israelis. 

The Holy Bible provides in the Book of Amos, Chapter 1, Verses 6 and 7 that ‘the Lord says, “Gaza has sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not leave her unpunished anymore. For she sent my people into exile, selling them as slaves in Edom. So I will set fire to the walls of Gaza, and all her forts shall be destroyed. I will kill the people of Ashdod, and destroy Ekron and the King of Ashkelon, all Philistines left will perish.” 

Is God directly responsible for the problems of Gaza or the Arabs should be held responsible? And true enough, shouldn’t the British diplomacy that worked towards the adoption of a United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, an initiative of the United Nations itself, be held responsible? The Plan was adopted on 29 November, 1947 as UNGA Resolution 181 (II) during. Voting was held during Meeting no.128 and Palestine was partitioned into two States and the City of Jerusalem, especially that the end of British Mandate already came to an end on 15 May 1948. The newly created States were Jewish State and Arab State. The State of Israel declared its independence at mid-night on 14 May, 1948. In terms of recognition, 33 countries voted for, 13 countries voted against, while 10 countries opted to abstain. If we add the 10 abstentions to those against, it will still be 33 in favour and 23 against, meaning that the majority are still in favour of a Jewish State. The City of Jerusalem was placed under an international trusteeship.

The United States was very pro-Israel and was on record to have been the first to give the Jewish State a diplomatic recognition. The US immediate support can be explained by two factors. First, the Jewish population in the United States was not only very relevant to the technological manpower needs of the country but also deeply involved in the governance of the United States. Secondly, the British had earlier on submitted the Palestinian question first to the Americans for a common approach to the Palestinian problem and agreement had been reached by both the United Kingdom and the United States. 

In reaction to the partitioning, the Arabs simply did not accept the partitioning. They refused to recognise the Jewish State and preferred to declare war the very following day after the establishment of the State of Israel on 15 May 1948. One major rationale for the rejection of the partitioning could be the fact that about 14,100 square kilometres, representing 56.47% of the entire Palestinian land was to be given to the Jews, accounting for about 500,000 people, 400,000 Arab Palestinians and 92,000 Bedouins in the Negev desert. 

In this case, should the Arabs be contended with the offer of more land to the Jews to the detriment of the Arab Palestinians? If we admit that the Palestinians are the original occupants of Palestine, why should the owners of the land be given lesser area of space? This is one major rationale for the recidivist conflict, regardless of whether Israel wins every war or the Palestinians losing the war. If we do again admit that it is the biblical prescription of punishment for the people of Gaza who reportedly committed sins after sins and which prompted God to say enough should be enough, is the punishment for the sins committed many thousands years ago, from the first generation to the more than fourth generation, still continuing? We do not believe that the attacks by Israel on Gaza are because of the punishments prescribed by God in the Holy Bible. 

One truth is that the Arabs are very annoyed about the partitioning which they call in Arabic the ‘Nakba process’ meaning ‘catastrophe.’ In the eyes of the Arabs, the United Nations had simply destroyed and usurped the national heritage of the Palestinians. This is another origin and reason for the recidivist character of the Israelo-Arab conflict as at today. This is why the so-called 2-State solution, contrarily to the position of the Palestinian Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency Abdullah Abu Shawesh, cannot be a good solution to the problem, especially if it is based on the current territorial size of Israel. Since the 1967 war, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, and has always acquired sovereignty over whatever land acquired following the defeat of the Arabs. 

The position of international law is also quite interesting in this matter. Five principles of international humanitarian law prohibit military attacks on non-combatants or civilian population: military necessity, distinction, proportionality, humanity or unnecessary suffering, and honour. All the five principles are intertwined in their applications. For instance, while military necessity is to ensure that an attack is meant to ensure defeat of the enemy, it must also be aimed at legitimate military objective. The harm to be caused to civilian population and non-combatants, both interchangeably used, is not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military expectation in an attack. 

The principle of humanity as defined in the Hague Conventions prohibits the use of arms, projectiles or any material that can create suffering or injury that will be disproportionate to the military advantage by use of weapons for legitimate military purposes. As for honour, it requires fairness and mutual respect between adversaries. Thus, non-combatants, civilian populations, medical and paramedical personnel even working with the military during hostilities, etc. are always protected persons and must never be attacked. The rule of protection remains valid under international humanitarian law for as long as they are not attached to or accompanying any military in a situation of war or are not or no longer taking part in hostilities.  

What is useful to note here is that, following the carving out of Israel out of Palestine, the remaining parts of Palestine, West Bank which includes Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, were under the control of Jordan and Egypt respectively from 1948 until the 1967 Six-Day War. Additionally, it was the Ottoman Empire that ruled Jerusalem from 1516 to 1917. The end of World War I enabled the British to take over Jerusalem which was then part of Palestine at the time. It is from this time that the international politics of partitioning of Palestine actually began and became an international question.

International Politics and Global Peace 

International politics of Israelo-Palestinian conflict is precisely what is preventing the achievement of peace globally and especially in the Middle East. The foundational obstacle is at the level of Israelis and Palestinians. Israel is interested in the outright death of Palestine and vice versa. There has been no room for compromise to achieve peace. The attitudinal disposition is that of quest for mutual annihilation. 

And true enough, in pursuit of the policy of annihilation of the Israelis, the Palestinians began with engagement in terrorism (letter bombs, parcel bombs, suicide bombings against the international community Israeli American interests. Attacks focused on the international interests of whoever is perceived to be an enemy in any part of the world. The diplomatic missions of the United States, the United Kingdom and France clearly illustrate this observation. Before the Palestinians threw away terrorism as an instrument of struggle, much damage had been done internationally, but the issue of Palestine remains constantly on table without assurances of being meaningfully addressed.

First, the word, Palestine, is subject of international politics. It generally refers to the State of Palestine in international relations. As a state in international relations, 138 out of the 193 Member States of the United Nations have recognised it as a sovereign state as required in international law. Put differently, Palestine has met the requirement of people, government, and territory to become a State. Even though some States still consider that a State cannot exist or enter into international relations without having first been recognised, this does not in any way imply non-existence of a State. As indicated earlier, some States have recognised Palestine as a legitimate State while some have not. The non-recognition by some countries does not prevent the continued existence of Palestine as a State. The political implication is that the State refusing to recognise simply does not want to establish diplomatic relations with the State. Many are the countries of the world that recognise other states and yet do not have diplomatic missions with the recognised States, especially for reasons of financial logistics. The Palestinians declared a State of Palestine on 15 November 1988 with the proclaimed capital and administrative centre at Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Secondly, Palestine, with a population of about five million, has had the major problem of a secure homeland. Homeland is synonymous with complete autonomy, enduring security, and self-reliance for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The challenge in this case is that 

Palestine is located in the Southern Levant region of West Asia and covers the West Bank (including Eastern Jerusalem), and the Gaza Strip, even though both areas have been under Israeli occupation since 1967. Palestine was the Holy Land at the time of Jesus Christ. Palestine now covers some parts of modern Israel and the Palestinian territories of the Gaza strip.

In this regard, the West Bank is divided into 165 Palestinian enclaves that are not under the full control of the Palestinian authority. The remainder of the territory, which includes 200 Israeli settlements is under the full control of the Israeli government, while the Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. Before the Six-Day War, it was Egypt that was in full control of the Gaza Strip while Jordan was in charge of the West Bank which it annexed. But following the victory of Israel in the war, Israel simply took over the whole areas. However, the United Nations Security Council Resolution no. 242 not only called for the ‘establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East,’ but also called for the ‘withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict’ and ‘termination of all claims or states of belligerency  and respect for acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries free from threats of acts of force.’ 

This resolution 242 has been, at best, disregarded. There has been nothing like the establishment of a just and lasting peace. The truth is that many wars have been fought in Gaza: 2008, 2012, 2014, 2021, and currently as from October 7, 2023. In the various Gaza wars, Palestinians have neither won any war nor have the victorious Israelis had enduring peace and security since 2008. If God has ordained the victories of Israel in the Gaza wars, why is it that Israel has not been at peace with herself? Are the modern day Israelis still the same as the biblical Israelis? In the same vein, are the contemporary Palestinians still the same as the biblical Palestinians? Whatever is the case, the relationship between the Israelis and Palestinians of today is largely predicated on hardened mutual hostility. The relationship has been made more complex with international politics.

Thirdly, policy pronouncements by the powerful countries have not been helpful. Many of them want to mediate but have very partisan interests which the rule of mediation does not allow for under international law. A mediator must be impartial and must seek a gain-gain resolution of the crisis. He must base his decision on consensus. Most unfortunately, the United 

States openly supports the State of Israel and is still seeking to act as a mediator. As such, it is not possible for the United States to be in a position to help reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the conflict. In fact, the United States has also made it clear that any country that accepts Hamas militants will be severely sanctioned.

The British Prime Minister, Mr Rishi Sunak,  noted in his condolences following the Hamas attack on October 7 ‘the loss of civilian lives in Gaza, including at the Al Ahli hospital’ during a meeting with the Palestinian Authority. He said ‘we know Hamas doesn’t speak for the Palestinian people.’ He noted this in the social media.

In Canada, Sarah Jama, who was elected in early 2023 in a bye-election in Hamilton Centre, decried ‘the generations long occupation of Palestine’ but without mentioning the attack on Israeli civilians by Hamas militants. Ontario’s legislature came up with a motion aimed at preventing the democrat legislator from participating in the activities of the House unless she apologises for making a statement about the conflict between Israel and Hamas. This means that official attitude in Ontario is that ‘thou shall not condemn Israel.’ Democrat Jama did not retract the original statement but apologised. The politics was to the extent that ‘the Progressive Conservatives have now put forward a motion to censure Jama, calling on the Speaker not to recognise her in the House – in order to ask a question or debate legislation – until she retracts and deletes her original statement and apologises in the legislature.’

China and Russia support the Palestinians. China has been calling for restraint and ceasefire but has also noted that ‘Israel’s actions have gone beyond the scope of self-defence. In the words of the Chinese Foreign Minister, Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks that led to the killing of 1400 Israelis is a ‘collective punishment’ and should be stopped. As for Russia, President Vladimir Putin stated: ‘you will agree with me that this is a vivid example of the failure of United States policy in the Middle East.’

While the policy attitude in Israel is that Israeli soldiers will see ‘Gaza from the inside’ and that there will not be any ‘forgiveness for the attack on Israel, but only total annihilation of Hamas organisation,’ the concerns in France are about how to prevent the importation of tensions connected with the Israelo-Palestinian conflict. This is because France has the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in Europe. France cannot afford the luxury of taking side. African leaders are calling for ceasefire and protection of innocent civilians. Some leaders condemn the Hamas. Many have kept silent while some support Hamas. Essentially, they want ceasefire and dialogue between Palestinians and the Israelis. In the same vein, the European Union has drawn a similarity between the Russo-Ukrainian war and the Israelo- Hamas conflict and wants them to be jointly addressed by the European Union and the United States. In the words of the EU President, Ursula von der Leyen, ‘these two crises, however different, call on Europe and America to take a stand together in order to shelter our democracies.’ The concerns here are not about the survival of the Israelis or the Palestinians but about the survival of democracies. Is democracy more meaningful without the People? Is it the people that comes first or democracy? Whatever is the case, in Nigeria, Christians support Israel while Muslims support Palestine. The conflict has divided Nigerians in the same way the UN Security Council has been divided over the matter. As such, it is not the prescription of the Holy Bible that explains the problems of Gaza. Gaza’s problems are man-made. It is only when mediation efforts are predicated on objectivity of purpose that global peace will stop being threatened.

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