Israel and Hamas have different standards of behavior and law. That difference goes far to weigh their competing claims to the Holy Land.
How does Israel lay a claim?
Israel bases its claim to the Holy Land, or Promised Land, on a promise by God, valid earlier buys and treaties, and a direct gift of God. The Bible (Tanakh) does not even give Israel credit for its military conquests. It says that God gave Israel’s enemies into Israel’s hand.
The grounds: the tribes of Canaan made human sacrifices. That is the ugliest and most horrible thing that any society can tolerate, let alone make the law of the land. The Bible has a reason why that means so much to God: God made man in His image, so anyone who destroys man, especially as a sacrifice, incurs His wrath. That is the first death penalty in the Bible: a penalty not only against human murderers, but against man-killing beasts, too.
How does Israel lay its specific claim to the Holy Land?
The Bible makes several claims, in order. First, Abraham bought a burial-place for his family at Machpelah from the Hittites. Second, Abraham and Isaac made two separate treaties with the earliest known newcomers to Gaza, the Avvites. Third, Jacob bought a parcel of land near Shechem. Fourth, Israel went into the land after the Exodus, under direct Divine orders to clean out the human sacrificers.
The next specific claim was Judge Jephthah’s communiqué to the king of the Ammonites, in 1151 BC. (Amman, capital of Jordan, sits in the old Ammonite country.) These Ammonites were occupying the Land of Israel at the time. Jephthah wrote to the king, to insist that he withdraw his troops and ask him why they were there. The Ammonite then accused the Israelites of taking possessions that had belonged to the Ammonites. (If that sounds familiar, it should. The Arabs make the same claims.)
Jephthah proved (Judges 11:13-27) that Israelite territory had never included original Ammonite territory. Furthermore, the Israelites had settled in the land for three hundred years by then. Even if the Ammonites had a valid claim, they had waited too long to press it.
Of course, the Ammonites rejected the communiqué. So Jephthah went to war, and won.
Today, the Jews want Israel for one reason only: it is the land that God promised them. If they wanted to conquer any lands beyond the Middle East, they would feel no compulsion to return to Israel. To the contrary, they would seek the very sort of control that many accuse them of seeking, with scurrilous (and fraudulent) diatribes like The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.
How does Hamas lay a claim?
Most of the covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) is a review of the Koran and other Muslim traditions. But it does make a central claim on Israel, or “Palestine.” The claim is this: any land that Muslims took by force is sacred to them. And the only reason that any Muslim gives for taking any land by force is that “Allah” has ordered them to conquer the world. Their accusations against the Jews are secondary. The Jews are in their way, and they will sweep them out of the way. Everything else is incidental.
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How can anyone settle the competing claims?
In a just world, even laying aside competing visions of the future, one would realize at once that the Hamas standard is a double standard. “What’s mine is mine; what’s thine is mine to take.” The Israel standard has its basis in law. The Bible is, if nothing else, a legal document. The Koran is a thieves’ manifesto. The Bible appeals to judgment; the Koran appeals to force.
Even laying this aside: notice that the Ammonite claim and the Hamas claim are the same claim.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The two claims express the same thoughts in almost the same words. And they ring just as hollow, and for the same reasons. When Jephthah sent his communiqué, Israel had lived in the land for three hundred years. More recently, at least some Jews have lived in Israel for thirty-five hundred years. The Arabs came and took the land by force—and the best that anyone can say about that is to paraphrase the Book of Judges:
In time the people of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Muhammadans and the Umayyad Dynasty and the Baghdad Caliphate and the Ottoman Empire. But they cried out unto the LORD, and the LORD raised him up judges to deliver the people.
Those judges have names that every Westerner ought to remember. You know most of their names: Theodor Herzl, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, David Ben-Gurion, and David “Mickey” Marcus. And literally hundreds of others. (Tonight, Rush Limbaugh named Binyamin Netanyahu as another such judge, and as much a judge of America as of Israel.) And someday, Israel will have a King, a King over the whole earth.
Until then, in Israel and Hamas, the Middle East offers up prize examples of justice and injustice. And all men must now choose between them.
Featured image: the Western Wall, the retaining wall of the Temple Mount. Photo: CNAV
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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