Who Really Owns the Land of Palestine?
By Thomas Williamson
An article entitled "Who Owns the Land?" which appeared in the August 30, 2002 issue of the Sword of the Lord and in various associational papers, made this interesting statement: "Meanwhile, the Jewish National Fund began to collect money to purchase land in Palestine for Jewish settlement, eventually purchasing 92% of present-day Israel."This 92% figure is quite different from the generally accepted and documented figures which indicate that by the time of Israel’s independence in 1948, the Jews had purchased approximately 6% to 7% of modern-day Israel (pre-1967 boundaries).
I wrote twice to the author of "Who Owns the Land?" inviting him to straighten me out and provide documentation for his statement that Jews bought 92% of Israel. I received no reply.
Meanwhile, I checked out the official web site of the Jewish National Fund at www.unitedjerusalem.com, a Jewish, pro-Israel, pro-Zionist web site. This web site states that the Jewish National Fund purchased 375,000 acres of the land prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Based on a total of 7992 square miles in Israel (pre-1967 boundaries), this means that the Jews purchased a total of 7.33% of Palestine from its previous Arab owners, not 92%.
THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND, THIS LAND IS MY LAND . . . Other authorities agree that the amount of land rightfully purchased from the Arabs by the Jews was about 6-7%. The article "The Jewish National Fund Land Purchase Methods and Priorities, 1924-1939" by Kenneth W. Stein states that "by May 1948 Jews acquired approximately 2,000,000 of Palestine’s 26,000,000 dunams." This is approximately 7.69% of the land, not 92%.
Jack Bernstein in "The Life of an American Jew in Racist-Marxist Israel" says that "by 1920 Jews owned only 2% of Palestine. By 1948 when Israel declared itself a state, these invading Jews had increased their land ownership; but IT WAS STILL LESS THAN 6%."The booklet "Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict" by Jews for Justice in the Middle East states that "in 1948, at the moment that Israel declared itself a state, it legally owned a little more than 6% of the land of Palestine." Robin Miller in "The Expulsion of the Palestinians 1947-1948, says, "Before 1948, Jews owned only 1.5 million of the 26 million dunams of land in Palestine . . . After the eviction of the Palestinians, Israel controlled 20 million dunams, an increase from 6% to 77% of the total. They simply stole an entire country."
It appears that many Christians are being encouraged to support Israeli land claims over those of the Palestinians, based on this unsubstantiated figure of 92% of the land having been purchased by the Jews. However, the Jewish National Fund’s own figures indicate that they claim to have purchased only 7.33% of the land by 1948.
Any reader of this article who can document the 92% figure claimed in the article "Who Owns the Land?" is invited to write me at the above address, and submit documentation proving that the folks at the Jewish National Fund are mistaken when they say they purchased only 7.33% of the land.
. . . BUT MOSTLY, THIS LAND IS MY LAND. Some will say that it doesn’t matter how much of the land of Palestine was purchased by the Jews, since God has given the land to the Jews and therefore they have a right to take it from the Arab owners without paying for it.
There is no Scriptural basis for this supposition. Abraham and David, though they were Jews, paid fair market value for the land they bought from Ephron the Hittite (Genesis 23:16) and from Ornan the Jebusite (2 Samuel 24:21-24, 1 Chronicles 21: 22-25).
Paul, when asked what advantage the Jews had, replied, "Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God," Romans 3:2. Paul does not mention expropriation of other people’s land as an advantage of being Jewish; he says that the advantage that Jews have is that they were given God’s law, which includes the commandment "Thou shalt not steal." There is no Scriptural basis for encouraging Jews or Israelis to disobey that commandment that God gave them.
WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN. Others will say that we are obligated to support modern Israel no matter what, based on Old Testament verses where God states His intention to bless the ancient theocratic state of Israel. Even preachers who say the Old Testament is not for today, and who militantly oppose those who believe in the Ten Commandments and tithing, will still go to the Old Testament to cite verses where God promises His blessing on national Israel. They cannot quote any New Testament commands for us to support national Israel, because no such teaching exists.
Can we properly interpret Old Testament statements of God’s intention to bless ancient Israel, to mean that God is commanding that we unconditionally support modern Israel? The answer is no, unless we are willing to follow the same logic with those verses where God promises His blessing on the Arab nations.
In Isaiah 19:25 the prophet says, "Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people." Based on this verse, should we not be giving all-out, unconditional financial and military support to the Egyptian government and people, just like we are doing for Israel?
Where are the brigades of "Christian Egyptianists" to travel to Egypt, to plant trees there and help run off all those pesky non-Egyptian "land squatters?"In Genesis 21:18 God promised to make of Ishmael a great nation. Why are we not helping to fulfill that prophecy by supporting the Palestinians and all the other Arab nations that are descended from Ishmael? Why this selective obedience to the Word of God, that causes us to support Israel but not Egypt or Palestine?
The answer, of course, is that our foreign policy in the 21st Century AD is not necessarily determined by expressions of God’s good will toward ancient nations that no longer exist in anything resembling their ancient form.
THEY FOUGHT THE LAW, AND THE LAW WON. Modern Israel bears no resemblance to the ancient theocratic state of Israel, which was based on obedience to the Old Testament Law and expectation of the Messiah. Modern Israel not only rejects the Messiah but also rejects Old Testament Law.
For instance, Israel rejects the command to not oppress non-Jews living in its territory, Exodus 12:49, 22:21, 23:9, Leviticus 19:33-34, 25:35, Deuteronomy 10:18-19, 23:7, 24:17, 27:19, and the law against cutting down fruit-bearing trees, Deuteronomy 20:19-20. It is illogical to appeal to Old Testament Law in support of modern Israel and then turn around and say, "They don’t have to obey Old Testament Law."
Modern Israel is known for its sex industry and brothels, for its gay pride parades in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and its government-funded abortions. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, there were 18,785 legal and 16,000 illegal abortions in Israel in 1999. Israeli critics of abortion have estimated that 1,000,000 Jewish infants were aborted from 1948 to 1992 and have likened this to the Holocaust. Christian Zionists who send money to Israel, and lobby for American governmental subsidies to Israel, are helping to pay for this mass slaughter of pre-born Jewish children.
As Christians, we ought not to harshly judge or condemn Israel for faults which are found equally in all the Gentile nations of the world. Nor should we go to the opposite extreme of glorifying the Israeli government and people as being worthy of our uncritical and unconditional support.
Nothing has changed since 1957 when Noel Smith, a leader in the Baptist Bible Fellowship movement, wrote these words in the Baptist Bible Tribune: "Zionism rejects the God of Israel, the God of the Prophets, the God of the Land. Zionism does not base its claim to Palestine on the covenant God made with Abraham. Zionism refuses to admit that the dispersion of the Jews was an act of God because of the sin of the Jews in rejecting their own Messiah. Zionism has no consciousness of sin and therefore feels no need of a personal Messiah to atone for sin. Zionism is atheistic, secular, political.
"Zionism, rejecting the God who gave Israel the Land, rejecting the grace which was responsible for the gift, has no valid claims to Palestine - none more than the Arabs."
It is one of the mysteries of life that some modern evangelical Christians devote so much time, money and effort in support of this anti-God movement called Zionism.
THE LORD GAVE, AND THE LORD HATH TAKEN AWAY. God gave Palestine to the Jews in Old Testament times, but this did not abrogate the rights of non-Jews to own land in Israel, as we have seen from the examples of Ephron and Ornan. (See also Numbers 9:14 - one ordinance for both the stranger and the native-born Hebrew).
The divine title deed to Palestine no longer belongs to the Jews: it was conditional on their obedience to God (see Genesis 17:9-14, Exodus 19:5-6, Deuteronomy 7:12, Joshua 23:15-16, 1 Kings 9:6-9, 2 Chronicles 7:19-22, Ezekiel 33:24-27). God finally used the Romans to expel the Jews from the land in 70 AD as a punishment for their crowning example of disobedience of the Law: the rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah (Matthew 21:33-43, 23:38).
Of course, any Jew in Israel today who has paid for his land has a right to that land. As Christians, we should uphold that sacred property right for all Jews, and we should do the same for all Palestinians who have lawful title to their land. We are not Communists - we do not believe in the confiscation, without payment, of anyone’s land. Nor are we racists - we do not advocate that anyone be kicked off his land just because he is of the "wrong" ethnic group.
WHEN I CAN READ MY TITLE CLEAR. Do you really want to know who owns any particular parcel of land in Israel? Then do the same thing you would do in America - find out who has the title deed and who has paid for the land. Forget all the silly debates about whose ancestors were there first, or which ethnic group is more in favor with the Almighty.
Isaiah prophesied of a time when Jews and Arabs would be regarded as equals in the sight of God. "In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: Whom the LORD shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance." Isaiah 19:25-26.
We are living in that day now. The New Testament tells us that there is no difference between the Jew and Gentile (Acts 15:9, Romans 10:12, Galatians 3:28). The Jews no longer have any advantage by being literal children of Abraham (John 8:39). The true Israel and the true children of Abraham are those who are born again Christians, Romans 2:28-29, Galatians 3:7.
The true Israel that we are to support is the Family of God or Israel of God (Galatians 6:15-16) composed of born-again Gentiles, Jews, Whites, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Palestinians, Patagonians and Hottentots - not some nation of Christ-rejecting people in the Middle East.
The Bible teaches us that all men, Jews and Gentiles, are of one blood (Acts
17:26) and are equal before God. That includes Jews and Palestinians. We need to
seek justice for all Jewish and Arab property holders in the Middle East, and
avoid giving the false impression that God has given any one ethnic group a
license to rip off any other group.