You’ve probably picked up on the fact that Israel has gotten a bad reputation over the years. Relatively few view Israel favorably, while many argue that the nation should not be allowed to exist. People have wide-ranging reasons for their hatred toward the nation. But what’s the most common problem people have with Israel?
The most publicly acceptable reason stems from politics and the wars Israel has fought since its establishment as a nation in 1948. Those who hate Israel think building credibility starts by rallying around a common lie. Their lie of choice concerns Israel’s borders. The land Israel gained during the 1967 Arab–Israeli War (also known as the Six-Day War) includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and Gaza. It was earned fairly, in fact through a war in which Israel acted in self-defense, yet that doesn’t stop its opponents from deriding the nation. As it gained control of this land, it was labeled an “occupier.”
Critics portray Israel as a fascist regime not unlike Nazi Germany (ironically, they compare the Jewish state to the enemy that killed more than 6 million Jewish people). It’s a weak attempt to appeal to a broad audience that’s out for Israeli blood. The key things missing in these claims are facts. Let’s take an objective look at the facts about Israel’s presumed occupation.
The main concern voiced for the rights of Palestinians in Israel is that they don’t receive the same privileges that natural-born Jewish Israelis receive. Without any historical context, this concern looks valid. But it’s often used as a front to take the land from Israel. How can people claim they deserve something that was never theirs and was never earned or acquired in any way?
The Divine Deed
Four thousand years ago God promised the land of Israel to Abraham’s descendants, the Jewish people. Since then plenty of conflict has led to different splits and redrawn boundaries. But man’s attacks can’t undo God’s decrees. The land is no less divinely assigned to the Jewish people than it was when God first declared it so.
But man’s attacks can’t undo God’s decrees. The land is no less divinely assigned to the Jewish people than it was when God first declared it so.
God made two mentions of the boundaries of Israel in Genesis. First, He told Abraham, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (15:18). Two chapters later He included “the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession” (17:8). Exodus 23:31 lists the boundaries in further detail: “from the Red Sea to the [Mediterranean] sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the [Euphrates] River.” Modern Israel doesn’t line up exactly with any of these criteria; in fact it owns much less today. But the land they occupy is certainly within these divine boundaries.
The Legal License
Of course, God’s decrees don’t mean much to those who don’t make Him the Lord of their lives.
But those who don’t fear God must answer to some authority, and the United Nations and international law may be the highest levels of human authority on Earth.
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 officially recognized a national home for the Jewish people in Israel, and the UN Partition Plan that followed in 1947 divided the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state separate from each other. The Arabs rejected this plan, refused to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and attacked the Jewish state. Israel withstood many attacks and gained its independence, and the Arabs lost the land they would have gained if they agreed to the Partition Plan.
Following the Six-Day War in 1967, in which Israel again acted in self-defense rather than aggression, Israel gained control of Jerusalem, Sinai, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, Judea, and Samaria. After the Six-Day War, Israel offered to give up land to make peace with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), but the PLO rejected peace and continued to attack Israel. Thus the land has remained with Israel. Legally, Israel’s sovereignty over its own land can’t be considered “occupation.”
Brutal or Benevolent?
Along with occupation comes oppression. Much of the world outside of the Jewish state believes the lie that Israel has harmed the Palestinians inside and outside its borders. Critics point to the Palestinians injured and killed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as proof of Israel’s injustice. They conveniently leave out the fact that violence begins on the Palestinian side, as their attacks on IDF soldiers at the border necessitate defensive maneuvers.
With equal educational opportunities and initiatives designed to improve equality in economic status for all, nothing about Israeli life makes things unfair for Arabs.
Many compare Israel’s social division of Jewish and Arab citizens to apartheid in South Africa. They find the division so easy to parallel and think that unequal rules must apply to the two groups. Yet Jewish and Arab ways of life in Israel are not so different. The Anti-Defamation League gave a clear picture of the true society in Israel. It didn’t deny that Palestinians deal with hardships, “including checkpoints, access into Israel, the security barrier, and other issues.”1 It did, however, explain that these difficulties are in the interest of national security, including combating terrorism. In fact, Arab Israelis enjoy the same civil and political rights Jewish Israelis do—the right to organize politically, vote, speak, and publish freely, serve in the nation’s security forces, and be elected to parliament and high courts. With equal educational opportunities and initiatives designed to improve equality in economic status for all, nothing about Israeli life makes things unfair for Arabs.
While Israel is scapegoated, many Middle Eastern countries get away with serious human rights violations. Torture, suicide bombings, violence against women, and a lack of due process or freedom of expression are huge problems in many of these nations. Israel steers clear of these issues in the interest of democracy and peace. Interestingly enough, Israel has repeatedly accepted a two-state solution. They want to provide the Palestinians with their own state! Yet conflict continues because the Palestinian Authority refuses the offer and tries to demonize Israel through this type of apartheid propaganda.
The Verdict: No Occupation!
It’s clear that rumors of Israel’s occupation are greatly exaggerated. Why? Unfortunately, it goes back to a hatred of Israel. Any chance to exploit God’s chosen nation is a time to pounce. This appearance of division gives a perfect opportunity to paint Israel as an oppressor.
Don’t get caught up in the mob mentality! The bloodthirsty critics of Israel make a lot of noise, but much of their criticism isn’t fair. Hopefully these facts give you the full truth about life in Israel for Jewish and Arab citizens. The bottom line: Israel is not an occupier, but rather a misrepresented nation trying its best to balance the interests of two different people groups.
1 “Response to Common Inaccuracy: Israel is an Apartheid State.” ADL. https://www.adl.org/resources/fact-sheets/response-to-common-inaccuracy-israel-is-an-apartheid-state.