Last Friday, a Gaza ceasefire ended. Israel offered to extend it, but Hamas said they would accept no ceasefire until some of their war aims were met. Even before the agreed end of the ceasefire, the BBC reported that Hamas missiles were already flying. The negotiations stopped, the violence started.
While politicians around the world declared that the solution was talks, not killing, Hamas took actions against Israeli civilians that anyone knew would expose Palestinian civilians to hostile fire again. And later, here in Glenrothes, Scotland, in the very centre of town, a flag was raised over Fife Council Headquarters — the Palestinian flag.
The politicians dressed up their action in fine words, with council leader David Ross saying, “This action is not in support of any specific organisation but simply in solidarity with the people of Gaza to show our concern for their suffering and to call for a lasting ceasefire.” (emphasis mine)
If the Israeli flag were also being flown, this might have some credibility. You could claim your concern is for suffering if you are expressing “solidarity” with people on both sides in the conflict. But apparently, the suffering of people on one side of this conflict doesn’t matter. To call for a lasting ceasefire and fly the Palestinian flag on the day Hamas broke the ceasefire is a grave insult to Israeli civilians. It is also an insult to our intelligence. Nobody accepts the fine words; few will even read them. They will see the flag, and they will see that Fife Council has taken sides in a conflict where one side at least makes some effort, albeit far from perfectly, to reduce civilian casualties while the other side blatantly and repeatedly tries to maximise civilian deaths. Can anyone imagine what the toll would be like if Israel were trying (as Hamas does) to kill civilians?
It is hard to believe this is not anti-Semitism. Whether it is subliminal or conscious hatred of the Jews, only those who made this decision can say. Certainly, Fife Council’s politicians have restricted their “solidarity” to only one set of victims.
- They express no solidarity with those suffering in Israel.
- They flew no flag to express solidarity with those suffering in Crimea or elsewhere in Ukraine.
- Did they fly a Dutch flag when the Netherlands lost so many citizens when an airliner was shot down?
- Where is the visible expression of solidarity with the thousands of Christians killed by Boko Haram in Africa or with the millions who suffered in South Sudan?
- No flag has flown over council headquarters to express solidarity with the Yazidis or the Christians of Iraq who are being systematically driven out or exterminated, facing crucifixion, beheading, and starvation.
None of these victims have given a terrorist group an electoral victory, as the Palestinians of Gaza did for Hamas. When you vote for a terrorist organisation which fires missiles from your neighbourhood, you can’t be surprised when someone retaliates. When you dress little children in combat apparel with guns for the cameras, and say you are training them to fight, you can’t be overly surprised when your enemy isn’t as careful about your children as you might like. No one likes to see suffering in Gaza, but many of the civilians of Gaza share in the responsibility for the conflict and the suffering.
Yet, those who are supposed to represent us have chosen a one-sided “solidarity” in a very visible manner, ignoring all the other victims of conflict and deeming this one worthy of public notice. They force us all to live beneath the flag of people that elected Hamas. Did they purchase that flag with money we paid in tax? They neglect victims who have, in many cases, apparently done nothing to create or encourage conflict, such as the Christians and Yazidis of Iraq.
If the Palestinians, with whom they have chosen to show solidarity, are not more innocent and more worthy than other victims (and they are not), it is hard to draw any conclusion but this one — they chose this group of victims out of dislike for their enemy, Israel. Has Fife Council thought that through? Only they know whether this is conscious malice or whether they have been duped. But time after time, throughout history, whether the actions began with that intent or not, anti-Semitism has bubbled to the surface. Can anyone really doubt that is what is on view today in Glenrothes?
The Story Goes On
Anti-Semitism has a long history. The Bible recounts several instances of attempted genocide, when the very existence of the children of Israel was under threat:
- Genocide by infanticide — Egypt, Exodus 1.
- By starvation — Midianites, Judges 6.
- By extermination of most and deportation and slavery of the few who lived — Assyrians (from multiple Scripture passages).
- By imperial execution — Persia, Esther 3.
Outside of Biblical history, the list is long.
- Antiochus Epiphanes, a Greek ruler, desecrated the temple in Jerusalem and banned Jewish worship and circumcision.
- Under Titus, the Romans killed over a million Jews when Jerusalem fell, those who sued for mercy as well as those who fought, including women, children, and old men.
- In 1066, Muslims killed thousands of Jews in Granada, Spain.
- In 1096, the Rhineland Massacres (also known as the German Crusade, though the worst offender apparently was an Italian, and the killings took place in France and England as well) resulted in the death of thousands of Jews. Later Crusades also included killings of Jews.
- In the 13th century, Edward I of England killed hundreds of Jews and expelled the rest. No known Jews were allowed in England for over 300 years until Cromwell’s time.
- The Jews were blamed for the plague in the 14th century, and 900 were burned alive at Strasbourg.
- Depending on which source you believe, either tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Jews were forcibly converted and/or executed and/or expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition in the late 15th / early 16th century. The same followed in the Portuguese Inquisition in the 16th century.
- Pogroms in Prussia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands through the 17-19th centuries. Over 3 million Jews immigrated to America from Eastern Europe between 1880 and 1920 due to pogroms and other persecution.
- In the Russian Civil War (1917-1921), over 100,000 Russian Jews were killed.
- Hitler and his henchmen killed millions of Jews, finding willing collaborators throughout Europe.
- In 1946, the Kielce Pogrom precipitated the flight of many Jews who had survived the Nazis from Poland.
- In 1948, the Arab League entered into what they called “a war of extermination,” the first of several wars in which they attempted to “sweep the Israelis into the sea.”
- In 1968, 25,000 Jews were driven out of Poland.
- In 1972, eleven Israeli Olympic athletes were massacred in Munich by a terrorist organisation. At the memorial service, the speech from the head of the IOC was an abomination, and on the fortieth anniversary the IOC refused to allow (at the London Games) even a moment of silence to remember the victims.
- There have been repeated terrorist attacks in Israel and on Jews throughout Europe over the last forty years. In 2012, seven people, four of them Jews, were killed in or near Toulouse; in May of this year four were shot at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
- The Guardian reported just last week on a series of attacks in the last month in France and Germany, saying, “Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is breathing new life into some very old, and very ugly, demons.” Statements that the Jews should be gassed and the Jews should be burned are once more seeing the light of day.
It is in this context, in the very time when these sentiments are being expressed, when the very ugly demon of anti-Semitism is on the march, when anti-Jewish rants can be seen all over the Internet, when synagogues and Jewish businesses are being burned, when a Jewish woman in Belgium is told in a shop, “We don’t currently sell to Jews,” that Fife Council raised a Palestinian flag on the day Hamas broke the ceasefire.
Anti-Semitism is no Surprise
To the Christian who takes the Bible seriously, anti-Semitism is no surprise. We believe there is a God, and we believe there is a Satan. The Bible makes clear the hatred of Satan for the people God used to give us His Word and His Son. Jesus was a Jew, the Jewish Messiah. He is the Son of God, but He is also a son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Anyone who reads the Bible with an open eye can see that the people God chose have always been hated by the evil one. He will use his influence to trick people into acts of hatred and evil against the Jews, and to even think they are doing something good and worthwhile when they do it.
Nor are Christians surprised to see the Jews, at times, suffer greatly because of this persecution. God never promised that His people would not suffer in this life, anyway, but the Jews, by rejecting their Messiah and by their own wrong actions at different times (perhaps including some in the current conflict), have no particular right to expect God to bless or protect them. None of that justifies hatred or evil against them, but it does help us to understand why they have suffered so greatly at times. You can’t expect God to bless or help you if you reject His Son.
So, How Should We React?
Whatever our elected “representatives” may do, Christians should reject any form of anti-Semitism. If those who are supposed to represent us do that which is indefensible, it is entirely appropriate for us to object, privately or publicly.
We do not honour our Lord by being anything but respectful towards those with whom we disagree, however. We sin if we engage in hateful speech or acts ourselves.
Nor do we honour our Lord by acting as if all Israel has done in the current conflict is good and right. There is no reason to assume, just because Hamas has done much evil, that Israel has done only good. God may have chosen the children of Israel for a particular purpose, and we may desire them to be safe and blessed, but history (Biblical and otherwise) is full of instances where they have done great wrong, and it would be foolish to automatically assume that all they have done in Gaza is right.
Perhaps the most important reaction for us is to wake up. If anti-Semitism is again on the rise, it reminds us that the spiritual power that drives anti-Semitism, that hates the Jews and (over and over) has twisted history into horrible spasms of anti-Jewish sentiments and actions is very, very active. For Christians, that should serve as a warning, because that same evil power is no friend of ours.
I Peter 5:8-9
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
Satan is out there, and he is active. He hates us just as much as he hates the Jews — perhaps even more. We see that hatred in full flow in Iraq today, where followers of a Satanic cult of hatred and murder attack anyone who doesn’t fully agree with them — but Christians have come in for special hatred.
It is folly to think we can stop persecution, either of Jews or Christians, but we can be ready. Unlike the Jews, we haven’t rejected the Messiah, but too often we’ve resisted the Holy Spirit. We’ve yielded to temptation. We haven’t read our Bibles as we should. We haven’t taken advantage of our opportunities to meet together, fellowship, and learn from the Word — opportunities that might be taken from us. We’re afraid to tell others of our Lord when it will cost us nothing but ridicule — how will we do if it costs us our life? We haven’t put on the full armour of God. Satan doesn’t even need to persecute many Christians — he’s got them living half of their lives on his terms, anyway.
It’s past time for those who fly the flag of Christianity to really live the life. That is far more important than which flag Fife Council chooses to fly in Glenrothes.
Update: I haven’t seen it myself, but a reliable source has told me the flag is no longer flying. It was up last night, and was supposed to be up a week, and hasn’t been. The person who told me this did not know why the flag has now been taken down. Perhaps better thinking finally prevailed….