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Christians and the Holocaust

“How shall I console you? To what shall I liken you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I compare with you, that I may comfort you? For your ruin is spread as wide as the sea; who can heal you.” Lamentations 2:13

This verse lamenting the destruction of Israel repeatedly asks the question as to what should we do and how can we comfort Zion? Of all people, Christians need to answer these questions. While the Holocaust was perpetrated by the Nazis, whose core leaders departed from Christianity to follow pagan Norse gods, the underpinnings of this immense tragedy were indeed Christian. This opened the door and provided the climate for the Nazis to launch their diabolical program of Jewish extermination on an industrial scale that was quite simply mind boggling. That six million innocent Jewish people were murdered in the most brutal fashion is truly beyond belief and we must never forget that this happened just seventy-five years ago.

There were five pillars, if you will, upon which Christendom in Europe built its hatred of the Jewish people:

1. Culturalization
In the second and third centuries, when as yet there was no New Testament canon of Scripture, Church leaders began to make statements concerning the Jewish people that were derogatory and demeaning. Sadly, almost all the highly respected Church Fathers did this. The common people could not test these statements with Scripture as these were also not yet widely available. This continued for centuries and in time became acceptable Christian behavior.

2. Sanitization
Together with the problem of consistently demeaning the Jews, the organized Church began to expunge everything Jewish from their festivals, liturgical practices and theology. The Hebraic foundation, or Jewish root system, of the Christian faith was therefore removed and in some cases replaced with pagan identities. So, for instance, Passover became Easter, or the Feast of Ishtar, and the Feast of Tabernacles became a harvest festival, etc.

3. Indoctrination
By the Middle Ages, the so-called doctrine of ‘contempt’ had been formulated which essentially stated the Jewish people were excluded from the love of God and were only kept alive by God as objects of His wrath and judgment. Jews were therefore beyond redemption and now the Church was the real and new Israel of God. This ungodly theological position was only repealed in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council.

4. Liberalization
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Christian universities and seminaries were infiltrated by liberal academics who began to cast doubt on the inspiration and authority of scripture. This, while everywhere prevalent, was particularly true of Germany. With no document of absolute truth, a vacuum was produced into which ultimately stepped the evil of Nazism, which blamed the Jews for the defeat of Germany in the First World War and other societal ills. This opened the door finally to:

5. Intimidation
Adolf Hitler and his murdering thugs could now openly speak evil of the Jews at one mass rally after the next. All of the above came together to produce a deadly vial of murder and extermination, to which a blind eye was turned from the plight of the Jews and fear gripped anyone who would rise up to challenge the Nazi narrative. Those who dared to do so paid with their lives and so the Holocaust began! Too few brave Christians like Corrie Ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer came to the aid of the Jews.

These, my friends, are the five foundation stones that made possible the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry from 1933 to 1945. The following true story well illustrates this historic truth.

In 1987, I was serving on the pastoral team of the Jerusalem Christian Assembly, an expatriate church that met in the main auditorium of the YMCA on King David Street in Jerusalem. Just a few days before Christmas, I was meeting with my fellow pastors Jim Cantelon and Wayne Hilsden over breakfast. Suddenly, the restaurant floor manager, a Jewish man called Yossi, came over to us and asked if he could join us. We duly welcomed him and asked him to take a seat. He then proceeded to tell us that he wished, with our permission, to attend our Christmas Eve service. We, of course, were quite surprised but he quickly assured us that he was not a Christian and did not intend to become one. Our interest was aroused and we therefore asked him why? He then proceeded to tell us an amazing story.

Yossi grew up in Hungary and was a young teenager when his country was invaded and occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War. On Christmas Eve, he was rounded up with other young Jewish girls and boys and herded into a Gestapo courtyard where at one end was a machine gun. They were all told to undress, and then they were placed against a wall as a German soldier made his weapon ready to shoot them dead. Suddenly, a higher-ranking Gestapo officer entered the courtyard and told them to halt and stated that they could not do this on Christmas Eve. He further demanded that they be released into his custody and that after Christmas Day, he would return them to be killed. After much haggling and debate, the other officers conceded and surrendered the teenagers to his custody.

This Gestapo officer promptly loaded all the youngsters, including Yossi, into a truck and drove them to freedom. He was nothing but an imposter, as he was in truth a Christian by the name of Raoul Wallenberg, the now-famous Swedish diplomat stationed in Budapest. Yossi nearly died because of Christmas Day, but the truth is he was saved because of Christmas Day. He therefore had made a vow that on every Christmas Day thereafter, he would attend a church gathering. Hence, his meeting with us and his request to attend our Christmas Day service. I personally welcomed him at the door when he arrived and took his place amongst the congregation. I have never forgotten him.

This, my friends, answers the question posed by the prophet Jeremiah in his book of Lamentations. Who indeed will comfort the daughter of Zion? You, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, will – just like Wallenberg did, even though you know that your long history of antisemitism provided the platform for the Jews to be murdered on Christmas Day. There is such a thing as collective guilt, just as modern-day Americans are having to grapple with their history of slavery. On the walls of Yad Vashem the following words are inscribed: “Remembrance is the pathway to redemption but forgetfulness is the road to exile.” On this Yom HaShoah, Israel’s solemn Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remember!
 

Rev. Malcolm Hedding is the former Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and still serves on the Board of Trustees.

MAKE SURE to also watch the ICEJ webinar “Christians and the Holocaust” from Thursday, 8 April 2021, featuring Shaya Ben Yehuda and Rev. Malcolm Hedding, founders of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. View Here!

The Power of the Cross

During the Passover season each year, we are reminded of the most powerful event which ever took place in human history. At exactly the moment when thousands of Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus – the Lamb of God – died on the Cross and carried away the sins of the world. This perfect fulfilment of the Paschal sacrifice on a Roman cross outside the city walls of Jerusalem has become the primary symbol of Christianity.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that if he had to condense the Christian faith into one single message, it would be the message of the cross of Christ. When visiting the church in Corinth, he was “determined not to know anything… except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) For all eternity, the Cross declares an eternal and powerful message to the world, for it is a mighty demonstration of God’s character.

A demonstration of God’s love
At Calvary we see more than anywhere else the character of God. Paul declares: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) If there is one place where God’s love can be seen and understood best, it is at the foot of the Cross. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...”

No matter how noble the cause, would any among us consider giving up our children for it? No, family comes first! And of course, this is our first realm of responsibility as good parents. But this was not the case with God. He was willing to give His Son, not to redeem a noble company of saints, but Jesus died for wretched sinners like you and me.

This is the exciting news; God did not wait for the human race to improve until He decided to offer the incredible redemptive gift of His Son. He did so while humanity was hopelessly lost and in open rebellion against Him. This love was not deserved and it remains beyond our understanding. This also gives us hope. Paul uses that very truth to assure the status of the believer. If God was willing to offer the incredible gift of the death of His only Son while we were still sinners, Paul urges us to consider how much more will He now give us everything as His children. God will never come to a point that He is finished with you. He literally is willing to do whatever it takes to finish the good work He started in you (Romans 8:32, Philippians 1:6). So never give up on yourself!

A demonstration of God’s righteousness
The Cross also demonstrates God’s righteousness. “Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed…” (Romans 3:25)

The Cross is a powerful display of the righteous character of God. The German theologian Erich Sauer wrote: “All the patience of the past was only possible in foresight of the Cross and all grace of the future is justified in hindsight of the Cross.” It is there at the Cross where every single righteous requirement of God is being met. It is only at the Cross where God’s righteousness can become our very own righteousness. It is this glorious exchange at the Cross which allows us to enter freely into the presence of God, knowing that all our sins past, present or future are being met by the grace of God.

The exaltation of the person of Jesus
It was the unconditional obedience of Jesus to his heavenly Father which exalted him above all measure. When Jesus is introduced by John in the first chapter of his Gospel, the Apostle sees “the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father.” (John 1:18; see also Proverbs 8:25-31) After the Cross, Jesus returned to his Father, yet not to His bosom but “after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God”, with “angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.” (Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22) What an exaltation!

Paul described this in the following way: “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11)

This does not mean that Jesus through the Cross attained a more divine nature or a higher heavenly status. He already was the all-powerful Creator (John 1:3). Yet the Cross has earned him that glorious name of Jesus which is worthy of all our praise and adoration forever.

The transformation of humankind
The great impact of the Cross on the human race is that it is not just a means to avoid punishment and hell. Jesus did not die to just save the sinner from certain death (even though this would have been reason enough to thank God for all eternity). Rather, the Cross delivers to us something far greater. The death and resurrection of Christ make us part of God’s eternal family! When Jesus died on the Cross, an incredible exchange of identity took place.

It is not only Jesus who died on Calvary, but everyone who places their faith in his hands died with Christ and is resurrected to a new identity (Romans 6:6). Or as Jesus put it, we are “born again.” (John 3:3) And once this transformation takes place, our new identity is that of a son or daughter of God. Jesus brings us into such an intimate relationship with the Father that we can call him “Abba.” (Romans 8:15) Jesus has become our all-powerful elder brother and he himself “is not ashamed to call [us his] brethren! (Hebrews 2:11)

We have become co-heirs with Jesus and one day we will rule and reign with him! What a wonderful redemption!

Therefore let us rise up from the all our lethargy and misery. The Cross has become our victory for today and the gateway to a triumphant future. Let us live according to that glorious destination and let us give thanks to God for His saving love!
 

MAKE SURE to also watch the ICEJ webinar “Resurrection and First Fruits” from Thursday, 1 April 2021, featuring ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler.

Passover and the Cross

“Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:13

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” John 1:29

There are many important parallels between the Passover of the Exodus story and that fateful Passover when Jesus suffered and died for our sins. There also are many lessons to be learned from the first Pessach concerning the incredible spiritual victories achieved by Christ at the second.

1) The judgement of false gods
Exodus 12:12 says: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgement; I am the Lord.”

The first Passover reminds us that there is only one God and we are to love and fear Him. We must be careful not to make idols of things that supplant the place which Jesus should hold in our lives (Deuteronomy 11:16). We must always tell the story of how God came down in Christ to save us from the slavery of sin. The Passover has a liturgy (the Haggadah) which actually means “the telling”. We must tell this story time and time again to our households and children.

2) The judgement of the individual
Both Jews and Egyptians were subject to death on that first Passover night. In fact, a vast multitude of other peoples were delivered that night, including Egyptians.

This reminds us that:
(a) All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

(b) The holy love of God, meaning His wrath and anger, is set against us if we do not repent and turn away from our sins. The same God who declares that He loves us will send us away one day into eternal darkness and wrath if we do not humbly turn to Him! (John 3:36).

(c) The atoning love of God in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is the only way for us to experience the abounding and marvelous presence of God for all eternity. It is the death of Christ alone that frees us from the wrath of God, our sinful natures, death, and the devil – the pharaoh of Egypt.

The sin and death that besets our lives is like leaven which rises to permeate and penetrate everything. Thus, at Passover all leaven has to be meticulously removed from one’s home (Exodus 12:19). Paul used this as an illustration of how we are to follow Christ in that, “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed” and therefore we must purge the leaven of sin from our lives (1 Corinthians 5:7). This is precisely why Communion, a part of the Passover celebration, must be taken very seriously (1 Corinthians 11:23-28).

Also, deliverance at Passover was effected by the blood of a lamb being placed in the form of a cross on the door posts and lintels of their homes (Exodus 12:7). Thereafter, the sacrificed lamb had to be fully eaten. That is, salvation is by the death of Jesus on the cross, which saves us from the consequences of our sins, while the fullness of the life of Christ in us saves us from the power of sin. We have to feed on Him every day! (Romans 5:10)

(d) The lamb of God sacrificed at Passover was a substitutionary atonement. That is, it took the place of the Israelites and died for them. Jesus did exactly the same thing for us: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18)

In fact, the Scriptures tell us that He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). This means that we are wholly sinful and the saying that “God loves the sinner but just hates the sin” is false. Sin is not just an accident in our lives or some unfortunate growth on our bodies. No! We are sin itself and so Jesus became sin for us, in our stead. Do not ever trivialize sin as it cost the Son of God everything, just like the Passover lamb.

At Passover, the lamb of God had to be personally appropriated. That is, the record of Scripture teaches that it was first “a lamb”, then “the lamb” and finally “your lamb” (Exodus 12:3-5). We have to see Jesus, understand that He is unique and sinless, and finally we must make Him our own. We must surrender ourselves to His deliverance just as the Israelites did in Egypt.

3. The judgement of the Lamb
According to Exodus 12:3-6, the lamb of the Passover had to be perfect, without blemish. Likewise, Jesus was perfect, even in being born of a virgin.

The Passover lamb had to dwell in your home and be examined for three days, just as Jesus was inspected closely by all who heard him during his three years of ministry.

Finally, the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed at twilight, just as Jesus died on the cross for each one of us just before the Passover began.

We have a glorious Savior who, by His death, has enabled God – His Father – to pass over our lives and deliver us from wrath, our sins, death and the devil. We must appropriate Him by a personal decision and then go out in haste from the “Egypt” that is this world to follow Him and live our lives for Him (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Rev. Malcolm Hedding is an ordained minister and member of the ICEJ’s international Board of Trustees.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on this subject, please watch the ICEJ webinar “Passover and the Cross” from Thursday, 25 March 2021, featuring Rev. Malcolm Hedding.

Israel’s Fourth Round of Elections Closer Than Ever

Israelis will head to the ballot box next Tuesday (23 March) in their fourth national elections of the past 30 months. The latest polls indicate this may be the closest race yet in these repetitive bids to oust long-time Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. Somehow, he has managed to stay in office for more than a decade now, despite numerous determined attempts to unseat him, but the key to whether Netanyahu will remain in power this time lies within his own nationalist camp.

The election campaign is winding down just as the nation is emerging from a major corona-related lockdown, thanks to the Netanyahu government’s very ambitious mass vaccination program. With almost 90% of all Israeli adults now vaccinated, everyone is hoping for life to return to normal and for the economy to recover. This may give Netanyahu a last-minute boost which keeps him in office. But it is just as possible that too many party leaders from the center/right – namely Naftali Bennett of Yamina, Gideon Sa’ar of New Hope, and Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beiteinu – will refuse to join a Netanyahu-led coalition, thereby ending his historic run as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

How did we get here?
In the third election cycle last March, the center/left cobbled together an alignment of parties featuring Benny Gantz and two other former IDF chiefs-of-staff, along with Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, to try to bring down “Mr. Security” – as Netanyahu is known. The election results were deadlocked, but due to the corona crisis Gantz decided to break his vow not to sit in a government with Netanyahu and entered a rotation deal which called for Gantz to take over as prime minister in November of this year. However, that agreement fell apart in late December when the ruling coalition failed to pass an annual state budget in time, triggering yet another round of elections.

What is at stake?
Israel’s traditional political fault line of hawks vs doves has been increasingly irrelevant over the last four elections, and never more so than now. The Left vs Right divide has taken a back seat to the simple question ‘Bibi or not Bibi.” The peaceniks are still losing ground to the nationalist camp, but even within his traditional conservative base Netanyahu is hemorrhaging support. Liberman abandoned his former ally last election, and Sa’ar just broke away from Likud to form New Hope on a promise to finally replace Netanyahu with a new prime minister. This has left Bennett in the critical position of kingmaker – able to decide if Bibi stays put or not while exacting political benefits for himself either way. Should Netanyahu prevail yet once more in this prolonged political struggle, his legend as an Israeli leader will only become more embellished.

What is their bone with Bibi?
Many contend that Israeli democracy is actually at stake in this election, due to their perception of Netanyahu as corrupt, self-serving and privileged. Fueled by the three corruption trials now pending against him, the drive to oust Netanyahu has become relentless. The “Black Flag” movement has staged weekly boisterous protests across the country for an entire year now – despite corona lockdowns and stormy winter weather. Even younger rivals on the Right are now jumping onto this bandwagon, perhaps exploiting the growing anti-Bibi sentiment as an opportunity to accelerate their own political rise.

Bibi’s rebuttal
This all ignores, of course, Netanyahu’s many lasting contributions to the country, such as his economic success in marketing Israel as the Start-Up Nation; his adept handling of Israel’s many security challenges, including the Iranian nuclear threat; and his many diplomatic achievements, such as the recent Abraham Accords. In recent days, Netanyahu has even hinted that four more Arab/Muslim nations are ready to make peace with Israel. On the other hand, the landmark normalization pact with the United Arab Emirates did hit a slight snag this week when Netanyahu tried to pay an historic visit that Abu Dhabi sensed was skirting too close to the Israeli elections.

Are there any wild cards?
Polls show there are several parties hovering right at the electoral threshold of 3.25% of the national vote count to enter the Knesset – Blue & White, Religious Zionists, Meretz and Ra’am. The failure of one or more of these parties to reach that minimum number of votes could end up boosting other parties last-minute and thus make a crucial difference in the pro/anti-Bibi divide.

  

In addition, the Arab vote has become a key factor in this election. The Arabs make up around 20% of the Israeli population, and thus could potentially account for some 23 Knesset seats. They traditionally vote for Arab and leftist parties, but Netanyahu is courting them for the first time to vote Likud. The leaders of the main Arab party, the Joint List, broke precedent last election by recommending Gantz as prime minister. There is a chance they might go further and actually seek to join a coalition government this time, but the question is whether that could include one with Netanyahu at its head. In an odd twist, Arab party leaders are still reluctant publicly to sit in a government with Netanyahu, even while one recent survey found that a third of all Arab voters prefer him as prime minister – more than any other candidate. The small breakaway Ra’am party is promising to be pragmatic about securing advances for the Arab sector and thus may provide Netanyahu a difference-making boost from an unusual source.

Final forecast?
Neither Naftali Bennett nor Gideon Sa’ar have managed to build enough backing to seriously challenge for the premiership, leaving Yair Lapid as the only realistic alternative to Netanyahu as the next head of government. There were indications this week that the Likud party has gained a seat or two on Yesh Atid due to the positive national mood created by the recent lifting of corona restrictions and the gradual return to normalcy. Thanks to the mass vaccination campaign, malls and restaurants are starting to re-open – just as the polls are about to open.

Netanyahu has managed to seize just enough last-minute momentum to secure re-election several times before, and it may be happening again. If Bennett could be swayed by this most recent late shift, plus some hefty political rewards, it could be enough to convince him to join Netanyahu in a narrow but stable right-wing government. With such an outcome, Bibi’s political prowess would approach the mythical.

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

FOR MORE INFORMATION on this subject, please watch the ICEJ webinar “The Israeli Elections” from Thursday, 18 March 2021, moderated by ICEJ spokesman David Parsons, and featuring Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent for The Jerusalem Post, and Chris Mitchell, Jerusalem bureau chief for CBN News.

 

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

The days we live in are truly challenging times. The year 2021 started out with more worrisome news: new mutations of COVID-19, talk of an economic meltdown, and disturbing scenes from the Capitol building of the United States. It seems that indeed everything that can be shaken is being shaken.

The global pandemic has impacted not only our economies, but also the way we worship and fellowship as believers. The recent US elections seem to have put America on a new path that already appears to be threatening the Judeo-Christian values upon which America and the Western world were founded. Many ask: ‘Where is God in all this?’ This is particularly so as many prayed for a different outcome in the US elections, and even more have interceded for an end to the corona pandemic.

For me, the book of Habakkuk holds more relevance today than ever before. The prophet Habakkuk lived in a time when he did not understand the world anymore – and more importantly he did not understand God anymore. As you read this, I encourage you to prayerfully read the entire book of Habakkuk and have your Bible ready as you read along. Allow me to take you through the three chapters of a prophetic book that I believe many of us can identify with today.

The book of Habakkuk differs other prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible. The prophet did not receive a message directed to Israel, but it is more the very personal dialogue of a troubled man of God with His Creator.

Habkkuk’s Crisis

From the very beginning (Habakkuk 1:2-4), Habakkuk voices his complaint to God: ”How long must I call for help but You do not listen!” The prophet comes straight to the point: Lord, my prayers are not answered! In addition, he feels God is just looking on as injustice spreads, and strife and conflicts abounds. He sees the people of God and the law being paralyzed (v. 4) and losing their impact in the land. Instead of righteousness, he sees injustice and violence taking over.

God’s First Response

God’s response (vs.1:5-11) was definitely not what the man of God expected: God instructed him to observe what is going to happen, not only in Israel but among the nations. “I will raise the Babylonians … that ruthless and impetuous people” (1:6). They will come to destroy and to take captives wherever they go. In other words, God told him: “You think it is bad now? Just wait, it is going to get even worse and …. I am in the midst of it.”

In fact, God told Habakkuk: “I am doing something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told (Habakkuk 1:5).”

The Man of God

Let us take a step back and see who Habakkuk was. He was not your average Sunday church-goer who once a week bothered go to the church to fulfill his religious duties. He was not a complainer upset that his prayers did not get instantly answered. We are dealing here with one of the great men of God from ancient times. Habakkuk was one of the few persons whose writings ended up in the Bible. His declaration that “the righteous shall live by faith” (2:4) is one of the most quoted Old Testament verses in the New Testament. He was a man of prayer and heard the voice of God like few did in his generation (He was a compatriot of Jeremiah).

It was exactly this rare man of God who saw his prayers go unanswered. His “how long shall I cry” (v. 1) is the despair of possibly many years of prayer for revival in Israel, and yet he saw nothing happening. And honestly, that might be the situation of many dear men and women of God in our times, who have hoped and prayed for another revival for decades. Truth be told, it has been a long time since we have seen revivals like Azusa Street, the Welsh revival, and the Wesleyan or Pietist revivals, in many Western countries. “How long” might be the cry of many believers today.

And God’s response to the prophet is even more puzzling: “You would not believe it if I told you!” I remember hearing one of the new prophetic voices recently being asked: Where were the prophets that foretold of the global pandemic?” The lady was sincere in answering: “I most likely would not have believed it if God told me about a coming global pandemic.” I was refreshed by her honesty.

Many people today question the role of the prophets today, particularly after the recent US election so many prophetic voices foresaw Trump winning a second term. Like Habakkuk, they most likely would not have believed such a dramatic turn would happen to their beloved nation. It is easy to judge them in hindsight. But knowing many of them personally, I know that they – like Habakkuk – hoped most of all for revival in USA. They hoped, like me and many of us in Israel, that another term of Donald Trump would continue to strengthen Israel and would strengthen Christian values not only in America but in other nations as well.

Habakkuk’s Third Response

Yet after God’s reply, Habakkuk was even more perturbed. The pagan Babylonians would be allowed to judge the people of God? This was highly upsetting for him. “Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” the prophet asked (1:13).

But then Habakkuk made a decision that became a game-changer, both for the prophet and for the outlook and tone of his entire message.

The Watch Tower

Habakkuk recognized that he now desperately needed to hear from God. He understood that old paradigms and concepts would no longer work. The focus now shifted from asking God to hearing from Him.

God still speaks today, but maybe we need to reorient our hearts to hear the new thing He is doing in the world today. We all need to remember that the Bible is full of passages that difficult times will come to the world. Lawlessness will increase, He will judge the world through earthquakes, wars and even pestilences, and yes eventually there will be even a globally orchestrated war on the saints. I do not know what lies ahead, but could it be that we are entering into a new season when things will become more difficult for the Western church? Yet, as we draw close to Him and seek His face, God promises that He will draw near to us and will answer our plea!

Instead of praying what he always prayed, Habakkuk went on his watch tower to receive the divine insight for his time. We need to realize that many of the changes of 2020 will be irreversible. What worked in years past might not work today or even tomorrow. This is a time when each one of us is called to go up to our personal watch tower to pray and seek the Lord as never before.

The Light House

As Habakkuk listened, God spoke to him! God’s new revelation changed the perspective of the prophet. God did not change his purposes, but He allowed the prophet to see the world how God saw it. The Lord told him to write down plainly what He was about to share with him so that others could read it (2:2). That means God gave him not just an answer for his own questions but what he heard would help others too. Habakkuk’s watch tower of prayer turned into a lighthouse of guidance for others. God used him in turbulent times to be like the sons of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32). This unique tribe understood the times and the seasons they lived in and also knew what they ought to do. The result was the people were at their command. God looks for these lighthouse people today – people who can give hope and direction in these stormy times.

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

At the same time God affirmed to Habakkuk His immovable purposes. “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.… but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:3-4)

Shakings would surely come, God said, yet the righteous shall live by faith! The most needed quality we need to strive for in these troubling times is faith. Do not allow the confusion and challenges of our time to rob your faith. In spite of all the chaos around us, God is seated on His throne. This was the vision of Isaiah when one of the greatest kings of Israel died a tragic death. He saw the Lord seated on His throne and the train of his robe filling the temple (Isaiah 6:1).

Or to put it in the words of the prophet Daniel: When confronted with death and all the wisemen and magicians of Babylon were at the end of their wisdom, Daniel was full of faith and declared… “but there is a God in heaven!” (Daniel 2:28) It means that in the midst of confusion, economic hardship, and all our unanswered questions, it is our faith in Jesus Christ that will carry us through. The righteous shall live by faith!

God is Still at Work!

Finally, God affirmed to Habakkuk what he could not believe anymore. In the midst of judgement and chaos, God’s salvation purposes with mankind continue apace. Like a powerful ray of light penetrating the darkness, God announces: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) This is not just a theological or prophetic statement of the future, but an invitation of God to take an active part in His salvation purposes.

Habakkuk’s New-Found Faith

The prophet Habakkuk’s first reaction was to embrace God’s will. “I heard your report (3:2).” He still did not like it and was filled with fear and trembling (3:2+16). Yet he could see that God was at work. He saw pestilence and pandemics “at God’s heels” (3:5), and high places were shaken as the Lord came to visit the earth. But Habakkuk understood that He came not destroy His people but was coming on a chariot of salvation (3:8) and that God “went out for the salvation of His people, His anointed (3:13).”

It should make us think that the greatest revivals of recent decades have not taken place in the Western democratic, free-market countries, but in developing nations still fighting poverty in Latin America and Africa, and in places like China and Iran and even more recently in the turbulent Arab world.

In one of our weekly Global Prayer Gatherings recently, we heard an amazing testimony from our branch director in the Philippines, Pastor Stephen Mirpuri. Through November and December last year, we prayed for his region after it was horribly struck by a typhoon. Entire villages were completely submerged in water. Many people lost everything. Yet he just reported how revival broke out in this hard-hit region and only in his churches over 3000 people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

God does work in mysterious ways. But God does work! Therefore, Habakkuk received divine faith in the midst of his challenging times. His hunger for revival in Israel was not quenched but even strengthened. “O LORD, I have heard the report of You, and Your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)

Maybe the greatest time for the Church in the West is still ahead of us. His work is not dependent on any earthly government. In the midst of the pandemic and great political change, let us make Habakkuk’s prayer our prayer: Lord, revive your work and in wrath remember mercy!

Habakkuk’s attitude was now different from his seemingly legitimate complaints at the beginning of the book. He was able to make one of the most profound statements of faith in the Bible: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17ff)

His faith and his joy were no longer dependent of the circumstances, because he saw the Lord in control! Do not despair of your own disappointment or lack of understanding and even wavering faith. Remember that even a great man of God like Habakkuk struggled with the times he was living in. It is this book of a struggling prophet which invites us to plead our case before the Lord and He will indeed answer!

Finally, Habakkuk made one more profound statement, and this is how his book ends:
“GOD, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” (Habakkuk 3:19, ESV)

The chaos and shakings became the territory of victory for Habakkuk. God strengthened him with His strength and gave him “feet like deer” treading on “high places.” There is no doubt we live today in complex and difficult times. Reading this verse, I was reminded of a documentary on mountain goats. With uttermost ease they are able to navigate the highest and seemingly impossible terrain of the Rocky Mountains. God promises this supernatural gift to us. The capability to navigate the new realities of the COVID-19 period, or the coming economic hardships, or a new government not to our liking. He will give us not only His strategies, but also His divine empowerment.

Remember! As we man our watchtower, He might turn it into a lighthouse for others. And most importantly, keep trusting in the Lord because “the righteous shall live by faith!”

—by Jürgen Bühler, ICEJ President
 

Battling the Spirit of Amalek

The festival of Purim, one of the most joyful holidays in Israel, is based on the story of Esther. The events of the book or “scroll” of Esther took place back during the Jewish exile in Persia under King Ahasuerus (Xerxes / 486-465 BC). The spiritual roots of the story, however, date back to the time when Saul first reigned as king over Israel and even further back to when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt.

In the days of Saul, he was put through a challenge to prove himself as Israel’s leader in battle over their worst enemies, the Amalekites, and so establish his kingship over Israel. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin and his family were Kishites, a little-known community at the time. The prophet Samuel declared the time to establish his rule had come (1 Samuel 15:1), but it required strict obedience. Saul was commanded to engage in a battle of great historic and spiritual significance for Israel, by dealing a final blow to their ancient archenemy – the Amalekites.

During the time of the Exodus, this desert tribe had attacked the children of Israel on the way out of Egypt and they did so in a most despicable manner. “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God.” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18) Amalek was viscous, attacking the faint and weary at the rear of the column. Since then, this people became the archetype of enmity for Israel, with even God declaring: “The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:16)

The book of First Samuel tells us that Saul readily engaged the enemy, yet he did not finish the mission whole-heartedly. He kept the best of the sheep for himself and even worse, he spared Agag, king of the Amalekites. It was Samuel who executed Agag for the death of many in Israel. And because of Saul’s indecisiveness and disobedience in this battle, the kingship over Israel was ultimately removed from the House of Kish and given to the House of David.

And in a real sense, the lingering rivalry between the House of Kish and the House of Agag is then replayed in the story of Esther more than 600 years later.

Round Two
Besides Esther, the other main Jewish character in the story is described as follows: “Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite.” (Esther 2:5) Mordechai was from the deposed royal clan of Saul (see 1 Samuel 9:1; 2 Samuel 16:5). He also served at the gate of Susa, meaning he was a high ranking official in Perisa. Finally, he was the foster father of Esther, a young orphan girl and relative of Mordechai.

Divine circumstances suddenly propelled Esther to the throne of Persia, as she became the wife of the ruler Ahasuerus. It was truly a fairy tale of a beautiful Jewish refugee girl becoming queen of an empire which ruled the world.

The other main figure in the story of Esther was another refugee from the same region named Haman. The Bible refers to him as an Agagite (Esther 3:1), which means he also was of royal descent – from the Amalekite kings. It is a lineage which dates back even to the time of Moses (Numbers 24:7, 20; 1 Samuel 15:7, 32). He, too, had reached the pinnacle of the empire as King Ahasuerus made him prime minister, bestowed with almost unlimited powers. All the other ministerial officers who sat in the gate of Susa, capital of Persia, needed to show respect to Haman by bowing down before him. And everyone did so, except for one man – Mordechai. This made Haman furious, especially when he heard Mordechai was a Jew (Esther 3:6).

Like his Amalekite ancestors, Haman manifested an ancient, demonic hatred of the Jews. He sought revenge, and killing Mordechai was not enough. Rather, he schemed to destroy all the Jews in the Persian Empire. Haman went to the king with a request which is one of the earliest recorded instances of antisemitism:

“There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them. If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business…” (Esther 3:8)

For Haman, this was not just a breach of court protocol but a personal matter that was worth investing his own wealth. He saw it as the moment when the conflict between Israel and Amalek could enter its final chapter – the total annihilation of the Jewish people. Tragically, the king approved the plot. Only one other time in history has a similar decree been passed, and that was in 1942 when senior Nazi officials, under Hitler’s directions, met in the Villa Wannsee outside Berlin and plotted to annihilate the eleven million Jews of Europe.

Unlike the fate of European Jewry, when six million Jews were brutally murdered by Nazi Germany, the book of Esther turned into a story of miraculous deliverance.

A Day of Deliverance
When the Jews of Persia heard about the plot to kill them, they immediately called a national fast among all Jews living in Persia. Mordechai could see the hand of God with his cousin Esther now being queen of the empire. He thus made a dramatic appeal to Esther that now was the time for action (Esther 4:13ff):

“Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Mordechai challenged her with a statement that personally gripped my heart years ago when I read it: He said that the survival of the Jews is not dependent upon her; if she remained silent someone else would rise up and deliver them. What a powerful profession of faith!

Mordechai understood that neither Haman nor anyone else could frustrate God’s purposes with Israel. He knew Israel’s destiny was not over, but that God had promised to bring them back to their land and even promised to send them the Messiah. So, if Esther remained silent, another deliverer would arise to save God’s people. “But,” he added, “you and your father's house will perish.”

We do not know for sure, but maybe Mordechai saw this as the opportunity to redeem the half-heartedness of his ancestor Saul. In any event, he was certain that Esther’s silence would have catastrophic consequences for her and her “father’s house.”

To put this in a modern context, we see forces rising today that also seek with evil determination the ruin of the Jewish people. They want to harm Jews, and to weaken or destroy the nation of Israel.

We see this at the United Nations, where Israel – the only functioning democracy in the region – is irrationally singled out every year for condemnation while the worst tyrants of this world are treated as innocents. We also saw this just a few weeks ago at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where Israel is being unfairly investigated for alleged war crimes while other nations massacring their own people are routinely given a pass.

Indeed, the spirit of Amalek is waging war against Israel even in our generation. And here we are called to action. This brings to mind the words of Martin Niemöller, a pastor of the confessing church during Hitler’s time, who stated:

“First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

While he sadly avoided mentioning the Jews, who needed intervention more than anyone else, we should take these words to heart and be ready to speak up in the face of unrighteousness, and in particular with regard to God’s chosen people – the Jews. The warning which Mordechai issued to Esther was already given to Abraham, the first Jew: “I will bless those who bless you and him who dishonors you I will curse!” (Genesis 12:3)

As we celebrate Purim, let us renew our commitment to stand unashamedly with God’s people. God sees it and He will bless it.

The story of Esther is one of total reversal. In Esther 9:1 it says: “… on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.”

As the king reversed the situation for the Jews, he allowed and encouraged them to defend themselves and the very day that was appointed for their destruction became a day of great victory and deliverance. Not only were Haman and his ten sons hanged on the very gallows he built for Mordechai, but also hundreds of the ‘enemies of the Jews’ fell with him.

Our Duty to Act
Ironically, when the Nuremberg trials ended in October 1946 and ten senior Nazi officials were hanged, an American journalist heard one of their ranks – Julius Streicher – cry out with his last words: “Purim fest!”

History does tend repeat itself, but it is up to us to do all we can to ensure it will not happen in our lifetime.

We should not ignore that Amalek represents a spirit which has operated throughout history. Both Moses in Exodus 17 and Mordechai in the scroll of Esther understood that prayer and fasting were needed tools to combat this evil spirit of antisemitism. Yet, we also need to be a people of action and visibly show whose side we are on. May God bless us as we do so!

  

The Battle of Voices

In most countries, there is no doubt that our media outlets and the streams of communication have become ‘mainstream’ in a very literal sense. In most places, there is just one prevailing discourse, one message, one viewpoint that is endorsed and anybody who decides to depart from this consensus view is immediately ostracized for being radical, racist, fascist or worse.

The University of Arizona found in a recent questionnaire, sent to 462 journalists at media outlets like The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and Associated Press, that only 4.4% described themselves as conservatives, while an astonishing 58.7% identified themselves as left/liberal leaning.

One area where this bias is seen most obviously is their treatment of US President Donald Trump. The German newspaper Die Welt calculated recently that 99% of the articles published in Germany about Trump were critical. He is caricatured as a rough-talking, boastful man who is destroying Western culture.

As Christians, we should note that the vast majority of evangelical Christians in the USA came to an entirely different conclusion. In their eyes, Donald Trump’s time in office has been one of the most successful administrations in the past 50 years. Before Corona, the US not only had the lowest unemployment rate in decades, he also significantly improved the economic standing of America’s Black community, far more than his predecessor Barak Obama. Trump reversed some of the extreme abortionist laws and took an unprecedented pro-life stand as America’s president. He is considered the most pro-Israel US president in history, with these last months of his first term noted for the first peace breakthroughs between Israel and the Arab world in decades. When Trump announced the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the political elites in Europe not only condemned the move, their experts foresaw a Middle East set ablaze. Yet today, three years after, much of the Arab world enjoys a rare atmosphere of peace and stability, and has become more friendly to Israel than many nations in what used to be known as ‘Christian Europe.’

Yet the media do not want to report anything good about Trump. And what is astonishing about this extremely liberal chorus of voices which dominate the airwaves around the world is that they are not united because laws force them to be so, but it all has coalesced into a grotesque Orwellian reality in which no law prevents free speech, but any deviation from the accepted narrative is punished. Just a few weeks ago, a Christian ministry leader in Germany posted a modestly pro-Trump opinion, yet all hell broke loose as politicians and media outlets swarmed down on her until she finally removed the post and focused back on her ministry.

Reading through the book of Revelation, I recently was surprised by a recuring pattern that the Apostle John encountered in his visions. As he describes the evil forces which will unfold and fight against the saints and the Lamb during the last days (also during history), they seem to all resort to one main weapon of choice – their mouths.

In Revelation 9, John sees a frightful demonic army, demonic horses having the heads of lions with “fire, smoke and sulfur” coming out of their mouths. John later attests that their main threat is their mouth; indeed, “the power of the horses is in their mouth” (Revelation 9:17-19).

In Revelation 13, as the anti-Christian Beast and his false prophet are revealed, we read “a mouth was given to the beast to speak haughty and blasphemous words” (Revelation 13:5). His prophet “spoke like a dragon” (13:11), and erected an image which spoke and caused “those who would not worship the beast to be slain” (13:15).

And as John sees the “bowls of God’s wrath” being poured out (Revelation 16), again an evil army is assembled. This army is led by the Beast, the dragon and the false prophet. Their key weapon again is their mouth. Out of their mouth, “three demonic unclean spirits like frogs” are released with the purpose “to assemble the kings of the world for battle.”

These passages are possibly best summarized by Revelation 12:15, where the serpent, Satan himself, comes to the scene and pours out of his mouth “a river after the woman (Israel)… that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.”

The spoken deceptive words of Satan are what caused sin, chaos and death from the very beginning, by talking mankind into his demonic schemes (Genesis 3:1ff). He spoke back then in the Garden Eden, and he still speaks until today. His words of deception, immorality and blasphemy are all around us. And woe to anyone who dares to speak against it – a fury will break loose against you. There are numerous hot button issues where public dialogue has become impossible: abortion, gender and family issues, or support for Israel are some prime examples. In short, any biblical, conservative input into our national life is immediately shot down by the political correctness of our days.

The book of Daniel gives a similar picture. Also here, the beast and anti-Christ of Daniel chapters 7 and 11 speak against God and against the saints (Daniel 7:8, 11, 20). Daniel sees these demonic voices “wearing down the saints” (Daniel 7:25). The signs of the saints being worn down by these voices can be seen today. It is easier to compromise for peace’s sake than to stand firm on what we believe.

Yet the most important truth and value the book of Revelation offers us is hope! There is hope for the future. Jesus comes back! At his arrival, Jesus will – with the breath of his mouth – make an end of Satan and his Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:8). We must never forget that the word of God is more powerful than any word of deception and any demonic lie. His word stands forever! At the command of His word, the world was created and His word calmed the sea. When Jesus comes it will just take a breath, one word from his mouth, to unmask all the lies and schemes of the enemy. What a glorious day that will be.

But there is hope also for today. Again and again, John sees overcomers, men and women of God who will not bow down at the words that come from the mouth of the serpent. John sees those who overcame shared unique qualities:

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)

Never forget the power of the blood of Jesus. Like at Passover, when the blood protected the people of Israel, so also today the blood of Jesus “speaks.” It is more powerful than any power of darkness and protects us from the assaults of the enemy. Make it a point every day to proclaim the power of the blood of Jesus over your life and family, and trust the Lord to keep you from the many lies that fill the airwaves.

They also overcame by the word of their testimony. Don’t be silent, and ask the Lord for wisdom when to speak and when not to, and ask for courage not to hold back. As God gave us His word, we are called upon to make use of the “sword of the spirit, the word of God”. Let us trust that the power of His word is the same today as it was in the days of the Apostles.

And finally, they overcome because of an attitude of total dedication to the purposes of God. It reminds me of the three men in the fiery furnace who did not listen to the voices of their day and refused to bow down to an idol. “No matter if God will save us or not, we will never bow down” (Daniel 3:17). It also was the profession of Queen Esther, who after praying and fasting, went to the king saying: “If I perish I perish!” Radical dedication to Jesus and His eternal Kingdom is a quality that will be required in the years to come more than ever before.

As we cherish these qualities and immerse ourselves in the faithful words of God, He will keep us, protect us and allow us to carry out great exploits for His glory.

ICC ruling mangles international law to indict Israel

There is an old adage in the legal profession that “bad cases make bad law.”

And the International Criminal Court in the Hague has recently proven once again that the world community is far too easily willing to stretch and twist international law beyond recognition to satiate Palestinian animus towards Israel, most assuredly to the detriment of us all.

Two weeks ago, the ICC ruled that it had jurisdiction to open a probe of possible war crimes committed by Israel in the territories of “Palestine” – by which it meant Gaza, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. This was a highly biased and outrageous move which has even opened up the Court to justifiable accusations of antisemitism, as was asserted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his immediate response.

Truly, this ruling is prejudiced and absurd on its face. The ICC was set up as a permanent tribunal to try war crimes and crimes against humanity which shock the conscience of the world. But it was intended as a “court of last resort,” to step in only when a member state passed on jurisdiction to it. If a country is not a party to the Rome Statute which established the ICC, or if it is already willing and able to investigate and try these cases within its own judicial system, then the Hague court cannot unilaterally assume non-consensual jurisdiction.

Here, Israel is not a member of the ICC and it does have serious, proactive judicial mechanisms in place to try such crimes. Meanwhile, the Palestinians do not qualify as a sovereign state under the Rome Statute governing the Court. Therefore, the Court has no legal standing or authority to investigate and charge Israel with war crimes in the so-called ‘occupied territories’.

So what we are witnessing is an overzealous chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, convincing the Court to bend and mangle international law to empower her quest to indict Israelis on invalid and unsustainable charges. This is happening even while the ICC is overlooking daily war crimes being committed by brutal regimes like Iran and Syria against their own people. Yet the ICC wants to prosecute Jews for building homes in Jerusalem as if they were Nazi war criminals.

Further, this ruling did not happen overnight. It is part of a wider Palestinian diplomatic agenda that has been progressing in United Nations organs ever since the 2001 Durban conference to delegitimize, demonize and dismantle the Jewish state.

In terms of the ICC, it has been building for the past 5-to-6 years, ever since Bensouda began pursuing it in earnest following the Hamas rocket war with Israel in 2014. It reflects the access and influence which the Palestinians and their global allies have in UN organs. And sadly, they have a large, effective network of pro-Palestinian NGOs and human rights groups which constantly pressure UN bodies to take actions against Israel – a network that is funded in large part by the European Union and some of its member states.

Here is a brief timeline of the ICC’s decisions on this probe, which demonstrates they were conducting a direct ‘dialogue’ with the Palestinians on investigating Israel.

In January 2015, in the wake of the third rocket war which Hamas launched against Israel along the Gaza border, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened at the Palestinians’ request a preliminary examination into the situation in “Palestine.”

In December 2019, after several years of gathering evidence from partisan pro-Palestinian sources, Bensouda announced there was a reasonable basis for opening a war crimes investigation against Israel.

In May 2020, the ICC asked the Palestinian Authority for clarification on a declaration by PA president Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians were no longer bound by and would no longer abide by the Oslo agreements signed with Israel.

In June 2020, the PA clarified that it regarded itself as absolved of all agreements with Israel, but they did not deem this to affect the case they were building against Israel at the ICC.

Three days later, Bensouda agreed that Abbas’ declaration had no influence on the status of Palestine as a member of the Rome Statute.

Then on 5 February 2021, a pre-trial panel of three judges (by a slim 2-to-1 margin) ruled that the ICC did in fact have jurisdictional authority over the territories occupied in 1967, including Gaza, West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, and could open a war crimes probe against Israel (and Hamas).

This ICC ruling represents a significant and troubling advance on three key prongs of the long-term Palestinian agenda against Israel.

1) They seek to gain recognition of a Palestinian state outside direct bilateral talks with Israel.
“Palestine” is not a sovereign state, but it has managed to gain observer status in UN forums, and even achieved recognition as a state in some UN organs – including now the ICC.

2) They seek to undermine Israel’s legitimacy and in particular its right of self-defense.
This move would allow the ICC to try Israeli leaders and military figures for war crimes, and thus it is intended to strip Israeli authorities of the means to defend its citizens. In this regard, Bensouda has specifically referenced the 2014 Gaza conflict and the 2018 ‘March of Return’ riots as instances in which she has reason to believe Israel committed wars crimes. In truth, Israel’s leaders simply sought to protect its civilian population from deliberate armed attacks against them by a widely-recognized radical Islamic terror militia.

3) They seek to uproot the Israeli communities in Judea/Samaria by discrediting and now even criminalizing Jewish settlement activity. In response to the Nazi genocide against the Jews and their diabolical efforts to make Europe Judenrein, the international community set up the Fourth Geneva Conventions to prohibit many of the specific war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany during World War Two. This includes a ban on the forced transfer of populations in or out of an occupied territory. But now, the Palestinians are hoping to turn this ban into a club against Israel.

War crimes and crimes against humanity are rightly seen as especially heinous violations of law and moral decency. They are considered so odious that there are no statutes of limitation for prosecuting them. Thus, we have seen Nazi war criminals hunted to their graves by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and others for decades. But now, the ICC would have us accept a perverse moral equivalence between what the Nazis did in forcefully transporting millions of Jews to their deaths, and the voluntary return of Jews to the heart of their ancient biblical homeland, including Jerusalem.

On the contrary, this will never be acceptable! Thus, all of Israel’s friends need to band together over coming months to urge those states who are members of the ICC to reject and rescind this outrageous decision.
 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

More Positive Fruit from the Abraham Accords

One of the main developments in the Middle East of late is the Abraham Accords – Israel’s recent normalisation agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Since those accords were concluded last summer, Israel also has signed peace deals with Morocco and Sudan, while Kosovo just became the fifth Muslim-majority nation to recognise Israel in the past six months.

There are numerous signs that this positive momentum between Israel and the Arab world will continue, even amid concerns the new Biden administration will adopt a softer line towards Iran.

For instance, more than 50,000 Israelis flocked to the UAE and Bahrain to visit and shop over recent months, despite the coronavirus travel restrictions. Emirates and other Arabs also began showing up in Israel in greater numbers, with many coming to visit historic sites and pray at the Muslim shrines in Jerusalem.

Prominent Israelis also are increasingly being interviewed by Arab media outlets, and some are even getting their commentaries published in official newspapers. Last week, Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak and Dr. Jonathan Spyer, both fellows at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, wrote an analysis in a leading Saudi daily about Turkey’s recent recruitment of proxy militias in Syia, based on joint research with a UAE think tank.

Interestingly, after years of radiating hostility towards Israel, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has started making overtures for reconciling his differences with Jerusalem, a move which some experts see as a response to his fears the Israeli-Sunni Arab alliance now forming may outflank his designs for the region.

In another telling sign, dozens of Arabs from the surrounding nations took part in an online event on January 27th to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, where they heard a survivor of Auschwitz give her harrowing testimony of being a victim of Josef Mengele’s diabolic medical experiments. The Arab listeners were moved to tears and vowed to bring Holocaust education to schools and societies throughout the Middle East.

During the ICEJ’s recent Envision conference, we heard from Amb. Dan Shaham, who quietly served as Israel’s top envoy in the United Arab Emirates during the lead-up to the Abraham Accords. He described the recent move towards peace between the sons of Abraham as truly “prophetic”.

“After getting to know the Arabs over my two years in Abu Dhabi, I realised there are a lot of commonalities between us,” said Amb. Shaham. “Israelis are warm, open and friendly, and so are they. They want to develop their country and to create a new narrative for the Arab world, which is something we also understood as our role… So it was a meeting of minds between two peoples who were both ready for these changes.”

“There was also a value for the Arabs of just doing the right thing”, he added. “One of my friends told me: ‘We have relations with many Christian countries, why shouldn’t we have relations with the Jewish country.’”

American-Israeli author Joel Rosenberg also shared about his recent ground-breaking visits with Arab rulers who are now befriending Israel.

“Suddenly, we’ve seen these tectonic changes and the big question is: Why?” said Rosenberg. “The Arab leaders I have met are saying the world has changed. They have seen Israel become a military power in this region, but also an economic miracle. And they see Israel as an ally against the growing threat of Iran… They also are telling me they still support the Palestinian cause, but they have become frustrated with the Palestinian leadership for constantly rejecting peace with Israel.”

Meantime, during a visit to Ariel in the Shomron (northern West Bank) we also heard from Palestinian sheikh Nasr Abu Khalil Al-Tamimi, who said he not only accepts the Jewish people’s rightful place back in the Land of Israel, including in the settlements, but he also believes there is room on the Temple Mount for the Jews to rebuild their temple.
 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

Return of the Two-State Solution

With the new Biden administration now in place in Washington, many are wondering how this might impact the Middle East, especially with regards to the Iranian nuclear threat, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and the warming relations between Israel and the Sunni Arab world.

Familiar Faces
During the recent US presidential campaign, candidate Joe Biden distanced himself from incumbent President Donald Trump on nearly every issue related to the Mideast region – except for the Abrahams Accords. There were just too many positives coming out of the Trump team’s successful efforts to help Israel reach peace deals with four Arab countries (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco).

But Biden offered a different take on nearly every other policy concern, and his incoming Administration is now expected to shift course in two main areas – brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and how to defuse the Iranian nuclear threat. In both cases, Biden will likely revert to the approaches taken by the previous Obama presidency, especially given that he served as vice president then and so many other senior Obama appointees are now being tapped for key positions in Biden’s foreign policy team.

For instance, former secretary of state John Kerry is now the new ‘climate czar’, overseeing Biden’s top priority abroad – the crusade against global warming. Samantha Power, who served as Obama’s ambassador to the UN, will now be director of the US AID program. Normally, both positions would be under the supervision of incoming Secretary of State Antony Blinken, but Kerry and Power each used their clout to elevate these postings to cabinet-level status.

Meantime, Wendy Sherman, the main US negotiator of the Iranian nuclear pact in 2015, is now number two at the State Department. And Rob Malley, an Obama-era advisor known for having close contacts in Tehran, will now be Biden’s special envoy to Iran.

Regarding Iran, Bidens’ aides have said they would prefer to renegotiate the 2015 JCPOA agreement to extend its timeframe and include curbs on Iran’s ballistic missile threat, among other regional concerns. But before re-engaging with Tehran, they have pledged to first consult with allies in the Middle East and Europe, as well as key leaders in Congress. Yet they also have warned that a decision is urgently needed on whether to re-enter the Iranian nuclear deal abandoned by Trump – since Tehran could be only “weeks away” from reaching breakout capabilities to develop a nuclear weapon. Israeli officials disagree, however, assessing the ayatollahs would still need at least six months to reach the breakout stage.

This is an odd reversal of the days when Jerusalem was the one warning Iran was much closer to the ‘bomb’ than the Obama White House estimates. In any event, it is doubtful Biden’s team will put much effort into consulting with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu on this existential issue for his nation, and the upcoming Israeli elections could be used as a convenient excuse for essentially evading him on the Iran question.

And keep in mind that the clerical regime in Tehran is certain to demand a high price for even considering possible changes to the JCPOA negotiated under Obama.

Familiar Flaws
For many Israelis, the presence of so many Obama-era officials in Biden’s leadership team is also a bad sign on the settlements issue. After all, it is widely believed that John Kerry and Samantha Power were behind the passage of UN Security Council resolution 2334, the vindictive, blatantly anti-Israel decree adopted in December 2016, just weeks before Barack Obama left office.

That resolution declared that “Israeli settlements, including East Jerusalem, have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation under international law.” It added that they also are “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution”, which can only be “salvaged” by an Israeli settlement freeze.

So for those who stand firmly with Israel’s claims to Judea/Samaria and all of Jerusalem, the days of being able to relax on the settlements issue during the Trump presidency are over. Now I doubt that Biden will immediately start pressing Israel for serious concessions to the Palestinians, but some of their allies in Europe and elsewhere are already doing so.

For instance, when Biden was declared the president-elect in early November, European Union officials instantly ratcheted up their denunciations of the Givat Hamatos building project in southern Jerusalem. Germany and France also have started pushing to relaunch talks over the two-state solution, while UN Secretary General António Guterres recently called for the same, citing in his official statement the exact wording from UNSC resolution 2334 about Israel’s “flagrant violations under international law”.

This had all been put on the back burner under Trump, who rarely mentioned the “two-state” option and saw no reason to condemn Israeli settlement activities – with his State Department even maintaining that they were legitimate under international law. But this is all now back in play, so get used to hearing once more the incessant drum beat against the Jewish settlements and Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian lands.

This shift is basically a return to the foreign policy establishment’s biased consensus – held in Washington and Brussels too – that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies at the root of all the troubles in the Middle East and they can only be solved after Israel makes the moves necessary to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians. President Trump proved this ‘linkage’ theory was totally flawed, of course, by brokering peace accords between Israel and four Arab states. But that is not going to stop the Western elites from reviving the same old logic in order to put the onus back on Israel again to make one-sided concessions for peace.

 

 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

 

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