The Winds of War
As I write this article, Israel has entered into a tenuous cease-fire, following a three-week, full-scale military campaign aimed at Hamas in Gaza. The intent of the operation was to destroy the ability of Hamas to continue the rocket and missile attacks they have been launching daily and to disrupt the supply of weapons from Iran that are being smuggled in for use by the terrorists. Unlike the campaign against Hezbollah in 2006, Israel continued their strikes against Hamas despite calls from around the world for a cease-fire, until they felt they had reached their objectives.
The news that we get from this conflict is often slanted by the biases and agendas of those doing the reporting. Here are six things you need to know to truly understand the conflict in Gaza.
1) Ancient History The Gaza Strip is the area once occupied by the Philistines in Bible times. Because the Philistines had better military equipment (they had iron weapons when Israel did not—1 Samuel 13:19), the Israelites under Joshua and the various judges were not able to drive them out of the land as they did the other Canaanite peoples. The Philistines even briefly captured the Ark of the Covenant as part of God’s judgment on Eli and his family. And it was against the Philistines that Samson fought his great battles.
The conflict between Israel and the Philistines peaked during the time of the kings. It was against the Philistines and the giant Goliath that David made his name as a warrior. The Philistines were responsible for the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. After he became king, David spent much of his time fighting against the Philistines.
Five cities—Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath and Gaza—along the Mediterranean coast were the center of Philistine power. Today some of these cities are Israeli towns, and others are under Palestinian control.
2) Modern History Since Israel’s rebirth in 1948, the history of the nation has been a constant struggle for survival. On May 15, the day after Israel’s independence was recognized by the United Nations, soldiers from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia attacked, sparking an all-out war. For more than a year (interrupted by two brief cease-fire periods) the war continued. When the fighting ended, Israel had ensured their survival, at least for another moment.
Following a war of attrition in 1956 over the Suez Canal, tensions flared again in 1967, leading to the historic Six Days War. During this brief campaign Israel routed the much larger forces of Egypt and Syria. It was this war that gave Israel control over the city of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip—the territory that is the scene of the current conflict.
In 2005, Israel removed all of its people from Gaza, handing control over to the Palestinians in exchange for promises of peace. That peace never materialized. Almost immediately the terrorists began using Gaza as a launch area for attacks on Israel. Thousands of rockets and missiles—unguided weapons launched without any concern for where they will land or who they might kill or injure—have been launched, including during the “cease-fire” last year.
3) Military Reality Because Israel is such a small country (the entire nation could fit inside the shores of Lake Michigan with room to spare) surrounded by enemies sworn to its destruction, the nation has lived under constant threat for its entire modern existence. Four major wars and a series of smaller campaigns have forced the people of Israel to be continually preparing for battle.
The majority of the weapons being used against Israel today are either made by or purchased for the Hamas terrorists by the government of Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly vowed to “wipe Israel off the map” and his government is hard at work on their atomic weapons program. Intelligence reports suggest that Iran has already produced enough enriched uranium for at least one atomic bomb.
Many experts have expected Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities just as they did with Iraq’s reactor in 1981, but according to news reports, America has strongly objected to such an attack. Iran has long sponsored and funded both Hezbollah and Hamas, using them as proxies in their campaign against Israel. The constant attacks on Israel are at least in part intended to tie Israel down and prevent an attack on Iran.
4) Political Conflicts There are two political conflicts taking place: one between Israel and its enemies like Iran, and one within Israel itself. The outside conflict is an extension of the war that began in 1948. Though Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Lebanon, they are still technically at war with Iraq. They once had a good relationship with Iran, but today the radical Islamist government there is perhaps Israel’s most dangerous adversary.
Israel also faces political pressure from most of the other nations of the world. A recent United Nations resolution to force Israel to halt its attacks received only one “No” vote—from Canada. Ever since the Camp David peace talks during the Carter Administration, Israel has been led, coerced, bribed and threatened to make numerous concessions in the search for peace.
The political situation in Israel is unsettled as well. Current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be stepping down after the new round of elections. The nation is divided between those who think further concessions should be made and those who think stronger action is necessary. This division has deepened as the fighting in Gaza has continued, and it will undoubtedly have a great impact on the election and the direction of Israel’s future.
5) Spiritual Conflicts Behind the visible warfare, there is a spiritual battle taking place. The enemy has sought for centuries to destroy God’s Chosen People, all the way back to the days of Pharaoh when he ordered the murder of all male Israelite children when they were born. Our spiritual enemy is using nations and people in the Middle East to continue that effort today.
Daniel chapter 10 lays out the spiritual powers that are unseen but operate behind each nation. The angel (demonic power) behind the throne of Persia (modern day Iran) was fighting against God’s angels to gain power over Israel. This same spiritual conflict is being repeated today before our eyes, and in such a battle, our prayers are the most effective weapon to win the victory. If Daniel had not been faithful to pray, his angel would not have received help from Michael, the arch-angel to defeat the demonic forces opposing Israel.
There is also a conflict between the false god of Islam and the God of Israel. Never believe the lie that Islam is a religion of peace—it is a religion that has only grown by violence, and it is a religion that demands the death of anyone who will not convert. The teaching of the Koran justifies any act of violence, deceit or treachery to further the religion. History and headlines are both filled with examples of cruel acts carried out against innocent men, women and even children in the name of Allah.
6) What God Says The most important thing to understand about this conflict is what God says in His Word. The Land was not given to Israel by the Mandate of the United Nations; it was given to Israel as an everlasting possession by God. (Gen. 15:18) It is the Land of promise, since the days of Abraham, and that will never change. No human power can alter what He has declared. No resolution, treaty or conference can undo what He has spoken. The Land belongs to Israel.
The ancient prophet Zechariah foretold a time when nations would gather to attack Jerusalem. Chapters 12 through 14 of his prophecy tell not only of the enemies who will gather to destroy the Jews, but how the Lord will intervene to deliver the city where He has placed His name and utterly defeat the enemy. No weapon, no army, no terrorist, no evil force can stand against the Lord of Hosts.
The Bible also tells us that there will be no lasting peace until the Prince of Peace returns. In the Holy City of Jerusalem, seated on the throne of His father David, Yeshua will rule the entire world. In that day, the battles will be ended, the enemies will be defeated, and peace will reign. Our task is to take His message—the Gospel of His Kingdom—and share it with everyone, both the Jews and the Nations while there is still time.
This current conflict is not a far off battle; it is our battle. Every believer should be praying for the peace of Jerusalem and seeking God’s direction and protection over His Chosen People...and that they will come to the knowledge of the truth that the Messiah has come and that Yeshua is the Savior of the world.