By Bafana Modise
As a Christian who has travelled to Israel and who has had the opportunity to analyse the conflict between Palestine and Israel from both sides of the coin, it is truly upsetting that the very leaders who have taught the Bible to millions, have repeatedly allowed themselves to be used as pawns to advance a political narrative that is totally contradictory to the very Bible they claim to preach truthfully.
We see this time and again in South Africa. A few years ago, a delegation of American and African church leaders, participated in a pilgrimage group visit to the region and returned home to issue a joint press statement, calling on our government to place economic pressure on Israel in order to contribute meaningfully to the de-escalation of conflict to assist in securing the freedom of Palestinian people.
Unfortunately economic pressure — and the recent motion in Parliament to downgrade the SA embassy in Israel — will do very little to help secure peace between two territories that have been at conflict for decades.
In fact, the steps taken by certain religious and political leaders in SA have been counter-productive at best. The motion to downgrade the SA embassy in Israel, while only symbolic, now sends a dark message to any Christian wishing to travel to the Holy Land for religious purposes. Tens of thousands of Christians travel to Israel yearly to visit the holiest sites of their faith, and have a right to access SA consular support and services during a spiritual pilgrimage.
What the motion did succeed in doing was to institutionalise a foreign policy agenda that may curtail the religious rights and freedoms of SA Christians.
This ludicrous decision was taken after the NFP’s motion was met with a number of criticisms in Parliament as recent as March 2023, with public representatives from the ACDP, Inkatha Freedom Party, DA) and FF+ all sharing their opposition to the move.
What is clear is that the ANC government has allowed itself to be held hostage by the views and rhetoric of minority parties, a fact that is painfully evident when a motion is passed, even if it runs the risk of curtailing the religious freedoms of over 30 million Christians in our country.
But political leaders are not the only ones doing damage here. There are also a number of Christian leaders who repeat the Palestinian rhetoric which contradicts the very Scripture and prophecy they teach (lest we forget that the Christian faith was born from the land of Israel, and not Palestine). Moses, David, Solomon, Yeshua (Jesus) all lived and experienced favour from God on the same land.
Biblically and archaeologically, we know for a fact, that the Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel, as they remain the only nation to have built a kingdom there, and they have returned more than three times to the same land “and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” – Isaiah 11:12.
Now, I wonder if those leaders actually believe and understand what they are currently teaching every Sunday?
The view that Palestine is indigenous to the Arab community suggests that the Bible we read is null and void, or rather, that it is a book of fairytales. But yet again, the same teachers of the same Bible are the ones advocating for the isolation of Israel. Believers all over the world have been waiting for a time such as this, where all the exiles will return to the land of Israel, as prophesied in the Book of Joel, Zechariah and others. We were taught in Bible studies, and most probably by the very same churches, that the Lord will restore Zion again in generations to come.
Some preachers today, in their pulpits, have turned around and twisted the Scriptures for political points and relevance in the secular world. Christians should remain bold in their faith and never compromise the Gospel, irrespective of the political climate. But instead, we now have religious and political leaders playing football with the lives of Palestinian people, in a manner that does not serve them or the people of Israel, who so desperately yearn for peace.
As such, I would encourage South Africans to ask the Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS) movement these questions: When exactly did the 100-year-old war become institutionalised as apartheid? Was it when the newly-founded Jewish state was attacked by the whole Arab world in ’48, or rather in ’67, when the Arab world was certain that victory and annihilation of the Jews was on its way? Why are Palestinians in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and others still discriminated against in those countries?
And why can’t these countries take responsibility for their failure to destroy the Jewish state and absorb the Palestinians living in their countries for 70 years? The Arab world is equally responsible for Palestinian refugees, which they created by launching war on Israel in ‘48.
Approximately 850 000 Jewish refugees from the Middle East were absorbed in the new state after they were expelled from Arab countries, many fleeing horrendous persecution – notably in Iraq.
The Palestinians have received millions in aid from the international community, but to this day, there is still no development in Gaza and the West Bank. Unfortunately, the enemies of Palestine are their very own leaders, who are more interested in settling political scores and demonising Israel, thanin improving the livelihoods of their people.
My heartfelt opinion on this conflict is that all believers, such as myself, should advocate for peace between the two parties, and intervene with messages of unity and love.
To deny and twist Christian beliefs and prophecy in the pursuit of political greener pastures is just like Peter, who loved and stood with Jesus in private and then denied any knowledge of him in public.
“Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called Sons of God” – Matthew 5:9.
Bafana Modise is a Radio Personality, Public Speaker, Leadership Coach, Christian Activist and voice-over artist who serves as the media & communications coordinator at South African Friends of Israel.
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