The Word:  Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.” But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat. … [Jezebel, Ahab’s wife] wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”  So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them… They took Naboth outside the city and stoned him to death…When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. (1 Kings 21: 1-16 – it is wise to read this in full in 1 Kings 21).

*   Pointers for prayer:  Please bring before the LORD the issues covered in this week’s report and do encourage others to join us in this important battle regarding Israel, the Middle East and the current turmoil within the Muslim world.

*   Please continue to pray for those in authority.  Israel’s leaders face a spiritual battle as well as a physical one. Pray for the leaders of the Israeli Knesset to be guided by God and to govern according to the principles of His Word. Pray too for righteous leaders to be raised up for the Arab Palestinian people who will truly care and work for their own people’s welfare.

Contending the vineyard    Two days ago, as part of my daily readings, I read from 1 Kings 21.  The story is worth reading in full.  The following day, I was speaking to one of CFI’s Area Reps when out of the blue he referred to Naboth’s vineyard.  I was stunned having just read this in my Bible study.  This led me to ponder on this more.  In a nutshell, Ahab wants Naboth’s inherited vineyard, but fails to get it and so he goes home and sulks.  Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, decides she will get the land and fulfils this by lies and murder (does this ring any bells?).  This heartless woman with a bloody history belied the name she bore, for Jezebel means, “chaste, free from carnal connection”; but by nature Jezebel was a most licentious woman. She was also a wanton woman. Thus no name could have been more inappropriate for such a despised female.  Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians, and both king and priest of Baal worshippers. The Phoenicians, though being outstanding as the great maritime peoples of the ancient world, were idolaters who regarded YHWH (the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) as only a local deity, “the god of the land.” The Phoenicians gods were Ba’al and Ashtaroth, with their innumerable number of priests, 450 of whom Ahab installed in the magnificent temple to the sun-god he had built in Samaria.  Ba’al was not only a sun-god, but also a moon-god to many people – especially in the area of what is today Saudi Arabia.  How strange that the very name of Jezebel was in fact completely contradictory to her character.  Or was it? 

The issue of security.  Recently, the Israeli government – which is made up of various political groups including Jews and Arabs – were once again debating the whole issue of the ‘West Bank’ (Judea and Samaria), along with further peace deals, security fences and Jewish communities within the ‘disputed area’.  Without doubt, this whole problem is not going to disappear, and I have a feeling Israel will once again face a huge amount of verbal attack from the EU and other political groups, along with the media. From September 2000 to mid-2005, hundreds of Arab Palestinian suicide bombings and terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians killed more nearly 1,000 innocent people and wounded thousands of others. In response, Israel's government decided to construct a security fence that would run near the ‘Green Line’ between Israel and the ‘West Bank’ to prevent Palestinian terrorists from easily infiltrating into Israel proper. The project had the overwhelming support of the Israeli public and was deemed legal by Israel's Supreme Court.  However, Israel’s fence brought international condemnation, yet the outrage was and still is a clear double standard - there is nothing new about the construction of a security fence. Many nations have fences to protect their borders - the United States, for example, has a huge one to prevent illegal immigration.  Whether one likes the security fences or hates them, one thing is for sure – they work.  Even the Palestinian terrorists have admitted the fence is a deterrent. On November 11, 2006, Islamic Jihad leader Abdallah Ramadan Shalah said on Al-Manar TV that the terrorist organizations had every intention of continuing suicide bombing attacks, but that their timing and the possibility of implementing them from the ‘West Bank’ depended on other factors. “For example,” he said, “there is the separation fence, which is an obstacle to the resistance, and if it were not there the situation would be entirely different.”

The ‘Way of the Patriarchs.’  One of the biggest problems Israel face is along what is known as the ‘Way of the Patriarchs’, which is an ancient north south route traversing the land of Israel. The name is used by biblical scholars because of mentions in biblical narratives that it was frequently travelled by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, along with many of the Israeli’s in Biblical times.  It follows the ridge line of the Samarian and Judean Mountains, and runs from Megiddo and Hazor south to Beersheba by way of Shechem, Beit El (Bethel), Jerusalem, and Hebron. This route was wholly within the territory of ancient Israel.  In modern times, the route roughly follows the original Highway 60, passing through Afula, Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron – all areas that Palestinian Authority claim belong to them.  Sadly, Israeli’s Jews face the danger of being attacked in these areas, or worse – killed.  While Israeli Arabs enjoy all the same freedom and privileges as Israeli Jews, and Arab Palestinians visit Israel every day from Palestinian controlled 'West Bank' and even Gaza, apart from being searched – which is the case for anyone travelling through security in any countries borders/airports etc., the Arab Palestinians have nothing to fear – providing they are not attempting any ‘terrorist activities’.  However, if Israelis visit Palestinian Authority areas – or roads that lead to ‘Area A’ in the PA controlled areas, they risk being murdered – as seen by the many red warning signs erected near the entrance of the roads.

False claims.  Many of course claim today that if Israel would only forego their inheritance, and give their land away for ‘peace’, then all Middle Eastern wars would cease.  Many also claim that the Arab Palestinians are the original occupants and owners of the land of "Palestine" which have been politically motivated and typified by PLO leaders such as Mahmud Abbas and Hanan Ashwari, but also by Arab Church leaders in the official churches of the Middle East.  A few years ago Mrs. Ashwari stated at a Madrid press conference: “I am a Palestinian Christian and I know what Christianity is. I am a descendant of the first Christians in the world, and Jesus Christ was born in my country, in my land. Bethlehem is a Palestinian town. So I will not accept this one-upmanship on Christianity”.  The claim is, of course, ludicrous, in that the first Christians in the world were certainly Jewish and moreover, most Palestinian Arabs probably arrived in Palestine from Egypt or Syria only after the early Zionists created job opportunities within Jewish Palestine.  Yet how is it that credible church leaders purvey a similar myth, such as Canon Riah Abu Al Assal, former Vicar Of Christ Church, Nazareth, who once stated, “We Palestinians have been mentioned in the Bible and we have been there long before Joshua came. Many forget that there are Christians of Arab-Palestinian background that go back to the time of Christ. The Palestinians are first cousins of Jesus Christ.”  So, hang on, if Arab-Palestinians go back to the time of Christ, does he think Joshua was post Jesus?

Yasser Arafat also once claimed “that Palestinians Arabs are descendants of the Jebusites who inhabited the city even before King David”. However, Zuhair Muhsin, head of the PLO Military Operations Department also said on 3rd March 1977: “Only for political reasons do we carefully underline our Palestinian identity. For it is of national interest for the Arabs to encourage the existence of the Palestinians against Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity is there only for tactical reasons.”  Such claims might be merely facetious, apart from the fact that they are proclaimed by those who seek to gain the sympathy of the Church in the West and are probably believed by those who do not know the elements of the history of this region.   However, history does show us that there were people that called themselves Palestinians. But history also shows us that those people were anything but Arabs.

Consider the following letter written to the New York Times in 1975 (it was later printed in The Palestinians: A Political Masquerade, Published by Americans For A Safe Israel by Arthur Kahn and Thomas Murray): “Dear Sir: Your newspaper frequently uses the term "Palestinian" to describe a section of the Middle East population which is Arab, to differentiate it from Israeli Jews.  As the holder of a Palestinian Identity Card and a Certificate of Discharge from a Palestinian Unit of the British army, I find this practice annoying and certainly untrue.  We Palestinian Jews wore the uniform of the British Army, and on our shoulder epaulettes the single word, "Palestine" in English... In British army nomenclature, the equivalent of a GI is BOR, meaning British Other Rank. We were formally known as POR , Palestinian Other Ranks.  So we fought the war as Palestinians, set up the Jewish Brigade as Palestinians, and I'll be damned if I agree that only Arafat and his assassins are Palestinians.  As a Palestinian, I was arrested by the British on suspicion of smuggling Jewish immigrants into the country.  As a Palestinian, I had the honour of commanding the 329th Palestinian Company of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (all Jews).  There were no equivalent Arab units. Once a British general said to me, “I have so many things to dislike you for, for being a Jew, American born, a Palestinian-and you don't even know how to handle a knife and fork!”  So cut it out, please. Call them [the Arabs] what you will, but not Palestinians. Yours truly, Joe Criden.”

An odd name to choose.  Abdul Malik Dahamshe, a former Israeli Arab Knesset member, stated once at a solidarity visit in Damascus, Syria in January 1995: “Palestine and Syria are one homeland. The Arab people will win by the sword; the victory will be won by the Jihad of the Arab world.”  The fact is - the use of the term "Palestinian" for an Arab ethnic group is a modern political creation which has no basis in factual history - and had never had any international or academic credibility before 1967.  The PLO terrorist organization, founded by Islamic terrorist Yasser Arafat in 1964 (three years before the '67 six day war) to promote terrorist attacks to "liberate" all Palestine from Israeli control, only claimed the defunct name "Palestine/Palestinian" for their own political means (as due to the Jewish people re-creating the Jewish State and calling it by its correct name 'Israel', the word 'Palestine' was now redundant).  So how is it that most people appear to know little about this?  However, this is an interesting issue. 

I mentioned earlier how strange it was that the very name of Jezebel was in fact completely contradictory to her character. Well what of the Arab Palestinian name? I have been to Banias many times on my travels in Israel.  Situated roughly 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and at the foot of the long climb to Mount Hermon, Caesarea Philippi (or Banias as it is known by today) is the location of one of the largest springs feeding the Jordan River.  This abundant water supply has made the area very fertile.  However over the Hellenistic and Roman periods, many pagan temples were built at this area.  According to sources, the area was known as Baal Hermon and Baal Gad in the Tanach (Old Testament – or Hebrew Scriptures) period, and this site was later named Panias after the Greek god Pan who was worshiped here. 

The figure of the god Pan is also intriguing as to me, it resembles a ‘Satan’ style creature.  Pan was a half-man half-goat god of fright (thus the word "panic"), and was often depicted playing the flute.  However, this area known as Panias was corrupted in the Arabic language to its modern name of Banias.  The reason is quite simple: Formal or classical Arabic does not have equivalent letters (or sounds) to the following English letters: P, V, G (though the sound of G exists in some Arabic dialects), therefore the letter and subsequent sound of the ‘P’ became a ‘B’ hence Panias now being Banias.  So… why would an Arab group call oneself or call their alleged ‘nation’ by a name that does not have a letter in their own language (i.e. Palestinian)? 

Oddly, a Member of the Israeli government (Knesset), Anat Berko (Likud) made the same remark during a Knesset debate on the two-state solution this week.  Anat Berko stated ‘Palestine’ is a borrowed term, sparking uproar.  Berko stated, “Palestine - There isn't even a 'p' in Arabic, so it's a borrowed term that's worth analysing... But there is a Palestinian Authority next to us; we don't deny it.”  Berko repeated several times: “There is no puh sound!  The source of the name is clear,” she said, referring to the Romans, who called the area Palestina.  Berko, a professor of criminology whose area of expertise is suicide bombings, said Israel can have a peace process, “but it can't be suicide,” calling to “hermetically close Israel's borders to keep out radical Islam.”  She accused MK’s of wanting the establishment of a ‘greater Palestine,’ that would include all of Israel.

The French ultimatum to Israel    Back on January 30, 2016, I reported on my blog page, and posted on my personal Facebook wall that, taking into account what France has recently gone through with suffering Islamic terrorist attacks, would they now act with more empathy towards Israel?  In my article I wrote, “The horrific Paris terrorist attacks last year were met with shock and panic. The Paris attacks were the worst in France’s recent history. So what next, an increase in US-NATO military actions in Syria and Iraq? Maybe an understanding in how dangerous it is to do deals with terrorist? Maybe an outside chance of understanding how hard it must be for Israel to battle with constant terrorist attacks?  Actually... no... instead France expects Israel to negotiate with a terrorist organisation - the PLO - or the Palestinian Authority as it is known today. And if Israel refuse?  Simple... France will recognise this Palestinian terrorist group as an official State!”   

Well nearly three weeks later, this issue has once again hit the headlines.  Israel National News this week have reported that the French government is planning an international peace conference to reach this final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and it appears that France is placing the burden of reaching a settlement on Israel.  The report stated that on Tuesday 16th February, French officials met with representatives of both Israel and the PA to present the basic framework of the peace conference which is planned for this summer.  France’s proposed peace conference would include not only Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but the US, European powers, and other Arab states. Should the effort fail to produce a negotiated final status agreement, France says it will act unilaterally to recognize a Palestinian state; a thinly veiled ultimatum to Israel.

The announcement of the planned peace conference comes on the heels of opposing statements on Monday by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin encouraging a return to direct bilateral talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian Authority (PA) Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki rejecting any direct negotiations with Israel.  So what is it going to take for France to understand the evils of Islamic terrorism? For sure they will receive world sympathy should another horrific attack from ISIS happen on French soil, but is France now not walking on thin ice? Can France continue to poke the apple of God's eye and expect not to be judged? Whatever happened to France's understanding of 'laissez-faire' [the policy of leaving things to take their own course, without interfering]?

David Soakell  

(CFI Church Liaison Officer (UK) & WoZ News Report Correspondent)  Tweet me @David_CFI

Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Christian Friends of Israel UK & Jerusalem, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, & Israel National Radio