LONDON, May 10, 2019 – With residents of Israel bombarded by 700 rockets last weekend, it’s something of an understatement to say the Jewish nation is under fire.
Fortunately, decisive words and action in marked contrast to what we are witnessing in Britain led to a ceasefire as Hamas terrorists backed down in the face of an ultimatum from Benjamin Netanyahu. He warned them that if they didn’t drop their weapons forthwith, Israel would annex Gaza and drive them out forever.
Israel has long since learnt that they cannot fully rely on the support of their allies, and are thus prepared to take tough action when necessary.
The British Parliament, now in complete disarray over our future in Europe, made a decision 80 years ago on May 22nd which effectively sent thousands of Jews to certain death.
Capitulating to Arab opposition, a White Paper was passed on that day severely restricting entry to Palestine (then under Britain’s mandate) of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. It was a shocking betrayal of our pledge to prepare a home for Jewish people to live in safety.
And it is significant that the anniversary more or less coincides with the EU elections which we should never have needed to contest three years after a majority 17.4 million of our citizens voted to leave Europe.
Having betrayed the Jewish people so shamefully 80 years ago, the British people themselves are now feeling betrayed by the same Parliament. Is there perhaps a connection?
The prophet Obadiah writes: “The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.” (Obadiah v15)
There was a day, in 19th century Britain, when we acted more decisively and with greater honour and compassion, as viewers of the hit ITV series Victoria would have observed last Sunday night.
Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, in 1850, actually ordered a naval blockade in response to an Easter anti-Semitic outrage in Athens involving a British subject. Gibraltar-born Jew Don Pacifico and his family were viciously attacked by a mob after the Greek government banned the traditional burning of an effigy of Judas Iscariot in apparent deference to a wealthy British Jew, Lord Rothschild, who was in the country to discuss offering a loan.
Pacifico, a former Portuguese consul-general, was targeted in his capacity as de-facto leader of the city’s Jewish community. Palmerston was also a key figure in early political moves designed to facilitate the restoration of Israel.
Tragically, it seems that Britain is now playing the role of Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, turning on their own Christians in a bid to silence those holding to the truth of the gospel and the commandments of God which have been recklessly jettisoned by the government.
I believe there is a sense in which God is speaking to both Christians and Jews, telling us we’re in this together. After all, we both worship the God of Israel, which is surely why both groups are being so fiercely persecuted worldwide.
The church needs to understand that the Jews brought us the gospel (along with the Bible, the law, the prophets, patriarchs, and our Lord himself). We owe it to them to offer help in their time of need (Romans 15.27).
At the same time, however, Jews must understand that Jesus is their Messiah – Gentiles are even called to tell them so by declaring, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52.7)
Praise God many are responding, though others are clearly offended. But the gospel has always been an offence (Galatians 5.11). And we must tell them – it’s a way of saying thank you, just as many grateful Africans have come over to Britain to thank us for our faithful forefathers who took the gospel to their countries, often sacrificing their lives in the process.
These Nigerians, Zambians, Zimbabweans and others are now living among us, preaching with passion the message we have largely discarded, acting as lighthouses to a rudderless society in danger of shipwreck.
That we are in this together was brought home most forcibly through Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday terror attacks. Though the targets of the atrocity were the Christians, two of the eight British citizens killed by the bombs were Jews – siblings Amelie and Daniel Linsey, members of the synagogue of which Lord Leigh of Hurley is president. He said: “They shared the same classes as my children.”
In territory run by the Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, Christian residents of the town of Jifnah were attacked by (ruling party) Fatah activists after a local woman complained to the police about the son of a senior Fatah official. The violent incident included shooting.
In spite of what I said about Britain turning on their own Christians, I am pleased to say that the plight of persecuted Christians abroad has at last been acknowledged by our government, thanks to a report commissioned by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has already opened the way towards further reconciliation with the Jewish community by apologising for the White Paper mentioned earlier.
Mr Hunt, reported to be a committed Christian, said Christians are enduring what amounts to genocide in some parts of the world and were being driven out of the Middle East in a modern-day exodus. And he blamed political correctness – particularly a ‘misplaced worry’ that it would be interpreted as ‘colonialist’ – for failing to confront the issue.
His report found 245 million Christians spread across 50 countries now suffer high levels of persecution. So it seems that as Jews migrate to Israel, now home to nearly seven million sons and daughters of Abraham, Christians in neighbouring countries are being uprooted and forced in the opposite direction.
We must stand together with our brothers in the ancient faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and be a blessing to one another. Their deed to the land is, primarily, in the Bible (Genesis 17.7f). And our right to inheritance in the faith of Abraham is also in the Bible (Romans 4.16f).