ASK Commentary
August 12, 2005 

CIVIL WARS

Commentary for August 12, 2005 — Those Potential and Certain

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Recent events have made it clear that serious internal religious conflicts in several Middle Eastern countries could lead to civil wars within those countries. In Palestinian controlled areas there may be a civil war between the elected government and non-aligned, radical, and violent Palestinian groups who refuse to accept the elected governmental authority. At the same time a civil war could break out in Israel over the issue of moving Jewish settlers from the area of Gaza and the West Bank. The reasons for the settlers’ resolute hold to their settled lands are largely religious.

Further, outside terrorist and internal insurgent elements in Iraq are attempting to foment a civil war among and between the ethnic Kurdish population, the Shiite religious population, and the Sunni religious population. It is felt that a civil war in Iraq will prove to the United States and the world that a politically unified Iraq is impossible and that United States troops must withdraw from the worsening situation of increased chaos. Here too religious strife between Shiite and Sunni could be at the heart of the civil war.

People Are People

When I was in Israel in the summer of 2003, a well-known Jerusalem archaeologist and I discussed the situation in Israel. I brought up the possibility of civil war among Jews. He scoffed at such an idea and commented that Jews do not kill Jews. I countered that the man who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yatzsik Rabin was a Jewish man. The archaeologist replied (and I’m paraphrasing), “Oh, that does not count, he was mentally deranged.” I responded that there is no natural moral superiority among peoples of the world, that all have an equal potential for evil, and that people are the same morally around the world.

He felt that his ethnic group was somehow different and above such internal violence. While Jews may argue forcefully with each other, they would not kill one another. He is wrong, as the near future may demonstrate. Israelis are as prone to civil war as any other group of people of any nation. No one group has any moral superiority. All are humans, all are sinners, and all will be saved by God in His own time (1 Timothy 4:10).

The potential for civil war was discussed as a serious possibility by no less than the present Prime Minister of Israel in an April 13, 2005 interview:

SHARON: I believe, first, that if they are going to be, there will be very few. And I mentioned the atmosphere in Israel, I would say the atmosphere is an atmosphere that looks like an eve of a civil war. But I can tell you that, I'm going to take every step in order that things like that will not happen. 
 
BLITZER: When you say a civil war you mean Israeli Jews fighting Israeli Jews ... So the notion of a civil war really erupting in Israel, is that a concern that you have? 
 
SHARON: I would say, as I mentioned and I spoke about an atmosphere which is, there is a terrible incitement, and I can assure you one thing, that I'm going to take every step in order to avoid it.” 

By agreement of the Palestinian Authority, the United States, European nations, and the United Nations, the Israeli government shall in a few days displace Jews from their settlements in Gaza. The land will be given over to the Palestinian Authority for distribution.

The Israeli army will be called upon to remove, by force if necessary, the Jewish population numbering in the thousands. In doing so they will destroy Jewish synagogues and religious schools. See the July 22, 2005 London Times article, “Army Will Blow Up 30 Synagogues.” This prospect of the dispossession and deportation of Jewish settlers will cause an extremely strong reaction among the religious Jews in Israel. Recent activist demonstrations protesting and opposing the forced move have amounted to a substantial percentage of the Israeli adult population.

In the fall of 2004 talk of a civil war in Israel was already being discussed as a possible result of the forced deportation of Jews from Gaza and West Bank area. See the article “Israel’s Coming Civil War.”

A large protest march took place on July 18 on the way to Gaza. The marchers were opposed by some 12,000 police and military. The crowds were smaller than expected due to desert heat conditions and travel difficulties in reaching the site of the protest. 
 
Wednesday, August 10, 2005 about 100,000 (as reported from several sources, some estimates were considerably larger) gathered to protest the Israeli government’s forced withdrawal. They gathered in Jerusalem at the (so-called) Wailing Wall to express their disapproval of their own government’s policies. This is a tremendous number of people considering Israel has only 3 million Jews within the country, and ½ of those are children. You can see photos of the massed crowds yourself at http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=87555.

The next day, August 11, 2005, an even larger crowd, estimated by some at 250,000 Israelis, protested the withdrawal. Look at the video on the article “Anti Expulsion Rally Shakes Tel Aviv.” Although the speeches are in Hebrew, note especially in the video the size of the crowds which flowed into the side streets.

On August 17th all Israelis will be required to be out of the settlements in Gaza and select sites in the West Bank. After that time increasing amounts of force will be used to expel those Jews (if any) from their settlement homes. Then the settlements will be turned over to the Palestinian Authority for their people to occupy.

Jerusalem is becoming the center of the world — slowly but surely — the world’s attention will increasingly focus on Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount site (albeit attention in the near future will be on the false Temple Mount site at the Haram esh-Sharif).

Sharon and other Israeli government officials fully realize the potential for violence. In history mass protests on the scale seen in Israel in the last few days usually are nonviolent. However, a provocation could quickly turn to violence.

If that reaction precipitates violent resistance or if the mass rallies and protests turn violent, then the result will be Jews killing Jews for religious reasons. The settlers and large numbers of their supporters believe that no government has the right to remove them from land God gave to them. The attachment of the settlers for the land in Gaza is strictly religious (and certainly not because of the quality of the land). They believe God gave them that land as part of the Jewish inheritance given to Abraham. They intend to keep it. This feeling even enters into the emotions of nonreligious Jews.

The prophecies of Psalm 83, Zechariah, and Zephaniah say different. This portion of land in Gaza, the old territory of the Philistines, will be handed over to a non-Jewish population.

Palestinians

All international political powers involved in the current Middle East situation are now in agreement that a Palestinian state will be formed (as the Bible prophesies, see Dr. Martin’s article, “The Prophesied State of Palestine,” see also the map in that article). While it is hoped the political decision makers take into account the prophecies indicated in Dr. Martin’s article, I think that prospect is doubtful at this time. Although leaders eventually do God’s will, it is unusual that they do so willingly.

The Palestinian Authority is proposing, with some international support and Israeli resistance, that a transportation corridor be created between Gaza and the West Bank. While this may occur for a period of time, the West Bank eventually will become totally Israeli territory.

While the final situation before Christ’s Second Advent will fulfill Psalm 83 and other prophecies, it remains to be seen whether this will be done easily — or with difficulty, suffering, and death. Given the present political climate, for the 5 coastal cities (the Pentapolis of ancient times) to be part of Palestinian territory as prophesied, a major political accommodation must take place.

A trade of territory may be in order. The Palestinians may give up the West Bank for an expansion of their territory in Gaza to include all the cities of the Pentapolis.

Until that happens (and however that happens), the current political situation indicates a break between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and in Gaza. If the Palestinian Authority tries to impose its governing power on the Gaza Palestinians, who are more strident and violent in their activities, this could lead to a Palestinian civil war. This very possibility was spoken of by Mahmoud Abbas in a July 20, 2005 New York Times article at http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/07/19/news/gaza.php.

Iraq

The Iraq situation continues with the foreign terrorist and indigenous insurgent elements causing chaos and havoc with the rebuilding process. Their attempt is to cause a civil war between the three major factions by causing foment, despair, death, and destruction, and blame it on the U.S. occupation.

I do not believe that attempt will succeed. I saw on television recently (on a politically “liberal” network) an interview with several Iraqi families who were forming “neighborhood defense” groups. The purpose of these groups was to protect their neighborhoods 24 hours a day. They stated that the U.S. troops cannot protect them, and the Iraqi government cannot protect them. They must protect themselves.

It is permitted by law for Iraqis to own one AK-47 submachine gun for personal and home protection. Any more than that is considered a provocation, and is against the law. However, banding together with their neighbors they can protect their own small portion of the world against outsiders, meaning the insurgents, terrorists, and just plain thugs.

The important point here is that they have decided to no longer depend on someone else to defend them, take care of them, or protect them. They were acting for themselves to deal with the immediate problem in their own neighborhood. They stated that they knew those people who were supposed to be in their neighborhoods. They knew those who were NOT to be in their neighborhood. They could easily identify foreigners looking to cause trouble. They would do their own fighting.

This reminds me of two historical examples. In Spain they have a system of neighborhood security. The neighborhood hires an older retired man to be a night watchman for an entire city block of apartments. He stays up all night and patrols the neighborhood. He carries two things: a set of keys and a whistle. He holds the keys for all the outer doors on the block, and opens the doors for the tenants whenever they come home. If he has trouble he blows the whistle for help. He knows everyone in the neighborhood and they know him. He also knows when strangers are around. It provides good solid work for retired men. The neighborhood took responsibility for their own safety and protection at night.

This example is very close to the concept of the watchman of the city in Isaiah 21:6, 11–12 and Ezekiel 3:2, 6–7. History repeated itself as the prophet Ezekiel appears to be referring and commenting on Isaiah’s earlier prophecy. Babylon (Iraq in Old Testament times) was the one they were to be watching out for.

The second example was in Los Angeles during the race riots of the 1980s. There were areas of the city which the police would not enter. Their very presence incited instant armed attack by rioters. Many, many storekeepers had their places of business torched and burned out. Those who survived the torching and destruction of their businesses did so because they stayed near their stores with loaded weapons and protected their property and livelihood. They banded together with their neighbor’s stores and protected each others’ stores from those who would riot, kill, and burn.

It seems that Iraqis are — hopefully — taking responsibility for their own protection, their own safety, and for their own future. They had not done this before in their lifetimes. It has never been part of their culture. If this idea grows into a large movement of responsibility and self-defense among neighbors, then there will be no need for major security in the future. This is the goal, but it appears it will be achieved in the future.

If the movement toward responsibility fails, there may be a civil war in Iraq which may devolve into three separate states. One will be composed of the Sunni Muslim Iraqi minority. The Kurds in the north will form an autonomous state in the area of ancient Assyria, and will have immediate tension with Turkey. The majority Shiite Muslim population will form an independent state and turn to Iran for protection.

In the event of a civil war it is likely that the U.S. would withdraw from a hopeless situation, leaving the participants to their own devices. Civil war is not inevitable, nor (in my opinion) likely to happen. Many, many Sunnis and Shiites intermarry in Iraq freely. When this happens the extended families are bonded by relation and are less likely to break up over religious lines.

In Iraq, civic responsibility and self-protection of self, family, extended family, tribe; and personal property takes time to develop if a society does not have a history of such responsibility and self-protection. With (1) the trial of Saddam Hussein beginning soon, (2) the hoped for agreement on a workable Iraqi constitution (created by Iraqi legislators and due for completion on August 15, 2005), and (3) the increase in security and the identification of foreigners, all of these factors will contribute to a more stable political situation in Iraq.

Conclusions

Many national boundaries in the Middle East were “carved out” by the British, French, and “cooperative” local leaders after World War One, after the capitulation of Turkey and the elimination of its Near East empire. Those borders usually have no relationship to political or population realities that exist today. In addition, the international borders have little relationship to natural structures such as mountain ranges or rivers. They are strictly political boundaries drawn on a map.

In contrast, the areas designated in Psalm 83 (as shown in the map of Dr. Martin’s article “The Prophesied State of Palestine,” noted above) are general with indefinite borders based on historic geographic indicators from the biblical text.

While the precise borders may be indefinite, there will be drastic changes from the present international boundaries of the nations. Some nations may cease to exist, replaced by other national entities. Those entities may or may not form national states, but they will be in the locations designated by Scripture. Those new nations may or may not have biblical names, or they may try to retain current national names.

Extreme unrest will undoubtedly accompany the restructuring of international boundaries. Although governments are usually agreeable (even happy) to gain territory, they are loath to give up territory unless forced to do so by circumstance or warfare, including civil war. Such matters do not change easily, and usually with great social and economic upset, strife, and violence. While the endpoint of some future situations to occur before Christ’s Second Advent can be known, the process of getting from here to there is, of course, hazy. Therefore, one cannot be dogmatic except on some major points.

Civil wars may occur in other areas of the Middle East as well. Let’s take a tour:

Lebanon may break up (indeed that is likely) along religious lines between Christians, Druse, and various Islamic groups and populations. 
 
Jordan may divide into Palestinian and native Jordanian ethnic groups. 
 
The government of Saudi Arabia, which has a small population of only 3 million people and must admit over 2 million travelers to Mecca and Medina each year according to Islamic law, is undergoing extreme stress as they attempt to liberalize their political structure. Terrorists and insurgents have struck boldly at the political structure of the Saudi government, which is fighting back powerfully. 
 
Egypt faces increasing civil unrest as a growing grassroots movement desires greater participation and democratization of the domestic political structure. 
 
Syria is suffering from worsening economic conditions that threaten to make it an economic basket case as its dictatorship becomes weaker and weaker. We know from several prophecies that Damascus will be God’s domicile at some time before Christ’s return. See Dr. Martin’s article “The Damascus Phase of End-Time Prophecy.”  
 
Turkey has problems with rebellious Kurds in its eastern provinces and internal religious strife at home. Remember also that western Turkey is the site of the ekklesias of Revelation chapters 2 and 3, which have a fulfillment at the end time prior to the Second Advent of Christ. There will be religious conversions to an acceptance of Christ as Messiah by those cities before Christ returns. 
 
Iran has a population that is extremely pro-American and desires westernization of their culture and economy, especially the young people in that country. This is in direct opposition to the government which is stridently anti-American for religious and political reasons. While their attitude toward America is unimportant, these divisions do exist and they are causing a groundswell of unrest within the country. While protests have thus far been non-violent, as the government cracks down on dissent, violence will likely increase. Iran will be powerful in the future, it will have a king (or a shah or hereditary ruler), it will ally with Israel, and it will assist in the construction of a future Temple before the Christ’s return.

In all those countries where civil strife may arise, increasing democratization will occur. People in Middle Eastern countries are insisting on participating in political decisions (or, as most democracies operate, they are given the illusion of participation).

Dr. Martin’s and my own biblical study and political analysis have led me to some conclusions. While I do not think that Iraq will dissolve into civil war (although it may), I believe the political structure of that troubled country will result in a federal system with a great deal of local autonomy among the three major population groups of Kurds, Sunni, and Shiites. The Kurdish group could well become the Assyrian resurgence at the end time.

I believe it is biblically certain that at some time in the future Babylon will be rebuilt and become a financial center of the world. This requires a great deal of social, economic, and financial stability that appear to be a long way in the future, but events can move very quickly once that stability is achieved. (Type “Babylon” into the ASK search engine.)

Palestine may indeed evolve into two separate political entities. While the people in Gaza and the West Bank areas may both have Palestinian populations at present, I believe it is biblically certain that those Palestinians in the West Bank will either be assimilated into an area that is now part of Jordan, move to the Gaza coastal area, or live peacefully with the Israelis. There is no reason to suppose that there will be a permanent unified political structure between Gaza and the West bank, for the reasons of separation and distance.

[The last major country that attempted a unified political structure with a substantial territorial separation was Pakistan. This political and religious experiment resulted in a bloody breakaway of Bangladesh from Western Pakistan with help of India’s military. You can read the story of Pakistan’s creation, and the break off of Bangladesh in 1971, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangladesh.]

A situation similar to that of Pakistan will likely occur with the Palestinian peoples in the West Bank and Jordan until the full measure of the 5 cities of the Pentapolis are granted to the coming nation on the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

I believe it is biblically certain that Assyria will rise again as a power in the Middle East, but its power may be economic and it may not become a separate political entity. In other words the future Assyria (presently comprised of northern Iraq, some eastern parts of Turkey and western Iran, see the map at http://www.cool.mb.ca/~kakel/kurdistan.html may not become a separate nation. A powerful military power in the modern world is extremely difficult to achieve without an outlet to the oceans of the world. Assyria, even as envisioned by the Kurds themselves, have no such outlet to the sea.

I believe it is biblically certain that the present boundaries of Jordan will change to accommodate the large Palestinian population, with perhaps a confederacy or a federal system within Jordan.

Near-future individual civil wars in Iraq, in Palestinian areas, and in Israel are possible. Even worse is one particularly chaotic scenario that would have Palestinians attacking Palestinians, Jews attacking Jews, at the same time as Palestinians and Jews fight each other.

Such a situation would raise the call for a solution that would be the worst of all: the introduction of an international peacekeeping military police force to separate the various parties and “impose” peace. It was such imposed borders that created the unstable countries that we have today in the Middle East. If that takes place, God would not allow such an imposed settlement to last long. Border settlements will take place to the relative satisfaction of all parties.

What is certain is that biblical prophecies indicate that there will be a civil war in Israel near to the time of the Second Advent. It will be a religious civil war, but as Dr. Martin’s research shows, the issue will not be over settlements of land. That issue will be settled. At the time of Gog’s invasion of Israel (Gog is one of the several designations of the antichrist), Israel will be a land of “unwalled villages” according to the prophecy of Ezekiel 38:11. The political issues of land and settlements will be settled to the extent that Jews will be welcome to settle in Syria, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern countries.

The major and final issue for the serious civil war in Israel will be over the religious matter of “Him who they have pierced” (Zechariah 11:14, 13:79), which will break the unity of Israel and Judah. To understand the biblical texts on this matter, see Dr. Martin’s articles “Ancient Nations in the Middle East – Part 2” and “Who Are the Northern Ten Tribes of Israel Today?

David Sielaff
david@askelm.com

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