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It’ll Be Okay

By Jim Fletcher
Green Forest (Arkansas) United Methodist Church

Reading the latest United Methodist missives regarding the ongoing conflict in Israel/”Palestine,” my mind moves quickly past irritation to something else. I am back in the Holy Land, back in the Land of Israel, where I recently spent a week.

Friends and family thought I was crazy to travel to this hotspot, but on the contrary, it was a great privilege. The air smells better in Jerusalem. Being there heightens all my senses.

One of my goals on this trip was to visit Jerusalem’s military cemetery at Mt. Herzl. There among the pine and cypress, I had to pay my respects to a particular soldier. His story is the backdrop for this article, since it illuminates the contrast in world views we see today in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

On July 4, 1976, while America was celebrating her bicentennial, half-a-world away, Israel was sending her best sons on the winds of millennia (and four Hercules transport planes), to a remote airport in Uganda. There, Palestinian and German terrorists were holding 103 Jewish hostages and threatening to start executing them if Israel did not release from prison another group of terrorists.

Officially, the Israeli government declared its intentions to negotiate with the terrorists. Behind-the-scenes, a rescue force was assembled. Of course, the idea of flying 2,200 miles in the middle of the night to engage hostile forces was clearly absurd. That’s why the terrorists had flown the hijacked plane so far.

They might as well have flown to one of Jupiter’s moons. The Israelis were coming. Joshua was on his way.

Just after midnight, a convoy of vehicles (including a replica of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s Mercedes) emerged from a huge transport plane and made its way non-chalantly toward the old terminal building. By the time Ugandan troops and the terrorists realized what was happening, an elite Israeli commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, was in the door. Within seconds, the hostages were secured, the terrorists were dead, and “The Unit” was ushering the dazed passengers toward the transport planes.

The stunning raid — still considered to be the most daring in history — was a gargantuan success. Thus was the legend of “Entebbe” born.

Tragically, one Israeli soldier was lost, Lt. Col. Jonathan “Yoni” Netanyahu. The older brother of the future prime minister fell just outside the old terminal building, a bullet from an anonymous Ugandan soldier silencing the “philosopher-soldier.”

The Raid on Entebbe still casts its light on the Middle East conflict, for moral reasons alone. After the raid, there were clear ramifications for global terrorism, but today, fighting our own difficult battle with killers, it is the moral clarity of “Operation Jonathan” that can serve as a rallying point.

As Herman Wouk wrote about Yoni:

“Because he had to fight to save his nation’s life, he made himself
into a great fighting man…and he was man enough to know, that
so long as villains and maniacs would egg on and arm young Arabs
to destroy Israel, he would have to be a soldier; and that if he had to,
he would die fighting for the Return and for peace. So consecrated,
he flew off to Entebbe, and to his great hour.”

Here we find the difference between the nobility of a hero, and the true face of Arab aspirations, which seem lost totally on the United Methodist Church.

You’ll never hear an official UMC report about the Middle East that details Palestinian Arab terrorism. It is all about “the occupation,” a shopworn propaganda cliché used by officials of the Palestinian Authority (which is really the old PLO in a nice suit). Or it is about home demolitions. Or the “settlements.” The Israeli viewpoint is sanitized from the reports.

This is all one ever receives from the United Methodist Church. Even our Book of Resolutions decries the “settlements,” even though the Bible talks repeatedly about the final ingathering of the Jewish exiles, who will rebuild the waste places, and plant, and stay forever (Ezekiel 37). Somehow, the UMC believes this is policy set by Ariel Sharon.

From his late teens, Yoni Netanyahu fought against the murderous intentions of his Arab neighbors, who, long before the “occupation” wanted to destroy the Jewish state. This gifted man was later lost to a generation, specifically because of Palestinian terrorism. Notice this excerpt from a letter he sent to his family in 1965:

“Bibi, in your last letter you referred to the border clashes between Israel and her neighbors. Let me just say that instead of becoming fewer, the border incidents are lately increasing, not only in number but also in the depth of the penetrations, in the intensity of sabotage, in the number of neighboring countries involved and in the reactions resulting from the acts of terror.”

Nineteen-sixty-five, my friends. Did you catch that? For those paying attention, this letter was written a full eighteen months before the Six-Day War of June, 1967, when Israel allegedly grabbed and “occupied” the West Bank (another interesting tidbit: “West Bank” was a term coined by the Jordanians; the Bible refers to this region as the “mountains of Israel.” The real foreign occupiers never miss a chance to try and erase Jewish attachment to the land.).

In case you still don’t catch the significance, Israel has been in modern peril always, “occupied territories” or not. Yoni’s letters are full of rich insights that would be held in contempt by UM bishops and agency heads. Did you also catch the fact that he was referring to “border” clashes? This means that long before Israel allegedly grabbed Arab land, its “borders” were unsafe. What makes the gullible UMC think that when bishops, missionaries, and agency heads spout nonsense about also supporting a “safe and secure Israel” that the Arabs intend to abide by these rules of decency?

When will the UMC wake up?

Here’s the answer: never. Anti-Israel bias is so entrenched within the denomination that it would take an event of biblical proportions to blast it away. Which is exactly what will happen.

While the entire international community today squeezes Israel to make suicidal territorial concessions, the Bible keeps saying that in the end, it will be those same nations that will have their brains dashed on the mountains of Israel. Are Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos, Zechariah and friends always symbolic? Is it all symbolism? Is everything metaphor or myth or potboiler Hebrew fiction?

It is if one subscribes to United Methodist teaching. If one reads the Scriptural passages dealing with Jews returning to the land of their eternal gift — and those passages are so numerous as to be ubiquitous, even aggressive, much to the chagrin of UM scholars and ecclesiastical leaders who keep hoping we won’t notice — as symbolism…then the humanistic plan of “peace-for-land,” which is the basis of the grotesquely stupid Oslo Peace Process, makes perfect sense. What divine right to the land for the Jews? It ain’t there.

But it is there. All the time and forever.

UMC officials don’t like it when they’re reminded that the “occupied territories” are not the reason for the conflict. They don’t like it when it’s pointed out that the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) was formed in 1964 — three years before Israel took the Golan Heights, West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Sinai. To acknowledge such facts would expose the clever PLO narrative as one of the great hoaxes of all time. It isn’t about Palestinian nationalism!

UMC officials don’t like to be told that Christians and Jews cannot set foot on the Islamic-controlled Temple Mount! Isn’t that bizarre? Did you know that? UMC officials always parrot PLO propagandists by decrying “Israel’s refusal to allow freedom of worship to Christians and Muslims”! Are they aware of the utter lie they are repeating?

UMC officials stand by and say nothing, but smile, when Yasser Arafat tells the world that Jesus Christ was a Palestinian! For the love of God, has everyone forgotten that Jesus is a Jew?

These are but some of the total inversions of the truth spread by the PLO, on through to American churches.

The fact is, Israel’s enemies are so numerous and so vocal about their intentions, that only the hopelessly deluded can’t see it.

Yoni saw this his entire, brief, adult life. He clung tenaciously to the Land and that is what his people still do in this hour. Yoni stayed on the front lines in order to protect innocent lives. Those opposed to Israel’s existence plan and execute murders every day. The terrorist dies so that other people can die. Yoni died so that other people could live. This is the distinction, the contrast between moral light and immoral dark. One is Hope, the other, Menace.

All day long, day after day, the United Methodist Church supports a movement — Palestinian nationalism — that directly threatens Israel’s existence. It is a malevolent plan. The comments from PNA/PLO spokespersons, the sermons from imams around the region, and Arab media all speak clearly to this goal of “liquidating the Zionist entity.” This seems lost on Methodists.

At this moment in time, United Methodist officials and their kindred spirits at the U.N. loudly condemn Israel policy at every opportunity. They loathe the idea of Jews defending themselves in the Land of Israel. This isn’t admitted publicly, of course; in fact, it would be strenuously denied, but Yasser knows who his friends are.

So to those who privately seethe over Jewish soldiers like Sharon and Yoni, I say: you are lesser people. The critics of Israel are lesser, morally and spiritually.

I encourage you to read such passages as Psalm 83, Jeremiah 30, and Isaiah 49 as something other than symbolism and metaphor. If you do, you’ll find quite a different story than the one peddled by the UMC peace-and-justice-for-the-Palestinians crowd.

You’ll find that Israel is in critical danger. You’ll also find that Israel is on the brink of glory, in her own land. This was the truth that Yoni felt in his soul. In his last written words, just before he left for Entebbe — his great hour — he told a friend that “It’ll be okay.” He always said this in the face of extreme challenges and danger.

As I stood at his grave three weeks ago, there among the trees and the tombs of Jacob’s defenders, I was reminded that unpopular causes are often Truth.

It is difficult to accept that at its core, the United Methodist Church has contempt for the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Of course, that would be denied vigorously, probably by a statement from the Bishops, or some other equally worthless meandering. But one cannot escape the truth that nothing is more anti-Jewish than to deny Jews the right to live on the mountains of Israel. Read all the United Methodist resolutions condemning the “settlements.”

God said through His prophet that if the sun and moon cease to exist, He will forget His people (Jeremiah 31:35,36). I enjoyed the sun on my face in Jerusalem, and at night, I watched the moon watch the walls of the Old City (Isaiah 49:16).

Entebbe was a long time ago (or only a moment ago). Since civilization was young, the Jews have fought tenaciously against Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, Moslems, and false friends, all sworn to the destruction of God’s chosen. It seems to have escaped most that bad things happen to the enemies of Zion. Certainly, Israel is threatened at this moment by the most dangerous people on earth. But hear Wouk again:

“The return of the Jewish people to their historic land, after nineteen centuries of exile and the gigantic destruction of European Jewry, is certainly one of the most remarkable things that has ever happened.”

It is, and what’s more, it is the reason Yoni led the assault force at Entebbe. I believe he knew that God has loved His people “with an everlasting love,” and so, whenever I read or hear about the plans the EU, UN, and the UMC have for Israel, I do remember the words of the sublime philosopher-soldier:

“It’ll be okay.”


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