Key to the Middle East-Seek First to Understand

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Key to the Middle East-Seek First to Understand

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Nothing seems to galvanize public attention like a confrontation in the Middle East. The recent bombing of suspected terrorist locations in Afghanistan and Sudan has once again brought the Mideast to the front pages of the newspapers. Regardless of the strategic importance the plants and terrorist sites were to American interests, it was again made clear that a Mideast conflict grabs the attention. I was at a youth camp in the highlands of Pennsylvania, detached from a daily newspaper and television, when a staff member walked up to me and exclaimed, “We’re at war in the Middle East!”

America is fighting a war against terrorism. This type of warfare is far more sinister and elusive than conventional warfare yet just as deadly when it strikes from the shadows. America’s air strikes targeted two of the many middle eastern nations which harbor terrorist activities. Most of today’s terrorist activity is directed against the United States and threatens to pull it into a global morass that seethes with animosity toward U.S. interests. America is the world’s policeman, and bears a historical burden in a uni-polar world. The burden that comes with that role will tax a nation to its limits.

In This Issue…

In this issue of WNP we take an in depth look at key Bible prophecies concerning Jerusalem and the Middle East. In Matthew 24 Christ made a central statement about the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel. Donald Ward gives an in-depth analysis of Daniel 11 and some interesting developments to note concerning attempts by Jewish groups to restore sacrifices on the temple mount. Melvin Rhodes traces the historic context of the region and considers a possible scenario of end time events.

Understanding the context of the Middle East today is important in helping us discern what is going to take place in the future. As written in Matthew, “whoever reads, let him understand” (Matthew 24:15 Matthew 24:15When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)
American King James Version×
). Terrorism is the major issue at present. Whether it involves Palestinian attacks against Israeli or American interests, we find this to be a continual manner in which those who seek redress for real or imagined wrongs strike.

A Nineteenth Century Lesson

To understand today’s dilemma it is helpful to look to the past. In the nineteenth century, Sudan was a hotbed of Islamic fanaticism, just as it is today. The Muslim leader, known as El Mahdi, managed to unite the tribes in an attempt to throw off Egyptian rule. Egypt at that time was a colony of Great Britain. The Mahdi succeeded in capturing the capital of Khartoum, which was held by a garrison commanded by British officer General Charles Gordon. Gordon’s forces were slaughtered two days before the arrival of a British relief force commanded by General Garnett Wolseley. Thirteen years later, September 2, 1898, Britain conquered the entire Sudan in the famous battle of Omdurman, scene of the last cavalry charge in history, (also participated in by a young Winston Churchill). Britain stayed in the Sudan until 1956.

Afghanistan was the scene of another British entanglement, this one more protracted. Beginning in 1839, Britain, already entrenched in India, decided that Afghanistan was a threat that should be subdued in typical imperial fashion. The army marched on Kabul, capital of the country, deposed the leader, and installed a puppet government. In 1841 a revolt flared against the occupying British and when it was over the 4,500 man Anglo-Indian army was annihilated. Another round of British retribution followed.

In 1878 the Afghanis concluded a treaty with Russia which provoked another intrusion by the British from India. This time the British sought to impose a treaty that would give them control of all Afghan foreign policy. The fiercely independent Afghans resisted this effort and fought off another British army, forcing them into another long retreat that ended in disaster. This foreign policy tug-of-war lasted until 1919 when Afghanistan finally won control over their own foreign policy.

The British learned what Russia would learn in the 1980s, that Afghanistan, as well as many other Islamic countries, did not welcome foreign intervention in their internal affairs. This has not changed today. But the technology has changed. Today, these countries, or those they shelter, can reach out with more sophisticated weapons and strike at their enemies virtually anywhere in the world. As America has found, its embassies in Africa and its buildings in New York, can be bombed by those who perceive it to be a foe. During the last half of the twentieth century America has replaced Britain as the world’s policeman. Today, America is the chief target of international terrorism.

“Seek first to understand…”

America is on the verge of being drawn into a “war on terrorism” that most of its citizens simply do not understand. The problem lies not in the bombings and the endless cycle of retaliations, rather it is the failure to understand the perceptions of the Islamic world toward those nations, like America and Israel, who are involved in their part of the world. This clash of western interests, such as oil, and the culture and values of an ancient people will never be solved without a willingness to fully understand the deep human needs that go unfulfilled in this part of the world.

These fundamental issues were outlined in an article written by Graham Fuller, a former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA. “Broadly speaking, most Muslims feel helpless, weak and resentful in the face of external power at work in their region. The Middle East, center of world civilization for several millennia, is now beset with masses of poor citizens (apart from the oil states), bad social services, poor education, absence of democracy, constant abuse of human rights, widespread corruption, police states, often brutal rulers, and no voice over their own fates. They are victims of truly bad governance in most states of the region. And what do they perceive? U.S. support for almost any rule willing to protect U.S. interests-routinely identified in Washington as oil and Israel. They see a Washington unwilling to act evenhandedly in the Arab-Israeli peace process and infinitely tolerant of a hard-line government in Israel that denies Palestinians land, dignity and statehood. They perceive double standards that allow Israel to violate U.N. resolutions, but not Iraq. Israeli nukes are O.K., but not nukes in Muslim hands. They see routine use of U.S. unilateral military power against Muslim targets that is unparalleled elsewhere in the world. They see themselves routinely humbled by use of overwhelming Israeli military power. They see U.S. military forces in the Gulf as being there to protect ruling families and not populations-the essence of Osama bin Laden’s charge” ( International Herald Tribune, August 27, 1998).

What we perceive is our reality, whether it fits all the facts or not. Many in the Muslim world perceive their cultures as being maligned and attacked by a western world that they in turn do not fully understand. The article goes on to mention these perceptions. “They see Iraqi children dying of disease and starvation and blame it on U.S. sanctions. They perceive widespread caricaturization and demonization of Islam in Western media and films. They point to colonial regimes in the past seeking to weaken Islam and traditional Muslim culture. They point to Muslims under siege in Palestine, Chechnya, Russia, Xinjiang (Chinese Turkestan), Bosnia, Kosovo, Kashmir, Eritrea, the Philippines and India, and often treated as second-class citizens in Europe. The list goes on” (ibid.).

Our counter argument is that American values do not promote starving children in any country, regardless of the religion or politics. But that does not matter when starving children are the reality, and those who would use that tragedy to seek their own ends can shape the psychological backdrop to perpetuate misunderstanding.

Is Government the Issue?

Mr. Fuller stated the crux of the issue when he said that most in the Middle East “are victims of truly bad governance.” The first duty of any government is to promote the welfare of its citizens. When more than half of the people live below the poverty level and are not provided decent medical and sanitation services something has failed. They are victims of the age-old template of bad government which when overlaid upon a people retards the development of their full potential. The history of the Middle East is full of corrupt monarchies, dictators, and autocratic rule. Conquering armies have brought a mixture of both good and bad influences that in the end must be evaluated as incomplete when it comes to securing a peaceful existence.

It is in this context that we must seek to understand the climactic events foretold by Daniel and Jesus Christ. The Middle East, and Jerusalem in particular, will see the rise of additional powers who seek ideological and political control of this region. The powerful elixir of religion will provide the binding element that tries to produce a final “peaceful” solution to age-old conflict.

Whoever “desolates” the holy place will ignite a conflagration unlike any yet seen and will take the world to the brink of annihilation. The poor of the world will suffer one more time before Christ intervenes with His form of government that will bring a lasting and secure peace.

Christ once wept bitter tears as He pondered the fate of first century Jerusalem. Understanding the causes of today’s strife brings tears of frustration to any that can see problems and yearn for lasting solutions. As we ponder the powerful events ahead remember the Psalmist’s request, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalms 122:6 Psalms 122:6Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love you.
American King James Version×
). WNP

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