“Does God hate Ishmael?”

‘And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.’ – Genesis 17:2

In a conversation with a son of a Muslim Arab Palestinian refugee who had been displaced by Israel’s war of independence to Jordan in 1948, and then driven from Jordan to Lebanon by King Hussein’s military, I was asked, “Does God hate Ishmael?”

“Does God hate Ishmael?!” I exclaimed. ”Does God hate Ishmael? Well, He gave to Ishmael and his sons all the lands stretching from North Africa, across the vast Arabian peninsula to Iraq and Syria and Lebanon all the way to parts of southern Europe, including the mighty rivers of the Nile, the Euphrates and Tigris, plus the lion’s share of the planet’s oil! But why, I ask, are you not satisfied? Why do you then covet your little brother Isaak’s inheritance of a tiny, arid and rock-strewn strip of land – Israel?” My Arab friend gazed at me in shock.

The issue is not land at all. If one looks at the map above, it tells the story of vast tracks of land and great resources available to the children of Ishmael. The obsession with the destruction of Israel is illogical, especially by such distant nations as the Islamic Republic of Iran, which openly and regularly boasts of its desire to do just that, considering the lack of any real threat from the infinitely small Jewish nation. No, it is not an issue of land.

The issue is a clash of Ideas, of irreconcilable world views. It is Ideas that run human history, be it democracy, communism, or religion. The unexpected return of the Jewish people after two thousand years, immediately after the massive Nazi attempt to eradicate them from the Earth, brought another attempt to erase them from that return to their ancient land by means of a series of wars where the great Islamic armies failed against the overwhelmed Jews crying, “Never again!” The shock of repeated defeat at what according to Islamic theology (and much of Christian theology as well) was not scheduled to happen, remained a blow to a religious belief that Islam, a late religion that arose more than a millennium and a half after Moses in the 7th century AD, had replaced the Jews (a belief of many Christians as well).

Not only had the Jews defeated the Islamic armies, but caused the all-but-desolate land (see Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad) to spring to life and flourish. This joust in the eye of a theology that represents the primary identity of billions of adherents across the region, was not to be forgiven. Especially after the humiliating defeat in the Six Day War of 1967, which put Jerusalem back into the hands of its original Jewish owners. When a real hundred dollar bill appears in the presence of a counterfeit bill, the owners of the latter are bound to be quite upset.

But as of this writing, parts of the Islamic world have come to accept the existence of Israel as a reality and made peace with the Jewish state. Whereas the Palestinians have regularly refused any offers of peace, leaving a festering and volatile situation yet to be solved, with such terror organizations as Hamas and Hezbollah daily threatening the destruction of Israel. The incessant vitriol continues increasingly across the world in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic words and deeds. Yes, there is more than meets the eye occurring over here, and it is hoped and prayed that the words of Isaiah come to pass sooner than later:

‘In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance. – Isaiah 19:23-25