Christian Zionism III: Is It Unethical?
Besides, the Article refers to a "High Contracting Party" with a sovereign claim to territory. The West Bank is not the territory of a signatory power, but, as Eugene Rostow stated in an article in 1990, "an unallocated part of the British Mandate." The "green line" that determines important boundaries of the West Bank was simply the cease-fire line at the end of the 1948-49 war between Arabs and the new Jewish state. The Armistice Agreement of 1949 stated that the demarcation lines were "not to be construed in any sense" as "political or territorial boundaries." True boundaries would be made only with "the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine problem."Jordan's annexation of the West Bank in 1950 was widely regarded as illegal, even by the Arab League; Jordan withdrew from its occupation only after attacking Israel in 1967 and being defeated. During those seventeen years of Jordanian occupation, Jews were banned from living on the West Bank, which was a violation of the terms of the Mandate for Palestine adopted by the League of Nations in 1922.
It is helpful to recall the background to the Mandate. In the San Remo Treaty of 1920, the victors of the First World War created a territory called "Palestine," comprised now by what are called Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. This was one percent of the former Ottoman Empire, 99 percent of which was transferred eventually to self-governing states with mostly Arab and Turkish populations. In 1922 the League of Nations in the Palestine Mandate stipulated "close Jewish settlement" on the land west of the Jordan River, which includes what we call the West Bank. That same year the UK created the new Arab country of Jordan, which meant that Britain gave three-fourths of the Mandate to Arabs and one-fourth to Jews. The West Bank was part of that one-fourth.
Most wonder how a Mandate ordered by the League of Nations, which no longer exists, could have any significance today. The answer is that Article 80 of the United Nations Charter recognizes the continued validity of mandates and rights commissioned by previous international bodies, including the League of Nations.
Should Christian Zionists Support Israel Today?
Several thoughts here: First, on this matter most Christian Zionists agree. Before the second intifada there was a certain divide over where to place emphasis. Fundamentalists tended to stress more than evangelicals the biblical promises of land and future to the Jews, while evangelicals tended to place more emphasis on the conditionality of the promises. Hence, fundamentalists more than evangelicals agreed with Gush Emunim supporters who defend the West Bank Jewish settlements on the grounds that the land conquered in 1967 was returned to its rightful owners. And more evangelicals than fundamentalists would argue that while Israel has a right to at least its pre-1967 borders and must be guaranteed security, Israel should not control the lives of Palestinians or prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state that is committed to peaceful coexistence. They would like to see everything possible done to reduce or eliminate the humiliation, frustration, and missed opportunities which checkpoints cause for Palestinians. But at the same time, especially since the second intifada, most fundamentalists and evangelicals argue that the land seizures of both 1948 and 1967 occurred after wars started by Arabs to destroy the (vastly outnumbered) Jewish state, and after turning down the UN partition plan (which Jews had accepted).
Gerald McDermott is Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion at Roanoke College, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, and Research Associate, Jonathan Edwards Centre Africa, University of the Free State, South Africa. He coauthored The Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Oxford University Press, 2012), which won Christianity Today's top prize for Theology and Ethics in 2013.