Since I’m sure not everyone is familiar with the history behind the events I’m about to cite, let me set the stage with a little background information.
It all began when the settlers moved in. They arrived from many different places, gathering together in the land that had become the center of their faith. The concept of Zion was of utmost importance to them. This land, they said, had been given to them by God, and no one had the right to take it from them. But whenever you have a small group surrounded by a larger, hostile populace that does not share their religious beliefs, you have a formula for trouble. It wasn’t long before there were armed conflicts between the settlers and their neighbors.
But religion alone wasn’t the only reason for friction between the settlers and the others. The fact is, the settlers were a devout, hard-working, industrious people who supported each other in their endeavors. They worked the land they had taken, made it productive, made it bloom. In the process, they also became very prosperous–often far more prosperous than their neighbors. And with the blossoming of the settlers’ land, there was likewise a poisonous flowering of the neighbors’ jealousy and resentment.
Over time, this jealousy caused the others to spread rumors about the settlers–about their habits, their beliefs, the things they did in their religious rituals. Much as with the blood libels of the Middle Ages, there were terrible falsehoods spread under the label of “the truth.” Honorable people who had no stake in the conflict were influenced by these rumors. In some cases they grew to distrust, even hate, the settlers–although in truth, the outsiders knew very little about them or their faith. Many came to believe that the settlers were the aggressors, in open defiance of the laws, and the instigators of a war upon their guiltless neighbors. In the end, officials decided that the settlers would have to abandon the land which they claimed God had given them. If not, they would be exterminated.
I’m sure you all know what happened next. The settlers had been driven out of their land, their Zion, their homes, so they fled to a new location. In a short three years, they had turned an unwanted swamp into one of the largest and most beautiful cities in the region. But again, fear of religious differences and envy of their prosperity stirred up the neighboring people to drive them out. After all, other people had been successful in driving these settlers out of their homes before; why not again? So the settlers gathered up their remaining belongings and left their land again in search of a new home. This time they chose to leave the nation that had failed to support and protect them, striking out for a territory that no one else wanted — a barren desert beside a vast, inland salt sea.
But enough about the experiences of the Mormons in America in the 1830s and 1840s. Let’s talk about Gaza.
It is remarkable to note the many parallels between the current Israeli settlers in Gaza, and the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in places like Missouri and Illinois in the 19th century. Both groups believe their land was given them by God. Both were hated by the people who surrounded them because of their faith. Both were removed from their lands by government fiat. Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs actually issued an executive order that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace.” This Extermination Order wasn’t rescinded until almost 140 years later. Now the Jewish settlers in Gaza are being pulled from their homes by their own government. There is no official order to exterminate the Jews, as was made against the Mormons in Missouri, but the surrounding Arab people have made it clear that they consider it their duty to drive out or kill the Jewish people.
Rabbi Marc Gellman posed a very interesting question in Newsweek: “Why can 1 million Arabs live in peace within Israel but 9,000 Jews can’t live in peace in Palestine?” This is a key question that must be answered to understand what is happening in Israel. Rabbi Gellman answered his own question when he made the observation that “Arabs cannot live with Jews but Jews can live with Arabs.” Why should this be so?
To give a little perspective, here is a map showing the state of Israel in blue and surrounded by Arab League states in green. Notice that the tiny sliver of blue is the thorn in the larger Arabic side. The Arabs won’t be happy as long as tiny Israel continues to exist. There are many Arabic states in the world, but there is only one Jewish state on Earth, and the Arabs say that it must be destroyed.
Jealousy of Jewish prosperity is one reason why Arabs hate the Jews; another reason stems from the age-old issues of religious differences between the Jewish and Arabic people. Both these people have a common ancestor, Abraham, but there has been bad blood between these cousins since the beginning. In the years since the creation of Israel as a Jewish state, Jews and Arabs have clashed multiple times, and there is no indication that this conflict will cease in the future.
If the pullout of the Israelis from Gaza follows the Mormon example, withdrawal will not solve the problem. Once the Mormons were forced out of Missouri, it didn’t take long for hostile people to force them out of Illinois as well. The Mormons solved the problem by choosing to leave the United States entirely, heading for the barren and unwanted valley next to the Great Salt Lake, and founding what is now Utah. But if the Israelis are forced completely out of the one Jewish nation on earth, where could they go? Antarctica? Mars?
Here I will prove that I cannot foretell the future, but I’ll try anyway. Unfortunately, the pullout from Gaza and a few settlements in the West Bank will not stop the hatred and attacks. It will only add fuel to the Arabs’ burning desire to remove all the Jews from Israel. The pullout will be decried as not being enough, and Israel will be asked to do more. Next, the Palestinians will demand full control of the West Bank and the removal of all Jewish settlements in the area. There will be no end to the amount of space and land the Palestinians will demand from the Israelis. When the Israelis finally put their foot down and refuse to give up more land, the Palestinians will complain that they can’t possibly live in peace and happiness unless Israel funds the construction of new buildings and other development in Palestine. Whether they would use these funds to improve their land, or to purchase weaponry with which to further attack the Israelis, remains to be seen.
The Mormons had to wait almost 140 years before the Missouri Extermination Order was rescinded. When will the desire to exterminate the Jews be rescinded by the Arabs?