Light Force: the only hope for the Middle EastBook Review - By Richard Gibson, CWI Leeds, UK
Light Force: the only hope for the Middle East.
Brother Andrew & Al Janssen.
Hodder & Stoughton, £9.99
As a teenager I was inspired by reading God's Smuggler, and was thrilled to meet Brother Andrew several years ago at a Messianic youth conference at Yad Hashmona in Israel. He was preparing to visit Yasser Arafat to present him with an Arabic Bible; I was duly impressed.
However, as I started to read his latest book, I thought Brother Andrew must be either a naive Romantic visionary or a Euro-centric man who thinks that unless he has shared the gospel with dangerous terrorist leaders no one has. After reading the book it was obvious that the former was true; Brother Andrew is a naive visionary weak on historical details but driven by a great vision for the gospel in the Middle East.
I was moved to tears at numerous points in the book, in particular by the account of the establishment of Musalaha, the reconciliation ministry for Jews and Arabs.
The authors’ definition of a Christian is inconsistent. They state carelessly, for example, “This area [Bethlehem, Beit Jala & Beit Sahour] used to be nearly all Christian” (p.109), and “There were far more Christians among the Palestinians than among the Israelis” (p.110). What about Israeli Arab Christians and Israeli Messianic Jews? I know that not all Israeli Arab born-again Christians define themselves as Palestinian. The authors treat all nominal Christians as “living stones” but then tell the story of a nominal Christian being born again. However, addressing an audience of radical Muslims, Andrew powerfully tells them that he chose to be a Christian. If only the rest of the book was as clear and consistent on this particular point.
One example of the authors’ historical naivety is their account of the notorious 1948 Deir Yassin “massacre” when Brother Andrew records how he tried to begin to understand the anger that Palestinians feel towards Israel. He states that the Irgun paramilitary group was responsible for the incident and that the group was “also known as Haganah” (p.107). This is incorrect; the Irgun and Haganah were ideological enemies, the Irgun being the smaller of the two. The Haganah heard of plans by the Irgun to attack Deir Yassin and asked for them to coordinate their attack with the attempts of others to open up a road to Jerusalem. Intelligence reports revealed that there were foreign fighters, including Iraqis, in the village as well a stockpile of arms, and many of the male villagers in Deir Yassin had become irregulars in El Husseini’s militia. What took place at Deir Yassin was not the deliberate slaughter of innocent Arab civilians; instead, seventy Irgun troops fought a hard battle with a hundred well armed Arab fighters. (see http://www.etzel.org.il/english/ac17.htm & http://www.yahoodi.com/peace/deiryassin.html )
The tragic death of civilians at Deir Yassin is simplistically painted as the source of the Palestinian refugee problem. “This happened just three years after the Holocaust” is the comment made by Brother Andrew as if the Jews hadn’t learnt anything. Israel makes mistakes and does wrong things as does any other country; no nation is perfect. However, atrocities perpetrated by Arabs often appear to be dismissed by commentators. For example, when one reads accounts of Arab pogroms against Jews when “Palestine” was under British and Turkish control one gets the impression that such atrocities are all one can expect of the Arabs; it’s in their nature to be murderous anti-Semites! What can you do?
Sadly, in every war innocent civilians die; we now know the term “collateral damage” in particular from the Iraq war and Afghan campaign. Arab nations sought the death and destruction of Jewish communities in the Holy Land well before this event. It is unbalanced to exclusively focus on this and virtually ignore the fact that thousands of innocent Jews were brutally slaughtered in their beds in pogroms in Hebron, Jerusalem and many other towns prior to the establishment of the modern State of Israel. Palestinian Christians are not impervious to the all-pervading propaganda of their instinctively anti-Semitic culture, (this point is also made on page 265) therefore accusations by Palestinian Christians relating to Israeli persecution are not necessarily to be trusted as unbiased fact. However, it was wonderful to read how genuine Palestinian Christians are seeking to rise above the prejudice and love the Jews, and vice-versa.
Despite Brother Andrew not quite getting every historical detail right (and who does!), there is no taking away from the courage it took for him to go to known terrorists to show them what real Christianity was. I have much admiration for his compassion toward all sinners. The Gospel really is the only hope for the Middle East. Inevitably, anyone who becomes involved in the Israeli-Palestinian problem will come away with stories of unbelievable pain and suffering from all sides. Nevertheless, the focus of this book is on Palestinian suffering. Brother Andrew seeks to understand but not to justify the terrorists he went to visit. Starting in the midst of the Lebanon civil war, moving to Gaza and then to visit deported leaders of Hamas, Brother Andrew is gloriously indiscriminate in his love for all God’s creation. His vision is to strengthen the indigenous body of Messiah (Messianic Jews & Arab Christians) in its preaching the gospel amongst the Palestinians and Israelis and therefore bring God’s solution.
Light Force records the personal tragedy and pain of many Palestinians and some Israeli Jews. The book is neither the history of the conflict nor a political analysis. It presents a dream that is starting to become a reality. The courage of Jews, Palestinians and Arabs united by their common faith in Yeshua/Isa/Jesus is the only hope for real peace in the Middle East.