Friday, July 7, 2017

Reading John Ogwyn's The Middle East-Will a New Millennium Bring Peace At Last? (1999)

The COGs think that events in the Holy Land, specifically in Jerusalem, will tell them when Christ will return. In 1999 LCG's recruitment magazine, Tomorrow's World, published an article by John Ogwyn (1949-2005) discussing the situation in the Holy Land in 1999 shortly after the election of Ehud Barak as Prime Minister of the State of Israel. (John Ogwyn, The Middle East-Will a New Millennium Bring Peace At Last?, Tomorrow's World, October-December 1999.)

There is this widespread idea within the COGs that the conflict concerning the State of Israel is all about Jerusalem. This idea is nonsense. While it is true that the status of Jerusalem is an issue it is far from the only issue sustaining the conflict. There are other issues that sustains the conflict such as the issue of the Palestinian refugees, what will be the territory of the proposed future Palestinian state, what is to be done with the Palestinian prisoners, etc. Nevertheless Ogwyn erroneously tells his readers that the current conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is all about Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Barak, shortly after taking office, "…set another deadline for himself: After campaigning on the promise that he would bring the Israeli army out of Lebanon within a year, he raised the ante... and set a 15- month time frame for negotiating peace with Syria and finalizing agreements with the Palestinians" (Jerusalem Post, July 23, 1999). According to this announcement, that would mean peace in the Middle East by October 2000. 
Will this happen? Can it happen? What does the future hold for this ancient and long-troubled corner of the world? Will Jerusalem, whose name in Hebrew means "city of peace," finally cease to be the sticking point for a long-awaited peace settlement? 
Make no mistake about it: events in the Middle East and in Jerusalem in particular will profoundly affect your world in the years to come! This ancient city is destined to play a central role during the years that mark the dawning of a new millennium. What will that role be—and what will it mean for you and your family?
In other words Ogwyn looks at events concerning Jerusalem to determine when Christ is supposed to return. What people are actually doing is incidental background to his quest to determine when Christ is to return by watching what happens in the Holy Land. What a dreadfully limited view of events.
For the 3,000 years since ancient King David captured the Jebusite citadel and made Jerusalem his capital, Jerusalem has been the most important of cities for the Jewish people. It was the city of King David, the location of Solomon's temple and later of the second temple, and the capital of the Jewish state until the Roman destruction in 70AD. It has been the subject of psalms, hymns and personal prayers and yearnings for most of three millennia.
The highlighted phrase is wrong. Between the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and AD 70 Jerusalem was only the capital of an independent Jewish kingdom during the time of the Maccabees (164-63 BC). Under the Persians Jerusalem was under the rule of the Persian Empire then it came under the rule of Alexander the Great and his various Hellenistic successors until the Maccabees revolted in response to the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes and created an independent kingdom. But in 63 BC the Romans invaded the Holy Land and from that time dominated the Jews in Judaea. The Romans destroyed the Temple in AD 70 and later expelled many Jews from the Holy Land in AD 135. Since Ogwyn is so wrong about this what else is he wrong about?
Muslim control of Jerusalem lapsed when British troops under General Allenby entered the Old City in 1917. The British soon learned that capturing Jerusalem was much easier than administering it. The Palestine Mandate, as it was called, proved to be a troublesome burden for a succession of British governments over the next 30 years.
Actually Jerusalem was under Turkish control before British forces captured it. Ogwyn says very little about the era of the British ruled mandate territory or the tragic clashes between Palestinians and the Jews of the Yishuv, the Jewish community within Mandatory Palestine. The Great Arab Revolt of 1936-9 began as a general strike by the Palestinians and resulted in the crushing of Palestinian society by British forces. During the revolt British authorities aided the Yishuv and sent a remarkably skilled British officer to teach the Yishuv how to fight. His name was Charles Orde Wingate. By 1944 elements of the Yishuv such as the Irgun, a right wing leaning militia within the Yishuv, decided to launch an armed insurgency against the British. In October 1945 the left wing leaning Palmach chose to follow the Irgun's lead and began their own armed insurgency against the British.
Finally, in 1947 the United Nations passed Resolution 181, partitioning the Palestine Mandate between the Arabs and the Jews and internationalizing the city of Jerusalem. The Arabs, who were convinced that they could win all of Palestine by force of arms, vehemently rejected the resolution. The Jews, on the other hand, were fresh from the horrors of World War II and deeply anxious simply to have a place of their own. They accepted the UN resolution.
And so the war of partition began. However with the Palestinians having been routed during the revolt of 1936-9 by British forces the Palestinians were simply no match for the forces of the Yishuv by the time hostilities between the Yishuv and the Palestinians resumed in November 1947 after the passage of Resolution 181.
Before the British could even withdraw their troops, Jerusalem was under siege. By the beginning of 1948 the highway to Jerusalem was virtually impassable and the city's Jewish population was reduced to a state of near-starvation. In the fighting that followed, the Arabs destroyed 27 of the historic synagogues in Old Jerusalem.
How terrible war is. As the war progressed atrocities occurred. Some by one side. Some by the other. One atrocity that gained much attention was a massacre committed by personnel of the Irgun at Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948 in which about 107 were massacred. News of the massacre as well as the many Palestinian refugees fleeing into neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Jordan put pressure on the neighboring Arab nation states to fight the Yishuv and protect fellow Arabs, namely the Palestinian people.
On May 14, 1948 David Ben-Gurion announced to the world the formation of the new State of Israel. The Arab League reacted with predictable fury and its armies began advancing on all fronts.
The British mandate to rule over Palestine ended on May 15, 1948 consequently the Arab League did not officially go to war with the Yishuv until the British mandate expired lest they should end up fighting the British Empire. Before then fighters from neighboring Arab countries proceeded to Palestine and joined armed forces to fight the Yishuv.
Though the armies of six Arab nations combined with the express purpose of pushing the Jews back into the sea, events soon took a remarkable turn. On front after front the Arabs were fought to a standstill and were even pushed back. 
Under British rule society was divided between the Palestinians and the Yishuv with the British acting as mediators in between and lording over all. At times the British would favor one side and then another side in a divide and rule stratagem. During the Great Arab Revolt the British authorities chose to unleash the full force of their repression upon the Palestinians. Consequently when hostilities arose again after the United Nations vote to partition Palestine in November 1947 the Palestinians were at a military disadvantage compared with the Yishuv. Consequently the Yishuv succeeded in securing the State of Israel after hostilities ended in 1949.
The Old City of Jerusalem, however, formed the weakest link in the new state's defense chain. Finally a cease-fire was arranged and troops froze in position. Two weeks after independence, the last of the elderly Jews living in the Old City passed through Zion Gate, and the massive gate was irrevocably shut behind them. Thus Jerusalem became divided, and the Jews were once again denied access to their ancient city.
As hostilities ended Jordan had taken control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

However Ogwyn never mentions in this article anything about the approximately 750,000 Palestinians who were expelled by the forces of the Yishuv during the Israeli War of Independence of 1947-9. After the war they yearned to return to their homes and their farms. But the Israeli government refused to let them return. Seeing that the State of Israel not allow the Palestinian refugees to return proved to the Arab world that the State of Israel was more powerful then the Arab nation states since the Israeli government could simply ignore the demand of the neighboring nation states to let the Palestinian refugees return.
For 19 years this remained the status quo. Then in June 1967 came the incredible Six Day War, and with it the Jewish recapture of the Old City of Jerusalem. As Jewish troops swept out in all directions, Arab armies fled in disarray before them. Israel advanced east to the Jordan River and also seized the strategically vital Golan Heights from Syria. Israeli forces quickly moved into the Gaza Strip and the region of Sinai. While much of this was of great strategic value, nothing could compare to the excitement of the moment that Jewish troops came through Zion Gate and seized the Old City. None who witnessed the event can ever forget the emotional fervor displayed as Jewish troops finally reached the western wall of the Temple Mount, better known as the Wailing Wall.
Intriguingly Ogwyn omits mention of the 1956 Suez crisis in which Israeli forces seized the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt in just eleven days. The State of Israel was militarily superior compared with the surrounding Arab nations in 1956. However President Eisenhower disapproved and compelled the Israeli government to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip in 1957. In 1967 the State of Israel still held a decisive military advantage over the neighboring Arab nation states.

"Arab armies fled in disarray" partly because the Israeli Air Force had destroyed much of the air forces of Egypt early in the war. With Israeli air superiority the Arab armies had no chance of defeating the Israelis. To stand and fight in such circumstances would have been futile.

While Ogwyn describes this war as incredible and exciting it seems to escape his notice that the State of Israel's triumph in the Six Day War of 1967 led directly to the rise of Yasser Arafat. The Palestinians had hoped that the Arab nations would defeat the State of Israel and let them return. Seeing that Egypt, Jordan and Syria were so decisively routed many Palestinians rallied themselves together and decided to fight the State of Israel by themselves. In December 1967 some left wing leaning Palestinians formed the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in response to the Israelis' triumph. Following the Battle of Karameh in Jordan on March 21, 1968 many Palestinians rallied under the banner of Fatah, led by Yasser Arafat, who soon emerged as the dominant faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
For centuries, religious Jews had concluded festival observances with the prayer, "Next year in Jerusalem." Finally, for the first time in almost two millennia, Jerusalem was united under Jewish control. It was quickly proclaimed as Israel's "eternal and undivided capital."
As far as I can tell when Jews said, "Next year in Jerusalem," while observing Passover they were not simply wishing to move from their homes and buy real estate in Jerusalem. Rather it symbolized their hope in the coming of the Messiah and the dawn of the Messianic age. It was certainly not a claim of ownership over Jerusalem since the nationalist movement to create a Jewish state only arose in the 19th Century, many centuries after those words began to be used in observing Passover.

Also when the State of Israel captured East Jerusalem there was a problem. The nation states that recognized the State of Israel only recognized its right to rule its 1949-67 borders and regarded the land acquired in 1967, including East Jerusalem, as occupied territory, that is territory ruled by the State of Israel but not actually belonging to it. This is why many nations keep their embassies located in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem. Partly to counteract this legal view of East Jerusalem as occupied territory the Israeli government proclaimed Jerusalem to be the "eternal and undivided capital." It is called that precisely because of Israeli control over East Jerusalem is not recognized by any other nation state including the US government.
More than 30 years have passed since those momentous events. Since then, we have seen the Yom Kippur war, the Camp David agreements, the Oslo accords, and the Wye River peace agreement. What we have not seen, however, is peace in the Middle East. There have been stalemates, skirmishes, invasions and assassinations, but no lasting peace.
The Yom Kippur War arose in part because the State of Israel refused to hand back the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. In 1971 President Sadat offered to make a bilateral treaty with the State of Israel without the other Arab nation states but the Israeli would not pursue this offer. Determined to reclaim this territory President Sadat led Egypt to war with the State of Israel in 1973.
Is Ehud Barak now destined to succeed where all of his predecessors have failed? Inevitably, all attempts at peace stand or fall over the issue of Jerusalem. What is to be the destiny of the "City of Peace" and what part will that destiny play in the future of the Middle East and, indeed, of the world itself?
This is complete nonsense. While it is true that the issue of Jerusalem is an issue it is not the only issue. This statement shows that Ogwyn is allowing his preconceived notions to dictate his views on this topic.
Just think of it. For centuries Jerusalem remained little more than a footnote to world events, notable only for historical and religious reasons. The Jewish presence in the ancient land of their forbearers was minuscule and impotent. Who could have foreseen that after so many centuries away, millions of Jews would be regathered to their ancient land? Who could have imagined that a formidable Jewish army would overwhelm neighboring states after a lapse of more than two millennia since such developments? 
There is a source, however, that did foresee just such events! It is your Creator's instruction book, the Holy Bible. A variety of prophecies in the pages of the Bible foretold that the Middle East, and Jerusalem in particular, would be a major focus on the world scene in the end time. Some of these prophecies are found in the Old Testament while others were spoken by Jesus Christ Himself, shortly before His crucifixion.
Ogwyn talks of the Holy Land as "their ancient land" but this loses sight of the fact that when the nationalist movement to create a Jewish state began to arise in the 1880s the vast majority of people living in Palestine were Palestinian Arabs and the vast majority of the land was owned by Arabs.

Considering the many false prophecies that Armstrongites have made over the years it is clear that the COGs do not see the future. Over the years the COGs have altered interpretations to fit their purposes. HWA said the King of the South was Ethiopia. Later Garner Ted Armstrong, Keith Stump and now many of the COGs fervently teach that the King of the South will be some sort of Islamic power that will provoke Europe into going to war. LCG tends to think it will be composed of Arabs. There are differing opinions elsewhere among the COGs.

As it turned out the hopeful optimism that there would be peace collapsed after the right wing opposition leader, Ariel Sharon, visited the Temple Mount with an armed guard of "hundreds of Israeli riot police" to insist that this ancient religious site, one of the oldest Islamic shrines in the world which is so beloved to Palestinians and which is located in East Jerusalem and therefore outside of the State of Israel's internationally recognized borders, would remain under Israeli control indefinitely.
"The Temple Mount is in our hands and will remain in our hands. It is the holiest site in Judaism and it is the right of every Jew to visit the Temple Mount," he [Ariel Sharon] said after his descent. (Suzanne Goldenburg, Rioting as Sharon visits Islam holy site, The Guardian, September 29, 2000.)
Traditionally Jewish religious authorities forbade Jews from going to the Temple Mount lest they should unknowingly defile the Holy of Holies since its precise location is not now known. In the 1958 novel Exodus, author Leon Uris described the Wailing Wall, not the Temple Mount, as "the holiest place in all Jewry." But with the rise of the national religious Israeli Jews to political prominence after the Six Day War some have insisted on visiting this site contrary to the previous Jewish tradition and regardless of the tensions these visits create.

Many Palestinians protested Sharon's visit under armed guard. Far too often lethal force was employed against the Palestinian protesters by Israeli police personnel and soldiers. The violence spiraled out of control and escalated into a cycle of violence.

The second intifada erupted and over 5,000 Palestinians and over 1,000 Israelis were killed in 2000-5. It escalated into an armed insurgency by Palestinians but the State of Israel had vastly superior equipment compared with the various Palestinian militia groups. The State of Israel had an army, an air force and a navy as well as about $3 billion in military foreign aid from the US government per year. The insurgency was gradually worn down by the Israeli military led by the Israeli government under Ehud Barak and then Ariel Sharon. It was the worse era of violence in the Holy Land since the Six Day War of 1967. Finally an agreement was made at Sharm el-Sheikh in 2005 which put an end to the intifada.

But LCG's prophecies were not fulfilled. Christ did not return as LCG's leaders confidently insisted to their readers. It is now eighteen years since Ogwyn wrote this article. This dreadful cataclysm occurred and Christ did not return. And yet the LCG leadership expect us to just wait again for their predictions to occur.

It is clear that God is not with the COGs. There is no need to follow them.

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