On Jan. 14, Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas spoke in an address to the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) Central Council these words: “This is our country. This has been our land since the days of the Canaanites. By the way, our Canaanite forefathers… The Torah says… and I do not want to go into history or geography… From the days of the Canaanites and to this day, [our forefathers] have not left this land. They were here before our patriarch Abraham. We were. Since before our patriarch Abraham…”
Apart from attributing to the Torah (the five books of Moses, in this case) what is not there, the claim that the Palestinians are Canaanites (which Yassir Arafat also did at times) betrays the claim that the Palestinians are Arabs who claim descendancy from Abraham through Ishmael, and to Isaac through Esau. (The covenant relationship went through Isaac and Jacob.) The issue for us is not who the “indigenous people” of this land were or are. The issue is: If they are Canaanites who pre-dated Abram/Abraham, then they are not children of Abraham, and are not Arabs in the normal sense of that people’s genetic root identity. Jewish people claim descendancy from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The dispute over the inheritance of this land is within Abraham’s family. The Bible is clear that YHVH God — whose land it is! — drove out or destroyed the pagan Canaanites when their iniquity was full, and He brought out His chosen people Israel from Egypt to do that, and to give the Land of Canaan to the children of Jacob. According to the Torah, and Biblically as a whole, the land later became called the Land of Israel, even into the New Testament. (Mt 2:19-21)
This same issue came up from another direction a few years ago when I was in a meeting with Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab leaders who believe in Yeshua/Yasua/Jesus as Messiah and Lord. This meeting came about as a result of a deterioration in relations between the two parties following another round of conflict between our peoples, despite all of the reconciliation ministries and efforts for many years. One of the things we did was to list the things that we had in common; and one of those things listed was that we are both Semites (descended from Shem, one of Noah’s sons, who was the ancestor of Abraham; Canaan was the son of Ham). This particular Palestinian brother unexpectedly and surprisingly spoke out that he was not certain that they were Semites. I asked him then, “Are you saying that you are not children of Abraham?” He did not answer, but another Palestinian leader tried to explain that what he said did not mean what it meant.
When we are not reconciled to God, or to our own history, we will show ourselves ignorant and confused, and being deceived, we will also deceive others. Our anger and bitterness will be a root whose fruit will defile many. The truth sets us free. We need to make up our mind and renew it to agree with God. I don’t expect this from a Muslim, but born-again evangelical believers are to be stewards of the truth which the Word of God reveals to us.