Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the focus of heavy criticism last week when he said in an interview that according to the Bible, Israel is “the rightful homeland of the Jewish people”.
“It is not an occupying nation,” Pompeo said on the One Decision Podcast released on Thursday. “This land, as an Evangelical Christian, I am convinced from my reading of the Bible that 3,000 years onto now, in spite of the denial of so many, is the rightful homeland of the Jewish people. We should support Israel in its efforts. They’ll find their own way to an outcome.”
“In the meantime, we should look out for Europe and America and make sure we are helping these nations get toward the right place, and we want good things for everyone, including those folks who live in Judea and Samaria,” he said.
This is consistent with his policy as Secretary of State. In 2019, he said that Jews living in Judea and Samaria were “not per se inconsistent with international law.”
Pompeos’ remarks caused consternation. The Palestine Chronicle wrote that he “dismissed the fact that Israel is an occupying country by claiming that the Jewish state has a biblical claim to that land”.
Pompeo responded to the criticism on Twitter, stating simply, “I said it because it’s true.”
As the foreign policy czar for President Trump, Pompeo was instrumental; in advancing several pro-Israel policies such as implementing the Jerusalem Embassy Act by moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, enforcing the Taylor Force Act by cutting off funding to the Palestinian Authority while they paid stipends to convicted terrorists, and recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. The Trump administration also negotiated the Abraham accords normalizing agreements between Israel and several formerly hostile countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan.
Oblique criticism was offered up by The Guardian under the headline, Pompeo says Israel has biblical claim to Palestine and is ‘not an occupying nation’. The article wrote that he “defended Israel’s decades-long control of the Palestinian territories by claiming that the Jewish state has a biblical claim to the land and is therefore not occupying it.”
The headline is anachronistic in its use of the term, ‘Palestine.’ Ancient Rome first coined the term in 135 CE as a punishment, to obliterate the link between the Jews (in Hebrew, Y’hudim and in Latin Judaei) and the province (the Hebrew name of which was Y’hudah). “Palaestina” referred to the Philistines, whose home base had been on the Mediterranean coast. In Hebrew, Philistine literally means “invader”, “intruder”, or, in other contexts, “migratory”. Historically, Palestine was a general geographic region that sometimes included southern Syria.The region referred to was a part of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years before becoming the British Mandate of Palestine from 1918-1948. It was never used to describe an independent nation or people. Until the end of the Mandate, the concept of ‘Palestine’ was considered by Arabs to be a Zionist plot to slice away part of the Arab land.
In the One Decision interview, Pompeo also had harsh words for the Palestinian Authority president. “Our theory of the case was this — what is in America’s best interest? Is it to sit and wait for Abu Mazen, a known terrorist who’s killed lots and lots of people, including Americans, and given those martyrs money, for having done so?” Pompeo said, explaining his policy under the Trump administration. “We said that’s just not in America’s best interest.”