First, it is important to understand that not all Arabs are Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs. While a majority of Arabs are Muslims, there are many non-Muslim Arabs. Further, there are significantly more non-Arab Muslims in areas such as Indonesia and Malaysia than there are Arab Muslims. Second, it is important to remember that not all Arabs hate Jews, not all Muslims hate Jews, and not all Jews hate Arabs and Muslims. We must be careful to avoid stereotyping people. However, generally speaking, Arabs and Muslims have a dislike of and distrust for Jews, and vice-versa.
If there is an explicit biblical explanation for this animosity, it goes all the way back to Abraham. The Jews are descendants of Abraham’s son Isaac. The Arabs are descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael. With Ishmael being the son of a slave woman (Genesis 16:1-16) and Isaac being the promised son who would inherit the blessings of Abraham (Genesis 21:1-3), obviously there would be some animosity between the two sons. As a result of Ishmael’s mocking Isaac (Genesis 21:9), Sarah talked Abraham into sending Hagar and Ishmael away (Genesis21:11-21). Likely, this caused even more contempt in Ishmael’s heart towards Isaac. An angel prophesied to Hagar that Ishmael would “live in hostility toward all his brothers” (Genesis 16:11-12).
The religion of Islam, to which a majority of Arabs are adherents, has made this hostility more profound. The Qur’an contains somewhat contradictory instructions for Muslims regarding Jews. At one point it instructs Muslims to treat Jews as brothers and at another point commands Muslims to attack Jews who refuse to convert to Islam. The Qur’an also introduces a conflict as to which son of Abraham was truly the son of promise. The Hebrew Scriptures say it was Isaac. The Qur’an says it was Ishmael. The Qur’an teaches that it was Ishmael whom Abraham almost sacrificed to the Lord, not Isaac (in contradiction to Genesis chapter 22). This debate over who was the son of promise contributes to the hostility today.
However, the ancient root of bitterness between Isaac and Ishmael does not explain all of the hostility between Jews and Arabs today. In fact, for thousands of years of Middle Eastern history, Jews and Arabs lived in relative peace and indifference towards each other. The primary cause of the hostility has a modern origin. After World War II, when the United Nations gave a portion of the land of Israel to the Jewish people, the land was at that time primarily inhabited by Arabs (the Palestinians). Most Arabs protested vehemently against the nation of Israel occupying that land. Arab nations united and attacked Israel in an attempt to drive them out of the land, but they were defeated. Ever since, there has been great hostility between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Israel exists on one tiny piece of land surrounded by much larger Arab nations such as Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt. It is our viewpoint that, biblically speaking, Israel has a right to exist as a nation in its own land that God gave to the descendants of Jacob, grandson of Abraham. At the same time, we strongly believe that Israel should seek peace and display respect for its Arab neighbors. Psalm 122:6 declares, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure.”