Further thoughts on the current conflict:
In times of war truth can easily get clouded over. But that is not the only thing that can get all rather fuzzy. Rationality and morality can also take big hits. We expect the secular left to have its spin on things concerning the current crisis in Israel.
But I have found far too many folks who claim to be conservatives and Christians dishing up equally bizarre and morally dubious “arguments”. So let me discuss in somewhat random fashion a few more of these areas that need to be addressed:
The huge number of Western university students – and others – fully supporting and cheering on Hamas and terrorism while condemning Israel is proof perfect of the fact that long ago our universities were taken over by the radical secular left.
Indeed, the very fact that throughout the world we are now seeing days of rage – ‘global days of jihad’ in support of the terrorists but not the victims of terrorism – tells us all we need to know about how widespread and effective leftist propaganda has been – in universities, in the media, and elsewhere.
We need a dose of reality here: Did you know that there are only 16 million Jews in the entire world (comprising just 0.2% of the world’s population)? The two main blocks are these: 7 million are in Israel and 7 million are in the US. The tiny nation of Israel has every reason to be fearful of its precarious situation in the Middle East – and worldwide.
I am finding far too many believers running with meaningless bumper sticker cliches like ‘War solves nothing.’ As I said in earlier articles, pacifism is a minority position among believers, and folks can run with that if they want to. But when their pacifism trumps realism, justice and the defence of the innocent, then I am not so impressed with it.
How can it be said that war solves nothing? Those making this facile claim really need to look a Holocaust survivor straight in the face and tell them the Allied war effort to stop Hitler and liberate the death camps did nothing, were a waste of time, and were immoral. See how far that goes.
These survivors know full well it was not utopian pacifism and ‘peace in our time’ foolishness that saved them. It was Allied troops and tanks that defeated Hitler, ended the Nazi nightmare, and emptied the death camps. They have no illusions about how their liberation was achieved.
Indeed, you know we are now in a really bizarre place when some of those claiming to be conservatives and Christians end up basically parroting the very same talking points and bumper sticker cliches that the NYT, the Guardian, Bernie Sanders, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrats and the Greens have always run with. Mind-boggling really.
Cliches like “Make love, not war” and “Give peace a chance” are not really fitting for thinking and morally aware Christians. I am just waiting to find some of these folks joining hippies around a campfire singing Kumbaya, invoking the spirit of Neville Chamberlain, and endlessly playing John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’! Hamas will obviously come around with such optimism and dreamy utopianism. What could go wrong?!
Some have appealed to folks like the great John Paul II. But he of course did NOT condemn all war and neither should we. Catholic moral teaching has long supported just war theory and rejected full-tilt pacifism. Yes, generally speaking, jaw jaw is better than war war.
But sometimes it is the only remaining alternative, and not to resist tyrants and murderers causes far more death, destruction, injustice and cruelty to the innocent. God is a God of war as Scripture teaches, and there is a place for defensive war in this fallen world. If that is not to the liking of some, they need to go tell God how wrong he is.
Here is a truth you can count on: admitting you were wrong about one extreme that you were in does NOT get any better when you embrace the opposite and equal extreme. You simply end up being wrong twice. There is nothing morally or mentally virtuous about that. For example, the Covid wars helped to wake up so many people as to how easily we can be duped and manipulated – certainly by the mainstream media, but even by our own governments.
Now we are being much more cautious, which is good. But so many have now gone in the complete opposite extreme, doubting everything, believing nothing, and being unable to make even the most fundamental of moral distinctions, including the truth that terrorists killing babies is not ethically acceptable. Such folks have simply swapped one big batch of gullibility for another.
Here is another very concerning thing. We know the secular left which hates Israel and loves groups like Hamas have cowed many folks into silence. Ordinary men and women who know deep down that slaughtering babies and women and grandmothers and taking them as human shields is fundamentally wrong are too afraid to speak out because of the noisy and bullying left.
However increasingly I am finding that those who claim to be conservative and Christian are pretty much doing the same thing. You dare open your mouth to say that Israel has a right to exist, and that killing babies is wrong, and many of these folks come out shouting “War is murder!” and ‘We must not get involved in this!” and “Israel is just as bad as Hamas!” and “There is no black and white here!” etc.
Good grief, they now have the same talking points and useless rhetoric as the radical left. Thus many people now dare not open their mouths for fear of offending both camps. This does my head in – big time.
I have often spoken before about the error of moral equivalence. ‘Yes, Hamas is not too good, but neither is Israel’ – as if both were on an identical moral plane. Sorry, but to say in 2023: ‘I am not for either Israel or Hamas’ is not really all that different from saying in 1939, ‘I am not for either the Allies or the Nazis.’ If your moral compass is that badly damaged, you really might need some help.
Much more can be said. But there are already thousands of articles, podcasts and videos out on the current conflict. Let me feature just a few. Mona Charen offers some background to the current situation:
Throughout Israel’s 76-year conflict with the Palestinians, certain cliches — like condemnations of the “cycle of violence” — have calcified. Saturday’s attacks on Israeli civilians betray their total bankruptcy. Israel did nothing to provoke this attack. There was no raid, no strike on terrorist headquarters, nothing. This isn’t revenge or retaliation — just straight-up barbarity.
It’s past time to retire another cliche: the “peace process.” On CNN, for example, representatives of the Palestinian Authority (which controls the West Bank) explained that the 10/7 attack was the understandable response by Palestinians to the lack of progress in the peace process. Precisely the opposite is the case. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since its first and only election in 2006, does not and never has sought peace. Its charter specifically calls for the complete destruction of Israel.
Another cliche: The 10/7 war is not an act of resistance against “occupation.” There is no IDF presence in Gaza — or rather, there wasn’t until Saturday. Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza strip in 2005. Granted internal autonomy, Hamas has used the control to build tunnels and purchase rockets and missiles (along with hundreds of kites fitted with incendiary devices to start fires across the border).
Not only does Hamas disbelieve in the “peace process”; it appears that the 10/7 attacks were motivated in large part because Hamas was alarmed that Israel is in the process of finding wider peace in the region. It is the prospect of a Saudi-Israeli rapprochement that Hamas (and its Iranian patrons) found threatening. Hamas’s frustration is not about the lack of progress toward peace, but rather the possibility of peace. https://www.creators.com/read/mona-charen/10/23/hamas-makes-war-on-israelis-and-palestinians
Yes quite right, and you cannot make peace with those who want to kill you. Israel has offered to make peace time and time again, only to be rejected. So pretending that this is all Israel’s fault, or that both sides share equally in the chaos is not facing reality.
Speaking of which, Russell Moore recently wrote a piece on “Bothsidesism”. There are some good forms of weighing up both sides, but not all:
All of that is far different from the kind of “both sides” language that has been used in some conversations about the morality of the Hamas attack. Hamas targeted innocent civilians. Hamas butchered young people dancing at a music festival. Hamas murdered elderly people and toddlers and babies, reportedly in the most sadistic ways imaginable. There is no “contextualization” needed to condemn that, to recognize Israelis (and innocent Palestinians) as victims here, with Hamas as the evildoer. As President Biden put it, “full stop.”
This is one of the quickest ways to recognize if you have outsourced your conscience to some ideology or sect: If your first response to seeing obvious immorality or injustice is some version of, Well, obviously that’s bad, and no one supports it, but do you know what the victims did?—then you are in a morally dangerous place. That way lies hackery….
There are lots of morally ambiguous questions—that’s why I would give my ethics students case studies where sometimes I didn’t even know the “right” answer. Even biblically-grounded Christians of the exact same theological tradition will find situations in which we genuinely don’t know what is the morally right decision. In those situations, we have competing goods, and it’s hard to see how to do the right thing without also doing something wrong.
But this is not one of those situations.
Hamas is genocidally evil. They and their co-conspirators are solely responsible for their actions. Whatever our views on Middle East policy, whatever our thoughts on military strategy, let’s not be afraid to say that. And let’s not forget our God’s justice and mercy overcomes the wickedness of man. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2023/october-web-only/israel-hamas-russell-moore-moral-terrorist.html
As to a few videos, this interview by Piers Morgan with Ben Shapiro is a must watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfNbxVa3YLo
Please also watch this video with Dennis Prager: https://www.prageru.com/video/ep-310-israel-is-at-war
And this on the Middle East problem by Prager from a decade ago in 5 minutes: https://www.prageru.com/video/the-middle-east-problem
Finally if you want a few books that do a good job of helping to get some clarity on what is happening here, consider these four volumes:
Dershowitz, Alan, The Case For Israel. John Wiley, 2003.
Gilder, George, The Israel Test. RVB, 2009.
Prager, Dennis and Joseph Telushkin, Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism. Touchstone, 2003.
Tishby, Noa, Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth. Free Press, 2021.