How NOT to think about the Middle East Crisis:
Bad ideas have bad consequences. And when we do not think clearly about important issues, there is often a corresponding lack of moral clarity as well. The outcome of such deficiencies can be devastating. Think wrongly about something like human sexuality and you can reap a whirlwind of bad outcomes.
It is the same in other areas, including geo-politics and international relations. Just as too many folks – including some Christians – can feed on the lamestream media’s version of events when it comes to sexuality, it is the same here. It is as if they only know about the editorial policies of the Guardian, the Age, or the New York Times. And the results of that sort of ignorance and faulty thinking can be hugely problematic.
The number of really quite wrong and unhelpful views on Israel and Hamas right now is a classic case in point. I have dealt with so many of these folks already. A recent comment that came to this site raised a number of issues, so I will seek to deal properly with them in this article. This person is representative of so many others in this rather confused thinking.
So I am not picking on him, but using his comment as a sample of what too many folks are saying. It is full of rather dangerous and confused moral equivalence. Given that he is a Christian, it would have been hoped that he saw things more clearly here, instead of seemingly relying on the secular left media for his information. This is the comment he had sent in:
I for one cannot accept that the deliberate killing of over 11,000 people in Gaza (as of today) can be justified. I wonder how different things might be if instead of responding like for like, the words of Romans 12:20 had been applied. Kindness and compassion instead of hatred and retribution. I agree that nations have a right and should protect themselves from this Evil and Hamas must be brought to justice and punished. However Israel must also be brought to justice over its war crimes and genocide in Gaza.
Sadly, there is not all that much that is useful or correct here. Let’s start with the “deliberate killing” of x number of Gazans. This is wrong on so many levels. The ONLY ones the IDF are seeking to deliberately kill are the Hamas terrorists. We ALL should support that. But Hamas is deliberately targeting every innocent man, woman and child in Israel – and quite often in Gaza itself.
Hamas, like all the Islamist terror groups, specialises in using human shields, in planting themselves in residential areas, in schools, in hospitals, and even using ambulances to carry fighters and munitions. So of course in those situations, sadly some civilians will get killed as the IDF seeks to carefully target the terrorists.
If these folks want to carry on about war crimes and genocide, there is one group only that is guilty of this here: Hamas, and its backer Iran. Have they been complaining about their atrocities over the decades? Indeed, where is their moral outrage about these realities:
“More than half a million Muslims have been killed in the Syrian civil war. More than 200,000 have been killed by Islamist terror attacks in Muslim countries. More than 24,000 Rohingya killed in Myanmar. None evoked such protest. I wonder why.” (Rabbi David Wolpe)
The sad truth is, in a fallen world, wars are sometimes necessary. I hope these folks think that some are, as in when the Allies were seeking to stop Hitler and empty the death camps. As such, some collateral damage is inevitable. Just war theory (based on millennia of Judeo-Christian thinking) and modern international rules of warfare both state that where possible civilian casualties should be minimised.
But as I just said, when one side deliberately seeks to maximise the death of their own citizens to maximise publicity and sympathy, then it is they who are fully guilty of war crimes. I am baffled how so many folks just do not get this, who just do not see through the propaganda war that is being waged here.
While no analogy is perfect, perhaps a very simple illustration can help us out here: Let’s suppose you and some nearby neighbours live in a remote rural area with police being a long way away. And these neighbours hate you and want to drive you away. (Bear in mind what we are discussing here: the tiny nation of Israel is surrounded by 22 hostile Arab neighbours, many of whom have stated openly that they want to see it totally obliterated.)
So they routinely and repeatedly do all they can to take you and your family out. They might lob large stones through your windows or ram their cars into your home. They might set fires on your property and seek to kidnap, rape and murder your children. So, if in an act of self-defence, seeking to protect your wife and children and home, you start lobbing rocks back at them, does that make you the aggressor?
What if when you do send rocks in their direction, and they deliberately take women and children and put them in harm’s way? Oh, and they bring the media along to witness the casualties mounting because of their deliberate policies. And then the media splashes that to the whole world, enraging them against you and what you have done.
Oh, and would you simply tell you family that it is wrong for you to defend them, so they must just accept what happens to them? Would you insist on ‘kindness and compassion instead of hatred and retribution’? Hopefully like most sensible people, you would recognise that defending the innocent and stopping injustice and aggression is a major part of Christian love and compassion.
Getting back to the Middle East, it is good to hear this fellow thinks Hamas should be brought to justice. But just who exactly is going to do this? International bodies like the UN? You mean the ones who have over and over again condemned Israel for simply existing, while not saying a word about jihadist terrorists? Sure, that will be a great help to Israel. It is exactly because Israel has NOT gotten any significant international support that it has had to bolster its own defences and do what it can to protect itself and its citizens.
As to the one Bible passage appealed to here (as if this is the only one that has relevance), it says this:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Paul is quoting from Proverbs 25:21-22. In both cases of course, the emphasis is on individuals and how they treat others. These texts do NOT tell us about how governments may act in the international arena. Other passages tell us about that. And that includes the instructions God gave to Israel on how to fight a war (Deuteronomy 20).
Even the Sermon on the Mount is addressed to individuals and does NOT nullify what God said about the state and the use of force. See more on all this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/04/20/difficult-bible-passages-matthew-539/
In sum, sorry, but there is NO moral equivalence here. Pretending that Hamas and Israel are somehow both equally guilty of “war crimes and genocide” reveals an inability to think straight and apply basic moral reasoning. If we apply this faulty thinking, we will see not just Israel driven into the sea, but every Jew worldwide hunted down and killed. Folks need to read the Hamas Charter for starters if they think this is far-fetched.
As has been rightly said so often, if Israel were to lay down its weapons today, it would soon disappear altogether at the hands of its sworn enemies. If groups like Hamas and Hezbollah laid down their weapons, there would be a real prospect for peace in the Middle East. I know which one I prefer.
When we imbibe of the world’s wisdom and bias, and its long-standing hatred of the Jews and Israel, we do not help the situation. We actually make it worse. We vowed “never again” after we defeated the Nazis and liberated the concentration camps. But mentally and morally fuzzy thinking will simply see a repeat of all this. I for one do not want that sort of blood on my hands.
Let me finish with a quote from Douglas Murray that I just came upon:
Muslims do not love other Muslims; they have no love for them. They have no love for the Palestinian people. None. If they had any, the Jordanians would have taken in the West Bank Palestinians, Egyptians would have taken in the territory they used to run (Gaza), and they would have taken in the Palestinians from Gaza. Why have the Egyptians made sure that not one Palestinian is allowed to leave Gaza? Why? Why do they make sure that their border wall is as tough as anything? What do they mind? One thing: Jews living and Jews winning. It hits them deep in their soul, in their psyche. It’s an ancient, ancient hatred, perhaps the most ancient among the monotheisms, and the deepest and the ugliest, the nastiest, and the one that has been least addressed. And we’ve imported it [into the West].