Friday, July 21, 2006

If God Is For You, Who Can Be Against You?

In a tragic and soul-eating image of teaching hate, Israeli children are invited to write messages to Hezbollah on shells ready to be fired against targets in southern Lebanon.

I was raised in a Christian culture that taught that Israel can do no wrong, a viewpoint that always struck me as ironic and misguided seeing as how the Old Testament is nothing but the ancient Hebrews going astray and having to be corralled back onto the right path by God. They may be God's chosen people, but the Scriptures prove how wayward and wicked even the elect can be.

What I am about to say will no doubt earn me the ire and wrath of many of my conservative, evangelical friends, but then, if I was constantly worried about that, I'd have to shut this blog down. It may even strike some as anti-Semitic; if that is the case, it means you are looking for boogiemen, where, I assure you, none exist. But it's time we stop writing Israel blank checks just because they are characters in our idea of the end of the world.

Frankly, I am tired of Israel setting the world on fire and then playing the victim card.

There is no doubt that she is one of the most oppressed, harassed and maligned countries on the planet. And there is no doubt that her abuse—whether as a nationalistic state or a loose and scattered band of tribes—goes back nearly to the dawn of time itself. I am not unaware of nor indifferent to the Jewish people's plight.

And yet, I cannot abide what she has become through the crucible of fire.

Israel claims that the land they now occupy is theirs by birthright. They claim that God gave them that land since the dawn of creation and it was only through the barbaric atrocities of occupying and captive-taking armies down through time that dispersed their people.

I happen to agree with them.

But at the same time, the argument that the state of Israel is entitled to the land as a result of God's decree is the excuse of a thousand petty and brutal tyrants throughout history.

If God is for you, who can be against you?

If possession is nine-tenths of the law, then Israel no longer has claim to their narrow stretch of rock in the middle east. While no one could fault them for wanting to return to the land of their ancestors, they returned, in 1948, to a land that had been occupied already for hundreds of years. And not by them. Instead of setting up a country that attempted to co-habitat with their neighbors, the new Israeli state pushed the inhabitants aside and took what they claimed was rightfully theirs. And we wonder why the Palestinians are angry?

Granted, the Muslim states surrounding Israel on all sides would like nothing more than its destruction. (Some have gone to great lengths to hold out the hand of friendship, or, in the very least, live peaceably alongside their Jewish neighbors.) This and their historical maltreatment at the hands of the world have made Israel into a state in which violence is the lifeblood that pumps through its veins. Rather than abhor violence because of living through so much of it (example: Japan), Israel's creed seems to be one of endless and ceaseless retaliation. Vengeance is a national identity.

Just over two weeks ago, provoked by a Hamas kidnapping of an Israeli serviceman, Israel invaded the northern Gaza Strip and destroyed a significant portion of Gaza's infrastructure. A few days later when the Syrian-backed terror group Hezbollah used the ensuing confusion to raid northern Israel and capture two Israeli soldiers, Israel responded in typical fashion. They initiated a massive attack on Lebanon's civilian structures, obliterating the Beirut airport, apartment complexes, bridges, power stations, medical facilities, civilian buses, and even a dairy factory. Hezbollah has retaliated by raining down rockets into Israeli neighborhoods. While there have been civilian casualties on both sides, dozens have perished in Israel to Lebanon's hundreds. The death toll in Lebanon is tenfold that in Israel.

Obviously, the fact that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization with legitimate tentacles in Lebanon’s coalition government complicates matters. The government is either unwilling or unable to stop them. In essence, Hezbollah controls much of the southern part of the country, armed with weaponry as good as the army itself. Worse, Hezbollah is sponsored and bankrolled by Syria and Iran. (Have the Lebanese so quickly forgotten about the assassination of their leader just over a year ago and Syria’s finger on the trigger? Does Hezbollah seriously think that Syria is not furthering its own interests--interests that that do not, in the end, give a damn about Lebanon--or is it too blinded by its hatred of Israel?)

Israel's default to violence is troubling (not the least of which because it seems to be this nation’s default response when attacked as well) and raises many ethical questions. Yes, a country has the right to defend itself, but does a need for national security warrant such a massively disproportionate response to an act of terror? Can the collective punishment of an entire population be justified? Surely Israel’s right to self-defense does not exempt it from respecting international law and basic human decency. And surely international law does not look favorably on one sovereign country attacking another. Is Israel making the middle east safer? Surely one must ask the question. Are Israel’s actions making their own country and the region safer by razing Lebanon?

The Israeli air strikes have created a humanitarian crisis, displacing over half a million fleeing civilian refugees and killing hundreds. Beirut, just recovering from decades of internal abuse, is being torn to shreds. Israel has crossed the border in several skirmishes already and has hinted that it is preparing for a full out ground invasion. There is little doubt that the attacks could be the fatal blow to Lebanon's fragile and fledgling democracy. Its infrastructure, painstakingly rebuilt after decades of civil war and occupation has been set back half a century.

Violence has never created friends, only emboldened enemies. Razing city blocks, destroying material supply lines, and vaporizing men, women and children does not create goodwill. It fosters hatred. And it encourages retaliation. History has proven that whenever you attempt to destroy evil with evil, something far stronger and far nastier usually rises in its place. Tit for tat is something children employ at recess, not world leaders on a global stage. So long as this is the case, there will never be peace in the middle east. All Israel is doing is creating future “terrorists” with an undying hatred of Israel in their hearts.

This is not to say that the abhorrent actions of Hezbollah and Hamas should be unequivocally condemned and opposed and even rooted out and destroyed. That these two organizations exist to wipe Israel from the map cannot be ignored. However, while their intentions are obviously malevolent in nature, they do not, in and of themselves, represent nations. Neither do they possess anywhere near the military capability of their foes.

Israel wields one of the most powerful militaries in the world. How is this possible? More than $3 billion per year from the United States might have something to do with it.

If America is for you, who can be against you?

The U.S. and the world in general are letting Israel get away with murder. They are committing acts we would never tolerate from another country. Because Israel is the only stable and friendly democracy in the middle east, a region in which we desperately need a foothold in order to maintain the flow of oil, the U.S. is willing to turn a blind eye to the atrocities.

Once again, a rift is opening up between the policies of the United States and those of her European allies. The Bush administration is giving Israel a tacit green light to take the time it needs to neutralize Hezbollah. The E.U., on the other hand, fears mounting civilian casualties will play into the hands of militants and weaken Lebanon's democratically elected government. Not to mention, add fuel to an already hotly burning fire of Islamic discontent. I agree.

Syria supplies Hezbolah with weaponry, the U.S. supplies Israel with the same. What Syria and Iran are to Hezbollah, the U.S. is to Israel -- the puppet masters.

The right to defend yourself does not apply to the wholesale slaughter of civilians. Yes, in war there will be collateral damage--the cold and callous military-speak for civilian casualties--but this is not a war, this is not warranted and this is sure as hell not a proportional response. Make no mistake, these are war crimes. This is the butchering of a nation.

We cannot ignore terrorism. Be it in the form of suicide bombings on Tel Aviv buses or those buried in the rubble created by Israeli bombs. Hamas and Hezbollah are not the only ones responsible for wielding campaigns of terror--regional superpower, state sanctioned terror is no less condemnable. The time has come to resist evil wherever it rears its ugly head—in the mosque or in the synagogue.


Blogger Jon said...

You are far kinder than I would be. Does anybody actually believe that this has anything to do with two captured soldiers? Come on. The Israeli government doesn't give a damn about those two soldiers, it was just the perfect pretext to start their dirty little war. Why is it so horrible (as I agree it is) when arab people speak about the destruction of Israel but A-OK when Israel actually tries to push its neighbors into the ocean? I am so sick of this. But do Americans care? Oh no! We're all chatting at the water coolers about Bush using the "S" word! Oh heavens! Well I for one have a hard time trying to give a fuck what Bush said when I see innocent civilians being pulled out of rubble piles becasue the happen to live at the wrong place at the wrong time. I geuss I'm must a little more bothered with his actions and attitude towards the people being bombed right now. Israel is nothing but a chicken-shit country and we are their enablers. I wonder how much it costs when you break the entire potery barn itself?

12:39 PM  
Blogger c_neil said...

I read the news almost every day and I still can't figure out exactly how Israel justifies its policies and what motivates its internal politics. It is also sad how in the eyes of the rest of the world Israel has become the 51st nuclear armed state of the Union.

Aside from most Americans willful lack of knowledge, skewed interpretations of the book or Revelation seem to really motivate a lot of people. Yesterday I listened to a radio preacher describe how there would come a day when Christ rules and executes perfect justice from the nation of Israel for one thousand years. What was one key example of "perfect justice"? The answer according to that preacher was not having to pay income taxes.

Finally, I know that the U.S. doesn't have much high ground when it comes to executing justice in foreign policy. Yet, we still possess the ability to occassionally admit we have done something incorrectly. I would like to hear at least a few confessions from Israel.

1:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a bit embarassed for you, really,Brandon- to see you speak so far beyond your ken and seemingly without any real understanding of Israel and the cancer that is Hezbollah.

It is, however, your forum entirely- and will be kinder with you and your ranting than you have been in your pissy and one-sided evaluation of a situation for which you have no real understanding and no true appreciation.

I want everyone to have and voice their opinions - but one of the reasons I have come here to see what you write from time to time is that you tend to see a bigger picture than that portion that you claim as your own vantage point.

No so, here.



3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plenty of guilt to go around. Here is an interesting perspective:

10:07 AM  
Blogger Grinth said...

I have to commend you for making a post like this...for it is sure to raise the ire of people and bring forth the predictably acidic spewings that I see have already appeared in the comments section.

That said I would have to say I by and large agree with you.

Far be it from me to propose that I understand all the ins and outs of these situations but one thing is undeniable,
Having a blank of check of support from the US has created an environment where Israel's diplomatic process has been relageted to second trumpet behind its penchant for military action.

I'd also add that in situations like these it is often the third party who is is suitably outside the emotional blinders of such heated confrontations that provides the most objective viewpoint and the anchor of reason.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

So long as ANY religion is allowed purchase in foreign policy, we will have such heinous actions.

Today, the Somali Islamists have declared that God TOLD THEM to make war on Ethiopia.

This is why crossing the line between church and state is so incredibly dangerous. Israel is just our finest example.

Until everyone (and the U.N. could start) begins to take on any statement that starts with "God said..." as a statement irrelevant to government action, we are all going to suffer through this. Probably for another 3000 years. If we don't blow ourselves up next week.

Even if you do believe in an afterlife, why do you have to hold this one so cheaply?

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check this out.

10:28 AM  

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