Hamas extremists demonstrated the evil of their worldview when they surprise-attacked unprepared Israeli villages, a concert, and families, indiscriminately slaughtering all in their path. How should we evaluate such tragedy?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #113 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
Jews and Arabs have been in conflict since the earliest days of the Old Testament Israelites and their neighbors.
Clearly, some Jews—not all, but definitely some—hate Arabs. And some Arabs—not all, but definitely some—hate Jews.
I am not using the word “hate” as it is now used incessantly on social media to indicate anything anyone does not like or with which they disagree. I’m using the word “hate” in its original dictionary meaning—an intense negative emotional response towards certain people, things, or ideas. And I add the current dictionary, or I should say psychological definition of hate that includes an attitude that gives rise to open enmity, hostility, or aggression. So, in this contemporary social-psychological sense, hate is not just an emotion but an action.
This perpetual—terminal really—animosity is not so much a matter of politics or even demography as it is moral philosophy, a choice. It’s not inherited in DNA. It is modeled and taught.
October 7, 2023, about one thousand Hamas terrorists entered Southern Israel from Gaza, kidnapping, raping, and murdering innocent Israelis. In some cases, whole families were wiped out. Israel has responded with significant military action and fighting continues.
Several issues are worth discussing here.
- Many have responded with calls for an immediate cessation of violence.
This is understandable and desirable on several levels. But it skips over a few serious considerations.
One point of view has been noted in major media, what about self-defense? Does Israel have any right to defend itself? Is the country attacked not justified in responding in like manner that it was attacked, at least for preservation of life if not justice or retribution?
Interestingly, most conservative commentators have said, yes, to this question, and so have most moderate to liberal political leaders, including the President of the United States and former president Barack Obama.
On the other hand, predictably, a long list of Progressives, i.e., those on the political Left, have not only called for an immediate cessation of military response by Israel but have indeed blamed Israel for Hamas’s unprovoked attack. These Progressives have also claimed Hamas’s actions were understandable, given the terrible living conditions extant in the Gaza Strip, and then they called for Israel to stand down—saying nothing about Hamas standing down, just Israel.
A second consideration regarding calls for an immediate cessation of violence includes the idea of self-defense but focuses even more specifically upon safety and security.
Think about this example: If your children were in a school invaded by gunmen, the first thing you’d want is not a cessation of violence. What you’d want is the police to do whatever was necessary, including violence on the perpetrators, in order to protect your children by re-establishing their safety and security. After that, then you could think about a cessation of violence.
So, there is a sense in which calling for an immediate cessation of violence is like gun control arguments. It makes the use of violence by the bad actors and that of those defending themselves morally equivalent. And it does not get us where we want to go. Do this and only the bad guys will have guns.
Again, calling for an immediate cessation of violence certainly seems logical, but it fails to account for the existence of sin and evil. It fails to acknowledge that one scriptural purpose of government is the right use of coercive force to protect life and liberty.
I’m not arguing here for violence. I’m not trying to justify all forms or unproportionate levels of violence. I’m just saying that in a fallen world, sometimes, “just use” of violence by law enforcement or military is essential and morally justifiable.
Now some have said that violence just results in more violence, but is this true? Actually, in a fallen world, legitimate uses of violence by law enforcement or military may be the only path to stop more violence.
- Another comment made by many, including Christians, is to call for peace.
Again, is there something wrong with peace? Of course not. Then what is the problem? If you call for peace you must think about what kind of peace. Do you mean peace at any cost? This may be the result of immediately ceasing to use violence without first stopping the evildoers.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared “Peace for our time" in his September 30, 1938 remarks in London concerning the Munich Agreement. He was roundly criticized for this because it came across to the British people for what it was, naïve appeasement that allowed for the emergence of Adolf Hitler. In other words, Chamberlain’s “Peace for our time” was seen as peace at any cost.
What motivates people to pursue peace? Does calling for peace really cause people to change their minds and hearts? Will peace and justice ensue if we just reason with aggressors?
Peace of this nature has never happened because sin still exists. Only God’s peace, which is grounded in his character and available to us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, can truly change hearts.
- Pundits on both sides—Left and Right—are basically calling for annihilation, genocide of either the Jewish or the Palestinian peoples.
It’s like Jonah’s attitude toward the Ninevites of old. Just nuke ‘em, Lord, and be done with it.
On a human level, we understand why reacting to rape and kidnapping and babies slaughtered might lead one to respond with revengeful calls to “smote the enemy hip and thigh with a great slaughter” (Judges 15:8, KJV). But then again, needless to say, I hope, this is not a Christian perspective.
First, there are many innocent civilians living in all parts of the Holy Land. They are not terrorists, nor are they per se an enemy of anyone. Second, Christians, isolated believers in Christ, also live in all regions of the Holy Land. There are underground churches in the Holy Land. Do these people deserve annihilation? No, they do not.
Third, some people have rather glibly said that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip should just get out of there. But how do they do this? They do not have a recognized country and many of them have no legitimate passport, money, or connections needed to travel. Their overland routes are controlled by Israel or Egypt and internally controlled by Hamas, while naval routes are often blockaded.
With the exception of Jordan and Lebanon, Palestinians are not welcome in most of the Arab countries in the Middle East. So where do they go?
I believe Israel, like any nation, has a right to defend itself. Now what this looks like and what constitutes proportionate response in terms of Just War theory is open to debate.
I think the unprovoked and unprecedented Hamas attack upon civilians, villages, families, concertgoers, all non-military targets, was an act of terrorism. The fact that civilians were raped and kidnapped, and that this was widely reported on social media, is another example of how Hamas is creating terror.
I believe the Gaza Strip is a tragic historical and political development in that this region has become a trap for 2.4 million people living in an area the size of metro-Philadelphia.These Palestinians are victims of historic ethnic hatreds, international politics and war, false religion, and selfish, autocratic, self-imposed leaders.
I believe God loves Jews and Arabs, indeed all Gentiles, and that as Scripture speaks plainly, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). This means God offers his grace, forgiveness, redemption, and hope to Palestinians and Israelis, Hamas terrorists, Iranian imams, and Afghan Taliban, everyone.
While the political and religious heritage of the people of the Middle East is incredibly complex, the answer to their problems, and to ours, is the same. It is simple: faith in Jesus Christ who makes all things new (Rev. 21:5).
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
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