Israel and the Middle East


I love Israel, and think Jerusalem is the coolest place on Earth. Ebola is a worry, for sure, especially with the incompetent and politicized way our government is dealing with it. But John Hagee, America’s most prominent “Christian Zionist,” really should just shut his pie hole:

Ebola may be part of God’s judgment for President Barack Obama’s alleged attempts to “divide Jerusalem,” said John Hagee, a San Antonio-based pastor and founder of Christians United For Israel.

Citing the Book of Joel, the televangelist took to Tuesday’s broadcast of the “Hagee Hotline” to tell listeners that “our president is dead set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching and he will bring America into judgment,” according to the left-leaning Right Wing Watch.

“There are grounds to say that judgment has already begun, because he, the president, has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now,” Hagee said in a YouTube video posted by Right Wing Watch.

“We are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola,” he said.

Hagee, who heads Cornerstone Church, added that threats from Islamic radicals and ongoing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri are all part of God’s judgment on the United States in response to Obama’s policies.

To say that people like Hagee bring disrepute upon the Christian faith when they make pronouncements like this is being generous. People who claim to know exactly what God’s specific actions are in response to specific human events are at least borderline blasphemous, and definitely Gnostic, by claiming that they know the mind of God in a way that the rest of us can’t. For them, the Scripture is just window-dressing for their politics, and God is simply their political consultant as they pursue their agendas. It’s as bad when done by conservatives as it is when its done by liberals, if not worse, since conservatives should know better.

It is common among the useful idiots of the West, especially in the mainline Christian churches, to claim that if it weren’t for the fact that Israel is an apartheid Nazi genocidal oppressor state, the Palestinians would love to just live together in harmony. They have nothing against Jews, we’re told, and nothing against Israelis as a people, they just goshed darned want their own country and to sing “Kum Ba Yah” together. Then we read something like this, and see the real face of Palestinian hate:

Last week, Palestinian and Israeli boys met in southern Israel for a football match organized by Israel’s Peres Center for Peace. The Palestinian Authority (PA) daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reprinted an article from Agence France-Presse that described the match and the initiative in a positive light.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), however, exposed that the news of the joint sports activity with “the Zionist enemy” was not well received by the Fatah-controlled PA and Fatah party leaders.

In reaction to the friendly game, Jibril Rajoub, Deputy Secretary of Fatah’s Central Committee and head of the Palestinian Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs, stated: “Any activity of normalization in sports with the Zionist enemy is a crime against humanity.”

In a Facebook post, Rajoub stated that “for awhile now the Palestinian sports leadership and community – the Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs, the Palestinian Olympic Committee and the Palestinian Football Association – have opposed such activities,” specifying that “normalization in sports with the Zionist occupation is a crime.” He demanded that “all individuals and institutions distance themselves from such activities, especially because their recurrence would arouse disgust and aversion towards all members of the [Palestinian] sports community.”

Others called for an investigation and for the prosecution of the Palestinian organizers who agreed to the game with the Israelis. Denouncing the match as “a crime and an unpatriotic and immoral act,” Palestinian Olympic Committee member Abd Al-Salam Haniyeh demanded that Rajoub “immediately interrogate the organizers of the match, settle the account with them and prosecute them on charges of serious treason against the blood of the Martyrs [who died in the Gaza war] and violation of the decisions made by the Palestinian sports community’s leadership,” independent Palestinian news agency Sama reported earlier this month.

The National Committee against Normalization in Palestine “condemned the participation of children from the West Bank in a football match between Palestinian and Israeli children” and “called on the heads of the Palestinian sports [community] and the Palestinian leadership to discover who is behind this ‘normalization match.’” The Committee’s secretary-general, Jihad Uweida, expressed “surprise” and “astonishment” that Palestinians would “do Israel a free service” by participating in such an event at a time when the National Committee against Normalization in Palestine “is conducting an international campaign for expelling Israeli sports from the international sports system, and after international sports organizations expressed their intention of boycotting this entity [Israel].”

This is not Hamas speaking, mind you. This is the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, the “moderates” whom the useful idiots in the West insist want nothing more than to live at peace with their neighbor, but who in fact are determined to oppose anything and everything that might actually humanize typical Israelis (even children!) in the eyes of their propaganda-soaked population. For years, Palestinian media and educational materials have spoon-fed vicious anti-Semitism to their people, and done everything they could to make peaceful co-existence with the “Zionist enemy” impossible. Meanwhile, you’ve got Churches for Middle East Peace (a National Council of Churches outfit), inviting other useful idiots to this gala event:

At the invitation of Churches for Middle East Peace, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, will give his first public speech to a general American audience and deliver it for the first time in English, to students and faith leaders at The Cooper Union in New York City, NY.

In discussing his vision of a future Palestinian state and peace between Palestine and Israel, he is expected to cover the following topics:

•His views on how peace and inter-religious co-existence can flourish in Israel and Palestine with the help of the next generation.
•Why non-violent protest is the best method by which Palestinians should seek their rights.
•Why terrorism as practiced by Al Qaeda on 9/11 and ISIS is inconsistent with Islam.

Ever tried singing “Kum Ba Yah” to the tune of the “Horst Wessel Song”?

(Hat tip: Boring Bloke in comments at Stand Firm here.)

Behold the triumph of left-wing, anti-Israel ideology over common sense or even decency in this news from the liberal organization J Street via the Washington Free Beacon:

The liberal Middle East advocacy group J Street accused Israel of “fanning growing flames of anti-Semitism” by waging a military campaign to stop Hamas terrorists from firing rockets at Israeli civilians.

J Street, which has said little about the conflict in recent weeks, released a statement Friday afternoon after Hamas resumed attacks on Israel moments after a temporary 72-hour ceasefire had expired.

J Street decided that now is the time to “put forward some hard truths” about Israel as it fights to defend its citizens from terrorism.

“Failure to solve this conflict is eating away at support for Israel around the world, damaging the country’s legitimacy and, in some cases, fanning growing flames of anti-Semitism,” J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a posting on the group’s website.

So let me get this straight. Israel is “fanning growing flames of anti-Semitism” by defending itself against the daily attacks coming from the Gaza Strip, launched by an organization dedicated to the eradication of Israel as a state and Jews as a people from the Levant. Israel is fanning those flames.

The moral and political obtuseness of blaming Israel for the acts of anti-Semites (which is to say people who will use any excuse to vent their hate) defies belief. It’s like saying African-Americans “fanned the flames of white racism” because they took advantage of the Emancipation Proclamation rather than supinely remaining slaves.

Justin Welby 3 (2)Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, like so many others in the West, is seemingly incapable of discerning a genuine difference between terrorism and self-defense.  Anglican Ink has his statement in full, but here’s the meat of it:

For all sides to persist with their current strategy, be it threatening security by the indiscriminate firing of rockets at civilian areas or aerial bombing which increasingly fails to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, is self-defeating. The bombing of civilian areas, and their use to shelter rocket launches, are both breaches of age old customs for the conduct of war. Further political impasse, acts of terror, economic blockades or sanctions and clashes over land and settlements, all increase the alienation of those affected. Populations condemned to hopelessness or living under fear will be violent. Such actions create more conflict, more deaths and will in the end lead to an even greater disaster than the one being faced today. The road to reconciliation is hard, but ultimately the only route to security. It is the responsibility of all leaders to protect the innocent, not only in the conduct of war but in setting the circumstances for a just and sustainable peace.

What is it about so many highly placed Western leaders (Christian and political) that they are unable to make meaningful moral distinctions?

To say that Israel may not under any circumstances bomb civilian areas–even after warning the residents and urging them to evacuate–when Hamas uses those areas for command and control, staging, rocket firing and storage, and sheltering soldiers is in essence to tell Israel it may not defend itself. According to the Church of England press release, Welby “fully accepts that Israel has the same legitimate rights to peace and security as any other state and to self-defence within humanitarian law when faced with an external threat.” But that statement is meaningless when you essentially rule out the possibility of striking back at aggressors who happen to use methods that are contrary to the Geneva Conventions. It’s as if in World War II the Allies had refused to invade Germany because millions of civilians lived there, and so left the Nazi regime intact and capable of re-arming.

In fact, that’s just what Welby and other Western leaders are advocating. They would have Israel immediately stop, before achieving its objectives, giving Hamas the opportunity to re-arm before undertaking the next round of Jew-killing. They would do that to prevent casualties among the population that, you’ll recall, democratically elected a regime advocating genocide, and that continues to support the aims, if not the methods, of that regime.

I’m not advocating killing Gazan civilians because they support Hamas. What I’m suggesting is that the people of Gaza have no problem with what Hamas is doing–they knew when they elected the thugs what they were and how they operated–and so if the result is that, despite Israel’s best efforts, some are killed or wounded in the course of the battle, it is something that they have brought on themselves. Certainly Israel is showing more concern, and offering more assistance, to Gaza’s civilians than Hamas would ever show to Israel’s.

In that regard, please note that Welby’s statement (and for that matter, much of the reporting by the mainstream press) ignores the matter of the tunnels. One gets the feeling that Western leaders and journalists consider the tunnels to be a sideshow, an excuse for Israel to invade. They are not. They are, in fact, the heart of the issue. The daily rocket strikes are dangerous and meant to kill civilians, and as such are a war crime that the world doesn’t care about. They are not very effective, however, in part because of Israel’s anti-missile system called Iron Dome.

The tunnels are another matter.

Hamas has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid meant for the building of the Gazan economy and infrastructure to build hardened tunnels, not just under Gaza, but into Israel. (Child labor was used to do so, resulting in more than 150 deaths to which the world is oblivious.) The plan was to use them to ferry hundreds of Hamas fighters into towns and cities in Israel for the purpose of killing, if possible, thousands of civilians. It would be Mumbai writ large. There 164 people died, and hundreds were injured, when ten Islamic terrorists attacked civilian targets in the Indian city. Multiply that by ten or twenty at least, and you get an idea of what Hamas was planning. It was to be the Israeli 9/11, inflicted on a population less than 3% the size of the United States.

Israel’s offensive in Gaza is meant to stop that. Justin Welby and others in the hand-wringing community want Israel to halt its efforts to prevent a bloodbath that would make London’s 7/7 attacks look like a stroll in the park. He and they should be ashamed of themselves.

There are many in the Christian world who have rushed to condemn Israel as it defends itself from savages who want to free the Levant of the stain that is Jewish presence. Those condemnations (this one, for instance) are wrong-headed and often misinformed, but they pale in comparison to the enthusiastic embrace of Islamic terrorism by some. Among the latter: Giles Fraser of the Church of England, who wrote in the Guardian:

For decades now the United Nations has been unable to agree a definition of terrorism. Even our own supreme court recently concluded that there is no internationally agreed definition. The stumbling block has been that western governments want states and state agents to be exempt from any definition. And a number of Islamic counties want some national liberation movements exempt.

That’s false, of course. Most if not all Western governments are agreed that Iran and Syria are state sponsors of terrorism. To the extent that they shy away from putting that label on some countries (such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar), it is not because they don’t know what state terrorism is, or because they object to the idea, but because of political considerations, whether good or bad.

I am eating aubergines and flatbread with Dr Samah Jabr in a cool Palestinian cafe in Stoke Newington. A psychiatrist and psychotherapist who works out of East Jerusalem, Dr Jabr is quietly spoken, modest, and perhaps just a little bit shocked by my lapses into overly colourful language. She is an educated, middle-class Palestinian (in no way a rabble-rouser) but she insists that the word terrorist has become a powerful – though often un-thought-through – political pejorative employed to discredit legitimate resistance to the violence of occupation.

What some would call terrorism, she would call a moral duty. She gives me her paper on the subject. “Why is the word ‘terrorist’ so readily applied to individuals or groups who use homemade bombs, but not to states using nuclear and other internationally proscribed weapons to ensure submission to the oppressor?” she asks. She insists that violent resistance must be used in defence and as a last resort. And that it is important to distinguish between civilian and military targets. “The American media call our search for freedom ‘terrorism’,” she complains, “despite the fact that the right to self-determination by armed struggle is permissible under the UN charter’s article 51, concerning self-defence.”

“The right to self-determination” is a fine phrase, one that is joyfully extended by people like Fraser to pretty much every self-identified racial and ethnic group in the world…except Jews. They alone of all the world’s people groups must be required to wander the world, homeless and at the mercy of whoever owns whatever plot of real estate they have been temporarily allowed to settle in. Fraser should know all about the changeable nature of that mercy, given his own country’s history.

Anyway, to the point of Jabr’s diatribe: terrorism is not defined by its use by oppressor or oppressed, nor is it defined by the sophistication of lack thereof of the weapons used. Terrorism is defined by its use against civilian populations. It is used by those who don’t have the means to stand up to military power, so they instead target those who cannot defend themselves. It is the classic weapon of the fanatic, the bully, the coward, and incipient totalitarian, whose use of terror as a weapon illustrates well the kind of rule under which others would live if the terrorist triumphs. Indeed, the reports out of Gaza that indicate that millions of tons of concrete that were given for humanitarian purposes have been diverted from a needy Palestinian civilian population to build tunnels that can be used to facilitate the further slaughter of Israeli civilians. Hamas is an equal opportunity terrorist organization in that regard–as long as it is around, everyone, Jew and Arab, will suffer.

The “right to self-determination” that Jabr trumpets has its limits. It ends where it demands that, for the sake of one’s sick fantasies, another people must die. Hamas has declared in no uncertain terms that if it has its way, what is now Israel will cease to exist and all Jews will be expelled or die. Israel has no more obligation to lay down its arms in the face of such evil than any other nation.

But these aren’t just the ravings of a deranged shrink. Fraser agrees:

I took part in the Moral Maze recently on Radio 4 and was howled at for suggesting that there could be a moral right of resistance to oppression. And the suggestion was made that, as a priest, I ought to take no such line. The weird thing about this is that Christianity has thought a great deal about the idea of just resistance. The Reformation, for instance, saw a flurry of moral justifications for resistance to the state, when that state is seeking to impose on its subjects its own particular understanding of religious faith. In 1574, for example, Theodore Beza published his The Right of Magistrates in which he affirmed the right of resistance – and violent resistance in the final instance – to state tyranny. This sort of thing was hardly a one-off.

Apparently Fraser got lost in the moral maze. He seems unable to understand the difference between resistance to tyranny in the form of military or police forces (in other words, the uniformed representatives of a government) and the deliberate targeting of civilians. The Elector of Saxony taking the field against the Holy Roman Empire, Islamic fundamentalists blowing up teenagers in pizza parlors. You say potato, I say patattah. In the words of an unaccountably famous woman, what real difference does it make?

It is nonsense to think that being a state grants some sort of blanket immunity from the charge of terrorism – and certainly not from the moral opprobrium we attach to that term. We talk of asymmetric warfare. This is asymmetric morality: one that, in terms of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, loads the dice in favour of the occupation. This is just not right.

I’ll tell you what’s not right. What’s not right is that the Church of England numbers among its ordained clergy a man so morally obtuse that he can’t tell the difference between national self-defense imperfectly carried out and plain, purposeful, pre-meditated murder.

Olav Fykse Tveit, the general secretary of some inconsequential religious organization in Geneva, weighs in again on the conflict in the Gaza Strip:

The World Council of Churches is deeply saddened and gravely concerned by the continued escalation of the military operations in Gaza, human devastation on every side, and the disproportionately high number of Palestinian civilian casualties, including women and children.

The expression he’s looking for here is “human shields,” the purposeful placing of civilians in harm’s way by Hamas in order to use their deaths and injuries for propaganda. He never does come up with the right phrase, however, because doing so would suggest that Israel is not the sole cause of those casualties. Can’t have that, now.

As well as the Israeli strikes against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, the Council condemns the indiscriminate firing of rockets against Israeli civilian targets by Hamas and the positioning of rocket launchers in close proximity to civilian populations.

They put rockets in schools, for goodness’ sake. Their headquarters is currently in a hospital. Why are people like Tveit so stubbornly incapable of being precise and specific in their condemnations of Hamas’ depredations? I suppose it is an improvement that he’s finally acknowledging that Hamas is targeting civilians. What he fails to note is that Hamas hits civilians on purpose, while Israel warns civilians about their attacks in an effort to minimize civilian casualties. But that distinction seems lost in him.

The Council appeals to all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. The indiscriminate and disproportionate killing of civilians in the context of an armed conflict is strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law.

That is aimed only at Israel, and says nothing about Hamas telling its people to ignore Israeli warnings so as to maximize civilian losses.

The World Council of Churches calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza, and for restrictions on the movement of persons and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip to be lifted so that urgent humanitarian needs can be dealt with.

And if this were done, does anyone suppose that Hamas wouldn’t take advantage of it to bring in more weapons and send out more terrorists? I wonder if Tveit is even aware of the attacks that Hamas has been attempting using tunnels that open up in Israel itself.

This latest resort to armed conflict – and the consequent intolerable suffering inflicted on families and communities – can do nothing to promote a just and sustainable peace for Israelis and Palestinians. On the contrary, it serves only to perpetuate the deadly cycle of violence, stoking the fires of mutual demonization and division, and further diminishing the vision of two peoples living side-by-side in peaceful co-existence.

Peace in Israel and Palestine will come only through the restoration of compassion between human beings, through seeking together common paths towards justice and peace, and through a genuine commitment to creating the basis for future generations of Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace.

Fine words. If only one of the sides in this conflict wasn’t determined to annihilate the other and kill all of its Jewish inhabitants. What Tveit doesn’t seem capable of understanding is that Hamas doesn’t want “peaceful co-existence.” It wants Israel, and all Jewish Israelis, to die. Everything Hamas does must be seen in that context, but Tveit simply closes his eyes, sticks his fingers in his ears, and cries, “peaceful co-existence! peaceful co-existence!”

Not that it matters much. No one is listening to his gibbering anyway.

I was beginning to wonder if any of the usual suspects were going to express their usual outrageous outrage at the depredations of the Israelis in Gaza. Then, this morning, World Council of Churches General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit finally came through:

We strongly condemn the indiscriminate attacks by Israeli military on the civilian population in Gaza, as we absolutely condemn the absurd and immoral firing of rockets by militants from Gaza to populated areas in Israel.

The attacks by Israel in Gaza are not “indiscriminate,” nor are they on civilians, of course, except in the fevered imagination of Geneva bureaucrats. Israel has been contacting Gaza civilians through various means to let them know that attacks are coming because there are Hamas fighters on the premises or in the neighborhood, and that they should evacuate.Hamas’ response is that they should stay right where they are and die for the sake of turning world opinion against Israel. The use of human shields, like the intentional targeting of civilians, is a war crime, but one that Hamas will never be charged with, nor will it be acknowledged in the cultured salons of Geneva. I do think it’s a nice touch to refer to the artillery fire directed by Hamas at Israel as “absurd,” though.

Since last Monday, Israeli aerial bombardment of Gaza has killed 86 Palestinians and injured more than 550 people. Most of the dead are reported to be civilians, including the elderly, women and children. There are many who are mourning the loss of their loved ones among families and friends. We join them in prayers, so that God bestows his love and mercy upon them and comforts them during these difficult moments of sorrow.

What really bothers Tveit is that Hamas has not succeeded in killing some Jews. If some of Hamas rockets actually found living targets, at least it would be a fair fight. The fact that it is Hamas intention to kill as many Jews as possible with their rocket fire is beside the point. The fact that Hamas has fired rockets at the nuclear power plant at Dimona, a direct hit on which might kill tens of thousands, is beside the point. Human shields are being killed in Gaza, and there are no Israeli casualties to balance the spreadsheet.

Both Israelis and Palestinians require their well-being, security and a just and genuine peace.

Which is never going to happen as long as an organization with the goal of destroying Israel and killing or expelling every Jew from the Holy Land is in charge in Gaza and part of the Palestinian government.

The recent failure of the negotiations and the loss of prospects for a two-state solution and the end of occupation, as well as a just peace and vision of a common future have led to the unbearable and infernal cycle of violence and hatred that we are witnessing today.

No statement on the Middle East from the WCC would be complete without a reference to the “cycle of violence,” a cycle that just happens to always get set into motion by one or more of the various Palestinian terror groups. Daniel Pipes noted on NRO this morning that there was a cease-fire agreed to by Israel and Hamas after the last round of action in November of 2012, and that on June 11 Hamas broke it without any provocation whatsoever. Maybe their stock of rockets had gotten too big, and they needed to draw down inventory. Whatever the reason, pretending that this is part of some unending “cycle,” one that flips repeatedly between the two sides, is ridiculous and dishonest. In other words, par for the WCC.

What is happening in Gaza now is not an isolated tragedy. These events have to be seen in the context of the occupation of Palestinian territories that began in 1967. The WCC has always called for an end to this illegal occupation and the continuous blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel. Without an end to the occupation, the cycle of violence will continue.

Please note that apparently nothing of any note happened before 1967. Pogroms against Jews in the Levant in the 1920s and 1930s, the rejection of the United Nations partition plan and five nation invasion of Israel in 1948, the planned invasion of Israel in 1967 that resulted in the occupation–none of that actually happened. The Garden of Eden existed in the region until Israel just took it into its collective head to capture Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank in 1967, because Jews really like having to deal with the daily headache of ruling over a hostile people. And it can’t be denied that the Garden would be restored if only Israel would leave the West Bank. Then everything would be rainbows and unicorns, and Hamas would be shown to be the community organizing outfit it really is.

I can’t wait.

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