Israel and Lebanon . . . Is There a Solution

Other than Genocide?


Friday, July 28, 2006

Islam Encounters Zionism

The Outcome of Violence



There is talk among some people about the need essentially to wipe out much of the Muslim population in certain places:  “For peace, one side must be eliminated completely, either physically or ideologically.  For Israel, any person who both believes Israel has no right to exist and acquires the means to eliminate Israelis should himself be eliminated.  Whether it’s good for the U.S. or not, Israel has every right to utterly destroy Hezbollah, and Israel is in no way guilty for the blood of those who grant Hezbollah power through their passivity.”

Is this an advocacy of genocide?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines genocide as:  “The deliberate and systematic extermination of an ethnic or national group.”  While Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged defines it as:  “The use of deliberate systematic measures (as killing, bodily or mental injury, unlivable conditions, prevention of births) calculated to bring about the extermination of a racial, political, or cultural group or to destroy the language, religion, or culture of a group.”

Determining who’s who in the Middle East is not simply a matter of genes.  One cannot determine Jewishness or “Arabness” simply by DNA tests.  They are from the same stock, but both groups have had their DNA significantly mixed with those peoples among whom their ancestors lived over the centuries.  It’s one reason why Jewishness is no longer determined by having a Jewish father, as in the Bible, but a Jewish mother—pogroms didn’t just kill people.

I am profoundly aware of the enormous threat that faces Israel from forces who are determined to wipe out the Jewish state—I was the guest of Israel in 2000 and stood on the Golan Heights, where I saw Israel’s vulnerability, and I unequivocally affirm that Israel has the right defend herself.  But that does not mean that I believe that Israel is going about this wisely.  And I have great difficulty with the idea that Israel is not guilty for the blood of those who are passive about the terrorists in their midst, unless one means by that people aiding and abetting these terrorists in non-military ways, but I wouldn’t regard that as passivity.  If by passivity one means not rising up in physical action to remove evil, I do not agree.  If I did, I would be compelled to join the ranks of former OPC and PCA minister, Paul Hill, who shot an abortion doctor and his driver to death.

What does a Christian do, living in Lebanon?  Real Christians are there:  Cultural Christians are a large group but do not have sufficiently large numbers to force real change under the strange balance of power that results in a constitution that requires that the three most powerful political offices in Lebanon be held by a Maronite president, a Sunni prime minister and a Shia speaker of parliament.

Those who have put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel are very few indeed.  What do real disciples of Jesus do?  How do they go about their daily tasks:  raising children, eking out a living, worshipping the one true God, attempting to share their faith in Christ with their neighbors?  In what sense are these suffering believers granting Hezbollah power “through their passivity”?

Only the gospel is going to bring peace to these warring descendants of Abraham.  In the mean time, one must ask if there are tactics that are more conducive to bringing relative peace in the region than others.

It is the height of hubris to assume that God is on “our” side in any conflict.  God wasn’t even always on Israel’s side, even when they were carrying out a divine mandate of conquest in the second millennium before Christ:

‘Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

‘“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”

That revelation should prompt us to follow the example of Joshua:

‘Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”’ (Joshua 5:13, 14.)

Are Hezbollah and Iran not under God’s curse?  But God’s curse was on the ancestors of these people when he wrote and declared that Israel would be severely punished by means of them:

“Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath!  I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets.  But this is not what he intends, this is not what he has in mind; his purpose is to destroy, to put an end to many nations.” (Isaiah 10:5-7.)

Perhaps American Israeli pride is about to be broken by a sovereign God using Muslim violence, not because Muslims are more righteous than we, but because, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (Isaiah 65:1; Romans 10:21.)  What about Muslim pride?

Does it not behoove not only individuals, but leaders of nations to take very seriously our Lord’s warning?  “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5.)

Our Lord set forth lasting wisdom when he told us: “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.” (Luke 14:31, 32.)  Beyond the wisdom of weighing probable outcomes based on men and materiel, we must remember that there are always factors beyond our understanding that will affect the use of force.  Revolutionary entities like Hezbollah need to remember this, as Solomon warns: “My son, fear the Lord and the king; do not associate with those who are given to change, for their calamity will rise suddenly, and who knows the ruin that comes from both of them?” (Proverbs 24:21-22.)  But even the more internationally recognized political entities should not ignore Providence either. 

If we read history, we discover that things rarely turn out the way that those who devise war strategies think they will.  War is ultimately unpredictable, and it often sires unpredictable results.  Having a vastly superior military may lead a nation to bellicose hubris, but it is no guarantee of a successful military outcome.  In this regard one should consider tiny England’s defeat of the greatest navy in the history of the world in the summer of 1588, when God himself blew his breath on the Spanish Armada and virtually wiped it off the face of the deep, saving England from the tyranny of the Inquisition.

Saint Paul affirmed in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  But what if God is against us?  If God be against us, what help can avail against his omnipotent decree?  Did God not authorize demonic deception often in Israel’s history in order to break those who walk in pride?  “And the LORD said, “Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’” (1 Kings 22:20.)

Did the Lord Jesus not warn us:  “All who draw the sword will die by the sword.”?  Granted that Matthew 26:52 is directed to a private individual as over against a lawful civil force that has divine authority to enforce justice with deadly force (Romans 13:4), but does this not have an application for those who resort to bloodshed without first exhausting all other means to resolve a conflict?  Is there not a more excellent way?

In advocating a measured response on the part of Israel as over against massive bombardment, I am not advocating that Israel be passive, only wise.  Modern weapons can be very effective against a traditional nation-state, but in the evolution of modern war against transnational governmental bodies, air power must be accompanied by sufficient numbers of highly trained human beings on the ground, as the wiser people in the Pentagon and American intelligence community understood before our bombardment of Baghdad.

The problem with the Likud approach is that it is ultimately genocidal because it is fundamentally anti-Arab and aims at the expulsion of Arabs and their replacement by Jewish immigrants from around the world (especially the former Soviet Union) and financed in part by Christian Zionists such as Pastor John Hagee.

In my opinion, Zionism, the idea that the Jewish people are entitled to the land of ancient Israel and Judah apart from Messianic blessing, bears much responsibility for these troubles.  Granted that Zionists are more like mainstream Americans than are Muslims, but this false notion of a merely race-based entitlement to the Holy Land pushes people into one of two camps where we must either be pro-Israel and anti-Arab, or anti-Israel and pro-Arab.  But must we be either “Jew-lovers” and “Arab-haters” or “Arab-lovers” and “Jew-haters”?  I ask again, is there not a more excellent way?

I believe there is—and I believe that there are people on both side, both Arabs and Jews, who also believe this, too.

The tactics of the bellicose Likud group have not been very conducive to peace.  The approach of other Israeli governments have worked better:  Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the most decorated soldier in Israel Defense Forces history, worked for peace with security; so did Yitzhak Rabin until he was assassinated by Israeli “Likudnik” Yigal Amir.  In this regard, one might read an op-ed piece in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz from July 25, 2006, “Morality Is not on our Side,” by Ze’ev Maoz.  The writer is a professor of political science at Tel Aviv University.

For people who are interested in understanding the situation, I would also recommend reading, a Christianity Today piece, “Another Point of View: Evangelical Blindness on Lebanon” by Martin Accad; he is the academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and is “angry at evangelical Christians, Israel, Hezbollah, the U.S., and the international community.”

Honest and open dialogue by partners who are granted the dignity to sit at the table as equals may be a naďve idea and mere wishful thinking.  But my very real fear, given the growing racist mindset on both sides, is that in striking at Hezbollah in the manner that Israel has done so far, she is enraging future generations of people throughout the Muslim world, many of whom will become suicide bombers.

The core tenet of Islam is submission and Islam is the “_Din-e-Ghalib_”, the religion of dominance over others under the omnipotent Allah:  “Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.” (_The Quran_, “al-Tawba [Repentance, Dispensation] 009.029.)

The core tenet of Zionism is to claim the divine authority God gave to ancient Israel under Joshua to seize the Holy Land from non-Jews.  Granted that Zionism, generally, has sought to do this as non-violently as it believes possible within its perspective—but in the final analysis, the core of Zionism aims at dealing with the non-Jewish populations within and around them  not completely unlike European-Americans did with Native-Americans in the nineteenth century, not aiming at assimilation but marginalization.

In my opinion both of these religious perspectives are (if not THE, at least) a major stumbling block to some kind of workable peace in the Middle East.  Religious zealots are quick to be dismissive of such attempts at a workable peace, but what is the alternative?  I believe the alternative actually is genocide:  either the non-Jewish populations will destroy the Jewish state—which I do not believe that the United States will allow even if it brings down the American government—or the Israelis will effectively remove the non-Jews.  But what is involved in the latter?

I submit that we are not talking about merely containing the Palestinian population within the territory controlled by Israel and creating a big, rigid buffer between it and the surrounding non-Jewish populations.  Given the very nature of Islam, not only its uncompromising, universal commitment to enforcement of Islamic law, Sharia, but more importantly, given its psychology, there can be no peace without giving Muslims a way to save face.  Islamic leaders must be given an honorable way to work for peace because dominance and shame avoidance are at the core of all Islamic thought.  If Muslims are humiliated, they will not react the way that the Western people are used to witnessing.  Given a religion where the only absolute assurance of heaven is found in dying on behalf of Islam, we must be careful that we do not sire untold numbers of suicide bombers by our actions.

At the present time, the West and Israel have the advantage of there being much division within the Muslim world, though it doesn’t always work in our favor, as for example, in Iraq where the Sunnis are attacking the Shiite majority because they are terrified of an up-coming blood-bath. But these divisions are generally positive for Israel:  ‘Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah has publicly denounced al-Qaida, and an al-Qaida official in Iraq called the Shiite Hezbollah an “enemy of the Sunnis.”’  (Slate’sMiddle East Buddy List” breaks down these relationships between the countries, terrorist organizations, and political factions who are fighting it out in the current conflict. The interactive chart linked there is a great crib sheet.)

The biggest danger posed in Israel’s current approach in Lebanon is the real possibility that it will cause Shiite and Sunni to unite as cobelligerents, not only against Israel, but against the West as a whole.  Some may say that this has already happened; some may want it to happen. I submit that it has not and that it would be a disaster beyond our comprehension.  Do we really want an all out war with the Islamic world, a world where one Muslim nation already has nuclear weapons and the ability to lob them on their neighbors, and where other Muslim groups have worked behind the scenes to obtain nuclear devices from places within the old Soviet Union?  And, as Christian Jewish nuclear technician, Mordecai Vanunu, revealed, Israel has had nuclear weapons for over two decades.  Do we really want to see the Middle East lit up in a nuclear holocaust?

To arrange peace between such diverse peoples with such diverse goals is no easy task, but the major powers faced no less daunting a task shortly after World War II.  And the amazing thing is that MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, actually did work, and the West never actually went to war with the Soviet Union.  There were numerous skirmishes between the Warsaw Pact and the various Western alliances, such as NATO and SEATO, but the missiles stayed in their silos.

Such peace involves bilateral negotiations and international help.  It doesn’t require complete disarmament, but it does require restraint and dealing respectfully with our enemies.  It allows both sides the ability to save face.  It won’t give everybody everything that they want.  It won’t prevent all violence, all injustice, or all prejudice—but what is the alternative?

Let us pray for peace,
Bob Vincent