Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book un-Recommendation: Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour

I feel like there are a lot of books out there that get recommended all the time, despite the fact that they are bad, bad books. I'm going to start doing my part to point them out.

Today's un-recommendation: Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour. The story of a young Palestinian Christian boy expelled from his home by the Zionists, and how he brought himself to love Jews anyway. A sad story? Yes. A bad book? Also yes.

Is it the fact that well-meaning Christians are constantly recommending this book to people who just "want to know more" about the Israel-Palestinian conflict? Is it the fact that you will learn almost nothing about the history and contours of that conflict by reading it? Is it the fawning foreword by James Baker, an architect of the U.S.' 24-year-long war on Iraq, which has to date claimed roughly twelve times as many lives as the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

It is all of those things.  But most of all, it is this passage, from pp. 132-133, in which he calls the destruction of Iraq's ancient Jewish community a Zionist plot.
In the years following the declaration of the State of Israel, its government needed desperately to flood the new land with settlers. ...Something had to be done. ...the Jewish community in Iraq, for instance, became the victim of 'anti-Semitic' violence of suspicious origin. On the last evening of Passover in April 1950, some 50,000 Jewish people, celebrating an ancient tradition, were enjoying a stroll along the Tigris River in Baghdad. ...Out of the darkness a car sped along the river esplanade and a small bomb was hurled, exploding on the pavement.

Though no one was hurt, shock-waves of fear rocked the Jewish community. Rumors of uncertain origin spread: A new, fanatic Arab group was planning a Jewish pogrom. It seemed unreasonable to many, since Jews had lived undisturbed in Iraq for a long time. But leaflets appeared mysteriously the very next day urging Jews to flee to Israel - and ten thousand signed up for emigration immediately. Where had the leaflets come from? How had they appeared so instantly? 

[Me: ???]
The mystery was forgotten when a second bomb exploded - then a third, killing several people outside a synagogue. The rumors flew. By early 1951, Jews fled Iraq in panic, abandoning homes, property and an ancient heritage until only five thousand remained in the country.

Some fifteen people were arrested in connection with the bombing - and the remnant of the Jewish community was outraged. The Haganah [Jewish military], it was discovered, had smuggled arms caches into Iraq and it was they who had thrown the bombs at their own Jewish people.

I don't care how many times Chacour says that he's "forgiven" the Jews. THAT, my friends, is anti-Semitic hate speech. It is also 100% false. It barely deserves refutation. But here we go anyway.

From the BBC (hardly a pro-Israel source):
On 1 June 1941, a Nazi-inspired pogrom erupted in Baghdad, bringing to an end more than two millennia of peaceful existence for the city's Jewish minority. ...Thousands of armed Iraqi Muslims were on the rampage, with swords, knives and guns. The two days of violence that followed have become known as the Farhud (Arabic for "violent dispossession"). It spelt the end for a Jewish community that dated from the time of Babylon. There are contemporary reports of up to 180 people killed, but some sources put the number much higher. The Israeli-based Babylonian Heritage Museum says about another 600 unidentified victims were buried in a mass grave. ...A red hand sign, or hamsa, had been painted on Jewish homes, to mark them out. Families had to defend themselves by whatever means they could.

...Steven Acre, now 79 and living in Montreal, climbed a palm tree in the courtyard when the violence began. He still remembers the cry "Cutal al yehud" which translates as "slaughter the Jews". The men...crossed the street and screams began to emanate from the house of his mother's best friend.

"Later lots of men came outside and set the house on fire. And the men were shouting like from joy, in jubilation holding up something that looked like a slab of meat in their hands.

"Then I found out, it was a woman's breast they were carrying - they cut her breast off and tortured her before they killed her, my mother's best friend, Sabicha."

Yeah. Not so mysterious.

This happened in 1941 - seven years before the State of Israel was established. You can just imagine how fun it got for the Jews after that.

So why did the Jews only leave in 1950? Because it was only in 1950 that they were allowed to.
In 1950, Jews were finally allowed to leave, on condition they give up all their property and assets, including their bank accounts. By 1952, only 2,000 of 150,000 were left.
Today there are seven.

The same thing happened in virtually every other Arab country at this time, except Syria, which didn't formally allow its Jews to leave until the 90s. The vast majority of them found a way to escape anyway.

Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour - don't read it!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reflections on the Nature of U.S. Power


Why ISIS is all the U.S.’ Fault

“Our military has no peer.  The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low and do not come close to the dangers we faced during the Cold War. Meanwhile, our economy remains the most dynamic on Earth; our businesses the most innovative.  Each year, we grow more energy independent.  From Europe to Asia, we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations. …So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.  That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.” 

President Barack Obama, May 28, 2014

“People  worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?’”

- Revelation 13:4

Today, as I write this, U.S. warplanes have been striking positions of the “Islamic State” (IS) in northwestern Iraq for three days.

This has been a rough week for me emotionally. A ludicrous thing to complain about given the context, but there it is. I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ve been getting lots of headaches.

I’ve spent a grand total of seven days in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain, but that apparently was enough time for me to develop an emotional attachment to this lush region, its wealth of ancient peoples, languages and religions, and my brave Iraqi friends who live there.

Over the past week, fighters from the Islamic State have gone on a rampage across the region, forcing 400,000 Christians and Yezidis (an ancient pre-Christian religion) to flee their homes. Nearly the entire Nineveh plain – all the ancient Christian towns and cities – has been emptied, all in one day (Thursday, if you were wondering). All my Iraqi friends are homeless. All the kind, longsuffering refugee families I met there are refugees once again. The Yezidi city of Sinjar was also emptied, with 50,000 people fleeing to a nearby mountain, only to find themselves surrounded by Islamic State fighters, without food or water.

By now, the Islamic State’s modus operandi is well-known – crucifixions, torture, rapes, abductions and enslavement of non-Muslims, mass executions of Shia Muslims and Yezidis, forced subjugation and plundering of Christians, videotaped beheadings. The indigenous peoples of Iraq have every reason to be afraid. 

The news that my country was bombing these monsters, and airdropping humanitarian aid to the children trapped on that mountain, came as an enormous relief to me. Even as an ostensible pacifist, I couldn’t help exulting in this act of war.

Nevertheless, I insist on seeing this bombing, not as an act of mercy from the world’s superpower to the wretched of the earth, but as an act of imperialism.

I spent most of yesterday with an old DC friend I hadn’t seen for some time, who was introducing me to a lot of his new friends. He kept asking me to share “your conspiracy theory” with them. Apparently it was entertaining or enlightening or something. After telling it for the third time, I figured I better write it down so my paranoia can be public knowledge. Here it goes.

The U.S. is using IS as a tool of its Middle East foreign policy. It facilitated and allowed its rise to power, and is now seeking to benefit from the chaos it is stirring up.

My friend’s introduction notwithstanding, this is not a conspiracy theory, nor is it mine. There is no secret to the U.S.’s Iraq and Syria policy. It simply needs to be put into context for the U.S. government’s true intentions to emerge.

Consider: ever since September 11, 2001, the U.S. has proclaimed itself to be at war with al Qaeda. Al Qaeda operatives across the globe have been hunted down, killed, abducted and droned into oblivion, whether they are active or inactive, imminent threats or merely have bad intentions, are violent themselves or mere propagandists. This has only increased after President Bush’s departure from office. On October 5, 2013, U.S. forces launched simultaneous attacks to kill two low-ranking al Qaeda members 3,000 miles apart from each other – one in Libya, one in Somalia. Drones attacks on people loosely affiliated with al Qaeda are more or less constant in Pakistan and Yemen. In some areas of Pakistan, the sound of buzzing from American drones looking for al Qaeda and Taliban targets to kill is so frequent that it wreaks psychological damage on the entire population. “Total war” is an accurate description.

How does one square that reality with the fact that, in March 2013, the Islamic State (at the time an al Qaeda affiliate known as the “Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria”) took over Raqqa, Syria, a city with over a million people, religiously cleansed the entire region, and has held it ever since with NO response from the U.S. government? No airstrikes, no drones, nothing?

At the time, the press accurately reported that Raqqa was the largest city ever controlled by al Qaeda. Today, IS is no longer affiliated with al Qaeda. Bin Laden’s successor expelled them for being too extreme. Think about that for a second.

How is it that, over a year later, IS was able to overrun Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul – population two million – and seize huge amounts of abandoned U.S. military equipment belonging to the Iraqi Army, once again without any response from the U.S. government other than mealy-mouthed statements of concern from the State Department?

Answer: the U.S. allowed it to happen. Perhaps it’s too strong to say they wanted it to happen, but they correctly perceived that IS was not a threat to their regional strategy, and actually fit into it quite neatly.

The U.S. purposefully dominates the Middle East. It has ever since the end of World War II, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union, victorious allies, turned on each other and began a long struggle for control in the region. Both powers saw very well how a lack of oil played a large role in Germany’s defeat, and decided that they would not allow that to happen to them. Needless to say, the U.S. won that struggle, along with everything else.

The U.S.’s dominance over the region rests on its alliance with two countries – Israel, which we hear about all the time, and Saudi Arabia, which we hardly ever do. Were it not for our alliance with Saudi Arabia, we would probably view that country as something akin to North Korea. Thousands of foreign workers are held in slave-like conditions. Women are subject to what can only be described as gender apartheid. Religious police force everyone in the country to practice the most severe variety of Islam.  No political or religious dissent is allowed. Jews are not allowed to enter the country (unless they happen to be high-ranking U.S. diplomats.)

The U.S. uses its alliances with Israel and Saudi Arabia to achieve two key objectives in the region: protecting U.S. access to oil, and preventing the Islamist terrorist threat to the homeland from getting out of hand. We could add many smaller goals to this list – regional peace and stability, democratization, human rights, cultivating pro-American public opinion – but all of these come second to oil and counterterrorism.

Why? Because, the intelligent, dedicated government officers who direct our policy tell themselves, without a secure oil supply and protection from terrorism, the U.S. won’t be in a position to help anybody. First things first.

Al Qaeda is not the biggest threat to this arrangement. Not by a long shot. The biggest threat to this arrangement is the Islamic Republic of Iran – a huge, revolutionary, anti-American country that is seeking to replace Israel and Saudi Arabia as the strongest country in the region.

That cannot happen. So Iran is public enemy number one. Their alleged nuclear weapons program is the justification given. Their potential to wrest the region from the United States’ control is the real reason.

Forget everything you ever heard President Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry say about democracy in the Middle East, and take another look at the region. In 2011, revolutions broke out in six Arab countries: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.

Bahrain is an island nation near Iran. The majority of the population is Shi’a Muslim, like Iran and Iraq, and unlike the rest of the region. Their king is Sunni Muslim, like the king of Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which protects U.S. interests in the Middle East. The Sunni king of Bahrain is a U.S. ally. If he were overthrown, he would almost certainly be replaced by a Shi’a ruler who would be much friendlier to Iran and much less friendly to us.

Early on in the Bahraini revolution, Saudi tanks invaded Bahrain across an enormous bridge that connects Saudi Arabia to the island (which was built for precisely that purpose) and put down the revolution. The U.S. gave its tacit approval.

Did you even hear about it?

Compare that to the revolution in Syria – a majority Sunni Muslim country ruled by a secular dictator from a Shi’a Muslim offshoot religion, the Alawites. The Syrian government is Iran’s closest ally.

Working together, the United States, and the Sunni countries Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar took advantage of the Syrian revolution and funded and armed a violent, Sunni Islamist insurgency that tore the country apart. Nearly 200,000 Syrians have died so far. Nearly half of all Syrians have had to flee their homes.

Mind you, the U.S. and its allies haven’t given the rebels enough money and weapons to actually win. The last thing the U.S. wants is for the Sunni extremists it is supporting in Syria to take over. We support them just enough to keep the war going and going, and to keep Iran (and the Syrian people) bleeding, and bleeding, and bleeding.

It is in the chaos and horror the U.S. created in Syria that the Islamic State arose.  And they had considerable help. Not from us, of course! Perish the thought. Just from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – our closest allies in the region.

Meanwhile, across the border, in Iraq, the prime minister we had chosen to lead the country we spent so much money and gave so many lives to “liberate” and “rebuild” (the electricity still isn’t on, if you’re wondering) was not cooperating. Weapons shipments from Iran to Syria passed through Iraq easily and regularly, despite the U.S.’s public protests. Nouri al-Maliki had decided his Shi’a-majority country’s ties to Iran were more important than his ties to us.

Then, in June of this year, lo and behold! Here comes IS, overrunning huge parts of Iraq and humiliating the Iraqi army. The U.S., of course, promises immediate assistance. On one condition: that Iraq chooses a new prime minister.

None of this is a secret. It is merely done in the name of “spreading democracy” and “protecting human rights.” Because our efforts have manifestly failed to do either, pundits on the right criticize the Obama administration for its “failure” and “incompetence” while pundits on the left praise him for his “restraint” and “keeping us out of war.”

We are very much at war. And it is not failing. It is succeeding brilliantly. All of Iran’s allies are on fire, and Iran has elected a president who all but begging the U.S. to back down.

Why then, if IS is serving the U.S.’ goals so well, are we bombing them now? Not because they are threatening genocide against Christians and Yezidis. That’s been the case for over a year. My best guess is that it is because, this week, the Islamic State stopped attacking the Iraqi Army and started attacking the Kurds.

With extensive American help over the last twenty-three years, Iraq’s Kurds have set up a virtually independent state in the northeast of the country. They are oil-rich and very reliably friendly to America. And IS’s latest attacks drove almost to the gates of their capital, Erbil. (The Christians were unfortunate enough to live in the region between them.) That was a step too far for America. 

So we have started bombing IS. Not enough to wipe them out (like we do virtually everywhere else al Qaeda rears its head). Just enough, as White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said this week, to "tip the balance in support of Kurdish forces." Any more help, Obama continues to openly insist, is dependent on Maliki getting replaced by someone more to our liking – pardon me – on having “a legitimate Iraqi government.

If Maliki goes, expect to see major U.S. operations against IS in Iraq. Maybe even in Syria. If he doesn’t, expect a lot more beheadings.

Again, I don’t consider this to be a conspiracy theory. Much of this is said aloud by public officials. The U.S. government is working for American interests first of all, and tacking on good deeds for human rights secondly. We do nice things for people who are nice to us. People who get in our way, we undermine.

That’s to be expected, right?

Why has this perfectly normal behavior – supporting human rights where we can, but pursuing our own interests first of all – resulted in the near-complete destruction of Iraq and Syria, serial massacres in Gaza, a crushed and terrorized population in Bahrain, two military coups in Egypt, civil war and religious cleansing in Libya, near civil war in Ukraine, etc., etc., etc.?

Because the U.S. defines its interests globally.

The conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer called Obama’s May 2014 West Point foreign policy address “literally pointless.”

On the contrary – it had a very, very telling point. You may have missed it, because in the U.S., we are raised to take it for granted.

Here it is:

Read that again.

Isn’t that kind of insane?

Consider the implications of that. Ukraine? Dispensable. Israel? Dispensable. Syria and Iraq? You’d better believe they’re dispensable! Only the interests of the U.S. are sacrosanct. The interests of all other nations must give way to the U.S.’s efforts to maintain its leadership status.

In the same speech, Obama continues,

“The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead - not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe.”

America – under President Obama and under all presidents since World War II – sees itself as responsible for the peace and prosperity of the whole world.

A laudable goal, perhaps – but how much power will we have to accumulate to achieve it? And how many people will we kill in pursuit of that power accumulation?

In the Middle East over the past 13 years, the answer is somewhere north of a million. And there’s no end in sight.

This is not a vision of the world that allows for alternate centers of global power.  So NATO and the European Union steadily integrate more and more of Russia’s former satellite countries into their alliances. And when the government of one of these nations – Ukraine – reneges on a EU deal in favor of closer ties with Russia, we overthrow their government and replace it with one of our liking. (Again: not a conspiracy theory. There are tapes of U.S. diplomats discussing which Ukrainian opposition figure to put into power weeks before Yanukovych’s overthrow.) It’s just too bad about the hundreds of Ukrainians (and Dutch air passengers) who have died as a result.

And when China starts increasing its military strength and making noise about disputed islands and extending its navy into the South China Sea, the Obama administration starts talking about “pivoting to Asia” and shoring up our alliances with Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the Muslim-killers in Myanmar.  If China doesn’t cut it out, look for the U.S. to start championing human rights in Tibet and East Turkestan.

Hopefully I’ve made clear that this problem is much bigger than any individual or political party within the U.S. government. The U.S. government’s foreign policy has taken on a life of its own. Each new president, secretary of state and foreign service officer inherits a set of commitments, priorities, alliances and arms agreements from his predecessors, and is constrained by them. It’s much easier to ride a tiger than dismount it.

The U.S. foreign policy establishment, I believe, is a principality – one that is increasingly given over to the demonic power of death.

Bear with me.

I owe basically all my thinking in this area to William Stringfellow, an Anglican lay-theologian from the 1970s. Drawing on the Apostle Paul’s reference to “the principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6:12), Stringfellow defines a principality as “a living reality, distinguishable from human and other life” – in other words, something that has taken on “a life of its own,” such as images, institutions and ideologies. 

In our fallen world, Stringfellow says, “each principality boasts that men will find the meaning and fulfillment of human life in service to the principality and that which abets its survival; a profound concern for self-survival is the governing morality of every principality. This comes first. To this all other interests must be sacrificed.”

I can personally testify that this is an accurate description of the workings of the U.S. government. I know people who have been literally blacklisted by U.S. State Department employees for embarrassing the Department over its inaction on its human rights commitments. People are capable of unbelievably brazen perfidy when they are defending their principality.

Because the principalities deny the lordship and power of Christ, the only power that they are able to use to control human beings is the power of death. In Stringfellow’s words, “death is the only moral and political sanction of the State.” Every government, organization, and institution naturally seeks to accumulate more power, and outside the will of Christ, the quest for power eventually reduces down to death and the threat of death.

Witnessing the carnage of the Vietnam War in his day, Stringfellow identified the U.S. government’s institutions as principalities that were possessed by the demonic power of death:

“The war has exposed the process by which a principality or conglomeration of principalities beguiles and entraps people in courses of action that wantonly debilitate and destroy human life. …during the ordeal in Southeast Asia of the past decade, Americans have been successively induced to squander life on a scale so prodigious it appalls imagination and defies calculation for the sake of stopping the alleged threat of communist China or of securing ‘self-determination’ for the Vietnamese or of hindering the so-called domino theory or of vindicating American ‘honor’ or of serving the ‘national security’ interests.”

The squandering of human life on a prodigious scale has not changed. Today, the justification is “extending peace and prosperity throughout the globe.” 

In that goal, our leaders may be sincere. But they are trying to achieve it through the power of death - military power, economic coercion, violent revolution, coups d'etat, sanctions. Accumulating the power necessary to dominate the world is ultimately impossible. It requires the killing of too many people. Eventually, the power of Death takes over completely. We have to destroy the village in order to save it.
Considering all of this, I have to laugh every time I see a new instabook in Christian bookstores about the “Islamic Antichrist.” Such a book could only be published in America. Forget 666 and the ten horns and all the other biblical identifiers prophecy enthusiasts puzzle over. Surely the crucial feature of the Beast is that it controls the whole world. Does that sound like Iran?

Nearly all of the Bible’s symbolism of the antichrist – seven hills, ten kings, “Babylon” - pointed to ancient Rome for John’s first readers. Where is Rome today?

If you were the devil, what country would you focus your efforts on? Who else would have the power to make American Christians obsess over inscriptions on courthouses and Obama’s birth certificate, and ignore the U.S.-engineered starvation of a million Iraqi children?

Besides William Stringfellow, these thoughts also owe a lot to Professor John Kok. I distinctly remember being at Dordt College as a sophomore, giving a presentation at a Kuyper Scholars Seminar where I argued for the U.S. to work to maintain its global supremacy to prevent China or Russia from replacing it. Because, I reasoned, obviously they would be worse!
After I finished, Professor Kok posed some questions to me that (kindly) made it clear he disagreed.  He finished by advising me to read I John 5:19, which said that the whole world was under the control of one person.  Being a good Kuyper scholar, I was about to answer, "Jesus!" but he cut me off and said, "Look it up, and you'll find out who that is."

That wasn't my moment of conversion. I’m kind of thick-headed. But over the last four years, God in his great mercy has brought into my life a great number of Christian and Muslim Middle Easterners whose lives have been turned upside down by the terror unleashed on their countries by my government. They were unfailingly gracious about that reality, and today, I’m honored to call them my friends. But early on in my relationships with them, the Lord made something clear to me: you can’t call yourself their friends, and still support what your government has done to them.
In a month, I’ll be on my way to grad school at the University of Chicago. My career prospects after that are far from certain, but I intend to try to find a way to use my life to do something about this.
It’s taken me a long time here to get here from being the insufferable neoconservative know-it-all you knew so well. But here I am. I am ready to be talked down.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Moral Sophistry in Gaza


"An attempt to stop talking past each other."


"How to not let yourself get talked into killing 1,000 people."

What follows is an extended response to Charles Krauthammer’s July 17, 2014, column, “Moral Clarity in Gaza.” Krauthammer's words are in normal type. Mine are in bold.

Israel accepts an Egyptian-proposed Gaza cease-fire; Hamas keeps firing. Hamas deliberately aims rockets at civilians; Israel painstakingly tries to avoid them, actually telephoning civilians in the area and dropping warning charges, so-called roof knocking.

All true, though by the time of this writing, Israel has also rejected a proposed Gaza ceasefire.  

But here’s what supporters of the Jewish state need to ask themselves: are they okay with bombing residential areas in the most densely-populated area on earth if it’s done while trying really hard to avoid civilian casualties? Is it okay to drive 100 mph the wrong way down a busy highway as long as we’re all wearing our seatbelts and flashing our lights? 

Under some circumstances, sure. Are these those circumstances?

“Here’s the difference between us,” explains the Israeli prime minister. “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”

Again, all true. Again - does that make it okay for Israel to kill 1,000 people? 

Rarely does international politics present a moment of such moral clarity. Yet we routinely hear this Israel-Gaza fighting described as a morally equivalent “cycle of violence.” This is absurd. What possible interest can Israel have in cross-border fighting? Everyone knows Hamas set off this mini-war. And everyone knows the proudly self-declared raison d’etre of Hamas: the eradication of Israel and its Jews.

Again, all true. (Or at least arguably true.) But for the answer to the question, “What possible interest can Israel have in cross-border fighting?,” read on. And again – does this make it okay for Israel to kill 1,000 people?

Apologists for Hamas attribute the blood lust to the Israeli occupation and blockade. Occupation? Does no one remember anything? It was less than 10 years ago that worldwide television showed the Israeli army pulling die-hard settlers off synagogue roofs in Gaza as Israel uprooted its settlements, expelled its citizens, withdrew its military and turned every inch of Gaza over to the Palestinians. There was not a soldier, not a settler, not a single Israeli left in Gaza.

And there was no blockade. On the contrary. Israel wanted this new Palestinian state to succeed. To help the Gaza economy, Israel gave the Palestinians its 3,000 greenhouses that had produced fruit and flowers for export. It opened border crossings and encouraged commerce.

The whole idea was to establish the model for two states living peacefully and productively side by side. No one seems to remember that, simultaneous with the Gaza withdrawal, Israel dismantled four smaller settlements in the northern West Bank as a clear signal of Israel’s desire to leave the West Bank as well and thus achieve an amicable two-state solution.

This is not ancient history. This was nine years ago.

And how did the Gaza Palestinians react to being granted by the Israelis what no previous ruler, neither Egyptian, nor British, nor Turkish, had ever given them — an independent territory? First, they demolished the greenhouses. Then they elected Hamas. Then, instead of building a state with its attendant political and economic institutions, they spent the better part of a decade turning Gaza into a massive military base, brimming with terror weapons, to make ceaseless war on Israel.

Where are the roads and rail, the industry and infrastructure of the new Palestinian state? Nowhere. Instead, they built mile upon mile of underground tunnels to hide their weapons and, when the going gets tough, their military commanders. They spent millions importing and producing rockets, launchers, mortars, small arms, even drones. They deliberately placed them in schools, hospitals, mosques and private homes to better expose their own civilians. (Just Thursday, the U.N. announced that it found 20 rockets in a Gaza school.) And from which they fire rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

All tediously debatable, but for the sake of argument - fair enough. Hamas is the worst. But read on! We’re about to reach a crucial point. 

Why? The rockets can’t even inflict serious damage, being almost uniformly intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. Even West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas has asked: “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?”

The rockets can’t even inflict serious damage. So. Hamas took advantage of Israeli generosity, squandered a chance at peace, and turned Gaza into a hellhole/base for launching rocket attacks on Israel. Attacks that “can’t even inflict serious damage.” So let’s ask ourselves again – why has Israel just killed 1,000 people? 

It makes no sense. Unless you understand, as Tuesday’s Post editorial explained, that the whole point is to draw Israeli counterfire.

Fair enough. But then why does Israel oblige? As one Washington Post columnist recently asked us, “What possible interest can Israel have in cross-border fighting?” If Hamas’ attacks do not inflict serious damage, why does Israel feel the need to kill 1,000 people? 

We can multiply possibilities. Israel needs to demonstrate that people who attack it, however ineffectually, will suffer. Israel needs to punish the Palestinian population to terrorize them into relative docility. Israel needs to keep Gaza uninhabitable to prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state or civil society. Israel needs to fight terrorists to legimitize its existence as a state. The current Israeli government needs to demonstrate its strength to the Israeli electorate and keep its coalition partners in line. Israel is just bombing back because that’s what, in our enlightened world, one does when one is bombed. 

Are any of those reasons a good reason to kill 1,000 people? 

This produces dead Palestinians for international television. Which is why Hamas perversely urges its own people not to seek safety when Israel drops leaflets warning of an imminent attack.

To deliberately wage war so that your own people can be telegenically killed is indeed moral and tactical insanity. But it rests on a very rational premise: Given the Orwellian state of the world’s treatment of Israel (see: the U.N.’s grotesque Human Rights Council), fueled by a mix of classic anti-Semitism, near-total historical ignorance and reflexive sympathy for the ostensible Third World underdog, these eruptions featuring Palestinian casualties ultimately undermine support for Israel’s legitimacy and right to self-defense.

All plausible. Is that a good reason for Israel to telegenically kill 1,000 people? 

In a world of such Kafkaesque ethical inversions, the depravity of Hamas begins to make sense. This is a world in which the Munich massacre is a movie and the murder of Klinghoffer is an opera — both deeply sympathetic to the killers. This is a world in which the U.N. ignores humanity’s worst war criminals while incessantly condemning Israel, a state warred upon for 66 years that nonetheless goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid harming the very innocents its enemies use as shields.

It’s to the Israelis’ credit that amid all this madness they haven’t lost their moral scruples. Or their nerve. Those outside the region have the minimum obligation, therefore, to expose the madness and speak the truth. Rarely has it been so blindingly clear.

A good rule of thumb, for Christians especially, but also for Jews, Muslims, and everyone else - if your moral scruples and clear truth have led you to support the killing of 1,000 people - mostly civilians, although that matters less in God's eyes than our murderous species would like to think - then stop. 

Just stop. Be silent. Breathe deeply. Take a step back. Wipe off the chalkboard. Pray for mercy. Start again. Start with this: lo tirṣaḥ. La tiqatl. You shall not kill.