“Thank you Netanyahu and may God give us more [people] like you to destroy Hamas!”
What’s this? The ravings of a fundamentalist Jewish settler in Gush Etzion? Congratulations from a Christian Zionist hunkered down in his bomb shelter somewhere in the Deep South?
Actually, no. It’s a Twitter message sent out by Azza Sami, who writes for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. Her sentiments are widely shared in Egypt. Why? Because the Egyptians have had firsthand experience of what the Muslim Brotherhood does once it gets in power and they know that Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and, if anything, far more brutal than the Egyptian version. They also know that Hamas allied itself with the Muslim Brotherhood in its assaults on Egyptian soldiers and citizens. Speaking for many Egyptians, actor Amr Mustafa told Palestinians they should not expect any relief aid from Egypt until they “get rid of Hamas.” He added, “We’ve had enough of what you did to our country.”
Hamas are terrorists pure and simple. The Egyptians get it. Why doesn’t the Western media get it? Why don’t Western leaders get it? And why don’t Christian leaders get it?
In the war of public opinion that surrounds the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the press, the prime ministers, and the prelates invariably take the Hamas-Palestinian side. The Palestinian propagandists can count on the media to run footage of dead and wounded Palestinians, just as they can count on Church leaders (both Catholic and Protestant) to bemoan the “slaughter of the innocents.” They can also rely on world leaders to condemn the “cycle of violence”—as though there were a moral equivalence between the actions of the Palestinians and the actions of the Israelis.
But there is no moral equivalence. To paraphrase Churchill, never in the history of human conflict has one side (Israel) done so much to protect the lives of civilians on the other side. Conversely, never has an opposing force shown so little regard for civilian lives—either that of their enemy or of their own people.
To minimize civilian casualties among Gazan citizens, the Israeli Defence Force first gives warning of an impending attack via telephone, pamphlets, and warning shots. And Hamas? Hamas positions its rocket launchers near schools, hospitals, and mosques and in private homes next to apartment buildings. When the Israelis warn Gazans to leave, Hamas orders them to stay and act as human shields. An IDF poster captures the contrast succinctly: “Israel uses weapons to protect its civilians. Hamas uses civilians to protect its weapons.” Hamas also uses civilian casualties for propaganda purposes. They don’t mind if their own people are killed as long as the compliant Western media is willing to publish the photos of mangled bodies and wailing mothers.
Moral equivalence? Consider how the two sides reacted to the murder of three Israeli teens by Palestinian terrorists, and, shortly after, to the murder of a teenage Palestinian boy by Jewish extremists. The death of the Jewish boys was a cause of celebration in the Palestinian communities, the death of the Palestinian boy was an occasion of sorrow for the Israelis.
It’s not as though jubilation over Jewish deaths is an aberration in the West Bank and Gaza. It’s woven into the fabric of Palestinian society. Palestinian children are soaked in hatred of Jews almost from the cradle. Jews are demonized in schools and on children’s television. Kindergartners in Gaza are dressed like terrorists and suicide bombers on graduation day. At higher grade levels, youngsters are encouraged to compose essays expressing their dreams of murdering Jews when they grow up. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that—particularly in Gaza—Jewicide is presented as more or less the purpose of life. In fact, getting rid of Jews is the raison d’etre of Hamas. The preamble to the Hamas Charter calls for the elimination of Israel and Article Seven envisions the extermination of all Jews. And now that the Palestinian authority in the West Bank has formed a unity government with Hamas, there is little reason to believe that their aims are any different.
Catholic writers love to expound about how much we can learn from the Christian fantasy literature of authors like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. But when real-life situations arise that are comparable to the epic conflicts that occur in, say, The Lord of the Rings, Catholics don’t seem to notice any connection. If you are looking for a real-world counterpart to the Men of the West defending their cities and towns against Mordor, it would be difficult to find a clearer ethical divide than that which separates the Israelis from Hamas. There was, of course, a tremendous moral gulf between the Allies and the Nazis in World War II, and numerous writers have pointed out the similarities between England and “the Shire” on the one hand and Nazism and Mordor on the other. Still, one has to admit that the Israelis have been more scrupulous in the conduct of their war with Hamas than the Allies in their war with Hitler. Allied bombing raids, particularly those of the British, resulted in the incineration of hundreds of thousands of German civilians. Some of this was quite deliberate. As Churchill put it, “the civilian population around the target area must be made to feel the weight of war.”
Nevertheless, though the Germans suffered far more casualties than the Allies, no one would argue that the Nazis were their moral equivalents, let alone their moral superiors. That one side is losing more lives doesn’t tell us anything about the morality of their cause or about who started the conflict.
In reading The Lord of the Rings, we instinctively side with the Hobbits, Elves, and Dwarves against the Orcs—in real life not necessarily so. The Palestinian people are made in the image of God. They are not Orcs any more than were the Germans who were caught up in the Nazi system. Yet the cause of their leaders reeks of Mordor, just as did the cause of the Nazis. The difference is, we didn’t sympathize with the Nazis. But when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, much of the civilized world has, metaphorically speaking, chosen to take the side of the Orcs.
Christian leaders are no exception. Many of them have allowed themselves to be drawn in by leftist and Palestinian propaganda. Catholic groups such as Pax Christi, Cordaid, and Trocaire have been at the forefront of the BDS campaign against Israel, while the Presbyterian Church has embraced BDS as though it were a requisite for salvation. Meanwhile, prominent Christian leaders including bishops, cardinals, and patriarchs have been content to echo Palestinian calumnies that brand Israelis as “Herod” and “Christ-killers,” and the State of Israel as an “apartheid” state. Although many Christian leaders say all the right things about Judaism and the Jewish people and the evils of anti-Semitism, they regard the state in which half of the world’s Jews reside as an international pariah, while at the same time holding it to a standard of behavior that no other nation on earth has ever met.
The Catholic Church is not the most strident critic of Israel, but neither does it have a very good record in this regard. The Vatican was the last Western government to accord diplomatic recognition to the State of Israel, and it relies heavily for its assessment of the Middle-East situation on Arab Christian clerics who tend to parrot the Palestinian line. In The Vatican Against Israel, Italian journalist Giulio Meotti makes the case that the Vatican has shown a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli bias ever since the creation of the Jewish state. Meotti overstates his case in places and, unfortunately, he subscribes to the myth of “Hitler’s pope,” but he does present an impressive display of evidence that the Vatican, whatever its solicitude for the Jewish people, has been no friend to Israel.
You can maintain, contra Meotti, that Church leaders have merely adopted a policy of neutrality. But that’s what moral equivalency is all about, isn’t it? And do you really want to be neutral between a state that values human life and one that celebrates death?
Along with other world leaders, Church leaders fret about the “cycle of violence,” but by lending legitimacy to leaders who deserve no legitimacy, they only help to perpetuate the cycle. Just as the Obama administration continues to send checks to the Palestinian-Hamas unity government, Christian leaders continue to sign vouchers testifying to the good character of a political movement that is bent on genocide.
Undoubtedly there are many Gazans who, like their Egyptian counterparts, would like to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood overlords who have created so much misery in their lives. But there’s scant chance of that happening if world leaders and Church leaders keep pouring out moral support for the Palestinian Islamists.
William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation.