We need some clear thinking on the Middle East conflict:
There is never a shortage of things being said that need to be addressed, challenged, and/or corrected – certainly when it comes to issues like war and peace, geopolitics, the conflict in the Middle East, and so on. Sure, much of the really faulty thinking comes from the secular left. Their ongoing, irrational hatred of Israel and the Jews is so strong that it seems that they are seldom able to say anything true and accurate about the situation.
But sadly, as I have so often seen for myself, those claiming to be conservatives and Christians can also come out with basically the same sort of commentary and the same agenda items. They seem quite happy to parrot the secular left, using their talking points, their baseless rhetoric, and their bumper sticker cliches. For SOME at least, they might even have the same sinister motivations driving them (antisemitism and the like).
Even if they do not have one antisemitic bone in their body (I trust that this is the case for most of these folks), they still end up offering us claims that do not always abound in mental and moral clarity, and clearly are of no help whatsoever to the Jewish people. As such, I need to keep writing pieces like this.
On the social media I recently posted this: “Let me put it this way if I may: if you were the one who had a child or wife or grandmother stolen away and in the bloody hands of the diabolical Hamas right now, you really would not give a rip about debates over supersessionism and the like. I really wish more Christians who want to argue this till the cows come home simply prayed as much for these poor souls as they push their pet peeve theological agendas. Really.”
One fellow – whose thinking is representative of many others – replied in this fashion:
The Swiss, Spanish and most of the countries in the world stayed out of World War 2, they did just fine. Most of the countries that entered it by choice suffered very deeply. Australia had no choice but to fight Japan as Japan was coming for us, because we had British and American bases. But we had really no part to play in D-Day and we did not need to get involved against Germany because America and Russia had them soundly covered. Indeed Russia killed about most of the German soldiers that died in World War 2. Why would we need to ad to their effectiveness?
Israel has its own army now. The Jews did not have that in the 1930’s. This is a very different situation.
If a nation is going to stand it has to learn to fight its own battles. If Israelis want to hold their land, they need to get used to fighting battles, because they have few friends in the region. Are we supposed to sign up our country for forever wars?
Saying we should not get involved is immoral, our military would really not be able to do much their anyway. Even America will struggle to support Israel this time. And I can tell you I have prayed heaps for peace in Israel. I hope others are as well.
Indeed I suspect so many people are praying for peace God may bring it. And that’s what Israel needs, a miracle, not the blood of young Aussies men fighting their battles. And I believe God can bring such miracles.
I don’t intend to debate further Bill. I just wanted to address this. You know I respect you and agree on a lot of things. Bless you and may peace come to Israel.
A number of things need to be discussed here. One error he makes is thinking that every nation can be just like Switzerland! There are three very obvious reasons why the Swiss could remain neutral for so long, including in WWII: the Alps of course (they always make life harder for aggressors); all the many other nations that WERE quite willing to let thousands of their sons shed their blood so that freedom could be championed and tyranny defeated; and of course today, every household in the country comes with its own firearm. Given those circumstances, I would be quite cautious as well about wanting to pick a fight with Switzerland.
Spain of course had just fought its own civil war, and was not inclined to get involved, although it did post troops to prevent any Axis occupation. As to “most of the countries in the world stayed out of World War 2” – just what is being implied here? Should packs of fighters with pistols from the poor nations of Africa and Latin America have taken slow banana boats over to join the war effort? The truth is over 50 nations WERE involved in the war: mostly those who could do something about it.
Some further unwarranted (and therefore unhelpful) assumptions are found here. When I say that freedom-loving peoples should be willing to come to the defence of Israel when and however needed, I am NOT just thinking about Australia. I am not that parochial. I happen to be an American living in Australia, so I of course am thinking of the US – and many other nations as well. We get into massive trouble if we refuse to look at the bigger picture.
The idea that Israel is so mighty and powerful that it needs absolutely no one else to come to its aid now and then is just ludicrous. If folks have no clue as to the actual situation there, they need to get up to speed. Israel is a tiny country (the size of New Jersey) surrounded by 22 Arab nations, most of them clearly NOT wanting Israel around.
The Arab League has over 400 million people on a total area of well over 5 million square miles – Israel has 9 million people (which includes Arabs and others), and rests on just 22,000 square miles. And of course nations like Iran are madly working on developing nuclear weapons (yeah, this will remain a “regional conflict” when they get those – for sure!).
When statements like this are uttered, one wonders whether laughter or tears is the best response: “If a nation is going to stand it has to learn to fight its own battles.” I just discussed what is stacked against Israel. What part of this do some people not understand?
For a less than perfect yet adequate comparison, one could think of the state of Tasmania seeking to defend itself against the rest of Australia – oh, and throw Indonesia into the mix as well, and maybe add some other nations as well. Israel may well have a good military, but just in terms of numbers, land and so many other advantages, Israel is just as much at risk as Tasmania would be in such a situation.
Glib talk about all this just being a cakewalk for Israel and something we should just ignore is as naïve as it is lethal. It is not just Gaza to the West: there is Hezbollah to the north (an even stronger and more lethal terrorist organization). There is Syria, Iran and others to the east. Israel is literally surrounded by enemies, but some folks are telling us to just take a chill pill and relax.
God forbid if some of these folks one day find themselves in an analogous situation where their family is surrounded by a large group of violent, armed thugs. These guys will not likely be saying then, ‘Hey chill, we got this – no need to panic.’
But it gets worse. We are also told that those of us wanting to see Israel safe and secure from the terrorists and others seeking to destroy it (as per the Hamas Charter for starters) are not only wrong, but “immoral” as well! Let me say this: there is absolutely NOTHING immoral about me and everyone else who cares for freedom, justice and the protection of the innocent.
We are not pacifists who think that chanting ‘give peace a chance’ is all we need. We actually know something about history, the Bible and reality. Indeed, we vowed 75 years ago, ‘Never again.’ But some of these folks seem to think, ‘Yeah, whatever, if it happens again, it is none of my business’. THAT is immoral.
There is so much irrationality here, that it is entirely proper to wonder just what role if any latent antisemitism might be playing. If folks think that this should not even be brought up, perhaps the best thing they can do is get down on their faces before Almighty God and ask him if there is any truth to it. A text like Psalm 139:23-24 certainly comes to mind here:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Sadly, even the closing words about peace tend to ring a bit hollow. Chamberlain could waffle on all he liked about ‘peace in our time’ – but that did NOT stop Hitler and the Nazis. Reckless isolationism and dreamy-eyed pacifism did not empty the death camps and bring an end to the Holocaust, and neither will it help the men, women and children of Israel today either.
One more thing. Some of these folks have claimed that Israel was never to make a treaty with any of the surrounding nations, and therefore all international treaties today are clearly verboten as well. They are quite wrong on both counts. I offered the evidence and arguments for that in this lengthy piece: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/04/13/scripture-politics-and-messy-thinking/
The reason for security treaties, defence pacts, and international alliances and the like is often just to provide mutual aid and protection. Enemies know that if they attack one nation they will have to deal with the other nations as well. It is sort of a much bigger version of Neighbourhood Watch.
If all the free democracies of the world simply told Israel that it is on its own, then its enemies will rub their hands with glee, and seek to finally drive it into the sea. They will then have no reason at all to refrain from doing so if there are no supportive allies around.
And given that most of these Muslim majority nations, jihadist groups, and terrorist organisations have plainly stated that their aim is not just to destroy Israel, but to see every Jew killed worldwide, all the talk about ‘this is just a problem for Israel and does not affect any of us’ is shown up for how very reckless and dangerous it is. Such woeful ignorance of history, geopolitics, and the nature of political Islam is the very thing that WILL drag the whole world into global war.
History comes to our aid here, with plenty of examples of ‘peace at any price’ leading to more tyranny and more blood baths. Consider the January 1973 Paris Peace Accords: just two years later, the Communists in the North invaded South Vietnam, and it now no longer exists as an independent nation.
Then Pol Pot came along and did his thing. He and the Communist Khmer Rouge murdered up to 2 million of their own people – a quarter of the population of Cambodia. We referred to all this at the time as the “domino theory.” But that would never happen again, now would it?
Sorry, but when I hear unhelpful commentary like this, I greatly fear for the way we are heading to be honest. So much mental and moral mushiness just does not augur well. And too many people are running with this – including too many who say they are conservatives and Christians.
Now, is Christ ultimately the only one who can bring lasting peace and the defeat of all evil? Sure, but until he returns, there is a place for armies, the military, and the like. God did not tell ancient Israel to lay down their arms and do nothing about those seeking to stop the work of God for example. Instead, he told them to use both sword and trowel. He is after all a God of war, and as David said, “He trains my hands for war.”
Yes, we are to pray for the peace of Israel, but we must never be so naive as to think that laying down our arms and just waffling on about how ‘this is none of my business – let them fend for themselves’ is in any way helpful – or moral. In my mind THAT is clearly what is immoral here.
Bill Muehlenberg teaches ethics, apologetics and theology at several Melbourne Bible Colleges. His independent blog, Culture Watch, has over 5,000 articles commenting on the major cultural, social and political issues of the day. Bill's podcast is exclusively produced for Good Sauce readers and fans.
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