Israel’s Opponents Are Irrational
Belief in itself is by definition not reasonable. What facts and reason demonstrate leave no room for belief. The people of Israel had and still entertain beliefs of two complimentary kinds that have allowed their faith to survive both the assaults of enemies and the passage of time. The first element is the existence of a single supremely visionary, powerful, and good creator, the key figure of the most ancient monotheistic religion in the world. While that faith has been kept intact for believing Jews, it has been steadily updated by a belief in reasoned interpretations of their primary belief. That process began over two and a half thousand years ago with the prophets and proceeded through the Talmud and later Rabbis to the present, also inspiring non-believing Jews to pursue knowledge.
In the eighth century BCE, Hosea and Isaiah were early interpreters and updaters of sacred tradition who retained its central belief. They recognized, hundreds of years before the destruction of Israel’s First Temple, that a moral merciful creator would disdain animal sacrifice and welcome human decency. Retaining their essential faith, they sought to advance the Hebrews’ conception of their exalted divinity. The time of the prophets is over, but the practice of reverent reasoned inquiry and interpretation they began is still flourishing.
On the other hand, fanatic fundamentalist Muslims – though they mouth the Jewish idea that the divinity is merciful – believe that Allah wants everyone who is not of their Muslim stripe slaughtered. Unlike their attacks from tunnels, Hamas rockets shot at Israel’s cities were intended to accomplish more than terror and many deaths. They were genocidal, meant to annihilate thousands and if possible millions of the Jews living there. More primitive and brutal than animal sacrifice, militant fundamentalist Muslims aim at human sacrifice on a grand scale.
Hamas’ failure to see a contradiction between a merciful divinity and their ruthless dedication to massacre exposes its imperviousness to reason. Frustrated by Israel’s Iron Dome defense and defeated by Israel’s Defense Forces’ responses to different forms of attack, Hamas and its terrorist allies remain impervious to rational argument for real peace. Fundamentalist terrorists believe in hatred and slaughter, and as long as there are any of them alive that will be the object of their lives. Their existence entails a-rational violence, first against Israel and Jews and then against any but themselves. They now desire a Hudna, a temporary calm of the kind Muhammad negotiated when he was militarily disadvantaged for the express purpose of rearming to allow for the conversion of his enemies or war. Hamas and associates expressly plan to rearm during a Hudna with the intention of then destroying Israel and killing all Jews in preparation for the murder of all “infidels.”
A militant branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and united with other fundamentalist terrorist Muslim groups against Israel, Jews and infidels generally, Hamas also find ready support among a-rational non Muslim believers in hating Jews. European neo-Nazis ally themselves to militant Muslims, even as before and during World War II, the Arab Mufti of Jerusalem allied himself and his followers with the Nazis.
The roots of such hatred run deep. In the third and fourth centuries C.E., Saint John Chrysostom (Golden-mouthed, because he was a powerful speaker), who was venerated by both Eastern and Roman Christians, attacked “Judaizers,” believers in Jesus who valued and embraced Jewish traditions. Politically clever, he blamed Jews rather than Romans for the specifically Roman punishment of crucifixion doled out to Jesus. That ingratiated him with the Roman emperor Constantine, who officially embraced Christianity. But priests took to the irrational idea with the fervor of belief. They preached anti-Semitism, transforming their burgeoning religion of “love,” into one of virulent hate and engendering monstrous acts of sadism across the Christian world. Muslims, who consider Jesus a prophet, encountered that tradition a few hundred years after John Chrysostom came up with the idea and, of course, as the twentieth century Nazis knew well hatred is a better spur to action than justice or love.
But there is another group that supports terrorism on the basis of misguided moral belief. Call them the programmatic do-gooders. Their faith, which inures them against rational thought, entails a disapproval of success. Programmatic do-gooders are moved to oppose Jews and Israel not by hate but by love of the oppressed. Having been born into dominant societies and energized by a desire to help, programmatic do-gooders found that successful people do not need help. Many successes, they found, were produced by oppression: slavery, for example, and imperialist expansion by the dominant Western nations. Programmatic do-gooders were moved by that recognition to reject their own society. Believing all successful groups are oppressors, they look for underdogs who need help and leap past reason to the assumption that those underdogs are not only always oppressed but always right. Both the present Secretary General of the United Nations and the President of the United States are in part programmatic do-gooders.
Rational and factual explanations have no value to haters and programmatic do-gooders alike. Hamas attacked Israel first, with rockets and kidnappings and murderers who used tunnels. But programmatic do-gooders see that as a reaction to oppression. “But Israel willingly left Gaza,” programmatic do-gooders are told. “Israel left flourishing businesses and their equipment behind, hoping that would help the Arab population thrive.” Programmatic do-gooders do not see the relevance of that.
The thought that some of the oppressed are subjugated by their own leaders and beliefs does not occur to programmatic do-gooders. Hamas is not just a religious terrorist organization, but governs Gaza. The IDF’s response to its attacks is therefore by definition a war with a renegade government, not collective punishment of a population among whom some terrorists live. Programmatic do-gooders simply ignore that. Since Arabs are Semites the do-gooders’ program in the Middle East is best described as anti-Jewish-success.
Though the Jews are fewer than any other well-known group in the world, they have been disproportionately successful intellectually, and Zionism has been successful, creating a flourishing democratic nation in the Middle East. Their numbers notwithstanding, that success makes them a dominant society and both the haters and the programmatic do-gooders condemn them for that. “Kill the Jews,” the terrorist Muslim fundamentalists and Neo-Nazis scream, and programmatic do-gooders driven by faith in what they consider the oppressed shout with them.
For programmatic do-gooders the words are metaphorical. They mean, defeat the dominant and help the oppressed, the underdog, the unindustrialized and poor. The UN, formed by old style do-gooders of a rational sort voted for the establishment of the State of Israel, but since then, with the support of programmatic do-gooders, a cluster of believing Muslims, has taken over the UN’s General Assembly and the programs and committees that spin out of it. The result has been that Israel, one of the most morally driven nations in the world, has been singled out for condemnation while murderous tyrannies have been embraced.
It is impossible to bring reason to bear on such groups. It is good that Israel is conducting an investigation of the war and putting together a factual explanation of military efforts and of the actual numbers of terrorist and civilian deaths. That will be useful when the world starts thinking again. But for now, with Egypt’s and the Palestinian Authority’s quiet support, Israel must support the rebuilding of civilian life in Gaza, with Hamas and its terrorist cohorts kept away from the goods.
Down the line, an election will be held in which Palestinians who were in the past deceived and then oppressed by Hamas will be able to correct their obvious mistake and elect a non-violent leadership. The long process already underway of having two peoples learn to live together can then be taken up again with the people of Gaza as part of it.