Monday, October 7, 2013

Is the Israeli Claim for Homeland, Reasonable, and War Beneficial?

Continuing on the subject of ethics and moral choices, let us think if war is a beneficial option. As a case in point, we shall consider Israel – a nation constantly at war. Israel is a country many hate to love and love to hate. Some Christians hate Israel! These are often ardent supporters of the notion that the Israelis have been unjustly awarded occupation of their homeland by the UN.

If the Israelis were not given the land for habitat, the Christian animosity against Israel would be nonexistent. If Israeli occupation is reasonable, the Israelis and the UN ought not to be blamed, and the Christians are being unreasonable in their animosity towards Israel. Conversely, if Israeli occupation is unjust, Israelis and the UN have erred, and the Christian animosity could be considered reasonable.

May the following questions lead us into a conclusion. First, are the Jews a legitimate race? The answer is an uncomplicated YES. Unlike other races such as Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Philistines that were either destroyed or merged into another culture to lose their identity,1 the Jewish race survives to this day. 

Second, ‘where were the Jews before they converged into their homeland?’  An undisputable answer is that they were in other parts of the world - America, Germany, Russia, Sweden...

Third, ‘why did the Jews disperse to the various parts of the world?’ Biblical and extra-biblical history affirm that the Jews lost possession of their homeland due to the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusaders, Mamluk, and Ottoman conquests, hence had to disperse.

The Jews indeed lived in their homeland before the Roman conquest. Prior to the Roman conquest, the timeline of Jewish history was:
1. Exodus from Egypt

2. Settlement of the Israelites in Israel.

3. Establishment of Jewish monarchy with Jerusalem as capital (King Saul to King Solomon). The first temple built in Jerusalem by King Solomon.

4. United Israel divides into Northern (Israel) and Southern (Judah) Kingdoms.

5. Israel crushed by Assyrians and Judah by Babylonians. Jerusalem and the first temple destroyed, and Jews exiled.

6. Many Jews return from exile during Persian and Hellenistic periods; the temple rebuilt.

7. Israel suffers further conquests; Jews exiled.

Although the Jews were exiled to different parts of the world, they began to immigrate into their homeland during the Ottoman rule. In 1909, Tel Aviv – an all-Jewish city - was founded.

Given these facts, one can deduce that:

1. The Jews are a race with a homeland from as early as the 13th – 12th century BC/BCE. The Jewish race survives to this day, maintaining its national identity. (Israel was rechristened to Palestine in 5 BC.2)

2. The Jews were exiled to various parts of the world due to foreign conquests, but they returned in parts even before the UN legitimized Israel’s homeland in 1948.  

3. Therefore, the Jewish claim to Palestine is not utterly outrageous as some Christians propose, but vastly reasonable and legitimate. The decision of the United Nations, to grant Israelis the land, was reasonable and credible.

“If the Arabs put down their weapons there would be no more conflict, but if Israelis put down their weapons down there would be no more Israel.” 3 If this quote is valid, we concede Israel’s right to defend herself against any aggression. Alternately, there is a possibility that the UN erred in awarding the land to Israel (should be substantiated through objectively credible evidences). This presents a situation of an aggressor and a defender. So we ask, ‘Is there morality in war?’ Can war be justified (Just War) or is “Pacifism” (no violence in a war) the only answer to peace in the world?  

The first existential reality is the presence of evil in this world (all forms of unjust aggression that destroys people and societies rather irreparably).  When evil is existent, do we remain quiet or oppose? To what extent are we to oppose evil?

In case of a communal violence, if armed police are present on the scene, should they be pacifistic and allow the carnage or should they curtail the evil aggression even if it warrants elimination of evil elements? This situation is a no-brainer, I vote for the armed police to use their weapon. Translating this into a context of national security, ‘how should one nation respond to an evil neighbor’s war against it?’ Should the defending nation remain pacifistic to allow the evil nation to maraud and massacre or should it defend itself at the cost of a few or many human lives? Once again, I vote for an adequate defense than being pacifistic.

Let us consider another case in point for the purpose of examining pacifism and the Just War theory. In June 1967, Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. These nations had amassed their troops on the Israeli borders. Based on sight and intelligence that these nations were out to destroy, Israel destroyed the Egyptian air force and moved into the Golan Heights (held by Syria) and the West Bank (held by Jordan).When aggression is evidenced by military amassment, a preemptive strike is a better option, for it prevents loss of lives from the defending nation.

A conflict between two pure and righteous entities is not an existential reality, as both entities will abstain from destruction. In conflicts, we observe a lesser and a greater evil, or shall we say, lesser and a greater good. In such cases, one would prefer lesser evil or greater good. While determining the lesser evil or the greater good, people disagree and a conflict ensues. This is predominantly due to subjectification of a latent or an obsessive bias intrinsic to an individual. Permit me to contextualize this thought.

When Christians think on Israel, they could reason through dispensational or covenant theology (Replacement theology / Supersessionism).  The former espouses Israel and the church as distinct entities, and the latter replaces Israel with the church. But these doctrines are associated with specific methods of biblical hermeneutics. The dispensationalists adopt literal hermeneutics and the covenant theologians allegorize the prophetic passages. Thus, we sense a complex web where one leads to another – literal hermeneutics leads to Dispensationalism, which leads to supporting Israel unequivocally.

I have attempted to investigate this subject by scrutinizing Israel from a non-theological standpoint, to determine if there is reasonability in the Israeli claim to their homeland. Through a factual examination, I understand Israel’s claim to be reasonable. If Israel employs unjust violence to pursue her valid and reasonable claim, I disagree with their modus operandi.

Finally, does a Just War betray the Lord Jesus Christ’s teachings on love and turning the other cheek? Is the Lord a Pacifist? Of course, the Lord advocates pacifism in many contexts. However, one should diligently observe the deeds of an immutable God in the past, present and the future. The Bible does not teach absolute pacifism, for we are called to love good and hate evil (Romans 12: 9). The Bible narrates numerous contexts where God used war to eliminate evil. In fact, God designed our immune system to constantly wage war against any alien intrusions so to keep us healthy. Thus the following can be reasonably postulated:

1. There is evil in this world.

2. Presence of evil posits a source of evil, namely Satan.

3. God eliminated evil through the means of war (E.g.            
Deuteronomy 7).

4. A holy and a Just God will eliminate Satan/evil permanently 
(Revelation 19 & 20).

5. Pacifism posits non-violence, but the Lord, in eliminating Satan forever, will wage war (Revelation 19: 11bff).

6. Thus, Christ, the second person of the blessed Godhead, does not posit absolute Pacifism.

If an individual preaches absolute Pacifism, he ought to answer many questions, of which some are: would he allow a violent mob to massacre and loot the innocent? If the pacifist responds in affirmative, does he really love his helpless society, so to obey God’s commands, or is he merely in love with his pacifistic ideology?

As individual Christians we are not to battle evil with arms. If that were the case, our perpetual task will be militancy against evil. Just War, from a nation’s perspective, is acceptable only when there is an evil/unjust aggression involved that strives to destroy the sanctity of lives. Just War should also involve: just cause, just intent, last resort activity, formal declaration of a war, limited objectives, proportionate use of force, and respecting noncombatant immunity.

Here is my conclusion:

1. The award of homeland to Israel was a reasonable and a legitimate decision, so Christians’ hatred for Israel is an exaggeration. However, any nation’s (Israel included) use of unjust violence is to be opposed.

2. The Bible does not teach absolute Pacifism. A nation can defend itself from any unjust/evil aggression.

3. Individual Christians are not to battle evil with arms, but should cooperate with the State and be law abiding citizens.



2 According to some views. Another view states that Roman Emperor Hadrian changed the name to Palestine.

3 Quote ascribed to anonymity, as far as I am aware of. 


Joel Indrupati said...

Excellent post, Raj, on a topic that needs attention these days. Your research and analysis - and especially your theological and non-theological view points - are illuminating to us. I had not known that Emperor Hadrian named it as Palestine around 135 AD. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. Btw, I found that the quote of your Reference No. 3, is attributed to Benjamin Netanyahu Israel's current Prime Minister, but he said it in 2006. You can see the last paragraph on this webpage :
Thanks again.

Sam Carr said...

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
- Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV)

Raj Richard said...

Thanks so much for your warm and kind comments, Joel. Good to hear from you. Yes, you are right, the quote was by BN. God bless :)

Raj Richard said...

You are right, Sam anna.

Ashish Gorde said...

Sorry to be a little picky again but here are some points that needs some looking into.

1) Am not sure if Jews can be described as a 'race' in the strictest sense of the word for the same reason we cannot use 'race' to describe someone who's a Christian or a Muslim. Of course, Parsis (Zoroastrians) can be considered a 'race' since they are compelled to inter-marry in order to preserve their genetic line. More broadly, there are two distinct races within the Jewish community - namely, Ashkenazi (European) and Sephardic (Middle Eastern), and of course, there are the Bene Israeli from India who look neither European nor Middle Eastern but are desi to the core. Then there are the 'black' Jews from Ethiopia who were recently 'accepted' into the fold so to speak. This racial and ethnic diversity is mainly because the Jewish people lived in different countries through the centuries and ended up 'mingling' with the people they lived with and absorbed their characteristics. So in that sense, I suppose, only the Sephardic Jews because of their 'semitic' heritage could be considered the somewhat true descendants of Jews who lived in biblical times.

2) "Third, ‘why did the Jews disperse to the various parts of the world?’ Biblical and extra-biblical history affirm that the Jews lost possession of their homeland due to the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusaders, Mamluk, and Ottoman conquests, hence had to disperse."

Well, the treatment of Jews by the Romans is well documented and needs no further explanation. However, their life under the Byzantines was a bit tricky. They were given legal equality within the empire but there was instances of some restrictions. Synagogues were allowed to exist as religious places of worship and their desecration was prohibited. But the Byzantines were unique in many ways and it's a pity that they've been reduced to a footnote.

The crusaders were a breed apart and were an absolute disgrace to christianity and the 'human race' as well. I am not too sure of how they treated the Jews but one thing I do know is that they made a mess of Constantinople while they were encamped during the third or fourth crusade.

The Ottomans, on the other hand, were very good with the Jews. During their time, the Jews were given sanctuary after being expelled from 'Christian' Europe and also due to intense persecution that they suffered in these so-called 'Christian' countries. It is said that they were encouraged and even compelled to stay within the Ottoman territory, and as a result, many Jews took refuge and led successful lives unlike the Jews of Europe.

3) “If the Arabs put down their weapons there would be no more conflict, but if Israelis put down their weapons down there would be no more Israel.”

On the other hand, if you follow the sequence of events following the Oslo Treaty you'll find that the above quote needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. There was an air of optimism around that time and the Palestinians had agreed to a ceasefire (the Hamas weren't around at the time) but sadly agreements were not honoured. The treaty clearly stipulated no new settlement construction or expansion will take place within the 'occupied territory' but it continued non-stop. Hence, these settlements are located all across the 'occupied territory' and look like polka dots and are intended to create 'facts on the ground'. Additionally, these settlements are occupied by some really radical fundamentalists who dont believe in the idea of peaceful coexistence. So if you read the reports by Christian Peacemaker Teams and even B'tseleem (an Israeli human rights organisation), you'll hear of children and women being attacked at random, Olive orchards and farms vandalised or even 'stolen' and even shootings. Interestingly, in Israel proper, there are many who dislike the 'settler' communities and more so those from the Orthodox sect who are excused from military duty.

Raj Richard said...

Ashish, please find my response here....

(1) Yes you are right that the Jews arent a race in that strict sense. But I tend to use "Jew" and "Israelite" interchangeably.
An Israelite is a Jew by birth, as is a person born in an Islamic country to a Islamic parent. But then again, being a Jew or a Muslim is the personal choice of that person.

When the Jews were scattered they did evolve differently but that does not entail a lost identity.

This is similar to an Indian living in Bahrain for generations. The Indian will be an Indian whether or not he lives in India.
Hence the identity of the Jews will be Jewish whether they lived in the their own land or not.

(2) The point is that the Jews were always under oppression and finally lost their land. Whether they were treated well by the conquerors or not is immaterial.
Imagine a situation where we lose our property to an invader and made to pay rent for living in our property. Would we approve of that? I dont think so, even if the conquerors were to treat us good. This is my point.

If its our property, then its our property, period. The Jews need their independent nation as like any of us do.

(3) Sitting in one corner of the world and depending on partial and subjective media reports, I am not willing to concede that Israelites are saints and Palestinians are an evil lot. No this is not my position.
Mistakes are made by both parties and of this am sure of, although it's only an assumption from our end.
So I am pretty much sure that the Israelites and the Palestinians will not be the most perfect example of goodness and hospitality.
But I do seriously object the fact of certain Christians treating Israelites as the only erring party. This is not true at all.
When people plunder another's property the defense mechanisms ought to be activated. But the defense ought to be only defense without injuring innocent lives. Aggression for the sake of aggression is not the need of the hour.

Israel-Palestine conflict is not a classic case of good vs evil. It's a classic case of two parties prone to committing errors. It's a classic case of a nation that requires a homeland. I do not see any mistake on the part of the UN to have awarded Israel their legit homeland, for Israelites are a legit race.