Yesterday I tweeted this . . .
“If you read the escalating fighting in Israel with anything other than sympathy for Israel, then you need to turn the book right side up.”
. . . and the responses I got indicated I needed to say something more. So here it is. A few qualifications first.
First, it is easy for folks to guess where a sentiment like this might be coming from, and unfortunately, to guess wrong. I am no kind of Zionist, and the motive force behind all dispensational support for Israel has been left entirely out of my intellectual and theological framework. If you want to know the theological term for what I believe, I am a supercessionist — the Church is Israel now, and is the lawful recipient of all God’s promises to Abraham. I do believe that ethnic Jews do retain, on the basis of their ethnicity, one remaining promise, which is that they will eventually be grafted back into all the other promises. But this will not happen apart from Christ the Messiah. The promises are all found in the root of the olive tree, which is the Christian Church, and Paul tells us that their return and conversion will have a glorious effect on world evangelization.
Second, I am no naif when it comes to the question of whether or not Israel, as a modern nation state, has been capable of dirty deeds and other grotesqueries. I take that as a given also. My support for Israel is whole-hearted, but not simplistic.
Third, what I am about to say does not preclude sympathy for those on the Palestinian side of things whose lives have been destroyed by the conflict. The issue is not whether their misery is believed to be a good thing — I emphatically deny it. The issue has to do with who is actually responsible for this human cost. I hold the Palestinian leadership responsible for it, along with all the myopic liberalism in the West that keeps those pirates in power.
So this being the case, then why the sympathy for Israel during the current escalation of hostilities? I am going to try to pack it all in to one (longish) paragraph. Here are five reasons.
First, Israel is a Western nation. We understand her, sins and all, while we have a very dim understanding of the thugocracies that surround her on every side. I am opposed to any solutions that pretend to understand Arab hostility to the Jews in Western terms. Hamas is not the League of Women Voters. Second, unlike her enemies, Israel repudiates the deliberate targeting of civilians as a matter of open policy. Note the point here is not whether civilians are killed, and sometimes on purpose. The point is whether such murderous killing is avowed as the purpose of the engagement with the whole world watching. Israel’s enemies have no problem “taking responsibility for” the bombing of a teen-age pizza hang-out because it was filled with non-combatants. Those who ignore this reality, and they are legion, have no right to try to bring a Christian perspective to bear on the conflict — because they have no biblical perspective to bring. Those who cannot see the difference between Israel and her enemies on this point are what might be called “blind.” Third, debates over Israel have revealed a seething and wide-spread anti-Semitism on the left, of the kind that I want nothing to do with. Opposition to Israel, in this time of history, would require me to keep public company with the kind of vitriol that I refuse to keep company with. Opposition to Israel need not be anti-Semitic, of course, but until responsible opponents of Israel learn how to control those within their broad coalition who clearly have a bad case of rabies, deal me out. Fourth, Israel has offered many objective concessions in exchange for a pledge of peace and co-existence. The “no concessions” mentality is all on the Palestinian side, which is governed by poltroons who have walked away from more than one sweet deal. Their negotiating prowess is about on par with their rocket-building prowess. And last, Israel’s Iron Dome is the coolest thing ever, and is the kind of defense spending that the most ardent lover of peace should be able to get behind. It has the added bonus of vindicating Ronald Reagan’s much vilified “star wars” proposal. The first step in beating swords into ploughshares is beating them into shields first. Right?