The Israel-Hamas conflict in the Gaza strip has caused my email inbox to fill up, most recently from an old Mormon friend who is a libertarian-leaning conservative. He is baffled as to why a few of his fellow LDS libertarians would have harsh things to say about Israel.
As I have pointed numerous times in this space, most Mormons are very pro-Israel and have great admiration and respect for Jews. Unfortunately, the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip has inspired the usual group of propagandists who spread pro-Palestinian myths, rumors and half-truths throughout many communities, including LDS ones. I do not believe that any Mormon or Jew worthy of the name can support Hamas in this battle, and in this essay I will highlight several arguments that I have heard advanced by Mormons. In no particular order, here they are:
1. Myth: The presence of Israel in the Middle East is the chief cause of the region’s conflicts.
Actually, the worst conflicts in the modern Middle East almost never involve Israel. Civil wars in Sudan (2 million dead), Lebanon (120,000), Algeria (50,000), Syria (150,000), Iraq, Yemen – none of them were caused by Israel. If Israelis made peace tomorrow with Palestinians, other conflicts in the region would continue unabated. If you’re looking for a scapegoat for the region’s bloodletting, it’s a good idea to look elsewhere.
2. Myth: Palestinians are a historical people who had a country that was taken over by Jewish immigrants fleeing the Nazis.
Palestinians are definitely not a historical people. If you don’t believe this, then please name a Palestinian historical figure – an Arab who identified himself as a “Palestinian” – from the 17th century. Palestinian nationalism did not exist as an important political movement until the 20th century, and was largely a response to Zionism. Of course, just because there weren’t Palestinians 200 years ago doesn’t mean that they don’t exist now. After all, there was no such thing as a Pakistani until 1947, yet today 180 million Pakistanis have their own country. It’s just that honesty and clarity are important here, and it must be stated again and again that there has never been a country called “Palestine” for anyone to conquer. Inshallah, there never will be.
3. The Nazis killed Jews in Europe, and the Arabs of Palestine were made to pay the price.
There were no “Palestinian” refugees before 1948. In that year, Israel declared its independence. On the following day, armies from four Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq) joined local Arabs in waging a genocidal war against Jews living in Israel. Their goal was to exterminate the Jews, not to create a state called Palestine. Proof of this is readily had: Jordan and Egypt occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip for 19 years, but never allowed a Palestinian state to be set up there. Here I would be remiss indeed if I failed to mention that the Arab leader in Palestine during WWII, Amin al-Husseini (yimakh shemo), was a card-carrying Nazi who met with and made propaganda broadcasts for his friend Adolf Hitler. After the war he was indicted as a Nazi war criminal for his actions in the Balkans, and he ensured that Nazi persecution of Jews enjoyed great popularity among the Arabs in Palestine. Indeed, Mein Kampf remains a Palestinian best-seller.
Unfortunately, Palestinians went on to support Nazi-inspired leaders like Yasser Arafat (yimakh shemo ve zikhro) and Hamas. As all Mormon children are taught, we are free to choose, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our poor decisions. Palestinian support of fanatical Jew-haters has resulted in their living on the international dole as refugees for 66 years, far longer than any other refugee group. In addition, their leaders tried to assassinate and overthrow King Hussein of Jordan, ignited a civil war in Lebanon, caused Palestinians to be expelled from Kuwait following their support for Saddam Hussein’s invasion of the country, murdered Olympic athletes in Germany, and necessitated the installation of metal detectors in airports worldwide in response to Palestinian hijackers. Arab countries don’t deny citizenship to and restrict the rights of Palestinians living within their borders because they consider them to be peaceful, law-abiding people.
To recap: Palestinians are refugees today because they supported a genocidal war against Jews in 1948 and have continued to support Nazi-inspired leaders to this day. If they hadn’t attacked Israel 66 years ago, they would still be living in their homes in Haifa and Jaffa. For this reason there can’t be a “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel. You can’t lose a genocidal war that you started and then spend six decades asking for a do-over.
In terms of policies and attitudes towards Jews, the only difference between Hamas and Hitler is in their capacity to harm Jews. If the military balance between Hamas and Israel were magically reversed tomorrow, there would be no Jews alive in Israel next week. Anyone who doesn’t believe that has a lot to learn about the Middle East. It’s been said many times before, and it’s absolutely true: If Palestinians laid down their weapons tomorrow, there would be no more war. If Israel laid down its weapons tomorrow, there would be no more Israel. Given this reality, it is the height of folly to attempt to make peace with Hamas. Israel tried making peace with the terrorist Arafat 20 years ago, and all it got were exploding buses.
For Mormons, if Hamas is not a group of Gadianton robbers (a terrorist mafia in the Book of Mormon), then the term has no meaning.
4. Israel has a track record of making peace; Palestinians do not.
Israel has made peace with both Egypt and Jordan, and those treaties have stood for many years. As outlined above, Palestinians have destabilized surrounding countries and the region.
5. While there are extremists on both sides, they only hold power and influence in Palestinian society.
Netanyahu jokes aside, Arab-haters do not occupy positions of power and influence in Israel. In Gaza, they run the show. People who make this weak argument often point to Baruch Goldstein, the psychopathic doctor who killed 29 Arabs in 1994. They conveniently fail to mention that the Israeli prime minister immediately denounced Goldstein as a “degenerate murderer” who was an “embarrassment to Judaism.” By way of contrast, an Arab who had killed 29 Jews would be honored in every city and town in Gaza today.
6. There are good people on each side.
This is absolutely irrelevant to the assessment of blame and/or guilt in a conflict. After all, there were good Germans in WWII and good Afghans under the Taliban. There are also good North Koreans, but I don’t think that that would prevent most informed Mormons from criticizing that country’s policies, even if a group of North Koreans were studying at BYU. I have been the recipient of extraordinary Arab hospitality during past trips to Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt and Jordan, but that doesn’t change the fact that Hamas recruits suicide bombers via children's TV shows (see photo) and launches rockets at Israel.
7. By their fruits ye shall know them.
Israel is a thriving multiethnic democracy with world-class universities, museums, hotels, and resorts. It is also a regional hi-tech center. Gaza, on the other hand, is a cesspool. Although all of its colleges and universities were established during the Israeli occupation (!), people there have no hope and no jobs. We can’t pretend that their bad choices aren’t responsible for their current predicament. In response to our perplexed libertarian-leaning conservative, I too can’t understand why someone who prizes liberty above all else would support Hamas, a group that persecutes Christians, gays, etc. What I do know is that for the good of its own people, Hamas will have to change. If it doesn’t, the blood of its people will be on its own hands. No country in the world, including Israel, should be expected to endure thousands of rocket attacks from its neighbors without delivering a crushing response. I pray that Israel will be successful in destroying the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, and that Gazans will finally choose to follow the path to prosperity by dumping Hamas and renouncing violence. Until then, no thinking person can support their struggle.