45 Years Ago…

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Hamas

Here’s a rerun from a post I made back in 2012; not much has changed, except thankfully the Muslim Brotherhood no longer rules Egypt:

I’ve run across people who make odd statements regarding the current war Israel is waging against the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza. I’ve read phrases such as “war accomplishes nothing. Killing doesn’t change anything except perhaps to engender more anger and hatred on both sides.”

I suppose those who write or say that such things imagine they are being profound or sensitive, but I simply find myself puzzled and pissed off. Do they mean to tell me that the Allies who attacked and defeated Germany in World War II accomplished nothing—and that World War II accomplished nothing? Killing Nazis only “engendered more anger and hatred on both sides?”

How exactly was the world supposed to respond to the Nazis? Would the critics of Israel make similar comments about the American Revolution or the Civil War?

I’m sorry, but such words from those who criticize Israel, who try to make Israel and Hamas somehow morally equivalent, strike me as nonsense or worse.

Likewise those who say, “look how the Israelis have killed hundreds of Palestinians but only thirteen Israelis died from the rockets that Hamas shot at them.” As if the numbers of bodies one can stack up means something in the context of this recent conflict. Imperial Japan only killed 2402 Americans and wounded 1282 at Pearl Harbor in 1941. So after the United States had killed and wounded that many Japanese the war should have ended? The fact that the United States went on pounding on the Empire of Japan until it was totally defeated was a “disproportionate” response and a crime against humanity? I don’t think so.

I just don’t understand what is going on in the minds of a lot of people. But I think they make such foolish statements simply because they are unwilling to believe just how bad the enemies of Israel are.

There is no moral equivalency between Israel and Hamas. That would be like trying to equate England and Germany in World War II. And yes, I do mean that Hamas is Nazi-like. Hamas (an Arabic acronym standing for “Islamic Resistance Movement”) was created in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi and Mohammad Taha of the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by the Egyptian schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna. Their credo is “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” It is a violent, anti-Semitic organization. Likewise, Hamas is a consistently violent, anti-peace organization which believes in strange anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

The Hamas charter (adopted in 1988), states in article 13 that “Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that. For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight.” Article 13 goes on to state, “Now and then the call goes out for the convening of an international conference to look for ways of solving the (Palestinian) question. Some accept, others reject the idea, for this or other reason, with one stipulation or more for consent to convening the conference and participating in it. Knowing the parties constituting the conference, their past and present attitudes towards Moslem problems, the Islamic Resistance Movement does not consider these conferences capable of realizing the demands, restoring the rights or doing justice to the oppressed.” And “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” Article 22 sees the Masons, the Lions Club and the Rotary Club as part of a conspiracy with “the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests.”

Egypt is now ruled by a thug who is part of the Moslem Brotherhood. Are we to be surprised that he supports the actions of Hamas, given that he is part of the same movement?

The reality is this: if the terrorists of Hamas laid down their weapons tomorrow, there would be peace. If Israel laid down their weapons, they would be killed.

It takes two to make peace. Hamas does not want peace. They explicitly state their opposition to peace in their founding charter and repeat their opposition in their current pronouncements. Hamas just wants the Jews to die. That is a very ugly truth that a lot of people simply are unwilling to face. It’s not the first time people have been unwilling to face such ugly truths, of course. We’d prefer to imagine that Hamas (and many of their fellow travelers) don’t really mean what they say. We would prefer to believe that there’s some other thing that is really behind all the bloodshed: maybe Western imperialism, or economic deprivation, Israeli intransigence, or something else that is more appealing to our sensibilities.

Unfortunately, sometimes the bad guys really are just bad. Sometimes they really are just Nazis who hate the Jews because they are Jews. Sometimes peace really isn’t possible.

Remember some relatively recent history when you think about comparing Israel and Hamas. Hamas is responsible for suicide bombers and calls for the death of Jews on a regular basis. In contrast, Israel withdrew from Gaza and was rewarded by rocket and mortar barrages. Israel gave back the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace with Egypt in 1979. In 1948 the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish and a Palestinian Arab state. The Jews accepted that UN resolution. The Arabs rejected it and went to war. Between 1948 and 1967 Egypt held the Gaza, while Jordan controlled the West Bank. Why was there no call for a Palestinian state for the Palestinian Arabs then, when their Arab neighbors controlled that territory? Why was the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) formed in 1964, three years before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the 6 Day War? And why did the PLO attack Israel rather than Egypt or Jordan before 1967? For that matter, what was the excuse for Egypt, Jordan, Syria and other Moslem governments for attacking Israel repeatedly before 1967?

It makes me wonder if maybe the radical and tyrannical Moslem governments of the Middle East, and their proxies in Hamas and the other terrorist organizations, don’t really care about the Palestinians at all. Instead, it makes me think that maybe it is simply that the tyrants find it useful to blame the Jews as a way of distracting their oppressed people from who their real enemies are.

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Spring of Goliath

The history of the world turns on small events. One bright day in September in 2001 about 3000 people died when Moslem terrorists hijacked airliners and crashed them into buildings. If things had gone differently on another day in September, a little more than 700 years earlier, September 11 would never have happened.

In the thirteenth century, the Mongols were conquering the world. Under Ghengis Khan, they had spread over most of Asia, including all of modern day China, and were poised to conquer the Middle East.

The Mongols were impressive warriors. At a time when the typical European army was made up mostly of untrained masses of peasants, the Mongols were a disciplined and well-trained fighting force. In pursuit of achieving the goals of Ghengis Khan, his armies razed most of the major cities of Asia to the ground, leaving pyramids of human skulls in their wake. Even domestic animals were usually slaughtered, so as to leave nothing of value for what few people escaped. The Mongols were pragmatic: they realized that the only means by which they could control populations by which they were outnumbered a hundred or more to one was by terrorizing them. Only those who surrendered peacefully were left unmolested.

In 1258, one of the grandsons of Ghenghis Khan, Hulegu Khan captured Baghdad and slaughtered 250,000 of its inhabitants—essentially every man, woman and child, and burned the city to the ground. He also destroyed the region’s irrigation system and turned the center of Moslem civilization, what had been know as the fertile crescent, into a bleak, barren desert.

The only people left alive were the few Christians who lived in Baghdad, and this, only because one of Hulegu’s wives happened to be a Christian and pleaded for them to be spared.

Following the destruction of Baghdad, the only thing standing between the complete end of Islamic civilization and Mongol victory was Cairo, Egypt. With an army of 200,000 men, Hulegu sent ambassadors to Cairo, demanding surrender. The Sultan in Cairo, Qutuz, had barely 20,000 soldiers at the time. Despite this, Qutuz’s reaction was defiant. He refused the offer to surrender and told his advisers, that even “if no one else will come, I will go and fight the Mongols alone.”

Qutuz then ordered his guards to arrest Hulegu’s ambassadors. Qutuz knew that the Mongols considered ambassadors to be untouchable. They always had treated those sent to them with respect and they expected theirs to be treated the same in return. To harm an ambassador was something the Mongols considered an unforgivable treachery. So, Qutuz commanded his guards to kill the Mongol ambassadors by cutting them in half at the waist. Afterwards, Qutuz decapitated them and put their heads on poles atop one of Cairo’s city gates. The ancients tended toward a lack of subtlety when they declared war on one another.

Enraged, Hulegu Khan gathered his army and headed for Cairo. Qutuz knew he had little hope, but then the unexpected happened. Hulegu Khan, with most of his army, turned back to Iran. The Great Khan Monge, Genghis Khan’s successor, had died. Hulega and all of the heirs of Ghengis were called back to the Mongol capital to elect a successor. Hulegu left only a small force of 15,000 Mongol cavalry and ten thousand allies from Armenia behind.

Qutuz realized this was just the opportunity he needed. He gathered his forces and advanced into Palestine. With Hulegu gone, the Mongols, were led by the general Kitbuqa, a Christian who claimed descent from one of the Three wise men who had visited the infant Jesus. He ordered his small force to attack the Moslems.

Their armies met at a place called Ain Jalut, Arabic for “the Spring of Goliath,” where legend said that David had slain Goliath thousands of years before. And so, on Septmber 3, 1260 one of the most crucial battles in the history of the world was fought. Surprisingly, it is rarely mentioned in western civilization history classes, despite the fact that its significance for the survival and spread of western civilization ranks with the battles at Marathon and Tours. Had the Mongols succeeded that day, they not only would have been free to march on Cairo, they would have been able to invade Europe at will from several directions. It is unlikely that any European army could have held them back. Additionally, Islam, as a religious force in the world would have been exterminated as the Mongols would have then easily conquered all remaining lands ruled by the Moslems and, as was their custom, would have mostly slaughtered them all, leaving few survivors.

Instead, the Mongols were routed, the general Kitbuqa was captured and executed, and both Christian Europe and the Moslem Middle East survived, while the Mongols went into decline and ultimately faded from history.

I’m currently in the rewrite stage on a historical novel about this event. Here are the first few paragraphs from chapter one:

“When I lead my army against Baghdad in anger, whether you hide in heaven or in earth I will bring you down from the spinning spheres; I will toss you in the air like a lion. I will leave no one alive in your realm; I will burn your city, your land, your self. If you wish to spare yourself and your venerable family, give heed to my advice with the ear of intelligence. If you do not, you will see what God has willed.”Hulegu Khan to the Caliph of Baghdad

Chapter One
January 1258, Baghdad

Like a comet against the sky, the flaming ball of naphtha flashed overhead, embers sparking, falling like burning hail and trailing black smoke. The shout of men loading the trebuchets, the pop-splat as the naphtha took flame, followed by the crack and thump of another release, mixed with the clang of sword and distant screams. Smoke and vomit, the sweat of horse and rider, urine and dung, all abused the air.

Kitbaku let his eyes follow the latest volley. He coughed and wiped his face with his soot-blackened hands. Dozens of fire-balls were crashing upon Baghdad. They disappeared behind its walls, swallowed by the engulfing orange glow of a city burning and dying. It was nearly noon, but the sun glowed weakly through the obscuring smoke like a bloodshot eye peering from beneath a blanket too early in the morning. Soot drizzled from the sky; gray flakes dusted the sleeves of Kitbuqa’s coat.

What had the priest said? “The moon will be turned to sackcloth and the sun to blood on the great day of the Lord.” Isaiah had been describing the end of the world. Kitbuqa grinned. Indeed, the world of the Caliph in Baghdad was ending this day, and Kitbuqa’s lord Hulegu Khan was making it happen. Obviously the prophet Isaiah had seen a city or two burned: “Darkness at mid-day,” he muttered. Another phrase from that ancient Jew.

Kitbuqa crossed himself, then glanced again at the bloody sun. The Apocalypse was turning out better than he had hoped.

* * *

Dokuz Khatun stared at her face in the mirror. The smooth metal returned her image clearly, but faded. It was the only way she knew herself. Her dark brown eyes gazed back at her from a smooth round face, framed by long, straight black hair which at the moment was hanging around her bare shoulders. A snort from behind her made her turn, startled, but it was only her husband, snoring rather loudly, lost in the piles of furs. Hulegu had been victorious once again, or so he had claimed. From the noises she had heard outside, and the whispers of servants, it seemed as if the enemy was not yet quite so convinced of his defeat. There had as yet been no victory dinner; she had not seen the opposing king humiliated. Caliph, he was called.

She returned to focus on her face. Her thin lips were colored slightly; when she smiled, bright white teeth, mostly straight, gleamed. She knew she was beautiful. As the first wife of the Khan, she could be little else but flawless. There was no shortage of women in the world, and since her lord ruled most of it, he could have any he wished. He had wished for her.

She slowly pulled her robe back up, covering her shoulders and breasts; her lord was sleeping now, satisfied. She had been told that all men fell asleep right after, though Hulegu had not this time. Instead, they had talked, as he cradled her in his arms:

“Victory?”

“Of course,” he murmured softly, whispering into her ear, touching it gently with his lips; his breath was warm, laden with the sour sweet odor of the kumis, the fermented mare’s milk he had drunk just before they had retired to his chamber.

“And they are all dead?”

“Indeed. Though they still fight. They still need more convincing just how dead they are.”

“And what of the Christians?”

“Do not worry my flower; I told you they will be spared. Only those who don’t follow your way are dead.”

Still she sighed. That so many had died today, that so many would die tonight and in the days to come: it was almost more than she could bear, but at least the faithful would live, those that could be identified, those that were not slaughtered in the indiscriminate flames and thick smoke that had kept the day away even at noon. But she knew she could rely on her husband. He was not one to prevaricate; he loved her, and he listened when she spoke. He recognized the wisdom in her words. And with Kitbuqa as the general in charge, she really need not worry. She crossed herself. He would be motivated to see that the soldiers followed her lord’s command.

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Israel

I always find it odd when I read about how “aggressive” the state of Israel is. Let’s see: Israel is a country that is barely the size of New Jersey, surrounded by much larger nations who constantly condemn it and have as their stated policy its obliteration (As a clear example, perhaps the interested reader should pick up some of Nassar’s speeches from the 1950’s and 1960’s). So obviously Israel is aggressive if it dares to react when invaded by these countries. And a country in such a situation is going to want to fight wars with its larger, and at least on paper, better armed neighbors? It stretches credulity, I’m afraid.

The Palestinian authorities claim to desire peace, yet make inflammatory speeches (rarely reported in the English language presses) and do nothing to prevent terrorist incidents. Odd sort of peace, where one side keeps on shooting, then cries foul if the other side dares to react.

In this country, if we were to limit where a specific ethnic group was allowed to buy or build houses, we’d call it discriminatory. But in Israel, it is a threat to peace if a Jew decides to live next door to a Palestinian? Guess letting those sorts into the neighborhood really lowers the property values…

If the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel is so evil and the cause of all the problems in the Middle East, then why was the occupation of those same territories by Egypt and Jordan for thirty years (1948-1967) not a similar evil? And if the PLO were really interested in gaining control of those regions, then why, when it was founded in 1964 (3 years before Israel won the West Bank, Gaza and Sinai in a war begun by its Arab neighbors), did it only direct its attacks against Jewish targets?

If Israel didn’t want peace, why was it so happy to give back the Sinai peninsula to Egypt in exchange for a peace treaty and normalized diplomatic relations — especially when one considers that the only oil wells that Israel had then were in that peninsula?

I’m puzzled when I see otherwise reasonable people buying into the propaganda of a group responsible for terrorist acts. Personally, I tend to be very skeptical of the pronouncements of those who have no moral qualms about killing innocent civilians.

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Saturn V

On June 16, 1969 a Saturn V launched from the Kennedy Space Center carrying Apollo 11 for the moon.

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Salt

Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful.”

He said, “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.

He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.’ ”

So the waters have been purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke. Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!”

When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria. 2 Kings 2:19-22)

There is always something to complain about. The sun is shining, but the crops are withering. It’s raining, but the picnic is spoiled. Elisha had became the chief prophet in Israel after Elijah had gone to heaven in a chariot. People came to him with their problems and questions, seeking answers from God. One day he visited a city where conditions were good—but they pointed out that their water supply was bad, rendering their land unproductive. Elisha responded by asking them to bring him a new jar filled with salt.

Why salt? Is salt a way to fix a bad spring? Was Elisha a chemist who realized that the spring of water was missing a certain ingredient? No. He told the people that it is God who purified the waters. God fixed the problem. The salt was symbolic, a picture to make it clear that something had happened, that God had intervened. Salt was used for preserving meat and adding flavor to what otherwise might be unpalatable. It was a symbol of purification. All grain offerings were required to have salt in them (Leviticus 2:13). A covenant of salt (Numbers 18:19) was an indissoluble covenant. Thus, the salt also signified that the water of the spring would remain good from that day forward. They needn’t fear that if they planted crops that the water wouldn’t be there for them.

Later, set upon by a mob cursing and mocking him, Elisha asked God to curse them. So God did: forty two youths in the mob were attacked by bears. God protects his people; they have no reason to be afraid. It is only their enemies who should be afraid. Was the city’s bad water or the insulting youths major problems? Probably not. God solves the problems, not because of their size, but simply because they are ours. That’s how much we matter to God.

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Righteousness

These are the last words
of David the son of Jesse.
The God of Jacob chose David
and made him a great king.
The Mighty God of Israel
loved him.
When God told him to speak,
David said:
The Spirit of the LORD
has told me what to say.
Our Mighty Rock,
the God of Jacob, told me,
“A ruler who obeys God
and does right
is like the sunrise
on a cloudless day,
or like rain that sparkles
on the grass.”
I have ruled this way,
and God will never break
his promise to me.
God’s promise is complete
and unchanging;
he will always help me
and give me what I hope for.
But evil people are pulled up
like thornbushes.
They are not dug up by hand,
but with a sharp spear
and are burned on the spot. (2 Samuel 23:1-7)

God doesn’t love us because we’re good. David was good at killing Philistines, but he was not good at raising his children: Amnon raped his sister Tamar; Absalom killed Amnon. Then Absalom rebelled against David, precipitated a civil war, and both he and many Israelites on both sides of the issue died in battle. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then saw to it that her husband was killed in battle. Just before he died, like a mob boss, he told his son, Solomon—the crown prince born to the woman he had committed adultery with—to settle accounts—old grudges—with everyone who had wronged him. But the end of his life, David looked back on it all and said that he had been a king who obeyed God and did what was right.

How can we reconcile David’s life with his claim to righteousness? By remembering that all human righteousness is nothing but filthy rags and that salvation is by grace: the consequence of Jesus’ death on the cross. David did not need to fear the wrath of God because God’s wrath had been—or in David’s case—would be directed at the ultimate sacrifice. David was forgiven and declared righteous by God. That’s how David could know he was a good man: his goodness was in Jesus, not in himself. It’s the same way we know we’re righteous today.

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Rosetta

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Practice

To this day they do according to the earlier customs: they do not fear the LORD, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances or the law, or the commandments which the LORD commanded the sons of Jacob, whom He named Israel; with whom the LORD made a covenant and commanded them, saying, “You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down yourselves to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them.

“But the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, and to Him you shall bow yourselves down, and to Him you shall sacrifice.

“The statutes and the ordinances and the law and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall observe to do forever; and you shall not fear other gods.

“The covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods.

“But the LORD your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.”

However, they did not listen, but they did according to their earlier custom.

So while these nations feared the LORD, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, as their fathers did, so they do to this day. (2 Kings 17:34-41)

Practice makes perfect, but what if you’re practicing the wrong way? You can get very good at swinging the bat with the wrong stance, the wrong grip, the wrong time. Bad habits become hard to break. Perseverance, for good or ill becomes hard to stop.

Like father like son is not necessarily a good thing. Perseverance is not necessarily a good thing. There are some things that we keep on doing that God would like to see us stop. Like sinning. The Israelites, like all human beings, never stopped being sinners and never would. The specific sins that God was concerned with getting them to quit on were idolatry and hatred. He wanted them to become perseverant about the law he had given them which could be summarized in two statements: “love God” and “love each other.”

But bad habits seem to be harder to give up than good ones. It is easier to keep doing the wrong thing than to keep doing the right thing. We seem mostly tempted to become “weary in well-doing” than in “ill-doing.” Few people would find it hard to give up boiled goat liver for Lent. Generally you don’t want to be a quitter. But sometimes being a quitter is just what God wants.

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Moved In

But now hear, O Jacob my servant,
Israel whom I have chosen!
Thus says the LORD who made you,
who formed you in the womb and will help you:
Do not fear, O Jacob my servant,
Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my spirit upon your descendants,
and my blessing on your offspring.
They shall spring up like a green tamarisk,
like willows by flowing streams.
This one will say, “I am the LORD’s,”
another will be called by the name of Jacob,
yet another will write on the hand, “The LORD’s,”
and adopt the name of Israel. (Isaiah 44:1-5)

God has moved in with his people for good. On the day of Pentecost the Spirit of God came upon believers in a new way, as part of the New Covenant that God was making with them. Jeremiah would later say that in doing this, God was writing his law on the hearts of his people. When the Spirit took up residence in them, it had a tremendous impact on their lives. They couldn’t help but become fruitful and abundant. God compared that new life to lush willow trees growing by a flowing stream.

Writing the words “The Lord’s” on a hand was a reference to the original covenant between Israel and God, when he had told the people that they would write his law on their hands and forehead. In Jewish practice, this led to the phylacteries: little boxes that were tied about the hands and head when they prayed. God’s point, however, was not that people should scribble on their bodies. Rather, God was drawing a picture: he wanted to be the center of their lives. Before the captivity, the people worshipped other gods and were distracted by everything else around them. After the captivity, his people would have God as their focus. At last they would be able to love both God and their neighbors as themselves. With God living inside of us, our lives have been changed from what they would have been without him there.

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