Saturday, April 12, 2008

Appealing to Hatred

The New Haven Register published a commentary that serves as an example of how Israel-haters love to appeal to the worst instincts of people.

It's also an example of a virtual complete disregard of facts.

Faith Matters
Obama needs to be more balanced on Israel

Jimmy E. Jones is chairman of the Department of World Religions and co-coordinator of the Center for Middle East Understanding at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. He is chairman of the board of Masjid al-Islam in New Haven. Write to him at P.O. Box 8484, New Haven 06531. E-mail:

Almost two years later, I am still stunned by the July 2006 Lebanese war. To this day, I cannot fathom why the U.S. government, with more than 25,000 of its citizens in harm's way, did not insist that its close ally, Israel, protect American citizens.

At the time, my wife, Matiniah, and I were leading a group of about 30 Americans on a study trip to Al-Azhar University in nearby Cairo, Egypt.

I am confounded by the logic that brought us this war. Stated simplistically, it's justification was: "If Jack attacks me from Bill's property; in the name of self-defense, I have the right to destroy Bill's infrastructure and some of Bill's family even though the vast majority of Bill's relatives had no part in the aggression against me."

As a person of faith who has spoken out publicly at home and abroad against suicide bombings and the slaughter of innocents, I do not understand how Americans can so easily dismiss the deaths of over a 1,000 innocent Lebanese civilians in the name of self-defense. It saddens me to see presidential candidate Barack Obama assertively support such an unjust war while touting himself as the candidate who will bring sanity and diplomacy back to American foreign policy.

In a position paper, "On Faith," at his campaign Web site, Obama argues that "faith is a source of action for justice." I wholeheartedly agree with this. The Quran is crystal clear on this issue. It says: "O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both." Given this principle, I cannot see how a person of any faith could defend the 2006 Lebanese war, as Obama does on his Web site statement "On Israel," in the name of justice.

Perhaps, American presidential politics have devolved to the point that you have to at least sound like an Israeli flag-waving Zionist to get elected. This is no excuse for people who profess such high sounding ideals as Obama. As a justice-oriented person of faith, he cannot defend Israel's actions in July 2006 while ignoring the deaths of innocent Lebanese civilians, the safety American citizens and the devastation of a struggling country's infrastructure. If faith really matters for Obama, then we should be hearing a much more balanced approach from him on such sensitive issues as the Middle East.

To point out just a few of the lies, distortions and appeals to hatred:

The Lebanese government allowed a terrorist organization, Hezbollah, to act freely against Israel from its territory and thus bears responsibility for the results. Despite this, and contrary to the writer's false assertions, Israel did its best to avoid damaging the infrastructure in Lebanon and also tried to minimize civilian casualties, whose number was grossly overstated by the writer.

Hezbollah's strategy included maximizing civilian casualties on both sides. It launched thousands of Katyusha rockets at Israeli cities. Those rockets have no military value; their sole purpose is to wreak terror on civilians.

Hezbollah also deliberately operated from civilian areas in Lebanon, using civilians as shields, counting on the propaganda value of the inevitable civilian casualties.

Israel completely left Lebanon nearly a decade ago, even letting the United Nations specify exactly where it needed to withdraw, and thus eliminating Hezbollah's alleged raison d'etre. Unfortunately, Hezbollah really never cared whether Israel had a presence in Lebanon; its real agenda has always been the destruction of Israel.

In July, 2006, Hezbollah terrorists crossed from Lebanon into Israel and kidnapped Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. To this day, nearly two years later, they have allowed no communication with either, not even through the International Red Cross. It is not even known whether they are still alive or have been murdered by Hezbollah. This is not only in blatant violation of what passes for international law, but violates any sense of human dignity.

That kidnapping, and the launching of Katyusha rockets from Lebanon at Israeli civilians, caused the war. No nation, even Israel, can allow its people to be attacked in that way and not act to defend them.

The assertion "Perhaps, American presidential politics have devolved to the point that you have to at least sound like an Israeli flag-waving Zionist to get elected" is, at best, an appeal to the basest instincts of those who irrationally hate Israel. A appeal for a "balanced" approach to a conflict between democratic Israel, a nation which shares our most cherished values, and enemies for which hatred of Israel is more important than their own welfare is an appeal to abandon our own values.

If I thought Jones believed what he wrote, I might suggest writing to him at to point out the factual errors and appeals to hatred, but I'm pretty sure he, like most other Israel-haters, know the truth about hatred they encourage.

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