A descendant of a nation that God commands Israel to destroy?
The question alone would give opponents, even the ungodly, apoplexy. God pro-Israel! At least one rival faith stands or falls on the exile of God-forsaken wandering Jews, and if it allows modern Israel to survive it will not allow it to thrive. What could be more in a cleric’s face than Israel thriving? So it is that Archbishop for life Desmond Tutu tells the nation of interlopers and occupiers and chutzpahdiks what God thinks of such effrontery.
“The Jews think they have a monopoly of God. Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.”
We that have not Tutu’s gift to speak for God may speak for ungodly anti-Zionists, just a mite less doctrinaire than offended clerics. Bible narrative, insist the temporal Israel-haters, is only Zionism’s tardy excuse for brutally expelling a native people. Even if the Creator spoke with Moses three thousand years ago at Sinai, it was not to give liberated Hebrew slaves carte blanche to thieve, occupy and lord it over hapless people. On the contrary.
I listen to a pro-boycott Jewish professor remind Israelis about God’s stern warning to be kind to strangers, as the Ivri in Egypt were strangers, in their midst. A queer time or place, to my mind, for bible thumping after the professor and others spend an afternoon regaling Israelis for being strangers in Palestine. In that case, you’d think, why not dress down the Palestinian natives? Remind them to be kind to strangers in their midst. Jew or Arab: how difficult can it be to give one or the other favoured stranger status and keep to it?
Is the queer passionate muddle of anti-Zionists the effect of righteous compassion fronting for animal hostility? Anyone may cherry pick humane ideals and ignore parts of scripture where might is right. War. Like it or not, God commands Israel to wage war… actually to wage a few wars, each one a commandment in its own right. Consult Maimonides. When God created He earmarked land for the Jewish people, but when the moment arrived and push came to shove they would have to kill for it.
It is a positive commandment to annihilate the Seven Nations that occupied Eretz Yisrael. As it states: ‘You shall utterly destroy them’
(Deuteronomy 20:17) Anyone who chances upon one of them and does not kill them violates a negative command as it states: ‘Do not allow a soul to live.’
(Ibid:16) Similarly it is a positive command to destroy the memory of Amelek.
Jews commanded to destroy some enemies
Note the present tense: the obligation to annihilate certain enemies is not bound by time. Rather it is valid for all time. Old Testament narrative and law, like or not, are far from pacific, though for a history like Israel’s, elements of militarism are hardly to be wondered at. Blood and gore. Israel is not just allowed, it is commanded to war against other nations. How else shall its inheritance be claimed and then defended? Maimonides the peerless Judaic scholar, physician, and philosopher was no zealot, but he is clear that the Jews are mandated to fight some wars against bitter enemies and other wars discretely, the latter to expand the boundaries of Israel or to plunder wealth.
As a flat picture of the Jewish people it is not pretty. But Judaic law never lets pictures stay flat. It fences militarism with laws many times around until Jewish armies take an arsenal of ethical and moral codes into battle. Here is not the time or place for them; but as one example, before any killing starts Israel is obliged to propose peace. If the enemy agrees to the terms, if it commits to keeping the seven laws incumbent upon the descendants of Noah, and if it submits to servitude under Israel, Israel''s army must pack up and go home.
But Jews, everyone knows, will be Jews. Give them perfect ground rules and they’ll add their own. Set them a moral bar to clear and they’ll raise it some notches higher – high enough for other nations to have reason to like Jews. War offers ample scope to show the world just how merciful and magnanimous Israel can be. Conduct beyond the call of duty. Who will not admire a strong but merciful Israel! And there lies the rub. ‘Be not over righteous, nor too clever
.”(Ecclesiastes 7:16). And, in the words of the sage Shimon b. Lakish: “Whoever shows mercy to the cruel will ultimately be cruel to those deserving of mercy.”
The aftermath of Israel’s wars, ancient and modern, make a continuous case to validate those early warnings. They provide lesson after lesson on the trouble that comes when Israel bends like a reed to be extra nice. The enemy, taking mercy for weakness, bites the hand that feeds it. Nor does it please God when a strong Israel allows a weaker enemy to get the upper hand despite the latter’s clear intention to kill. If by allowing the enemy to fight another day and Jews are killed, the rabbis consider it a form of suicide. Cain killing the stronger Abel after the latter was taken in by the former’s plea for mercy, marked the first case in point. Hence Jewish law sets boundaries for mercy. Those intent on murder lose their right to life.
But the compassion of Jews seems to have no limits. Mercy often transcends reason. As Israel’s astute and sardonic diplomat, Abba Eban, famously remarked:
“I think it would be the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.”
Nor does the world’s looked-for admiration materialize. On the contrary. Displays of softness and mercy lead to expectations and to further demands for Israel to show constraint. The Jews oblige. Higher and higher goes the self-imposed bar.
“Heaven help us if our moral standard is reduced to not committing crimes against humanity. From my country, I demand a lot more.”
Jessica Montell one time head of an Israeli human rights entity wrote this in the liberal Jewish Daily Forward, a platform for Jews that demand more than above board conduct by Israel – a lot more. Montell’s comments came in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, an urban war involving every hazard imaginable and every trick in the enemy’s arsenal. After facing the standard canards, Israel emerged in the clear. But above board battle conduct is not enough for Jews of the halo brigade. They want more. They set the bar impossibly high. The halo brigade wants Israel to be more than just better than other armies.
Her enemies slaver at the prospect. The higher the bar the better to make Israel fall. Israel haters wait and watch. How high can Israel jump? A shiver of the bar transports the court of public opinion into a frenzy of scorn and condemnation. And instead of a light unto the nations Israel becomes the world’s polecat. Among the nations even her supporters are supportive only up to a point. They’ll allow Israel to fight a brave rearguard action against insuperable odds, but so far and no further. Outright victory is not tolerated.
And where does God stand? Is He pro-Israel? That depends. Do the groups that rain rockets onto Israeli cities descend from any of the Seven Nations which occupied the holy land? Are these groups enemies that Israel is commanded to annihilate? Or are they descendants of Amalek, the people whose memory Israel is commanded to destroy? We don’t rightly know. We do know that all the mini wars it had to fight against a deadly foe in Gaza (Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge) can be traced to Israel’s original sins. We do know that Israel has treated the Land of Israel, its biblical heritage like a potato too hot to handle.
Once upon a time a great king bestowed many gifts and favours on the heir he loved most. He not only saved the young one repeatedly from mortal danger, but presented it with the jewel in his crown. And how did the child repay the king’s great favours? It chopped up and gave away the priceless jewel in the crown, bit by bit. More, the lucky recipients were the deadly foes from whom the king had time after time saved the child. Was the king angry with his beloved heir?
Angry is not the word.