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Ghosts of the past: Hamas, Israel and justice

A member of the Israeli security forces stands close to a car hit by a rocket fired from Gaza, in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, on October 9, 2023. Stunned by the unprecedented assault on its territory, a grieving Israel has counted over 900 dead and launched a withering barrage of strikes on Gaza that have raised the death toll there to 560, according to Palestinian officials.
A member of the Israeli security forces stands close to a car hit by a rocket fired from Gaza, in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, on October 9, 2023. Stunned by the unprecedented assault on its territory, a grieving Israel has counted over 900 dead and launched a withering barrage of strikes on Gaza that have raised the death toll there to 560, according to Palestinian officials. | JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

The great American Nobel-winning novelist William Faulkner famously observed:

“The past is never dead. It is not even past. All of us labor in webs spun way before we were born. Webs of heredity and environment, of history and eternity. Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new but whose providence dates to the dim dramas of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequences echoing down the generations.”

Recent events in the Middle East have reminded us once again of the hard-won wisdom of the Mississippi-born and bred writer.

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The hideous Hamas terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians (including women, children and infants) remind us that nothing in the Middle East happens in a vacuum, and the ghosts of the past are always in the room with us.

The Hamas attacks were, and are, beyond the pale of accepted brutality of any society claiming to be minimally civilized. When you hear of terrorists calling their parents on the phone, proclaiming to their parents, “You should be really proud of me, I have just killed 10 Jews” and uploads to them pictures of them doing so, you have a threat that must be eliminated.

Having tortured, killed and mutilated hundreds of Israelis, the terrorists then dragged hundreds of hostages back into the Gaza Strip with them to be used as shields against Israeli countermeasures.

Then you have Hamas leaders, such as Ghazi Hamad, a member of the Hamas Governing Council, declaring on Lebanese TV:

“We must teach Israel a lesson. … We will do this again and again. The ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’ (Hamas’s name for its October 7th atrocity) is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth. … We are the victims of the occupation, period. Therefore, nobody should blame us for the things we do on Oct.. 7, on Oct. 10, on October one-millionth, everything we do is justified.” 

So, Hamas promises endless terrorist attacks in Arabic media, while pleading for an Israeli ceasefire in Western media. At the same time, they seek to use their own Palestinian population as a shield against Israeli operations aimed at protecting their own civilian population.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained, the Iran-led “axis of terror” (Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen) is an existential threat to the “civilization in Western civilization and the hand-won international standards of Nuremberg and the Geneva Convention.

Prime Minister Netanyahu felt that it was necessary to remind the Western world:

“Victory over these enemies began with moral clarity. It begins with knowing the difference between good and evil, between right and wrong. It means making a moral distinction between the deliberate murder of the innocent and the unintentional casualties that are the inevitable result of even the most just war.” 

To grant Hamas a ceasefire at this point would be equivalent to granting the Empire of Japan a ceasefire on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor. I think not!

As William Faulkner reminds us, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Never has this been more true than when discussing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres declares that the Hamas terrorist attacks “did not happen in a vacuum.” Guterres then refers to “56 years of suffocating occupation.”

What the secretary-general fails to acknowledge is that the Palestinians, as the famous Israeli statesman Abba Eban observed in 1973, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

First, they declined to accept a U.N. offer of Palestinian statehood in 1947, unlike the Jewish people, who did. Instead, they worked with the armies of five modern Arab states, which sought to “drive the Jews into the sea.” After the ceasefire in 1948, they could have worked toward Palestinian statehood in the disputed territories which were then occupied by Jordan and Egypt for 19 subsequent years.

They also turned down peace deals with Israel by refusing to negotiate after the 1967 Six-Day War. They have also turned down all the subsequent offers of Palestinian statehood made by various Israeli governments over the succeeding decades.

Instead, they have spent international aid on weapons and the military, not on their own people. And they are committed to genocide against the Jews in Israel.

There can be no “peace” settlement between Israel and Hamas. Why? Hamas has, from the very beginning, declared its goal: Israel’s total destruction. That is the meaning of Palestine: “from the river to the sea.”

Hamas’ “General Principles and Policies Statement,” issued in 2017, makes it clear that for them, “Palestine” exists from the Jordan River in the East to the Mediterranean Sea in the West and is “integral” (indivisible).

Hamas rejects Israel as “entirely illegal,” as is the Balfour Declaration, the British Mandate and the U.N. Partition Resolution, and there must be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity.

And we must always remember why the U.N. voted overwhelmingly to establish the Jewish State in Palestine in 1947.  Six million Jews had just been murdered in the Holocaust, and the worldwide community of nations felt that it owed a moral debt to the Jews for having allowed the Holocaust to take place. And I believe they were right to think so and to vote to establish the Jewish State.

Hamas claims it only opposes Israel, not the Jews. However, the Hamas Charter states that Hamas “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” and is “one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders.”

Hamas’ founding charter, issued in 1988, states in Article 7, quoting the Islamic prophet Muhammad:

“The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, ‘Oh Muslims, Oh Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

Israel might be able to make peace with the Palestinian people eventually. However, they cannot make peace with Hamas — it would be voluntary genocide. Israel has tried negotiation; they have tried evacuation from Gaza. Now, they must destroy Hamas as the metastasizing malignancy it is, and then work with the Saudis, the Egyptians and others to help keep the Hamas terrorists from warping the minds of another generation into racist killers.  

And by the way, who are the war criminals? Is it the Israelis or the Hamas terrorists warping the minds of children and using children to shield the evil doings from attack?

I have a challenge for all of the foolish demonstrators at American colleges and universities chanting phrases like “Gas the Jews!” and “From the River to the Sea.” If you really believe this racist venom, then go live in Gaza and see the Hamas government “up close and personal.” My guess is you will not be happy with what you find about their treatment of women, dissenters and LBGTQ supporters.

Let me make my sympathies unmistakably clear. I am with Israel and the Jews indivisibly. I have ordered multiple Israeli American flag lapel pins. I will wear one proudly, and I will encourage all of my Baptist and Evangelical friends to join me in expressing this solidarity with the Jewish people. I would be ashamed to do otherwise.

Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.

Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.

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