So What's This All About?

In case you didn't know, I'm in the multi-year-long process of posting a Christian devotional at the TAWG Blog. The TAWG Blog is, and always will be, mostly apolitical. For the most part, Bible-believing Christians will find little to disagree with there. But I also firmly believe that God's word can--and should--inform everything in life, and this should include politics and popular culture. How should we vote? How should we respond to hot topics such as abortion, capital punishment, taxes, and other issues? Which party, if either, is closer to the Biblical ideal? Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, Evangelicals whose political leanings are on the Left, have made the case in several of their writings that God wants his followers to vote politically on the Left more than on the Right. At times, some of them have gone so far as to equate voting on the Left with obedience to Christ, either subtly or not-so-subtly contending that the converse is true as well: If you vote Republican, you're sinning against the Savior.
I don't agree. I think that to the degree they actually resort to the Bible, they're misinterpreting it. With a whole bunch of caveats, I think politically conservative positions are a lot more compatible with the Scriptures than the Leftist positions.
Just to clarify, I would never accuse people who disagree with me--especially siblings in Christ--of what they accuse me of. I don't judge my own heart, much less anyone else's, and I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and "for the least of these," but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.
So there are two main purposes for this blog. One is to make a case for my political beliefs based on Scripture. The other is a bit more vague, basically to work out my political beliefs and figure out what's based on Scripture and what's based on my own biases. I certainly don't have all the answers. Some of this stuff I'm still figuring out. And I'm certainly open to correction. As long as you make your case civilly and based on Scripture, feel free to make a comment, and I promise I'll post it and consider your arguments thoughtfully and prayerfully. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn a little something from each other.
May God bless our common striving together towards both the "little t" truth and "Big T" Truth. Our watchword here is a line from C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!"

P.S. -- Below on the left is "Topics I've Covered" which lists everything I've posted topically. It's come to my attention that some people would like to see everything just listed for them. If that's you, you can get it here. Thanks to my friend Stephen Young for the tip!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Part Two: "You can't criticize Israel without being labeled an anti-Semite!"

            “If you criticize Israel, then you’re labeled an anti-Semite!”
            I’ve heard this multiple times. If you’ve read my blogs for any length of time, then you know I’m a big fan of both Michael Medved and Dennis Prager. They’re politically conservative talk-show hosts who are also practicing Jews. As you might expect, they’re also vigorous defenders of the nation of Israel. And since they are, whenever they bring up this topic on their radio shows, I can usually count the minutes until I hear two lines of rebuttal. One is “You only care about Israel, not about America!” and the other is the first sentence of today’s posting. We’ll deal with the dual-loyalties charge another time. Today I’d like to respond to the accusation that anyone who criticizes Israel is automatically labeled as an anti-Semite.
            Before we go forward, I have to submit a heads-up: Today’s posting has almost no Scripture references. Today I’m just going to rely on logical clarity and my own personal experience in listening to these arguments. Take them as you will.
            First, let’s define a very important term. In his seminal book The Case For Israel, Alan Dershowitz provides a good “working definition” of anti-Semitism: “taking a trait or an action that is widespread, if not universal, and blaming only the Jews for it.”
            For the following analogy, I have to give full credit to Dennis Prager. Suppose you said “I wish that the entire nation of Italy would go away. It shouldn’t even exist.”
My response: “Why are you anti-Italian?”
“Me?! I’m not anti-Italian! I just wish that Italy didn’t exist. There’s a huge difference!” 
“Really? I don’t see much of one.”
“Hey, I love Italian food, and some of my best friends are Italian!”
“Well, do you think Germany should cease to exist?”
“Well, no, but we’re talking about Italy.”
“And are there any other nations in the world that you think shouldn’t exist?”
“Um, no, but why is that relevant?”
“Um, well, the only country in the world you want to wipe off the map is Italy, the only Italian nation in the world that exists right now. So why do you think Italy shouldn’t exist?”
“Because Italians are belligerent and aggressive.”
“Really? I wasn’t aware of their horrible reputation of being like that. So what about the Germans? Are there any Germans who are belligerent?”
“Well, maybe, but we’re talking about the Italians!”

            I’ve been covering political arguments for decades, since the early 1990’s. And my friend, not once have I ever seen an example of this charge. Not once have I ever seen anyone accused of being anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish because they criticized Israel. But we need to clarify. What I normally mean by “criticize” and what Israel’s opponents mean by “criticize” seem to mean two very different things.
            I have no problem criticizing Israel. Israel has no death penalty. I think that’s foolish and absurd. I also heartily disagree with their willingness to release thugs who’ve murdered hundreds of people in order to get one dead soldier back. There, I’ve criticized Israel.
            What’s the difference between what I just did vs. what other “critics” do?
            Well, there are some things I’ve noticed about what some people call “criticism”:

·         Their “criticisms” hold Israel to a standard to which they don’t hold her enemies. Palestinian and other Muslim TV programs engage in the most horrible and loathsome and disgusting Jew-hating (not Israel-hating, Jew-hating) propaganda, openly calling for the murder of innocent people. They name their streets and city squares after suicide bombers who walked into discotheques or weddings or funerals and blew themselves up. Israel does none of this, and people fail to mention the abysmal behavior of her enemies when talking about her flaws. Israel’s “critics” tend to act as if they expect A) Israel to behave like a normal, rational, law-abiding nation, and B) the Palestinians to act like savage animals who barely can be expected to walk upright.

·         Their “criticisms” also hold Israel to standards to which no other nation would be held. As I write this, Israel recently endured 80 rocket attacks from Hamas-held Gaza in one day. What nation in the world would be expected to put up with that? Would we? I know we have some problems with Mexico, but if Mexican nationals started to firing missiles into our cities on the border, we’d tell Mexico in no uncertain terms that if they didn’t deal with it immediately and stop the attacks, we would.

·         Their “criticisms” tend to discount or completely ignore the situational context for Israel’s actions. There’s been a lot of condemnation of Israel as being an Apartheid state, the best example of which came from a former President (guess which party he belongs to?) who titled his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.  Why is Israel compared to Apartheid? Because they have a security barrier along their border that guards them from would-be terrorists. What gall! They have security checkpoints along this border in which people are stopped, searched, sometimes frisked, and sometimes really inconvenienced. Why does this happen? Because the Israelis just like harassing innocent people? No, because there are quite a few people who like to smuggle in weapons and bombs into Israel in order to murder people. They got tired of their own citizens being blown up—again, the gall!—and built a wall/fence to try to keep would-be murderers out. If you ignore the context, then any action can seem unjustified. If I just see a police officer draw his gun and shoot down a teenager, I’d be horrified by his actions. But once I know that the reason he shot the young man was because that young man was drawing a gun from his jacket pocket, then I understand. Context is vital.

·         Their “criticisms” tend to delegitimize the very existence of Israel. Israel is the only nation I know of (besides America) where we focus like the proverbial laser-beam on the circumstances of its origins in order to determine whether or not that nation has a right to exist. Nobody questions the right of, say, Japan to exist. Or Singapore. Or Brazil. Or Italy. Or even rogue nations such as Iran. Or North Korea. Or any of the 190+ nations in the United Nations. But with Israel it’s different. It’s even worse than with America. Sure, if you look hard enough you can find people who openly verbalize a desire to destroy America, who hate it so much that they question its very right to exist. But those are pretty rare compared with the vast numbers of supposedly normal people who consider it perfectly acceptable to publicly question the very right of Israel—an established nation which is a member of the United Nations—to exist.

            Now, is this “criticism” to which I’m referring anti-Semitic? Well, you tell me. I don’t know anyone else’s heart, and even my own heart is incredibly deceptive. But I find it rather odd that Israel is singled out like this, and it’s a pretty odd coincidence that it’s only the Jewish nation which is treated like this. If you hold someone to a double-standard, then the question that hangs in the air is why?
            Columnist Robert Fulford put it best:

The people who defame Israel and wish to undermine its status in the world are not anti-Semites — or so they will tell you, every chance they get. Their denial of anti-Semitism is essential to their moral position. In their own view they are good progressives, therefore absolutely innocent of racial or religious discrimination. Their propaganda campaign, which they hope eventually will escalate into economic warfare, is intended merely to reshape Israel’s policies.

In order to satisfy this generation’s anti-Semites, Israel must meet standards that no other country in the world has ever met or ever will. At the United Nations Israel is condemned more often than all other countries combined.

It is, of course, an imperfect democracy, like Canada and all other free countries, and its human rights record could certainly be improved. But its treatment of Palestinians has never been even remotely comparable to China’s oppression of Tibetans or Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women, two among many outrageous practices that apparently never trouble the students who direct their anger at Israel.

            To summarize, as Alan Dershowitz put it in The Case for Israel, "Like any other democracy, Israel and its leaders should be criticized whenever their actions fail to meet acceptable standards, but the criticism should be proportional, comparative, and contextual, as it should be with regard to other nations as well." 
            And while we’re on this topic, I’d like to share an observation on this. In my personal experience, every time—not sometimes, not most of the time, but all of the time—when someone makes this particular complaint (“All you have to do is criticize Israel and you’re labeled an anti-Semite!”), they’ll reveal their bigotry against Jews if you give them 10 minutes. I’m not saying that criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic—I’ve criticized Israel within this very posting--but every single time I’ve ever heard someone make that complaint, they reveal themselves as a Jew-hater within about 10 minutes of talking. The complaints quickly fall into one of the four categories I’ve listed above, and if they aren’t anti-Jewish, they sound remarkably like someone who is.
            Now for a moment let's address the "dual loyalties" charge, the accusation that Pro-Israel people such as myself only care about Israel and not America. Since I'm not Jewish, I actually haven't had this charge leveled against me personally. This accusation is usually reserved for Jews, and quite frankly it's virtually always a poorly disguised fig leaf for Antisemitism. I care about my Lord first and foremost, along with his interests in expanding his Kingdom on earth. I care about my siblings in Christ next. But I care about the welfare of the world at large, and my country is the strongest force for good--spiritual and temporal--the world has seen in the last 100 years. But part of being a Christian means I'm a follower of the One who's Truth Incarnate. And that means I don't slander a good and decent nation. It also means as an American I tend to stand with America's only real ally in the Middle East region. When she does something wrong or foolish, I'll call her on it, but I side with her a lot more than I side with her mortal enemies. 
            As I said, I don’t know anyone else’s heart. If someone tells me that they aren’t prejudiced against Jews, then I can’t call them a liar. But my friend--my brother or sister in Christ--if you’re holding the only Jewish state in the world to standards to which you don’t hold anyone else in the world, I have to question you on this. 

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