Loving and Hating the Enemy in Gaza
The reactions to Israeli strikes in Gaza over the last few weeks have put a spotlight the character of the belligerents and their supporters. While it’s good to celebrate the victories over evil, Jewish and Christian scriptures disapprove of the destruction of God’s creation. And loving thy enemy makes it all the easier to love thy civilian. But Islam and leftists from the streets of London to Miami to Gaza City celebrate the death of soldiers and civilians alike, while Israel has made conscious efforts to curtail collateral damage, inconsistent with claims that the Jewish state is genocidal or an aggressor.
When God brought the Israelites forth from captivity, Pharaoh’s armies pursued only to drown in the Red Sea. Commenting on Exodus 15, sages wrote, “In that hour, the ministering angels wished to sing songs of praise before God, but He rebuked them, saying, ‘my handiwork is drowning in the sea, and you wish to sing before me?!’” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 39b).
The theme of loving thy enemy inundates the Bible. “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 33:11). Israeli society empathizes with Jonah’s experience proselytizing to the Ninevites.
But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?’ (Jonah 4:10-11).
Loving your enemy reigns in the New Testament as Christ dines with tax collectors and prays for his torturers on the cross. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). The civilian deaths during the latest bout of violence can be attributed to a Palestinian death-culture that started with hating your enemy. It would be irresponsible for Israel not to respond to kidnappings and rocket attacks on its citizens. Many in the West have forgotten that the main function of states is to protect their citizens from foreign intruders not providing healthcare, jobs, or birth control.
Yet Israelis and Christians in Gaza have made it their duty to love Palestinian civilians. Israeli field hospitals have been treating Gazans since the conflict commenced. Usually the most seriously injured have been treated in Israeli hospitals or have been evacuated by field teams to either Israel or Jordan. The treatment doesn’t appear to be a publicity stunt. Outside of this latest conflict, thousands of Palestinians receive treatment regularly in Israeli hospitals a trend, according to the Algemeiner, that continues to increase.
A report published recently by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit (COGAT) shows that 219,464 Palestinian patients received medical treatment in Israeli hospitals during 2012 – 21,270 of them children. These numbers include companions accompanying the patients to Israel. The numbers show a dramatic increase in Palestinians receiving treatment from Israeli medical professionals. 197,713 Palestinians received medical treatment in Israel in 2011, and 144,838 in 2008.
Medical treatment is the tip of the iceberg. Electrical repairs, sewage repairs, water repairs, and transfers of goods continued during Operation Protective Edge, many times at the threat of Israeli lives.
On August 24, three Israeli-Arab taxi drivers waiting to pick up Gazan residents and bring them into Israel for medical treatment were wounded - two seriously - by mortar shells fired at the Erez Crossing as Palestinians from Gaza were entering Israel for medical care, forcing the closing of the Erez Crossing (MFA).
Consider the following contrasts between the two cultures. When successful attacks are carried out against Israelis, or for that matter US citizens and Jews world-wide, Palestinians hand out candy in celebratory fashion to their children, as they did after 9/11. Palestinian civilians are placed in the line of fire only to have their corpses paraded on the international news. There is no distinction between civilian and non-civilian. If martyrdom for the sake of Islam leads to paradise, what is to prevent Hamas from using civilians as human shields or from wearing civilian clothes to hide amongst noncombatant populations?
The Qur’an instructs faithful Muslims accordingly, “O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness. And know that Allah is with the righteous” (Surah 9:123). Scholars, intellectuals, and elites from Ibn Kaldun to Mahmoud Abbas support attacks on infidels and sympathizers as if they were combatants.
It’s important if not imperative to remember, before engaging any argument on the latest conflict in the Middle East, that the Gaza Strip was conquered territory. There is no reason to discuss the native inhabitants of the Levant. Israel conquered the Sinai in 1967 and has given back the territory in the faulty “Land for Peace” doctrine, akin to extortion. In 2005 following the same model, Israel evicted Jews from Gaza for the sake of Palestinian self-rule. Israel possesses the fire power to rid itself of Palestinians, yet Israel is a pluralistic society with Arabs serving in the Knesset. Israel has shown mercy and constraint that can be attributed to millennia of “loving thy enemy”. To label the Jewish state as genocidal or bloodthirsty is contrary to commonsense and facts.