Israel and Hamas: A Time for Moral Clarity

November 8th, 2023 | TJCII Blog

Israel and Hamas: A Time for Moral Clarity by Brian Cox

INTRODUCTION

As a peacemaker and a reconciler; as a professional in the field of conflict resolution; as one with over thirty years of international experience in large scale political and identity-based conflicts I am normally faced with two or more conflicting parties each with their own conflict narrative. Each conflict narrative has its combination of truth and propaganda. The goals of intervention are typically threefold: to end the hostility; to resolve the issues of the conflict; and to restore the relationships. However the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza does not fit this template and those diplomats and secular peace builders who attempt to do so will be unsuccessful and, even more on the wrong side of history. 

This is a unique conflict in that it presents us with a moment for moral clarity in seven key ways. 

MORAL CLARITY: DETERMINING THE SEASON

First of all, the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Jewish Scriptures begins in Chapter 3 with the words “For everything there is a season…”. It admonishes us to seek understanding and wisdom about the season in which we find ourselves. With regard to the conflict between Israel and Hamas we may reflexively pray for peace in the Middle East with all good intentions but not see that other factors are in play that may not be visible to the naked eye.  Hamas is not an isolated actor in this matter. This may be part of a more coordinated effort involving both Hezbollah and Iran as well as the global network of antisemitic actors. It is clear that this has been in the planning by Hamas for the past two years.  Hence, we need the guidance of God’s spirit to know even how to pray during this time. I believe that God is using this as a season of moral clarity and that should frame how we are to pray. It is a different paradigm for those who typically engage in prayer or peacemaking. What do we mean by moral clarity? 

MORAL CLARITY: EXPOSING AND DEFEATING EVIL

As one who has been involved in reconciliation for over thirty years in some of the roughest neighborhoods in the world I have come to understand that you cannot reconcile with evil. It must be exposed and defeated. 

So how does one determine who or what is evil ? As the old saying goes “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter”. From a faith-based perspective in the Abrahamic tradition evil is clearly defined as a settled opposition to God’s plan and purposes. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament; from Genesis to Revelation there is a consistent revelation that Israel is at the heart of God’s plan and purposes to reconcile the world with God and with one another. This is the meaning of being a light to the nations. This is the meaning of Tikkun Olam b’malchut Shaddai (to heal and repair the world under the dominion of God).  To stand against Israel is to stand in opposition to God’s purposes. This does not mean romanticizing Israelis or agreeing with every policy of the Israeli government. It doesn’t mean loving Israelis and hating the Palestinians. It means aligning oneself and one’s nation in a posture of blessing Israel rather than cursing Israel. In Genesis Chapter 12 verse 3 God says to Abraham in forming the Abrahamic Covenant “He who blesses you I will bless and he who curses you I will curse”. This would mean that to set one’s heart on the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people would be to oppose God’s purposes which is the embodiment of evil. 

Hamas in its founding charter made the destruction of Israel its reason de etre.  Its goal is not advocacy for the legitimate needs or rights of the Palestinian people. Its goal is not seeking a two state solution. It is the eradication of Israel. Full stop. This is not a mere talking point or a negotiating position. Sometimes when people tell you who they are you should believe them. This is the case with Hamas. This conflict has exposed them for who they truly are at the core of their being. Hence, seeking coexistence with Hamas should not be the goal but rather visible defeat and destruction. 

I say this as one who spent thirteen years working with the senior leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan seeking to persuade them to embrace a different global role as peacemakers, reconcilers and problem solvers. I told them that this would show the world the noble side of Islam. In the course of this time I met and got to know three of the founders of Hamas. We had numerous conversations about how they could make a real difference in the region by loving their enemies..the Israelis. But they were not convinced because they had already given their hearts over to evil. 

MORAL CLARITY: SHINING A LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS

This conflict has shined an intense light to reveal an unholy alliance of antisemites from Islamists to western progressives to Neo Nazis to radical black activists. Make no mistake, these groups are not concerned with the plight of Palestinians, they are motivated by hate for Jews and for Israel. This has revealed openly the extensive network of antisemitism, that far from diminishing is growing before our very eyes. 

While most residents of Gaza are not technically members of Hamas they have grown up in an educational system that teaches hatred of Jews and Israel. They are not as innocent as we may think or as they are portrayed in the media. While they may find the totalitarian governing style of Hamas to be odious, I suspect that most Gazans share the worldview of hatred for the Jews and Israel. I am one who has actually been to Gaza and met many of its leaders before Hamas came to power. Even then the hostility toward Jews and Israel was unmistakable. 

MORAL CLARITY: REVEALING THE TRUE PALESTINIAN GOAL

During the course of my years in the Middle East I came to know the chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and began to steep myself in all the issues of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I came to see that for the Palestinian leadership that two states side by side was never their goal but rather the eradication of Israel. Listen carefully to their insistence on “the right of return” and what it really means, two states both Palestinian. 

Hamas is merely being up front with what is unspoken by the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian leaders are foremost in their embrace of Replacement Theology or Supersessionism. Palestinian school textbooks in the West Bank show maps of the region in which Israel doesn’t exist. The whole region is Palestine. 

MORAL CLARITY: DIVIDING THE NATIONS INTO SHEEP AND GOATS

This is a unique moment of moral clarity in which the nations of the world are faced with a choice. The choice is between standing with Israel or standing with the enemies of Israel. There is no third option. 

Many nations in the West and the Global South have tried to straddle the fence and play it safe issuing innocuous statements that fail to grasp the moral imperative of the moment. I know many Christians in Africa who love Israel and pray for Israel but do nothing to challenge their government and political leadership to stand with Israel in such a moment as this. 

MORAL CLARITY: DEFEATING RADICAL ISLAM

The concept of Radical Islam is meant to distinguish the global Islamist and Jihadi network from the millions of faithful Muslims who seek to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and embrace God’s culture of love/care/mercy described in Surah 1 of the Quran. The worldview of Radical Islam envisions Islamic supremacy not coexistence. For them Israel doesn’t exist. It is part of Dar-Al-Islam and must be restored to Islamic rule. 

Normally reconciliation efforts focus on finding the methods by which people can agree and live together in coexistence. This conflict has revealed clearly that this is not possible. Hamas cannot be managed. It must be defeated and it must be seen to be defeated by the Arab and Muslim world. In the Arab and Muslim world strength is respected and weakness is despised. Visible defeat will finally get the attention of the Muslim world and it will bring about a moral reckoning. And what is that moral reckoning?

The truth is that the Islamist worldview is the most influential worldview in the Muslim world in shaping how people understand and relate to reality. At the swordpoint of the Islamist worldview is hatred of the Jews and Israel. In my experience in most Muslim circles when the subject of Israel comes up it elicits an immediate hostile response. 

More than that it is well known in Islamist networks that they speak openly of carrying out Holocaust 2.0. to finish off what Adolph Hitler and the Nazis started. 

Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood which itself is part of a global Islamist network that dates back to the 13th century ideas of Ibn Tamiyya which were carried forth by Malwana Mahdudi and Sayyid Qutb. 

In a broader sense perhaps it serves a greater purpose for both Hezbollah and Iran to be drawn into the conflict at this time so that they can share in the defeat and be seen to be defeated by the whole world. It will be in Israel that Radical Islam will be defeated. 

MORAL CLARITY: OPENING THE DOOR TO STRATEGIC FRIENDSHIP WITH ISRAEL

Ironically, it will be the defeat of Radical Islam that will open the doors in the Muslim world to strategic friendship with Israel. It will reveal the moral bankruptcy of the Islamist worldview that it is steeped in hatred for “the other”.  Many in the West speak about a desire to see reformation of Islam and their template is the reformation of Christianity in Europe. For most Muslims this vision of secularization is a nonstarter. Rather for Muslims it will be aligning themselves with Israel and the Jewish people that will be the key to reformation and a reattachment to their Abrahamic roots. Ironically, the defeat of Radical Islam will open the door to this process of reformation. 

The defeat of Radical Islam will also have a profound impact on the Christian world. 

There are already movements in the Christian world that are seeking to address the oldest wound between Israel and the Church. One should remember that all the earliest followers of Jesus were Jews who identified and lived as Jews. The replacement theology that developed early on among the Gentiles contributed to this wall of hostility between Israel and the Church and laid the foundation for the Holocaust or the Shoah. 

CONCLUSION

This moment of moral clarity is the key to the door in the Middle East that has been shut for centuries and is now opening. It is the key to healing the broken family of Abraham and healing the broken family of Abraham is the key to world peace. 

This is a unique moment in history in which God is presenting the nations, the church and the Islamic community with the opportunity for moral clarity…to either stand with Israel and God’s purposes or to stand against them. This is the Valley of Decision. 

That is how we must pray and move forward in this time. 

The Reverend Canon Brian Cox is an Episcopal Priest, a retired senior pastor and a pioneer in faith-based diplomacy. He has 45 years of experience in Israel and the Middle East and 26 years of experience in the Muslim world.