By Gerald McDermott — Originally published in Christianity Today
By now you will have heard of slaughtered Israeli babies, seen the graphic video of a kidnapped Jewish teenager being pulled by her hair with what appears to be blood between her legs, read of the 85-year-old grandmother taken to the Gaza strip without her medicines to die alone and in great pain.
By now you will know that Hamas terrorists have shot children, raped women, snatched infants from their families. By now you may have heard the account of one survivor of the massacre at the music festival: “The guy who was with me didn’t stop crying and begging for his life. … And then he didn’t scream anymore. They murdered him in front of my eyes.”
At this writing, Hamas has killed more than 1 400 Israelis, injured 3 000, and is holding around 200 hostage. This attack has been called Israel’s 9/11. It could equally be called its Dunkirk, the beginning of a war for survival whose outcome is uncertain.
For Christians watching these horrors from afar, it is imperative to condemn the evil perpetrated by Hamas — and to recognise that it must be resisted.
This should go without saying, but some American Christians [and SA Church leaders] refuse to denounce Hamas for its barbaric atrocities. A statement from the Episcopal Church in the United States, for example, mentions “a time of violence” but fails to say that Hamas was its instigator, suggests that “occupation” is the underlying cause, and charges that Israel’s response is “disproportionate.” The United Methodist Church similarly refers merely to an “escalation of violence” and urges “both sides not to resort to further violence”.
No further violence? Would we say the same if a terrorist group killed a proportionate number of Americans? (Scaled to our population, that’d be about 40 000 dead. [or nearly 7 000 dead scaled to SA population]) As The Wall Street Journal’s Elliot Kaufman contends, equivocation about the evil of Hamas is arguably a call for Israel to surrender instead of fighting back, because then Israel’s enemies will return to resume their massacres.
That’s not the only part of such equivocations which deserves scrutiny. Is “occupation” the cause of Hamas’s savagery? It cannot be, for Israel stopped occupying Gaza in 2005, and Hamas has run that city-state since 2007.
But more importantly, speaking of “occupation” suggests to many that Hamas wants to share the land with Jews. Yet Hamas declares openly that it wants to drive every last Jew into the sea—this is the meaning of the popular slogan—and kill all who try to remain.
This is not an unfair allegation from the group’s enemies. Article 7 of Hamas’s own founding charter quotes a saying of the prophet Muhammad: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems [sic] fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, ‘O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”
And Hamas has not drifted from its antisemitic roots. The senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said in 2021 that his organisation wants Israel “to come to an end just like it began.” This war that Hamas has launched on Israel is not about occupation. It is about the elimination of the state of Israel and all its Jews.
So is Israel’s planned response—to destroy Hamas—disproportionate? Article 51 of the United Nations Charter states that any nation has an “inherent right” to defend itself against armed attack. The response needs to satisfy the principle of proportionality, which involves avoiding as much as possible the killing of noncombatants.
More than any other world power, Israel has gone out of its way to avoid killing civilians. But that is impossible when Hamas uses human shields — both Palestinian and, now, Israeli hostages — by putting its command centres in hospitals and schools and mosques. Hamas is now ordering Gazan civilians not to move to escape Israeli bombs.
This is why simply comparing the number of Palestinian and Jewish civilians killed misses the point. Hamas deliberately targets civilians, while Israeli forces try to minimise civilian casualties. And even when those efforts fail, Hamas is responsible for Palestinian civilian deaths because it cruelly forces Gaza residents to remain with terrorists whom Israel will rightly target.
Hamas’s “desire to destroy Israel has brought only war and death to the Palestinians,” writes Middle Eastern scholar Bassam Tawil. “To achieve its goal of murdering Jews and eliminating Israel, Hamas appears ready to sacrifice endless numbers of Palestinians.”
These distinctions matter deeply for Christians’ response to the war. First, we are called by both Testaments to hate evil. Proverbs says to fear the Lord is to “hate evil” (Prov. 8:13), and the apostle Paul urges us to “hate what is evil” (Rom. 12:9). We should hate the evil of Hamas — and not be afraid to say so publicly.
GATEWAY NEWS NEEDS SUPPORT NOW TO KEEP PUBLISHING: >>> PLEASE TAKE 3 MINUTES TO READ
| Visit our Advertising Noticeboard|
for Christian events, and more
VISIT OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL: https://www.youtube.com/gatewaynews100
You are welcome to engage with our articles by making comments [in the Comments area below] that add value to a topic or to engage in thoughtful, constructive discussion with fellow readers. Comments that contain vulgar language will be removed. Hostile, demeaning, disrespectful, propagandistic comments may also be moved. This is a Christian website and if you wish to vent against Christian beliefs you have probably come to the wrong place and your comments may be removed. Ongoing debates and repetitiveness will not be tolerated. You will also disqualify yourself from commenting if you engage in trolling.