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Friday, July 14, 2006
Israel and Its Enemies: The View from My Own 'Religion of Peace'

How many attacks must Israel absorb before fighting back? Here's my scriptural view.

The same Big Media Acronyms who keep telling us Islam is a "religion of peace" simultaneously deliver an endless stream of news about Muslims blowing up things and people. Lately, it's the state-supported (or in one case, state-running) terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah who are making the news with their attacks on Israel.

I have my own "religion of peace," the distinctive "Mormon" brand of Christianity. Many of my readers know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- with a name that long, no wonder we usually hear "Mormons" instead -- has a few books it accepts as scripture in addition to the Bible.

Founder Joseph Smith offered one passage in one of those books as the divine response to mob violence against early Mormons -- attacks which are difficult to distinguish from terror in some ways. In light of the latest attacks on Israel and the measured fury of the Israeli response, let's weigh the situation against Mormon scripture for a moment. Other passages of scripture might be brought to bear, but this is the one I find most relevant. My commentary -- midrash, if you will -- is in [brackets]. The reference is Doctrine and Covenants 98:23-38.

Now, I speak unto you concerning your families -- if men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded;

But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you.

[The first time you're attacked, bear it with patience, and I will bless you. If you don't, I'll consider it as if you deserved what you got.]

And again, if your enemy shall smite you the second time, and you revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently, your reward shall be an hundred fold.

And again, if he shall smite you the third time, and ye bear it patiently, your reward shall be doubled unto you four-fold;

[Bear it patiently the second and third times, too, and I will reward you abundantly.]

And these three testimonies shall stand against your enemy if he repent not, and shall not be blotted out.

And now, verily I say unto you, if that enemy shall escape my vengeance, that he be not brought into judgment before me, then ye shall see to it that ye warn him in my name, that he come no more upon you, neither upon your family, even your children's children unto the third and fourth generation.

[If I -- meaning God -- haven't taken care of your enemy by this point, give that enemy one more warning yourselves. Then . . .]

And then, if he shall come upon you or your children, or your children's children unto the third and fourth generation, I have delivered thine enemy into thine hands;

[The fourth time, the enemy is yours to do with what you will.]

And then if thou wilt spare him, thou shalt be rewarded for thy righteousness; and also thy children and thy children's children unto the third and fourth generation.

[If you spare him the fourth time, I'll bless you even more.]

Nevertheless, thine enemy is in thine hands; and if thou rewardest him according to his works thou art justified; if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou art justified.

[But you don't have to spare the enemy the fourth time. You are justified in destroying him.]

No matter how liberally or conservatively you number the attacks on Israel since September -- or even since last month -- by this very patient doctrine Israel would be justified in destroying its attackers.

First, by democratically electing Hamas, a terrorist organization, the Palestinians as a people have forfeited any claim to Israeli mercy. It's hard to see why Israel should not liquidate the Palestinian state from which many attacks are launched -- not that I think they will, but I think they would be justified. They could ship all the Palestinians who will go peacefully to somewhere in Jordan (and international aid given the Palestinians could be switched to Jordan, too, in fairness), execute those who will not go peacefully, and repossess the land as part of Israel.

Second, I think Israel is justified in inflicting serious harm on Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, which harbor and fund Hezbollah.

Not all that is justified is wise or prudent or merciful. But the Arab world has been at war with Israel for decades. What soundly reasoning person would insist that Israel is not allowed to act sometimes as if it's in the war, too?

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