The State of Israel, Follow Up

So quite the discussion a few weeks ago, and my apologies for returning to it since the last one got a little heated. I did mean the post as a Bloggernacle topic, or how do we interpret the issue of the State of Israel in in terms of our religion? Again, that’s why I brought up my teachers’ quorum adviser’s comments those many years ago. A few commentators said I should not bring up Jesus, but again, the point of the post was to think about this topic in religious terms. The point was our religious constructs and not simply a debate over foreign policy. Like I said a few times on the post, many experts say that solutions aren’t likely, and I have no illusions to solving the problem myself. However, I am against the idea that because solutions are illusive that Israel needs to “defend itself” and keep doing what it’s doing in Gaza. I oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza and I oppose US military support for the State of Israel for the reasons I listed in the previous post.

Though no one brought it up, my sense is that LDS and US citizens have tended to support Israel for religious reasons. That’s what I wanted to state my objections to. I found these statements from Orthodox Rabbis rejecting Zionism to be interesting.

A few expressed strong opposition to my citing reports that called into question that Hamas committed mass rape on October 7th. Just a few days after my post, The Times of London also called such claims of mass rape into question. I suppose the Times is more acceptably mainstream. It’s behind a paywall, but here’s a nice summary by Breaking Points. Again, I don’t claim superior knowledge of these topics, but I don’t think it’s beyond the pale to discuss them.

So I won’t say I know for sure all what happened on October 7th, but will point out that colonizers making such claims of “savagery” by the colonized is common. I thought this summary from Owen Jones on stats related to Palestinian life under Israeli occupation from 2008 to October 6th to be telling. 96% of the fatalities between the Israelis and Palestinians have been Israelis killing Palestinians. That’s a 15 year period, but strikes me as indicative: bad things have happened on both sides, but the bad things have  overwhelmingly been done by the Israelis.

And a useful discussion between Glenn Greenwald and Tucker Carlson talking about, among other things, the attempts of Zionists to shut down free speech in the US.

21 comments for “The State of Israel, Follow Up

  1. Stephen, it’s fair to ask about how the state of Israel fits into our religious ideas, and how much our religious ideas influence how we look at Israel today. I was enthusiastic about the state of Israel’s story when I first read about it as a young teenager. Now that I’m an adult, it’s fair to ask how much of that enthusiasm remains. The last 20 years have been a slowly unfolding tragedy as peace deals were rejected and voices of reason were assassinated and hardliners came to power.

    But “What really happened on October 7” is not a serious question. We saw it. There are hours and hours of video footage of atrocities unfolding in real time, filmed by the perpetrators. There are eyewitnesses. I see nothing to be gained from debating whether there was mass rape, or whether dead victims were found naked from the waist down and bleeding from their genitals for some other reason. Savagery is the appropriate term.

    And no matter how Israel fits into our religious ideas, the hard reality is that if any nation anywhere in the world sends its army across the border and kills a thousand-odd citizens of the neighboring state, war will result.

    You mention the lopsided statistics of Israeli-Palestinian fatalities. Certainly there were cases of the Israeli army firing too quickly on civilians approaching the border and unjustifiable killings. But the unhappy reality is that October 7 forces us to update our prior assumptions about the intent of the Palestinians killed while approaching the border, and conclude that a larger portion of them than previously assumed were probing the border defenses in advance of an incursion and that more of the shootings than we had assumed were in fact justified.

    I don’t think it is possible for discussion between Glenn Greenwald and Tucker Carlson to be useful. I read Greenwald daily back in the 2000s when he first started blogging, but at some point I dropped him from my rotation. I don’t remember why. But he’s been awful on Ukraine, and Carlson (aren’t the Moscow subways so clean!) has been worse. If they can’t get a basic issue like Ukraine right, I don’t trust them on Gaza.

    To bring this back to your original question about religious narratives: It’s very difficult to see the Gaza conflict from that perspective. The cause of Hamas is not just, but Israel’s justified war against them has not been prosecuted justly. I also struggle to see what narrative justifies any sympathy for Hamas. If not mere antisemitism or knee-jerk support for opposition to the U.S. and its allies, then what? Hamas was given 20 years of peace, access to the Mediterranean and a border with Egypt, and its crowning achievement was to murder a thousand Israelis.

  2. Again, the Times of London article demonstrates that there is no forensic evidence of mass rape on October 7th. None. No video, no pictures, not claims of victims or doctors. Nothing. So it is indeed a serious question, especially since Israelis used such claims to argue that Palestinians were animals. Again, this is typical colonial justification for ethnic cleaning/genocide.

    Again, I think Jones pretty well dismantles the claim of Hamas being given 20 years of peace. It was in fact the longest blockage in modern history during which time Israel conducted frequent attacks.

    Sorry about Greenwald and Carlson. My point was to give perspectives from difference places on the ideological spectrum.

    I thought this conversation from far-right Candace Owens and far left Briahna Joy Gray, both fired fro being pro-Palestine, was interesting too.

  3. I don’t question whether the Holocaust actually occurred, and I don’t question whether atrocities were committed on Oct. 7, although I know some people choose to challenge one, the other, or both — I see both of these as simple facts supported by history. I see no value in quibbling whether atrocities occurred, or the extent. I prefer honest intellectual inquiry to foolish obduracy.

    I support Israel’s existence for non-religious reasons. I have enjoyed tourist visits there, and I wish well to all the people who live in the region.

  4. Just to clarify, I’m not saying Hamas didn’t commit atrocities on October 7th, and nowhere have I said anything about denying the Holocaust, which I fully acknowledge. What I’m citing is the Times of London article pointing out the lack of evidence for mass rape on October 7th. Considering how much such claims have been used to demonize Palestinians and justify Israel’s response, pointing to such journalism doesn’t seem like a quibble.

    I wish the people in the region well also.

  5. “Again, I think Jones pretty well dismantles the claim of Hamas being given 20 years of peace. It was in fact the longest blockage in modern history during which time Israel conducted frequent attacks.”

    I haven’t read the article–but I have a hard time imagining how Hamas coming to power in Gaza could have given rise to any other response from Israel. And look at what Hamas was able to accomplish in spite of Israel’s control of Gaza’s border. But, really, the saddest outcome of the whole thing over last 18-19 years or so is that Hamas squandered an opportunity to improve the situation in Gaza. It might have become the jewel of the Mediterranean had they not channeled all of their resources towards their murderous purposes.

  6. And when I say that it seems to me there are religious ideological reasons for Israel’s support, I don’t mean that in a way to criticize anyone here. Actually no one brought that up on my previous post. I’ve heard such claims, so I was thinking about these posts in those terms. It no one feels that way, no problem!

    Jack, I’ve heard that taking point, but I’m not aware of any nation becoming a “jewel” while under a 20-year blockade, the longest in modern history.

  7. Stephen,

    I’m saying that the blockade was primarily due to Hamas coming to power. No sooner does Israel pull up stakes–and a terrorist organization takes control of Gaza. They shot themselves in the foot. But even so — even with the blockade in place — the region could have been much improved if Hamas had routed the resources it did receive toward building a better infrastructure and what-not instead of building tunnels and rockets and buying off the families of terrorists and so forth..

  8. Not certain I follow the point of your argument.

    Is it that no mass rape occurred so Israel is not justified in the response it has undertaken? If so that simply ignores the other atrocities committed by Hamas.

    Or is the point that Hamas is justified in committing such atrocities because of all that Israel has done to them from 2008 to October 6? If that were so then Israel would be similarly justified in the response it has undertaken for those atrocities. Can’t have it both ways.

    On that point Jonathan Green is correct when he says:

    “And no matter how Israel fits into our religious ideas, the hard reality is that if any nation anywhere in the world sends its army across the border and kills a thousand-odd citizens of the neighboring state, war will result.”

    What is clear is that the most amusing point of your argument is that you simply ignore the UN report that found that:

    “Based on the examination of available information, including credible statements by eyewitnesses, there are reasonable grounds to believe that multiple incidents of rape, including gang rape, occurred in and around the Nova festival site during the 7 October attacks”

    “Credible information was obtained regarding multiple incidents whereby victims were subjected to rape and then killed. There are further accounts of individuals who witnessed at least two incidents of rape of corpses of women.”

    So while Hamas didn’t take any pictures or videos of their rapes or at least didn’t share any of them and no victims were around to complain because they were either dead or taken as hostages, the UN did find reasonable grounds to conclude that multiple incidents of rape did occur. And the UN has made it clear by other actions they are not on the side of the Israel such that they would be likely to reach such a conclusion if it was not justified.

    You might want to think in the future about how difficult it is to make any kind of a convincing argument if you can’t deal with evidence to the contrary which is exactly what those who deny the Holocaust do when making their arguments, which is why that point has come up in the comments.

  9. The Times of London article specifically argues that the UN report lacked evidence.

  10. Stephen, I admire your resolve in bringing this up again. But this post is a substantial distraction from reality.

    First – the hostages who are still alive must be returned. I guess Hamas leadership is attempting to accomplish SOME end by holding the hostages…the only end my western-educated eyes can see is the further destruction of Gaza, because “from the river to the sea” just ain’t happening. No one I’ve read has been able to articulate a rational reason why Hamas leadership directed the taking of hostages, and continues to support the holding of hostages.

    Your post asks how do we interpret the Israel “issue” in terms of our religion. The return of hostages MUST be step one, full stop. Hamas has made this SO EASY on Netanyahu in that he can wage a “righteous” war to recover the hostages (and the comments about wanting to do Oct 7th again…not a great look at encouraging folks to be sympathetic to the Palestinian cause).

    Now, steps two, three, and beyond will deal with rebuilding Gaza (hopefully through a “Marshall plan” approach) and holding Netanyahu to account for the expansion of settlements into the West Bank, ensuring some disarmament or cease-fire agreement between Israel and those living in Gaza, etc.

    But for now, there are still hostages! Whether or not ‘there were large-scale rapes on Oct 7th’ or ‘it was only isolated along the front’ is a PR issue for easily distracted people.

  11. Thanks for your encouragement, Thor, but I stated the focus of both posts in each title: the State of Israel as a whole, and not simply the conflict after October 7th. So just to restate, my question is how ought we to feel about the the creation of the State of Israel that stole huge portions of Arab lands, the Nakba, the occupation, the attempts at ethnic cleaning and “probable” genocide, the whole Israeli colonial project?

  12. How ought we to feel? On the whole, overall, pretty good, I think, compared to the alternatives. There were certainly victims and injustice, but the alternatives all seem a lot worse. Leaving the Jews as a stateless people just three years after the Holocaust seems too ghastly to consider, as does letting post-Ottoman Empire boundaries just sort themselves out through violence. Israel’s neighbors were content to expel their Jewish citizens to Israel, and Israel continues to be a mostly democratic state with a thriving economy and a few million Muslim Arab citizens. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but few things are, and it left a lot of people unhappy, but most things do.

  13. Just to make sure there isn’t misinformation left to run amok:

    The UN specifically said it reviewed hours of footage, thousands of photographs, and the bodies of tortured victims. Its conclusion is that there was reasonable grounds to conclude Israelis were raped by Hamas terrorists on October 7th. The notion that the UN report isn’t founded on evidence is an outright lie.

  14. Am I the only one who used to enjoy Stephen’s posts? I honestly can’t bare any more of this pseudo scholarly garbage. It’s as if they decided T&S needed to die so they told Stephen to kill it fast.

    Last one out, please turn out the lights. I’m gone.

  15. If I understand Stephen’s argument, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an appropriate topic for T&S because many members support Israel for religious reasons. There is apparently no requirement that the post address the religious roots of that support (say, by discussing who the Abrahamic covenant applies to) or draw insights from Restoration beliefs; the content can be pretty much secular.

    I’d like to point out to the T&S admins that many members support the US political party that they do for religious reasons (while disagreeing on which party to support). So by Stephen’s standard, entirely secular arguments about the 2024 election or American politics in general are appropriate topics for T&S. I hope that’s not your intention and I’d encourage you to end this digression into politics.

    I’d encourage Stephen to get back to his planned series on faith. I get where those who say they’re no longer interested in his thoughts are coming from, but I see it as an opportunity to put into practice the council we’ve been given not to judge our fellow members for their political beliefs.

  16. I don’t think things are going very well, Jonathan.

    Anon 1, again, the Times article disputes those claims so your beef is with the Times.

    Anon 2, sorry to see you go.

    RLD, your point about religious roots, I’d argue, is why I viewed this as a Bloggernacle topic. But, yes, I do plan to turn to other topics. Thanks for you support.

  17. Stephen, I agree that things aren’t going well – I just think we’ve got the least bad option.

    Anons et al.: There have always been overtly political posts around here. Discussion of the war in Iraq got heated, or so I hear. There have been some contentious elections over the years.

  18. Stephen, if people support Israel for religious reasons, and you want to change their minds, then logically you’d use religious arguments. Things like “the gathering of Israel is not a moral blank check” or “the Palestinians are descendants of Abraham too.” You haven’t done that. I can’t tell if you’re being disingenuous here, or if you’ve gone so far down a rabbit hole that you’re having a hard time knowing what other people will find persuasive. (Glenn Greenwald and Tucker Carlson? Really?)

  19. Sorry if I’ve picked unpersuasive videos, RLD. I’m not much of a Tucker fan, but did find the conversation I posted interesting. I brought up Jesus a few times on my previous post (sorry if that was preachy!) and that made some people pretty mad.

  20. I thought this was a good summary of how experts slowly learned about the atrocities the creation of Israel caused.

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