I ran across this image of a building bombed by Israeli aircraft:
It wasn’t from this weekend though. It’s a photo from exactly 50 years ago when Israel was invaded by Egypt and Syria on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. That year Ramadan overlapped Yom Kippur, so it was also a day set aside by Muslims for prayer and fasting. The destroyed building was a Syrian army headquarters:
That conflict was a proxy war between the great super powers. Israel was (and is) supplied by the United States while Egypt and Syria received arms from the Soviet Union. Israel was completely surprised and it was a close thing. Several years later Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt and withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula. Both countries have benefited from a prolonged period of peace and prosperity.
Both countries have also experienced terrorism over the years. The groups responsible and their aims can’t be easily summarized, but destruction of Israel seems to be a common goal. The US State Department has designated four countries as sponsors of terrorism. Two of them are Syria and Iran.
Over the weekend, Hamas terrorists massacred hundreds of civilians at a music festival as a part of a broader offensive in southern Israel. Anyone objecting to calling them terrorists should read this first-hand account. There are a great many conflicting stories being told since it’s a volatile and divisive situation. But if we can’t call the murder of hundreds of unarmed civilians “terrorism” or worse, language has no meaning at all.
As the conflict shifts to Israel’s response, we’re seeing images of death and destruction caused by Israeli forces. Hamas has learned to hide war material in mosques, residential neighborhoods, vital infrastructure and so on. They have no hope of achieving their political objectives with military action, so they must resort to the tactics of guerrilla warfare. As we learned in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Vietnam and Somalia), confronting these tactics comes with nearly impossible ethical conundrums. The tactics of an enemy do not justify war crimes, so Israel must also be held to account.
Living on the other side of the world, I find my only response is to pray:
- for the families of the victims,
- for the people taken hostage,
- for the Palestinian civilians who are not participating in the violence but will nonetheless suffer,
- for world leaders who must now decide how to respond,
- for the reporters and other observers who must make sense of the senseless and
- for the people who are participating in the violence.
I believe in a god who is more powerful than the strongest evil and can change the hearts of the wicked. I don’t fully know why he allows such things to exist, but I know God listens to the prayers of the righteous.