Word Games

At its recent Assembly, The American Presbyterian Church leadership voted 413-62 to divest its stock holdings in Israeli companies and companies that trade extensively with Israel (such as Caterpillar Inc. that manufactures tractors) as a measure of punishment for Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian lands and the sufferings of the Palestinian people. Caterpillar was sorted out for “special treatment” because its bulldozers have been used to level Palestinian homes in Israel’s antiterrorism campaign. Of course, these same bulldozers are also used to remove the debris left behind by Palestinian suicide bombers in their mission to kill men, women and children – but that argument did not seem to sway them.

Shortly thereafter, an American Presbyterian Church delegation touring the Middle East went to Syria and then to Lebanon and met with the leaders of Hezbollah – Iran’s proxy in the Middle East. There, a representative of the Church was quoted as saying on Al Manar (Hezbollah’s satellite TV network) that “We treasure the precious words of Hezbollah and your expression of goodwill towards the American people. We praise your initiative for dialogue and mutual understanding…and we cherish these statements that bring us closer to you.” But the best part was when an elder of the Church declared….. “I’d like to say that according to my recent experience, relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders.” Apparently its easier talking with terrorists than with those who oppose terrorism.


Let’s consider Hezbollah’s “expression of goodwill towards the American people.” On April 18, 1983, A Hezbollah suicide bomber drove a van filled with explosives into the US Embassy in Beirut killing 63 persons including 16 Americans. On October 23, 1983, Hezbollah suicide bombers destroyed the US Marine barracks in Beirut killing 241 American Marines and 58 French soldiers. On March 16, 1984, Iran’s top Hezbollah agent in Beirut, Imad Mugniyeh, took CIA station chief William Buckley hostage and hideously tortured him to death after extracting whatever information he could. On September 20, 1984, the US embassy annex near Beirut was attacked by Hezbollah suicide bombers killing 14 people including 2 Americans. In December 1984, Hezbollah hijacked a Kuwaiti airliner and two American passengers employed by the U.S. Agency for International Development were “sorted out” by the hijackers and murdered. In June 1985, Hezbollah hijacked TWA Flight 847, murdered American Navy diver Robert Stethem and dumped his body on the tarmac of Beirut Airport. In 1988, Mugniyeh kidnapped, tortured and publicly hanged Marine Lt. Col. William Higgins who was on peacekeeping duty in Lebanon. On March 17, 1992, Hezbollah coordinated the attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Buenas Aires, Argentina (killing 29 people) and later, on July 18, 1994, Hezbollah bombed the Argentina-Israeli Mutual Association (AIMA) building in Buenos Aires wounding 300 persons and killing another 86. On July 25, 1996, the Khobar Towers residence in Saudi Arabia was bombed and 19 Americans died.

Today, Hezbollah controls the funding, the logistics, the weapons systems and the expertise to use them of every terror organization in Gaza and the West Bank. Throughout it all, Hezbollah continues to endorse “the taking of hostages,” “suicide in jihad operations” and “the duty of all Muslims to engage in Islamic jihad if it ensures the ultimate goal [of] inflicting losses on the enemy.”

The naivet? of these Hezbollah well-wishers is troubling for several reasons, not the least of which is that, in their desire to do good, these religious leaders simply don’t get it. The Institute on Religion and Democracy, a conservative advocacy think tank in Washington, issued a Report in late September noting that mainline Protestant denominations devoted 37% of their human rights declarations over the past four years to criticism of Israel, far more than any other foreign country. The Institute’s Report is an indictment of the human-rights efforts of mainline churches and groups including the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), plus the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches.

The Report (covering the years 2000 to 2003) found that of 197 human-rights condemnations made by these mainline churches and groups, 37% were aimed at Israel and 32% at the United States. Only 19% of these criticisms were directed at nations listed as “unfree” in Freedom House’s respected annual listing of free, partly free, and unfree nations. In effect, Israel was deemed twice as likely to be condemned by the mainline Protestant churches of America as all the unfree authoritarian nations put together. No criticism (coincidentally) was leveled at China, Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia or North Korea for human rights violations. For many of the liberal Protestant churches, the persecution of Christians in the Third World is less important than the opportunity to declare solidarity with so-called victims of Western imperialism.

….all of which leads to the question – why would any group of people (representing a benevolent religious organization) think that they were furthering the cause of human rights by complimenting an organization whose greatest gift to mankind has been the incorporation of suicide bombers into the post-modern strategy of mega-terror? I suspect the answer has much do with the climate of moral ambiguity that permeates most of western society – an ambiguity summarized by the phrase “one’s man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” It is this moral ambiguity that has allowed the act of terror to be equated with the act of retaliation. Elimination of the terror (by definition) negates the need to retaliate, but equating the two is not only morally reprehensible, it is dangerous.

George Orwell once said that mankind must never make the indefensible defensible. Yet, that is what we have done. Terrorism, the ultimate act of human depravity, has become defensible. On American campuses, “experts” explain to their students why pathological murders might have some grievance behind their deadly harvest of Americans and they continue to distinguish between “good terrorism” and “bad terrorism.”

But the most immoral position of all on the issue of terrorism is that held by many member states of the United Nations. One would think that “terrorism” is a fairly clear-cut issue – the intentional targeting of civilians. But to 30% of UN member states (those belonging to the Organization of the Islamic Conference) “the intentional targeting of civilians” cannot be defined as “terrorism” without regard to the “purpose for which the act is committed.” Thus, “terrorism” ceases to be an immoral act unto itself and can be “justified” to permit barbarians an excuse to commit murder for any number of “causes.” In effect, the murder of 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001 would not qualify as “terrorism” to 30% of the member states of the United Nations. That is outrageous.

And the international media fare no better. Daniel Pipes recently completed a survey on how the term “terrorism” has been mangled and noted that the media simply cannot bring itself to mention the “T” word. It has been watered-down by journalists into at least 20 different euphemisms including assailants (NPR); attackers (Economist); bombers (Guardian); captors (AP); commandos (AFP); criminals (London Times); extremists (UPI); fighters (Washington Post); groups (Australian); guerrillas (New York Post); gunmen (Reuters); hostage-takers (Los Angeles Times); insurgents (New York Times); kidnappers (London Observer); militants (Chicago Tribune); perpetrators (New York Times); radicals (BBC); rebels (Sydney Morning Herald); separatists (Daily Telegraph) and activists (Pakistan Times).

I suspect that, at the root of this equivocation, there is some serious hard core loathing both for the United States and Israel (both of whom the vast majority of nations would rather see on their knees). But the cost of being morally ambiguous on this issue will be high. Unless the nations of the world can agree that the intentional targeting of civilians is a crime against humanity, we will never achieve the unity and moral clarity necessary to defeat Islamic terrorism, and well-meaning organizations throughout the world will continue to lead humanity down the road to hell – albeit, with the best of intentions.

We live in a world that has simply lost its fundamental understanding of right and wrong. All who value life, liberty and justice should take careful note and shudder at this moral – and mortal sickness. This is the way a civilization dies.

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