Israel has ended Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. So long as Hamas holds its fire, Israel intends to withdraw all of its soldiers from the Gaza Strip by the time that Barack Obama takes the oath of office tomorrow.
Until his final day in office, President Bush remained steadfast in his support for Israel and its right to self defense. While so many other world leaders sought to stop Israel from doing exactly what they would do if their cities were under missile fire, President Bush never applied such a double standard. I know that the over 10,000 e-mails we in Christians United for Israel sent to President Bush to encourage him in his stand with Israel made a difference. A large majority of Americans felt that Israel’s actions in Gaza were justified. We were wise not to be a silent majority.
As Barack Obama takes office tomorrow, we will pray for his safety and his success. We will pray that he will have the wisdom to lead this country out of our economic troubles and the courage to confront those who plot against us abroad. Finally, we will pray that he will keep the important campaign promises he made to ensure Israel’s security and prevent a nuclear Iran.
It is difficult to ignore the symbolism inherent in the fact that the hostilities in Gaza are ending today, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Dr. King, of course, was a strong supporter of the state of Israel. In a March 25, 1968 speech to the Rabbinical Assembly, for example, Dr. King said: “peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”
While Dr. King believed in and practiced nonviolence, he also understood the limits of nonviolence. King was a student of Reinhold Niebuhr, a Christian theologian who strongly supported America’s fight for freedom in World War II and the Cold War. As King himself wrote, “Niebuhr began emphasizing the irresponsibility of relying on nonviolent resistance when there was no ground for believing that it would be successful in preventing the spread of totalitarian tyranny.”
If Israel were still fighting British occupation, then nonviolence might be a productive course. But instead, Israel battles enemies committed to destroying the Jewish State and killing as many Israeli civilians as possible in the effort to achieve that goal. In such circumstances, nonviolence would be more than irresponsible — it would be suicidal. As has been widely noted, if the Hamas were to lay down its arms, there would be no war. If Israel were to lay down its arms, there would be no Israel.
If nonviolence doesn’t work against tyrants or terrorists, then when does it work? Here is King once again summarizing Niebuhr, “It [nonviolence] could only be successful … if the groups against whom the resistance was taking place had some degree of moral conscience, as was the case in Gandhi’s struggle against the British.”
And thus we arrive at the ultimate irony. While Israeli nonviolence against Hamas or Hezbollah would mean the end of Israel, a Palestinian policy of nonviolence against Israel would mean peace. Israelis tend to support a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians provided that the Palestinians will not use the land they are given as a base form which to launch terrorist attacks and/or rockets against Israel. The more the Palestinians engage in terror, the less willing the Israelis become to make concessions that would only further endanger them. Were the Palestinians to finally and truly reject terrorism, the greatest barrier to a negotiated peace would be removed.
As we say goodbye to President Bush, and welcome President Obama, let us honor Dr. King. Let us hope for peace and reconciliation. Let us dream of a day when Israelis and Palestinians meet to break bread, not hearts. But let us remain as realistic as Niebuhr and King himself. There is no other way to the Promised Land.