A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas began today after the worst violence in many years. The Israeli security cabinet voted late yesterday to end airstrikes on Gaza. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the cabinet unanimously agreed to a “mutual and unconditional” cessation of hostilities. A Hamas official confirmed that the cease-fire would be “mutual and simultaneous.”
This is obviously good news. However, this cease-fire is not peace. In fact, we should have no expectation that the end to this conflict will prevent the next conflict. Reuters is quoting a resident of Tel Aviv this morning who said, “It’s good that the conflict will end, but unfortunately I don’t feel like we have much time before the next escalation.”
This was the fourth mini-war between Hamas and Israel since 2008. Why could there be a fifth in the future?
The answer illustrates our week-long theme: ideas have consequences.
Four ideas behind Hamas’ attack on Israel
Hamas has been firing thousands of rockets into Jewish cities and communities for nearly two weeks, attacking civilians indiscriminately. The United Nations states that “intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities” is a “war crime.” Hamas engages in such violence for four reasons.
First, they consider all Jews to be enemies worthy of hostility. The Qur’an describes Jews as “apes and swine” whom “Allah has cursed” (5:60; cf. 2:65; 7:166). Moderate Muslims interpret these statements as symbols reflecting the conflict between Jews and Muslims in the early period of Islamic history; Hamas sees them as a call to permanent animosity toward all Jews and a warrant for attacking Jewish citizens.
Second, Hamas believes that Israel by its very existence constitutes an attack on Islam which then requires all Muslims to respond by attacking Israel (cf. Qur’an 2:190). It is convinced that the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 is a theft of land from its rightful Palestinian owners. Israel’s “crime” against Hamas and the Muslim world is therefore the simple fact that it exists.
Third, Hamas views Israeli citizens as complicit in this attack since they are citizens in a democracy. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group influenced by the Islamist scholar Sayyid Qutb. He believed that democracy is heresy, since Allah revealed his perfect guidance for governance in the Qur’an. The Jewish people, as participants in their democracy, are thus part of Israel’s “attack” on Islam and worthy of retribution.
A fourth worldview factor explains the degree to which Hamas engages in violence that affects Muslims in Gaza and beyond. Hamas and similar groups consider Muslims who die in a holy war to be martyrs guaranteed a place in paradise. As a result, Hamas’ leaders are less concerned about killing Muslims in Gaza or Israel and typically hide their missiles and other military apparatus in or near schools, hospitals, and neighborhoods. When Israel attacks these installations and civilians are killed (despite Israel’s intense efforts to avoid such casualties), Hamas can then frame these tragic deaths as Israel’s attack on all Muslims and use them to call the Islamic world to attack Israel in response.
Why Americans choose abortion
The other story dominating the news this week is the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case that could undermine Roe v. Wade. As we noted yesterday, abortion has become a wedge issue driving Americans into increasingly divided partisan camps.
No issue separates Americans from each other more than abortion. According to Gallup, 48 percent of Americans consider themselves pro-choice, while 46 percent consider themselves pro-life. Additionally, 44 percent consider abortion to be morally acceptable, while 47 percent consider it to be morally wrong.
Why do women choose abortion? Studies report the following:
- 1.5 percent said rape or incest contributed to their decision.
- 7 percent cited the health of the mother or the baby.
- 25 percent said the timing was not right or they did not want another child at this time.
- 23 percent said they could not afford to have a baby at this time.
- 19 percent said they were done having children, had grown children, or said other people were depending on them.
Other reasons cited: feeling too young or immature to have a baby, concerns that a baby would interfere with future plans, needing to focus on other children, not wanting people to know they had sex and became pregnant, and not feeing emotionally prepared to become a parent.
In other words, 93 percent of abortions are chosen for reasons that reflect our secularized society. Our post-Christian culture is adamant that personal authenticity is the key to flourishing, that our bodies are our own to do with as we wish, that we should do whatever makes us happy. A society that dismisses or discounts the word of God is no longer constrained by God’s clear teaching that life is sacred from conception to natural death. (For more, see my website paper, “Six vital questions about abortion.“)
How to live a life God can bless
The key to our best lives is living lives God can bless. However, God cannot bless a person or a nation that sanctions the death of unborn children (cf. Leviticus 18:21; Jeremiah 32:35). Nor can he bless a movement that seeks the death of his chosen people (cf. Genesis 12:3). As we will see on Monday, such sins imperil the future for those who commit them.
By contrast, the person who embraces God’s love for them and shares that love with everyone they can is living a life God can bless.
You possess intrinsic dignity and sacred value because the God of the universe loves you. He proved it on the cross: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loves you because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He loves Palestinians and Jews, leaders of Hamas and Israel, Democrats and Republicans and Independents.
And he calls us to respond by loving everyone he loves (1 John 4:19).
Clara Barton risked her life to help wounded soldiers during the Civil War, earning the nickname “the Angel of the Battlefield.” On this day in 1881, she founded the American Red Cross to extend such service to all members of the armed forces and to those facing disasters.
Today, the Red Cross responds to seventy thousand disasters in the US each year, serves an average of 150,000 veterans and military families annually, and works within the world’s largest humanitarian network to serve more than 100 million people across the globe.
All because one person decided to do what she could to help everyone she could.
How will you join her today?