The following posts were compiled over the course of this past week and since the last roundup on the Middle East; I may update it with any additional news and commentary that strikes me on Sunday. My intent is to provide one decent roundup on this topic a week to facilitate thought and discussion.
“Our Lord Has Conquered With a Love Capable of Going to Death” Zenit News Service offers a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered last Sunday during a ceremony for Mideast peace over which he presided in the church of Rhemes-Saint-Georges in the Aosta Valley (July 25, 2006):
The Lord has conquered on the cross. He has not conquered with a new empire, with a force that is more powerful than others, capable of destroying them; he has not conquered in a human manner, as we imagine, with an empire stronger than the other. He has conquered with a love capable of going to death.
This is God’s new way of conquering: He does not oppose violence with a stronger violence. He opposes violence precisely with the contrary: with love to the end, his cross. This is God’s humble way of overcoming: With his love — and only thus is it possible — he puts a limit to violence. This is a way of conquering that seems very slow to us, but it is the true way of overcoming evil, of overcoming violence, and we must trust this divine way of overcoming.
To trust means to enter actively in this divine love, to participate in this endeavor of pacification, to be in line with what the Lord says: “Blessed are the peacemakers, the agents of peace, because they are the sons of God.” We must take, in the measure of our possibilities, our love to all those who are suffering, knowing that the Judge of the Last Judgment identifies himself with those who suffer.
Therefore, what we do to those who suffer, we do to the Last Judge of our life. This is important: At this moment we can take his victory to the world, taking part actively in his charity. Today, in a multicultural and multireligious world, many are tempted to say: “For peace in the world, among religions, among cultures, it is better not to speak too much of what is specific to Christianity, that is, of Jesus, of the Church, of the sacraments. Let us be content with what can be more or less common .…”
But it is not true. Precisely at this time, a time of great abuse of the name of God, we have need of the God who overcomes on the cross, who does not conquer with violence, but with his love. Precisely at this time we have need of the Face of Christ to know the true Face of God and so be able to take reconciliation and light to this world. For this reason, together with love, with the message of love, we must also take the testimony of this God, of God’s victory, precisely through the nonviolence of his cross.
See also At the Summit on the Middle East, Benedict XVI Preaches the Cross of Jesus, by Sandro Magister. http://www.Chiesa July 26, 2006.
- Mideast war brings pope’s foreign policy agenda into clearer focus, by John Thavis. Catholic News Service August 4, 2006:
With the war in Lebanon, the Vatican’s Middle East policies under Pope Benedict XVI have come into clearer focus.
To the surprise of some, they look just like the policies of Pope John Paul II.
The Vatican’s insistent call for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon has highlighted a basic disagreement with the United States and some other Western governments. Backing Israel, the U.S. wants a cease-fire conditioned on a wider accord ultimately aimed at disarming Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon.
The pope, on the other hand, has urged all sides to lay down their weapons now, saying nothing can be gained by the current fighting.
- Relief work nearly impossible without cease-fire, says CRS official, by Agostino Bono. Catholic News Service August 4, 2006. (Links and further discussion via Amy Welborn, Lebanon stories from the Catholic press August 4, 2006 — with an interesting and remarkably civil debate between Father Elijah, Victor Morton, “lurker #59” and Tom Haessler in the combox).
- On July 27, 2006, John Allen Jr. interviewed Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando chair of the Committee on International Policy for the U.S. bishops, about the administration’s policy toward Lebanon. On the call for an immediate cease-fire, Bishop Wenski:
Neither the Holy See nor the conference of bishops wants a return to the status quo. We were careful in our statement to point out the difficulties with the weakness of Lebanon, and that allowing the existence of a state within a state in the form of the Hezbollah is not sustainable. We want Lebanon to be strengthened as a sovereign nation. But above all, the fighting should stop. These are not mutually exclusive goals … we can both stop the fighting and continue the disarmament of Hezbollah. Some people seem to want the fighting to continue until there is no Hezbollah left to disarm, but that’s not the right way to reduce the number of mothers who have to mourn the loss of their sons and daughters.
Wenski went on to defend the statements made by Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano (“I think they’ve been pretty much on the money”), denied the appearance of a “pro-Palestinian tilt” to Vatican foreign policy (“I wouldn’t say it’s a question of a lack of balance, but just a different perspective”) and reiterated the Church’s preference for a “two state solution”:
. . . for the State of Israel to be recognized and to survive whatever accommodation needs to be made with the Palestinians. Perhaps we’re more keenly aware of the justice issues involved and the many legitimate grievances that the Palestinian people have, in part because there’s a significant constituency of Palestinian Christians, Palestinian Catholics. This is not a question of being biased for or against one or the other group, but of trying to be a prophetic voice calling for justice. Sometimes people would rather take umbrage than examine their conscience.
See Amy Welborn’s Open Book for discussion and reaction to the Wenski interview.
- The other theater of the war, by Michael Liccione. Sacramentum Vitae July 30, 2006:
War is always and unavoidably horrific. It must be especially sickening for parents who get to see the mangled bodies of their dead children. I haven’t seen that and hope I never will. But even so I am sickened—sickened by the assumption, made apparently even at the Vatican, that there’s some sort of moral equivalency between the combatants in this latest theater of the war with radical Islam. Beyond backing Israel materially, our part in the fight is to discredit that assumption.
- Why Israel keeps fighting – Domenico Bettinelli, Jr. July 28, 2006:
Let’s say that five years ago a man who has declared himself your enemy kidnapped your child, kills hims, and demands $100,000 as ransom plus your pledge that you wouldn’t seek to have him arrested or prosecuted and wouldn’t retaliate in any way. In the interests of peace and forgiveness, you go along with his demands. Six years later, he kidnaps another of your children. What do you do? What would you have Israel do?
I fully support Pope Benedict’s call for an immediate cease-fire and cessation of hostilities. What I don’t think I can support is a unilateral cease-fire by Israel without an equivalent reaction by Hezbollah. That would be appeasement of evil. If Hezbollah agreed to lay down its arms, if Lebanon–and perhaps an international force to help it while it got up to speed–pledged to take responsibility for keeping Hezbolah from attacking Israel, if Syria and Iran pledged to stop supporting Hezbollah, and if Syria pledged to stop interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs, then I think Israel could be convinced to stop its bombardment–after the return of its abducted soldiers–alive–of course.
But until the attacks against it stop, under what principle of justice should Israel lie down and surrender?
- Josh Trevino (Enchiridion Militis) on The fiction of Lebanon July 26, 2006:
Lebanon as a polity was only ever meaningful and valuable inasmuch as it provided a haven for the Christians who would otherwise be slowly annihilated in the manner of their fellow-Christian communities elsewhere in the region. Absent that — and in effect, absent any Western connection at all — there is no rationale for keeping it separate from Syria, or for keeping it geographically united. As the Israelis kill and drive out the jihadist army in the south, then, they are doing far more to preserve Lebanon than destroy it. Hezbollah and its ilk would never have coexisted indefinitely with the Christians — or the Druze — in their putative common state. Islamism is not a foundation for pluralism, and it is not compatible with it. If we value “Lebanon” — and if those protesting that Israel is “punishing” Lebanon, “disproportionately” or otherwise, truly valued Lebanon as anything but a tool with which to bash the Jewish state — then we are compelled to applaud the IDF in its attempt to destroy the force which would, in time, destroy that very country. The true pity is not that the Lebanese suffer — and they do — but that they did not do it themselves.
- On the First Things blog “On The Square”, Villanova U. School of Law professor Robert T. Miller takes issue with Pope Benedict’s call for an immediate ceasefire:
As Joseph Bottum noted here on July 27, talk like this implies a moral equivalence between Hezbollah, which intentionally kills civilians, and the Israelis, who in attempting to put an end to that sort of thing sometimes unintentionally kill civilians despite reasonable precautions. Glossing over that difference fatally vitiates Benedict’s conclusion.
But there’s another problem with Benedict’s position. It may seem unobjectionable, from a moral point of view, to say that parties involved in an armed conflict ought to stop fighting immediately, but in fact there are cases in which this solution would be wrong. An immediate ceasefire between the warring parties in France on, say, June 13, 1944, would have worked to Hitler’s advantage admirably. Whether, in any particular conflict, an immediate ceasefire ultimately promotes justice and peace is, in important part, an empirical question on which popes are not well-qualified to pronounce.
Worse, the immediate ceasefire Benedict favors fits squarely within the definition of victory that Hezbollah has set for the current conflict.
Also blogging for First Things, Frederica Mathewes-Green responds:
Jesus was speaking to an oppressed minority, citizens of an occupied country, when he told them to love their enemies and turn the other cheek. This advice did not free his people from oppression, but then again, neither did open revolt forty years later. But it did allow his followers to live in his spirit, no matter what assailed them. The following centuries, when Christians were even more crushed and humiliated, were indeed the seed of the Church. Powerlessness can be power. . . .
I think we can expect Christian leaders to do no less than issue the same call to unilateral love that Jesus gave—nonsensical as it is if worldly power is the goal. We can expect that these few solitary Christian voices will not be heeded, anyway. But that’s no reason to dilute the strange and unsettling Christian message.
One thing that follows from this is that his advice does not directly translate into policy prescriptions for political leaders who have a moral responsibility to act for the common good of their communities. For example, we are commanded to turn the other cheek as to injuries to ourselves, but not to turn the cheeks of the weak and vulnerable when we have a moral duty to defend them. It’s no part of Christian charity, for example, for a mother to stand by and let her child be raped when she could use force to stop the rapist, including by killing him if necessary. When a sovereign state uses military force to stop unjust aggressors from killing its citizens, we have the same moral principle writ large.
Incidentally, love of neighbor, as applied to the aggressor, also requires that those in charge of the political community act to stop aggressors from perpetrating such crimes. The reason is that love of neighbor means willing what is good for our neighbors, and it is not good for a man that he intentionally kill the innocent, as Hezbollah terrorists do. Murderers harm themselves much more than they harm their victims. It’s an act of charity, therefore, in regard to such people, to use force to stop them from doing such wicked things.
I couldn’t help but notice captured in that brief exchange a similarity to the debate over using military force to end the tyranny of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
See also Does Israel = Hezbollah in B 16’s Moral Calculus?, by Mark Brumley (in response to Prof. Miller). Insight Scoop August 1, 2006.
- Madness. A complete disconnect from reality”, says Dale Price on former American ambassador Raymond L. Flynn’s commentary on the war in Lebanon (National Catholic Register August 6-13, 2006):
Look carefully at Flynn’s piece. Look for the following words: Hezbollah, Islamic, and terrorist.
Total running tally: one–for terrorist. And it’s a quote, not Ray Flynn’s own word.
Instead, we are treated to a caning of Israel–and Israel alone. Along with “political extremists” and “special interest groups.”
For which the only sensible reading in the context of the essay is “Jews,” of course. Which adds a faintly sinister cast to the piece as well, I’m sorry to say.
Not a shred of the essay shows the slightest awareness of the existence of the puppetmasters in Syria or Iran. Instead, Israel is the bully.
This failure to understand the basic facts on the ground would be amazing if it weren’t so utterly sickening.
- Activating Hezbollah cells “to make no place safe for Israelis”: The Implications for Southeast Asia, by Zachary Abuza. CounterTerrorism Blog examines the potential for destruction with the activation of Hezbollah “sleeper cells” in Southeast Asia, where “Hezbollah operatives have been arrested in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines,” taking over legitimate charities and soliciting funds. Judging by the Hezbollah-sponsored terrorist incidents in Asia during the 1990’s, the concern is warranted. (See also German Intelligence Supports Claim of Hizballah Cell Activation, by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross.)
- Israelis & Christians: Hezbollah hits two birds with one stone, by American Papist August 4, 2006, relaying news from Christian Solidarity International that “Hezbollah is using Christian villages to shield its attacks against Israel. According to Christian Solidarity International, Hezbollah is hiding among civilian populations, mostly in southern Lebanese towns, such as Ain Ebel, Rmeish, Alma Alshaab.”
- Scarier than Fiction. This Ongoing War August 3, 2006: On Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the only solution to the Middle East problem is the destruction of Israel. “The primary medicine for the problems of the region and the world is the annihilation of the Zionist regime.” [Source: YNetnews.com”].
If that’s not frightening enough, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has proclaimed: “We think more than ever that the Iranians are an important and respected actor” and “plays an important stabilizing role in the region.” [Source: FARS News Agency].
What to make of the two statements?:
As slightly-amusing as these two pieces of imbecilic logic might be under normal circumstances, they’re neither funny nor trivial here and now. The challenge is to keep in mind that:
– Item 1 reports today’s speech by a head of state who recently addressed the United Nations, and whose country is developing nuclear weapons.
Item 2 reports last week’s speech by a top-level politician from Europe’s largest country – a country which has veto power over the UN Security Council and which has a track record of self-aggrandizing, irresponsible meddling in other people’s affairs.
- It’s All About Peace, Love and Understanding, Eh? – Drink Soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for War examines the exploitation that occurs when “well-meaning Canadian pacifists providing cover for supporters of a heavily-armed terrorist movement that cites among its casus belli the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
- Reuters admits altering Beirut photo, by Yaakov Lappin YnetNews.com:
Reuters withdraws photograph of Beirut after Air Force attack after US blogs, photographers point out ‘blatant evidence of manipulation.’ Reuters’ head of PR says in response, ‘Reuters has suspended photographer until investigations are completed into changes made to photograph.’ Photographer who sent altered image is same Reuters photographer behind many of images from Qana, which have also been subject of suspicions for being staged.
It was only last week that bloggers noticed some discrepancies in reporting on the Qana attack, demonstrating reasont to believe a man who appeared in much of the international press’s coverage of the Qana bombing lifting children’s bodies may have been a Hizbullah agent who staged photo-ops for the international media..
Back in May 2006, a Reuters employee was suspended for issuing a “Zionist pig” death threat, after telling American blogger: ‘I look forward to day when you pigs get your throats cut.’
Update! – Michelle Malkin has a round-up of the Smoke-Clearing Blogstorm — more incidents of photo-doctoring by Reuters have been uncovered, this time involving a depiction of “An Israeli F-16 warplane [firing] missiles during an air strike on Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon, August 2, 2006.”
The blog Sweetness and Light has some questions about what is perhaps the most iconic photograph from the carnage at Qana.
- When Israelis become invisible – The Pontifical council Cor Unum, the charity arm of the Vatican, Cor Unum, has also launched a special drive to raise funds for relief efforts on behalf of the civilian populations of the Middle East. It will be coordinating its efforts with with Catholic charitable agencies operating in the region, such as Caritas-Lebanon and the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.
A special collection for the effort was held in the parish of the blogger Christian Attitudes To Jews, Israel and Zionism, the author of which is concerned about the lack of any mention given toward Israel.
Question: do “those in need in the Middle East” include Jews as well? — A pertinent question. For those who would like to provide direct aid to Israel as well, the Jewish blog Keshertalk provides a convenient list of many worthy organizations doing emergency aid work in Israel. There are victims and refugees on both sides of this conflict.
- Michael Totten offers us a glimpse at “The Real Middle East” July 29, 2006: “The Middle East isn’t a cartoon. It’s a rich and complex place. Many, if not most, of its citizens refuse to submit to the dumb little categories fanatics and outsiders like to impose on them.” For a longer account of his experiences living in Lebanon and it’s political climate and stability, see Lebanon’s Premature Liberalism.
According to Michael, “my sources and friends in Beirut tell me most Lebanese are going easy on Hezbollah as much as they can while the bombs are still falling. But a terrible reckoning awaits them once this is over.”
- Prisoner Exchanges and Moral Choices July 25, 2006. Hezbollah’s intent for kidnapping Israeli soldiers was for the purpose of a prisoner exchange, without which they claim no ceasefire is possible.
Just who are the terrorists Hizbollah and the Palestinians want to see released? — Sigmund, Carl and Alfred look at the case of Samir Kuntar, heralded as “the longest-held Lebanese detainee in Israeli prisons”. The reason for his “detainment”? — Murdering the husband and four-year-old daughter of an Israeli family — in fact, “[smashing] the little girl’s skull in against a rock with his rifle butt.”
Little wonder the former wife of 28-year-old Danny Haran feels “The World Should Know What He Did to My Family” (Washington Post May 18, 2003). The bloggers conclude:
We have a choice. We can support the moral values of a Samir Kuntar or we can support the morality of Smadar Haran Kaiser. We can support the society that produces a Samir Kuntar and demands his release, or we can support the society that finds the likes of Samir Kuntar repulsive and demands he be kept locked away, so that he cannot continue committing acts of terror.
- Speaking of the demand for ceasefire, were you aware that there have already been four cease-fires in south Lebanon—in 1978, 1982, 1993, and 1996? — According to Ze’ev Schiff (How to end the war Ha’aretz):
These agreements were not worth the paper on which they were written. Even withdrawing from Lebanon down to the last millimeter, as confirmed by the UN, did not prevent Hezbollah from continuing its attacks, abducting and killing Israelis, shelling Israeli towns – and no less important, building up a huge array of rockets and missiles, courtesy of Iran and Syria, and digging in very deep along the border. Should Israel’s strategy for ending the war repeat the same scenario? That would be a recipe for suicide.
See Cease-Fire in Lebanon: Two Opinions, by Marc Schulman. American Future Jul 28, 2006.
- Praying for Hummus, Getting Hamas Spiegel Online. July 25, 2006. Zeev Avrahami, a former peace activist, explains why he has laid down his olive branch and is prepared to grab for his rifle:
Eighteen years after finishing my military service — almost two decades after swearing that I would never again wear a uniform — I called the Israeli consulate in New York and gave them my phone number. If the army needed me, I told them, I would be the first on a plane back to Israel.
For those who are overwhelmed by the news and eager to discuss other topics, I would like to remind you of our latest “Here and There” roundup of blogs, articles and commentary — where you’ll hopefully find something which strikes your fancy. (I tried to go light on the politics).