Saturday, May 11, 2024

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religion, Legitimacy, and Violence in Israel

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., May 11, 2024

Religion is the primary source of the standards of political legitimacy, and Israel is the ancient crucible of global violence between the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  God’s will is to reconcile and redeem humanity, but Satan’s will is to divide and conquer and it continues to dominate the unending religious and political violence in Israel.   

The altruistic standard for God’s will is the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including those of other races and religions as we love ourselves.  It’s taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus and has been accepted as a common word of faith by Islamic scholars; but there is little support in Israel for its moral imperative of reconciliation.

The law provides obligatory standards of political legitimacy, followed by the voluntary standards of morality and national values.  In the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil, human depravity has given demagogues who seek to divide and conquer their adversaries an advantage over God’s will to reconcile and redeem humanity. 

Democracy is not a panacea that provides legitimacy.  Winston Churchill once called democracy “The worst form of government, except for all the others.”  Democracy reflects a nation’s legal and moral standards of political legitimacy--for good or bad.  If the U.S. expects to be an example of libertarian democracy for the rest of the world, it needs to clean up its act. 

After the Hamas attack on October 7 2023 President Biden assured Netanyahu that he was a Zionist, and that America “had Israel’s back.” After Israel’s IDF had killed over 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, Biden paused sending more bombs to Israel unless it called off its planned attack on Rafah.  Netanyahu refuted Biden’s conditions and asserted that Israel will go it alone.

The indiscriminate bombing of Palestinians by Israel is a violation of international human rights treaties to which the U.S. is a party, and President Biden is sworn to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and its treaties.  Biden is not alone in ignoring treaties.  Trump is even more indifferent to those fundamental standards of law and political legitimacy than Biden.

Biden and Netanyahu are in a standoff.  For American voters to have a legitimate choice for President in November, Biden will have to comply with his oath to support and defend the Constitution and treaties that are America’s law of the land.  Otherwise, Biden’s support of Netanyahu’s indiscriminate bombing of Palestinians could make Biden culpable for war crimes.

Opposition to Netanyahu’s oppressive policies toward Palestinians is not antisemitic.  Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas terrorism, but that does not justify the unlawful killing of Palestinian civilians.  America’s foreign policy has aided and abetted the unlawful killing of Palestinians by Netanyahu’s IDF.  To be legitimate, it should comply with international law.


A Democratic senator questioned whether the Biden administration properly assessed whether Israel was complying with international law, following a Reuters report that some senior U.S. officials did not find that country's assurances credible. "This reporting casts serious doubt on the integrity of the process in the Biden administration for reviewing whether the Netanyahu government is complying with international law in Gaza," Senator Chris Van Hollen said in a statement. The Reuters report found that some senior State Department officials have advised Secretary of State Antony Blinken that they do not find "credible or reliable" Israel's assurances that it is using U.S.-supplied weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law. Van Hollen said the Reuters report had found that the recommendations of those bureaus "were swept aside for political convenience." "The determination regarding compliance with international law is one of fact and law. The facts and law should not be ignored to achieve a pre-determined policy outcome. Our credibility is on the line," he said. Van Hollen and some other Democratic lawmakers have pressed President Joe Biden to impose conditions on military assistance to pressure Israel to limit civilian deaths in the Gaza conflict. So far, the administration has not done so. The war, now in its seventh month, was triggered by an attack by Hamas militants that left approximately 1,200 people in Israel dead and where 253 hostages were taken. Israel has responded with a military operation that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's health authorities. The war has displaced most of the 2.3 million people who called the area home and has laid waste to much of the densely populated enclave.”

Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s deputy foreign minister, said that an Israeli military offensive on the city of Rafah would break international humanitarian law and not lead to the eradication of Hamas, but he held back from spelling out any planned British consequences if a full-scale invasion goes ahead. The UK said its aim was to secure a permanent and sustained ceasefire, and the removal of Hamas from the future governance of Gaza. The British statement that Israel has presented no credible plan for the invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza that complies with international humanitarian law follows a similar statement by the French foreign ministry on Monday. Mitchell went further saying such an invasion may end up strengthening, not weakening, Hamas. Elsewhere in Europe, the EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said: “The offensive on Rafah has resumed, despite all the demands of the international community, the United States, the member states of the European Union and all those who have asked Mr Netanyahu not to attack. “Despite warnings and requests, the attack began at night. I fear that this is going to cause many civilian deaths again … because there are no safe areas in Gaza.” Borrell added: “There are 600,000 children in Gaza.” America has asked its allies to hold off threatening Israel with any public consequences if it goes ahead with a full-scale attack on Rafah, arguing the priority for the next 48 hours was to coax Israel into accepting the ceasefire plan. Mitchell twice referred to others in the Israeli government apart from the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, suggesting western allies may still hope the crisis leads centrists, such as Benny Gantz, to break from Netanyahu. So far Gantz has called for the ceasefire talks to continue, but added that the proposal offered by Hamas “does not correspond to the dialogue that has taken place so far with the mediators and has significant gaps”. The UN and Mitchell were unequivocal in their calls for Israel to end its renewed block on humanitarian aid. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, on Tuesday called for crossings into Gaza to be reopened immediately to allow in essential aid, and urged Israel to “stop any escalation” after it sent tanks into Rafah. “Things are moving in the wrong direction. I am disturbed and distressed by the renewed military activity in Rafah by the Israel Defense Forces,” he said.

This past week The Washington Post reported “the Biden administration paused the shipment of thousands of weapons to Israel, including controversial 2,000-pound bombs, amid mounting concern about the country’s plan to expand a military operation in southern Gaza that could dramatically increase the conflict’s death toll, according to U.S. officials. “Israel should not launch a major ground operation in Rafah, where more than a million people are sheltering with nowhere else to go,” said a senior administration official, explaining the U.S. decision to pause the weapons shipments. “We are especially focused on the end-use of the 2,000-pound bombs and the impact they could have in dense urban settings as we have seen in other parts of Gaza.”  The disclosure marks the first known instance of a pause in U.S. arms transfers since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack into Israel that killed more than 1,200 people. Since then, the United States has surged tens of thousands of bombs and missiles to its ally even as huge swaths of Gaza have been turned to rubble and the death toll among Palestinians has ballooned to more than 34,000, many of them women and children, according to local health authorities. President Biden has described the bombing as “indiscriminate,” but he has been reluctant to leverage weapons transfers to try to force a change in Israel’s behavior. The Biden administration is reviewing other planned transfers that are not set to ship imminently, the first official said. That pertains to 6,500 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which convert free-fall “dumb bombs” into precision-guided weapons, people familiar with the matter said. Though delayed, those munitions as well as last week’s paused shipment could still be delivered depending on the White House’s discretion. “We have not made a final determination on how to proceed,” the U.S. official said. On Monday, Biden warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about his administration’s concern. “The president doesn’t want to see operations in Rafah that put at greater risk the more than a million people that are seeking refuge there,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. A day earlier, Netanyahu rejected calls to halt the war in Gaza, saying that “if Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. No amount of pressure, no decision by any international forum will stop Israel from defending itself,” he said. See

Biden has said the US won’t supply weapons for Israel to attack Rafah in warning to ally.  “Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,” Biden told CNN. “I made it clear that if they go into Rafah — they haven’t gone in Rafah yet — if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, that deal with that problem.” “We’re not walking away from Israel’s security,” Biden continued. “We’re walking away from Israel’s ability to wage war in those areas.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier Wednesday confirmed the weapons delay, telling the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that the U.S. paused “one shipment of high payload munitions.” “We’re going to continue to do what’s necessary to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself,” Austin said. “But that said, we are currently reviewing some near-term security assistance shipments in the context of unfolding events in Rafah.” It also comes as the Biden administration is due to deliver a first-of-its-kind formal verdict this week on whether the airstrikes on Gaza and restrictions on delivery of aid have violated international and U.S. laws designed to spare civilians from the worst horrors of war.”  

See also,

On the relationship between U.S. foreign policy in Israel and Christian nationalism, see 

#494 (5/4/24): Musings on the Need for More Faith and Less Religion in a Violent World

Also, #473 (12/9/23): Protecting Civilians from the  Ravages of War in Israel and Ukraine

Also, #474 (12/16/23): Musings on Why Criticism of Netanyahu’s Militant Zionism is not Antisemitic,

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