Friday, July 21, 2006

What does Scripture say about terrorism?

Thanks to Steve for passing this on to me. This column is interesting, and it is written by a rabbi. From
On both sides of any war debate, both pacifists and provocateurs can use the Bible's authority. The same is true for the Qur'an and for the Vedas. God's will and God's ways, we must always remember if we are to be true to the message of faith, are not our own. As Abraham Lincoln cautioned, the important question is not whether God is on our side but whether we are on God's side. However, we ought not conclude from this humble caution that the Bible is utterly recondite and irrelevant to the wars we fight. I believe that the key to the Bible's message to us in this moment is remembering Amalek.

In Deut. 25:17-19 we read: “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.”

What made Amalek so dastardly was that unlike any other enemy who attacked the Israelites fleeing slavery in Egypt from the front, Amalek attacked the rear. This meant that his soldiers could kill women and children, the elderly and the infirm and in so doing avoid engagement with the soldiers at the front. In this way he could produce maximum carnage and maximum terror. The moral problem the Bible addresses is that this is not warfare, it is the slaughter of innocents—it is terrorism.

Why, I wondered, would God command us to remember the terrorist Amalek? There are other villains in the Bible, but there is no biblical command to remember Pharaoh or Nebuchadnezzar, or Cyrus. We are commanded only to remember Amalek. I believe this is because the planned and plotted slaughter of innocents even during wartime cannot be condoned and must be remembered as a bright moral line which can never be crossed. Indeed our remembrance of Amalek is combined with a chilling pledge from God that is also unique in the Bible: “The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exod. 17:16). Our enemies are just our enemies except if our enemy is Amalek. In that case our enemy is also the enemy of God. Amalek thus becomes the symbol of terrorism in every generation. He is the symbol not of evil but of radical evil.
I'm kind of anal retenetive when it comes to semantics, so I somewhat chuckle when I see "evil vs. radical evil." Is there a "moderate evil" or "evil lite"? No, I don't disagree with the rabbi's analysis, but I am amused at the "radical evil" line. I know what he's trying to say, though.

Anywho, continuing:
In our generation Amalek is alive and well and killing the weak ones at the rear of the march. Amalek has attacked the rear of our line of march in Madrid and Bombay, in Jakarta and London, in Haifa and Tel Aviv, in New York and Washington, in a quiet field in Pennsylvania and in a hundred other homes and families—leaving them covered with blood and tears. Yes, one can disagree and debate how Amalek must be fought, but not that Amalek must be fought. One must report and mourn the innocents who are inadvertently killed by our soldiers in our battle against Amalek, but that remembrance must always make the spiritual moral and political distinction that our victims were killed by mistake and Amalek's victims were killed by design.

I have no new or fresh or insightful take on the latest battle in the worldwide war on Islamic fascism except the message of our president: victory is the only way. In my heart and prayers, I thank President Bush for remembering Amalek. And to all the world leaders who are used to thinking about war as just a struggle for land or oil or power, remember that this war is different and this enemy is different. If you can, come to realize that this is a war against a lover of slaughter. If you join us, then we shall not have to fight Amalek alone and he cannot again attack the weak ones at the rear of the line.
There are those who condemn Israel for blowing up places where terrorists are hiding among the innocents, yet those same condemners are sickeningly silent when the terrorists do the same thing. I guess said condemners' tolerance for dead Jews is a lot higher than their tolerance for dead terrorists. At any rate, whether one believes in God or the Bible, the "weak ones at the rear of the line" analogy is a valid one, and one that we must keep in mind as we fight the Amaleks of the world.