06/19/2004: "Moral equivalence, Middle East style"
On Pentecost, Latin Patriarch Michael Sabbah of Jerusalem preached on the coming of the Holy Spirit, sort of. Mostly he preached about Palestinians and Israelis:
Are we powerless or are we ignorant, not knowing how to discern between good and evil, unable to speak of it or act accordingly? It does not help to hide behind the complexity of the situation. The situation is both simple and clear: The Israelis should live in peace and security. The Palestinians, too, should live in peace and security. Israelis who kill Palestinians are evil. Palestinians who kill Israelis are evil, likewise. Killing is an evil for both, just as Military Occupation with domination and humiliation of the other is an evil, too, which has to be uprooted. We have to say this, to cry out with one single voice.
This is the "thinking" of the Churches for Middle East Peace, a mainline organization made up of the public policy offices of 19 mainlines denominations. It sounds reasonable and even-handed, but it begs dozens of questions, including:
1) Do Israelis have the right to defend themselves with deadly force if necessary?
2) Is there any moral distinction between the deliberate killing of civilians and the military killing of terrorists?
3) How are Israelis to live in "peace and security" when Hamas has dedicated itself, not to the creation of a Palestinian state, but to the total destruction of Israel?
4) If "Military Occupation" is an evil, why is Palestinian leadership so deperate to prevent Israel from pulling out of Gaza? (Answer: because Sharon proposed it, so it must be bad for Palestinians.)
5) Are Israelis who kill Palestinians in the act of trying to blow up civilians just as "evil" as the Palestinians who trying to do the blowing up?
I could go on, but you get the point. Catholic teaching is not pacifistic, and recognizes that the securing of justice sometimes necessitates the use of deadly force against those who sin against justice. It's a pity, though not surprising, that Patriarch Sabbah doesn't grant that right to Israel.