Saturday, January 31, 2009

Never forgetting means actively remembering

There has been a lot in the news this past week about the Holy Father lifting the excommunications of the four bishops ordained illicitly, in a schismatic act, by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. Like the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, this is something I do not personally understand, but my not getting it, even in my own mind, means little to nothing. I trust the Holy Father's judgment.

I am disturbed by so many recent manifestations of anti-Semitism in the world, especially in Europe and the Middle East, but even in the U.S. Foremost among these is Bishop Richard Williamson's denial of the murder of some six million Jews by the German Reich in concentration camps in the 1930s and '40s on Swedish television. These idiotic views deserve nothing but the strongest repudiation. Of course, Williamson is one of the four bishops whose excommunication the Holy Father graciously lifted. To their credit, the other three have denounced his delusional views and called on him to remain silent on such matters. His words are despicable. If he is now in communion with the Holy Father his first act of obedience should be a long silence. It is made even more disturbing in light of the Church's centuries-long record with regard to European Jewry, which is sad and indefensible, a denial of the humanity of Jesus Christ and a repudiation of the indispensable role of Israel in God's plan to reconcile to the world to Himself.

As to the denunciations of Israel's act of self-defense in Gaza, it seems clear that Israel cannot let random and persistent rocket attacks against towns and villages from Gaza go unchecked. Can you imagine our government doing such a thing were we to be attacked from just across any of our borders? Gaza City is one of the most densely populated places on planet earth and the Hamas cowards who indiscriminately shoot rockets into Israel take full advantage of this fact, using women, children, schools, mosques, and hospitals for military advantage, which international laws prohibit. They then use Israeli retaliation, which at times is arguably disproportionate, against these acts of cowardice to successfully curry world favor, using the media and even other nations and international organizations to execute their propaganda campaign. It may interest some to learn that international law permits the targeting of sites that are otherwise protected when they are being used for military advantage.

"War is hell", as General Sherman observed while marching to the sea. Hence, violence should be avoided whenever possible, but when it becomes necessary, violence needs to be proportionate and methodical, inflicting only the minimum amount of damage necessary to achieve the objective, the ultimate objective being the restoration of peace. Certainly there are lamentable actions that occur during military campaigns. We have to be careful when denouncing a wrong action not to deny the right of a country to self-defense. Even in our years long campaign in Afghanistan, the moral justifiability of which is not in dispute, there have certainly been unethical, illegal, and immoral actions taken by elements of U.S. and coalition forces, actions that have resulted in unnecssary deaths, destruction, and suffering. However, even in the face of horror, reason must not elude us as it did Turkish P.M. Erdogan this week at Davos with his theatrics during a speech by Israeli President Shimon Peres. After all, Pres. Peres shared a Noble Peace Prize with the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. What has Erdogan done to further the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians? If you answered "Nothing, except to move Turkey from a moderate, even friendly, position with Israel to a more hard-line, somewhat antagonistic stance" you'd be correct. Especially in light of the Republic of Turkey's shabby human rights record as it pertains to the treatment of Armenians, Kurds, Christians, and other ethnic and religious minorities, Erdogan has no moral high ground from which to shout denunciations. Although maybe he was seeking to ingratiate himself with European leaders, whose favor he needs to successfully gain Turkish membership in the European Union.

The cowardice of Hamas, which is a terrorist group whose main preoccupation is the destruction of the State of Israel, is made worse by the fact that they are using territory previously occupied by Israel, from which Israel unilaterally withdrew in 2005, to fire rockets indiscriminately into Israel. What other nation would the international community denounce for protecting their citizens and territory? I am sorry, but just as I see some residual anti-Catholicism in much anti-immigration fervor in the U.S., I see residual and latent anti-Semitism in the positions of many large European countries as regards the Israeli-Palestinian question. I assess that this is also fuelled by their fears concerning radical and potentially or actually violent elements within the Muslim populations of their countries. Of course, this does nothing to explain former Pres. Carter's anti-Israeli stance, which one sincerely hopes the Obama Administration resolutely ignores in their Middle East engagement.

A hanging question for us is how can we get so worked up and retaliate in so a great a manner when attacked ourselves, then turn around and denounce a country who is almost daily attacked by terrorists for defending themselves by seeking to end these attacks? Do not misunderstand, we were right to respond to the attacks on the World Trade Center by taking out the Taliban and seeking to dismantle Al-Qaeda, thus preventing Afghanistan from continuing to be used as a base of worldwide terrorist operations from whence other attacks could be financed, planned, trained for, and executed.

So, what is the answer? How can a lasting peace, which can only be a just peace, be achieved? I suggest that a necessary first step is that the U.S., the U.N., and Islamic states must do more than merely denounce Hamas, but take actions that force Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza, bringing it once again under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. Under no circumstances can Islamic states, again, be complicit in allowing a terrorist group to govern a territory, no matter how small. Hamas must not be allowed to continue to act independently and in a belligerent and bellicose manner against Israel, refusing to acknowledge the right of the State of Israel to exist and then crying foul. Do not misunderstand me, the plight of the Palestinian people is misery. They require just solutions to a myriad of problems. In order to achieve a just and lasting peace, they must have leaders who recognize that waging persistent and perpetual war will never allow the conditions necessary to reach that desired end state.

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