“What Would You Do” If you were the Israeli PM?

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January 6, 2009 by Ron Madson

After expressing my opinion last week to a group of friends that the bombing and invasion of Gaza by Israel constituted terrorism, someone e-mailed and asked a question: “So what would you do if you were the Israeli Prime Minister?”

Fair enough. The person asking the question posed it rhetorically assuming that anyone confronted with the Palestinian/Hamas enemies would have no choice but to retaliate. Such is the logic of those who believe “there is no other way.”

However, I know exactly what I would do if I I were the Israeli Prime Minister. I would consider the voices of such Israeli dissident groups such as Gush Shalom and very strong voices within Israel that have long since recognized that Israel has imposed crushing food and economic embargoes on Palestinians. You can find many Israeli citizens who preach day and night in a Jeremiah fashion that it is the Israeli government that is the aggressor and provoker in the past and now
this present situation. Maybe they are as deluded as the anti-war protestors in America. Maybe not. But let us assume that it is the Palestinians that are dead wrong and the aggressor and that they are evil and Israel is the innocent victim. Either way as a disciple of Christ my approach would be the same.

I would seek to destroy the Palestinians in the very way Christ taught us how to destroy our enemies. I would do what Gush Shalom proposes and then more: I would flood Palestine with food, economic relief/opportunities, water (no longer cut of their water supplies in any way). I would return good for evil aggressively and unrelentingly. I would meet with their leaders—including terrorists (they call themselves defenders, but no matter) and I would beg for forgiveness for all wrongs that Israeli has done in any way. I would council with them and when they ask for such and such I would consider ways to practically double their request. I would find ways to give the Palestinians the dignity and respect that any human being deserves. I would destroy their war
narrative.
Is my proposal absurd? Perhaps. It is as absurd and impractical as the Sermon on the Mount. In Franco Zefrilli’s “Jesus the Christ'” there is that great scene in temple when Jesus is confronted by Barrabas and the Zealots and they say “Jesus we know you are the Messiah and we will do anything you tell us to do.” Jesus looks intently on Barrabas and says: “Barrabas, love your enemies, do good to them, and forgive them.” The look of Barrabas is that same look any well
intentioned user of force/violence to “do good” has: He looks at Jesus like he is a complete dreamer and fool who understands nothing about the world. So Barrabas and the zealots continue to do their thing until they bring about the very thing they sought to prevent.

So where are the examples of applying Christ’s absurd and foolish approach?
King Ashoka of India (circa 200 BC). After being converted to God, King Ashoka approached his enemies whom he had defeated and begged for forgiveness. He provided restitution and aggressively and unrelentingly blessed his enemies to their great bewilderment, and in the words of Durant peace broke out for two centuries—the irony is that Christ’s way if applied really works but we do we really believe His words? No, we are only pretenders and do not try to apply it anymore than Barrabas and the Zealots who in words accepted Christ but in deeds fully rejected Him.

So Israel wants Hamas to quit attacking or bombing them. Really? And unrelenting and disproportionate retaliation works? The reality is that Mormon gets it right: “It is by the wicked that the wicked are punished.”

I am no defender of Hamas or any form of their revenge. I just believe that the old formula of eye for eye and vengeance does not work. I can also see how if Israel can spin, like Hamas, their narratives in just days after acts of aggression then how easy it would be for Israel over centuries of oral traditions (before reducing to writing) to come up with the ultimate taking the Lord’s name in vain after the Exodus: “God told us to invade Palestine and kill all men, women and children”— right. No wonder the Father had to send the Son to clear up the national self deceit that continues to day in full glory because when the prophets told them how wrong they were they could not kill them fast enough.

What would I do? I would hope I would do exactly what the Son of God or any real prophet or leader acting in His name would do. Isn’t it about time we take Him at His words?

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13 thoughts on ““What Would You Do” If you were the Israeli PM?

  1. Natalie says:

    This is so brilliantly written and argued. Thank you! I recently commented on the whole Gaza situation on my blog, but not nearly as eloquently or persuasively. I’m going to link to this article from there, if you don’t mind.

  2. Ron Madson says:

    Natalie:
    Thank you for your kinds words. I checked out your blog and also greatly appreciate the integrity and sincerity of your comments as to this issue. As one great writer, Wendell Berry, stated: “All wars are a failure of imagination.” I would take it one step further. All wars are a failure of one or both sides to follow the light of Christ. I have grown up with an affinity for Israel and compassion for their plight. However, when we retaliate and seek vengeance or “justice” as we define it we often begin to unwittingly become the very thing we deplore. We go over to the dark side. Christ came to “take upon him the sins of the world” and has invited us to come follow Him. In so doing we must take upon ourselves the cross and not the sword. Thanks again for your interest and contribution. There are many of our faith (Mormon) that are conflicted as you are on this issue, but what we have in common is a faith that in the end only the Gospel of Christ (not moses (eye for eye) will break this cycle of madness.

  3. Brandon G says:

    Hey Ron, I just read your reply to the divide assunder blog. I appreciate it. I have been preaching this for several years now, and because I do not write as eloquently as you, it has been hard to articulate that message. The fact that the Book of Mormon is not to be mimicked is a crushing blow to people who argue war by using the Nephite wars.
    Thanks Ron. I will be following this blog.

  4. Ron Madson says:

    Brandon,
    thank you for your interest. My son and I, Joshua Madson (who also posts with the Mormon Worker) have been working on a book together that focuses on War Doctrine from an LDS perspective. Our thesis is that all our scriptures and doctrines must be filtered through the prisms of the teachings of Christ which words of Christ Nephi told us would tell us “all things we must DO.” We review the OT, DC and BOM and church history and argue that the Lord is trying to pull us out of the morass of vengeance (telestial) to pure self defense (terrestrial response) to finally a celestial response that will change the whole paradigm of world history. What you are doing, and other like minded is adding one voice after another to proclaim peace as Elder Nelson envisioned in his conference talk of October 2002. We intend to start trying out some of our writings and chapters through this forum and others. Any input, criticism or suggestions (including experiences among our faith in expressing a message of peace) would be helpful. The more we have studied this issue the more remarkable the findings when we see the forest instead of the trees….

  5. Great insight into the situation. Until either side is willing to stop this dance of death, there can be no peace. Given that we have more connection to Israel, via a closer cultural background and the incredible financial support of Israel by the US, I think we can and should expect them to take that first step.

  6. [...] Ron Madson of The Mormon Worker proposed an idea which is almost unheard of in our martial world today: I would seek to destroy the Palestinians in the very way Christ taught us how to destroy our enemies. I would do what Gush Shalom proposes and then more: I would flood Palestine with food, economic relief/opportunities, water (no longer cut of their water supplies in any way). I would return good for evil aggressively and unrelentingly. I would meet with their leaders—including terrorists (they call themselves defenders, but no matter) and I would beg for forgiveness for all wrongs that Israeli has done in any way. I would council with them and when they ask for such and such I would consider ways to practically double their request. I would find ways to give the Palestinians the dignity and respect that any human being deserves. I would destroy their war narrative (“What Would You Do If you were the Israeli PM?“). [...]

  7. Forest Simmons says:

    If I remember correctly, it was Isaac Asimov’s character Harry Seldon in “Caves of Steel” that said the memorable words, “Violence is the last resort of the incompetent,” which I take to mean that the incompetent always end up resorting to it, because of lack of imagination.

    The last verse in Chapter 5 of Helaman shows that non-violent means brought about the return of Nephite lands to them after all military attempts had failed, confirming Alma 21:5 .

    I believe that chapters 4 and 5 of Helaman chronicle a type of something that will happen soon, with the USA corresponding to the decadent Nephites (who had proudly rejected great light and knowledge) and some remnant of “Jacob as a young lion” (perhaps from Latin America or China) corresponding to the Lamanite invaders of yore.

    The modern parallel is that some modern “heathens” (i.e. as yet unenlightened remnants of Jacob) invade the USA. Surviving gringos retreat to some place in Canada, and eventually with great military effort take back one small sector of the USA. Then a few powerful missionaries are instrumental in the conversion of the more part of the invaders in less than one year’s time. These converts voluntarily return the rest of the lands to the surviving gringos.

    This massive conversion prompts the wonderment of “who hat begotten me these?” And “More are the children of the desolate than of the married wife.”

    Paul must of had this massive conversion in mind when he said …
    ” For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in [cf. 3 Nephi 16:10-16]. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:”

  8. Ron Madson says:

    Forest,
    very, very intriguing comments. I had never heard that quote by Asimov—perfect. One of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry said something similar–“war is a failure of imagination.”
    Pres. Benson did tell us that the books of Heleman and Nephi are types for our day. Makes for some interesting speculation.

  9. theradicalmormon says:

    Forest,
    I love Helaman 5 and I have long held those types of thoughts myself. Have you ever read the Millenial Messiah by Bruce McKonkie? Let me see if I can see if I can find the pertinent quote. In the meantime, I think that D&C 45 has relation to how a Helaman 5 scenario might play out in the latter-days.

    68 And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.
    69 And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another.

    How would people know to flee to Zion and be gathered in if it were not for Nephi and Lehi-like missionaries to go to their war-torn lands to bring them back?

    Here is the McKonkie quote:

    But what is not as well understood among us as it should be is that the harvest is to go forward under increasingly difficult circumstances. It could not be otherwise in a world that is ripening in iniquity. War and pestilence and desolation shall cover the earth before the Lord comes, and the preaching of his holy word must and shall go forward in the midst of these. “I call upon the weak things of the world,” the Lord says, “those who are unlearned and despised, to thrash the nations by the power of my Spirit.” To thrash is to thresh; they are one and the same.
    How and under what circumstances shall this preaching go forward? “Their arm shall be my arm,” the Lord says of his servants, “and I will be their shield and their buckler; and I will gird up their loins, and they shall fight manfully for me; and their enemies shall be under their feet; and I will let fall the sword in their behalf, and by the fire of mine indignation will I preserve them.” This promise to let the sword fall in behalf of his servants must of necessity mean that the Lord will use the wars that are fomented and fought by the wicked to open nations and kingdoms to the preaching of the gospel. Thus, by the weak and the simple, laboring in the midst of tribulation, “the poor and the meek shall have the gospel preached unto them, and they shall be looking forth for the time of my coming,” saith the Lord, “for it is nigh at hand.” (D&C 35:11-15.)
    Let us, then, look at the prophetic word which associates the preaching of the gospel in the last days with a time of war and desolation. Micah, after saying “the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains,” with Israel gathering thereto, says that “many nations” shall then gather against the Lord’s people. “But they know not the thoughts of the Lord,” he says, “neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor.” That is to say: When nations and peoples gather to oppose us, we must preach the saving truths to them as Ammon and his brethren did to the Lamanites. There is nothing but the gospel that will soften the hearts of men and cause them to turn away from war, and from evil, and from opposition to God.
    It is in this setting, then, that the Lord commands: “Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion”—stand forth, proclaim my word, thrust in your sickles, carry many sheaves to the threshing floor—”for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.” (Micah 4:1, 11-13.) The laborers in the Lord’s fields will come off triumphant; they will make many converts whose substance will be used to further the work.
    Joseph Smith poured forth these eloquent words relative to the preaching of the gospel in our day: “The servants of God will not have gone over the nations of the Gentiles, with a warning voice, until the destroying angel will commence to waste the inhabitants of the earth, and as the prophet hath said, ‘It shall be a vexation to hear the report.’ I speak thus because I feel for my fellow men; I do it in the name of the Lord, being moved upon by the Holy Spirit. Oh, that I could snatch them from the vortex of misery, into which I behold them plunging themselves, by their sins; that I might be enabled by the warning voice, to be an instrument of bringing them to unfeigned repentance, that they might have faith to stand in the evil day!” (Teachings, p. 87.)

    (Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 139.)

    In addition to being mentioned 3 times by the Lord in 3rd Nephi, the Micah prophecy gets air time in Mormon 5:22-24 and in D&C 87 as well. Pretty important stuff to get that much mention. There is a parallel to Helaman 5 in the writings of Enoch who used the Word of God to turn away the armies of the Earth. Who is to say that these things are not a shadow of things to come?

  10. Forest Simmons says:

    Thanks, guys. Another great type is Joseph and his coat of many colors. Chapter 3 of Second Nephi together with the JS translation of GENESIS 50: 24-38 are very enlightening.

    Just as Joseph (after being apart from his brethren)saved his father’s family from famine, so the writings of Joseph and some of his descendants that were apart from their brethren would (in the latter days) be instrumental in saving the rest of Jacob from a famine of truth, etc.

    See also JS Genesis 48:11 11 “For thou shalt be a light unto my people, to deliver them in the days of their captivity, from bondage; and to bring salvation unto them, when they are altogether bowed down under sin.”

    I know Brother Nibley says that the “coat of many colors” might be a bad translation, but to me it makes sense as a symbol of Joseph’s descendants mixing in with people of color all over the world until all of them can claim him as an ancestor.

    Always Nephi, Jacob, Isaiah, etc. say that there will be two kinds of people among the colonizers of the lands that would be stolen from the remnants of Jacob. There would be the exploiters treading them down, and those sympathetic nursing mothers and foster fathers that would first take them the Bible, and then the Book of Mormon.

    The heyday of these Gentile colonizers is referred to as the “fulness of the gentiles,” first mentioned in Genesis 48:19
    “.. but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his bseed shall become a multitude of nations.”

    According to Gileadi and others more knowledgeable than I, the phrase “a multitude of nations” is a weak translation of “the fulness of the Gentiles.”

    In other words, we Ephraimites are gentiles with the responsibility of taking the gospel to the rest of the house of Jacob, the people of color throughout the world. As we approach the end of the fulness of the gentiles, our fellow gringos are slamming more and more doors on the missionaries, while the humble people of color are letting them in. In our inner city stake, our convert baptisms are mostly Tongan, Latinos, African Americans, and a few humble Ephraimites that haven’t gotten too caught up in the rat race.

  11. Jamal says:

    You speak valid words from a broad, general theological perspective. I don’t want to take anything away from that, simply add a comment about the necessity of understanding the local circumstances. Hamas is not the root of the problem and never was. Before Hamas Israel said the PLO and PFLP and DFLP and PFLP-GC and the Fida’iyun anyone else they could label as a boogie man was the problem. Israel has always engaged in massacres, starvation, and ethnic cleansing. It is the state’s raison d’etre.

    And the real problem stems exactly from that and has a name: Zionism. Zionism, the founding and to this day driving ideology of the state of Israel is the problem. It is an ideology that states above all else that Jews and only Jews have a right to live in the historic land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. And as an ideology (or at least the version of it which 99% of its adherents follow including the state officially and most of the state’s local and foreign backers) Zionism states that killing, ethnic cleansing, looting, starving, and raping (yes, raping, it was a widespread practice of terror used against Palestinian civilians at least in the 1948 Zionist pogroms known as their “war of independence” as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe among others has carefully documented) of Palestinian civilians is an acceptable means to accomplish this.

    This is the core problem: the founding ideology of the Israeli state is racism, openly stated and proclaimed, and enforced on pain of prison, torture, starvation, exile, and even death according to the circumstances. It is absolutely in practical and moral terms the equivalent of Apartheid, Jim Crow, and all the anti-Jewish racism of Europe’s history before the 20th century (let us hope it never matches that of the 20th century, though the fear of it should be understood).

    Palestine is a historically heterogeneous land. It lies at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe. It has always been a land of cultural interaction and mixture. What Zionism seeks to do is erase all those cultures and impose (on pain of death if necessary) a single culture. It seeks to erase all other cultures and even the memory of those cultures. It seeks to pretend no one else ever lived there but the Jewish people, which is why if you ever visit the country you will hear little to nothing in all the historical tours of the rich Islamic and Byzantine culture of the land, let alone the extremely rich modern Palestinian culture.

    What would I do if you were the Israeli PM? The same thing that the last Apartheid head of South Africa, Willem de Klerk did: recognize the situation is untenable and unjust, negotiate an end to racial rule, accept a new multi-ethnic state where all are equal before the law, but also accept that decades of racial discrimination will mean that affirmative action will be needed for a good while to truly heal society and put everyone on fair ground together. The refugees must be allowed to exercise their right to return home, and Zionist-supporting Israeli Jews just as Apartheid-supporting Afrikaners must learn to accept that they will no longer have racial privilege but must accept racial equality. That is what I would do.

  12. Ron Madson says:

    Jamal:

    Very informative and well thought out. I couldn’t agree more with all your points. I agree that the way “zionism” is defined and practiced by the Israelis is a perversion of the “zion” that I believe the Lord invited us to create. The Israeli version is self-absorbed, self-justifying, and rather than a light on the hill to which all cultures and people are attracted and invited to participate in, it is rather a hill surrounded by turned in mirrors that let’s little or not light to escape.
    I think you analogy to what South Africa finally did makes perfect sense. And my little post was just to make a narrow theological point that Christ invites us to find another way that on it’s face appears illogical but is the only way out–in my opinion.

  13. [...] [81] Ron Madson, “’What Would You Do’ If you were the Israeli PM?” The Mormon Worker, January 6, 2009, http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/what-would-you-do-if-you-were-the-israeli-pm/. [...]

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