Yesterday, a rally of some 7,000 people gathered in Brussels to protest ‘against terror and hate’. The march was led by some of those wounded or present at the suicide bombings at Belgium’s main airport and metro station on March 22. Responsibility for the attacks which seized 32 lives was assumed by the militant group, Islamic State, who had also asserted their claim on the Paris attacks in November which killed 130 people. The demonstration which took place yesterday is reported to have been subdued; carried out in relative silence. The march was intended to mark a public display of ‘disgust and solidarity’ and yet it seems that neither expressions could find their voice.
Perhaps this voicelessness has no greater significance than the numb feeling which grips victims of extreme brutality, and yet on the other hand there may be more involved than the muted solemnity of mourning in yesterday’s gathering.
For the last 6 months Israel has experienced a wave of terror unlike any previously experienced in its almost 80-year history since the foundation of the modern state. It has been dubbed the ‘Lone Wolf Intifada’ by many sources referencing the lack of organisation or co-ordination in the attacks carried out by individuals as young as 12. It has also been referred to as the ‘Knife Intifada’ or ‘Stabbing Intifada’ referring to the principle form which attacks have taken, although weapons other than knives have also been used including automatic firearms, scissors, petrol bombs, and vehicles used to ram civilians or public servicemen. A report released by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the end of March stated that there have been 338 attacks since September 2015, of which 42 were vehicular rammings, and 83 shootings; the rest stabbings. 34 Israelis and foreign tourists have been killed and 413 injured. If molotov cocktail and rock-throwing attacks are included, the numbers are dramatically higher.
The response in Western media (not just in Europe) has been outrage, but of a completely inexplicable moral standard. A comment piece published in the UK’s Daily Telegraph on 23 February titled, “The media is twisting the knife into Israel over the ‘lone wolf intifada'”, aptly illustrated the problem. A backwards form of reporting was employed from almost the outset of the wave of violence with a BBC report on one of the most shocking stories in which a Palestinian terrorist stabbed 4 Israelis (one a 2-year old, and another its mother) in Jerusalem’s Old City. Two of the four were killed leaving a widow and a fatherless child. The BBC’s initial headline read, “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two.” The headline was changed after complaints. But the headline reflected only the first case of a reporting style which stubbornly upheld an equal apportioning of blame and outrage to what were viewed as two sides in a morally ambiguous conflict. This also carried within it a false equivalence between attacker and victim, particularly piercing in its hypocrisy in the case of the 2-year-old child who evidently, by these standards, must hold a portion of the blame for the death of the terrorist who killed its father. Occasionally this equivalence and statistical bartering for moral superiority handed the high ground to the terrorists such as in a case of 3 Palestinians who were shot dead while carrying out stabbing attacks on a number of Israelis (only one being killed). The headline in The Irish Times read, “3 Palestinians, 1 Israeli Die in West Bank Incidents.”
Perhaps the voice of Europe’s moral outrage has been compromised, although certainly not consciously, in the localisation of terror in its own cities. Can Europe assign equivalence to those who attempt to bring terror, confusion and death and those who uphold order and law in Israel, and then at the same time with integrity uphold outrage against the same forms of terror, confusion and death in its own cities? Some might suggest that media biases do not reflect the views of the masses, but McDonalds only serves cheeseburgers because people want to eat cheeseburgers. Likewise, the Western media only presents stories that people will consume most easily.
The result of this dissemination of duplicity is that Europe can find no voice in the face of the same forms of terror which seek to destroy civilised society in Israel when they appear in its own cities. It is confused about its own cause and that of its enemies.
“How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. – Mark 3:23-25, NASB
I am not calling any nation or group of nations Satan, but the justification of terror and violence in Israel as something equivalent to the actions of the forces of order is both a Satanic and demonic agenda that Europe has been agreeing with in recent months. When that same demonic agenda comes to bring death home to Europe, it is little wonder that Europe can find no voice to its own outrage. I often even seem to hear attempts to ‘understand the motivations’ behind such violence in Western media, or even ‘find common ground’ and ‘dialogue’ with such groups. Confusion and moral fuzziness seems increasingly prevalent.
I have no delight whatsoever in seeing in Europe the kinds of violence that have been common in the Middle East for many years, but I have little surprise either. Europe cannot find a physical defence against such forms when its moral and spiritual defence against them has become so weak and faltering. If a defence is to be raised, it must be raised first in absolute moral and spiritual outrage against the entire philosophy of those who engender such acts, no matter against whom or in which location they take place.
Today, April 18, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated the intentions of the government in Israel to deal decisively with whatever forms of terror arise, as the IDF have issued warnings of escalation over the Passover season. With Independence Day on May 11-12 also often leading to violence and demonstrations following, it is a time when public servicemen must be especially alert. But Israel is wise in its policy of absolute intolerance of terror and its refusal to negotiate its intolerance in any circumstances or pressure. Europe and the West must find a similarly uncompromising moral voice if it is to counter the assaults which may come to it in the future.
In John 10, Jesus describes good leadership. First He describes Himself in contrast to an antagonist, the ‘thief’, saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” The difference between Jesus and the ‘thief’ is stark. Jesus comes to bring life, and the thief comes to bring death. The terms in which these two opposites are described are absolute. Jesus then goes on to describe His own leadership in contrast with bad leadership. He describes himself as the Good Shepherd, a good leader who will defend His sheep against the wolves that come, but the bad leaders or ‘hired hands’ are those who flee when the wolves come:
He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. – John 10:12, NASB
God has promised that He will be a shepherd to Israel (Ezekiel 34:11-15; Psalm 80:1; Jeremiah 31:10). He will protect her from the wolves, and He will give grace to a government that seeks to keep His people from wolves. But for Europe and the West, it remains a choice whether its leaders will agree with the One who gives life, or the one who brings death; and whether the leaders of nations will take a stand against the wolves, or flee from them. May God give grace for them to choose His heart, submit to Jesus’ perfect leadership and agree wholeheartedly with life and not death.