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Why I Agree with an Atheist on Israel


Sam Harris is one of the best-known atheists in the world.  He has written several books and scores of articles denouncing religion in all its forms, recently claiming that "science must destroy religion."


Why, then, do I agree with him regarding Israel and Hamas?  Because he's exactly right. 


Harris asks this profound question: What would each side do if they had the power to do it?  He then answers his question: Israel has the power to kill every Palestinian, but strives to spare non-combatants wherever possible and seeks to live at peace with its neighbors.  By contrast, Hamas declares in its charter that it seeks the annihilation of Israel and its Jewish citizens.  If the military capacities of the two were reversed, the outcome would be far different.


Nonetheless, much of the world continues rallying to the side of Hamas and condemning Israel.  Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made global headlines recently with his claim that Israel's actions in Gaza surpassed "even Hitler's."  Celebrities Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz published a widely-distributed letter accusing Israel of "genocide."


A writer in The Wall Street Journal noted that "what we are witnessing today in the surge of poisonous anti-Semitism around the world, particularly in Europe, would have delighted Hitler and his Nazi followers."  Some of the examples he cites: Jews in the Netherlands have been forced to remove mezuzas from their doorjambs; a Belgian doctor refused to treat an elderly Jewish woman with a fractured rib; a synagogue in Sweden was recently vandalized.


Protesters in France have been chanting "gas the Jews" and "kill the Jews" at public rallies.  Jews are fleeing France in greater numbers than ever before.  Anti-Semitic graffiti has appeared across Rome; reports of hate speech in Britain are up significantly.  Explosives were recently thrown at a synagogue in western Germany.


It is time for religious and political leaders to take a stand.  While we should seek peace and security for all people, Palestinians as well as Israelis, we must use our influence to stem the global tide of anti-Semitism wherever and however we can.  If any race can be vilified on racial grounds, no race is safe.  Whether you're an atheist like Sam Harris or an evangelical Christian like me, or somewhere in between, I urge you to use your influence to confront the malignancy of anti-Semitism in our day.


Each time I visit the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, I stop to reflect on this statement from Martin Niemöller, the anti-Nazi German pastor who spent eight years in a concentration camp: "First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.  Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.  Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.  Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."


By speaking for the Jews, you speak for all of humanity.  And for yourself.



Publication date: August 8, 2014


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