Several days ago, a friend and business associate sent round a short video that illustrated the remarkable effect of a new anti-tank weapon allegedly being used by the Israeli army. The weapon is a bullet like projectile of about eight to ten inches long that contains a payload of white phosphorous. The projectile is designed to pierce steel armor and, once clear of the armor and inside the tank, explode, spewing the phosphorous throughout the interior of the tank.
The phosphorous ignites immediately upon contact with oxygen and burns the clothes, flesh, even the bones of the tank crew. Further, the phosphorous burns the weapons inside the tank and sets off a series of explosions until everything flammable has been engulfed in explosion and fire.
This, of course, kills everyone in the tank and permanently disables the tank. It appears to be an extremely effective weapon for stopping a tank.
The original email was sent to about forty of us recipients. It drew an immediate response that consisted of an article from Amnesty International purporting to prove that the Israeli army also deployed another white phosphorous weapon that, unlike the anti-tank projectile is not designed for use in an enclosed space, like the interior of a tank. In the case of the second weapon, the object is for the projectile, whether a cannon shell or the warhead of a rocket or drone, is filled with white phosphorous and is designed to explode over the target and to scatter the phosphorous widely around the general area. Designed to blunt the advance of an enemy army in the open field, it is alleged that this second weapon is frequently deployed in neighborhoods and other urban areas. The result of any such use would be severe burning of children, women and other non-combatants. According to the article, the deployment of such a weapon in civilian areas is a war crime.
Let me confess immediately that I have never been to Israel or Palestine and, even if I had, I do not know what white phosphorous looks like and would know only that something had set me on fire if I came into contact with it. I am not claiming Israel or anybody else has used this weapon against civilians or against anybody.
That said, if Israel has done so, it means that the current government of Israel has reduced its options in its war with those who are launching terrorist attacks on Israel and her citizens to two. These are genocide or suicide. The use of such weapons, in much the same way as the use of suicide bombers against Israeli civilians, Jewish innocents, but heightened by the greater efficiency of the Israeli weapons technology, will never be forgotten by her enemies. Deploying such weapons may be an irrevocable step that is not in the best interest of Israel and renders any move toward peace impossible. By making peace an impossibility, the current government leaves Israel with only the options of killing all the Palestinians and, perhaps, the worlds billions of Muslims, neither seems possible, or accepting the inevitable defeat and national suicide that will follow.
If current trends continue, Israel will exhaust itself with an unending war. Her primary ally, the United States, will, sooner or later, exhaust itself. When that happens, the United States will either turn on Israel or will be so financially, morally and militarily broken by unending war in the Middle East as to be useless in the ongoing effort.
Understand that I do not advocate Israel cease defending herself. While I have no desire to visit Israel or Palestine it is not a bias against either side but a lack of desire based upon the knowledge that almost everyone who does travel to the area is seized by a desire to possess the place. Since King David did the world an injustice by seizing Jerusalem and declaring it to be his royal city, the world’s generals, emperors, priests, mullahs, rabbis, the occasional shaman and only God and Satan know what all have longed to reign in David’s stead. I am content to have the Israel people do so if they can. In the furtherance of that contentment, I perceive it to be in my best interest if the Israeli government would rethink the all or nothing approach it has devised and employed since 1967 or so.
I do not have any specific new policy to offer Israel. I do realize each side, by now, believes it is dealing with some odd hybrid species, part snake, part rat, part werewolf, and has no confidence anyway other than mutual destruction is open to them. So, my recommendation is both sides look to their common spiritual and cultural heritage for a clue to finding a path to peace.
Now it is time for another confession. I am neither a particularly religious man nor a historical or theological scholar. Nevertheless, it is a fact that Judaism and Islam share a heritage that may offer clues as well as a common basis for understanding. Indeed, no less a scholar than Karen Armstrong has written that Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam, began with the belief that he was a Jew and was merely delivering God’s latest update to the Jewish cannon. Only later did the Prophet understand it was a new religion he was leading and not a revision of an old one.
The increasingly intense desire on both sides to kill everybody on the other is condemned by both religions. Genesis 34 is the story of the rape of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, by Shechem, a story held in common by both religions. Though some Midrash interpretations suggest that not only did Shechem fall in love with Dinah after the fact of his seizing her, she began to feel the same way (This may be the original Romeo and Juliet story). However, Jacob’s sons broke the truce negotiated by Shechem and slaughtered all the men of Shechem’s city and plundered the city of all its women, children, other chattel, grains and other things of value, essentially an act of genocide. Jacob’s reaction to his son’s treachery was to lament the sin and declare they had made him “stink” to all nations.
Unfortunately, there is a tradition of noble suicide common to both sides. Both believe the murderous act of the Israelis against themselves by the people trapped on Mount Masada was a noble act. Modern Israeli soldiers take an oath that “Masada shall not fall again.” Yet, the current government of Israel and many of her enemies are pursuing war policies that can result in only one of two possibilities. The first, genocide for the enemy, is an anathema to both religions. The second is self-destruction. Both options are insane.
The Abraham and Isaac story illustrates that God alone reserves the right to take human life. Human sacrifice is neither necessary nor allowed. Humans have no right to sacrifice other humans even for so great a prize as David’s Holy City or settlements surrounding it. Suicide is forbidden to practitioners of both religions
The current war policies of both sides constitute a path leading a way from peace. Israel and its enemies need to examine their common religious and spiritual foundations to find a path that leads to peace.