It's a dreadful depiction, the image of Almighty God visiting His fierce anger on the nations of the world.
In John's Revelation, the Apostle watches as angels pour out seven bowls of "the wrath of God," afflicting mankind with sores, pestilences, thirst, tormenting heat, devastating earthquakes, hailstorms and other terrors. (Revelation 14)
Isaiah, gazing into the future centuries before, sees the Lord striding out of Bozrah, His sword crimson, His robes red from the blood of the nations He has trampled in "the winepress of His wrath." (Isaiah 34 and 63).
Who, the prophet asks, is this terrible Being traveling "in the greatness of His strength?"
It is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the LORD God of Israel.
Why has He crushed the nations so ferociously as to leave sword and clothes drenched in blood? Because it is the day of His vengeance.
Vengeance for what? What is it that has made Him so angry? What are the nations guilty of that has caused this rage to build up inside the Creator until it is ready to erupt in a flood of fury?
Isaiah, together with the other prophets - Jeremiah and Nahum, Ezekiel and Micah, Zechariah, Zephaniah and Joel - gives us a clear and unmistakable answer:
It is His year of vengeance for the controversy of Zion. (Isaiah 34:8)
God is furious with the nations because of the way they have mistreated and persecuted Israel - the apple of His eye. (Zechariah 2:8)
And He is bringing them into judgment because they scattered His people and divided up their land. (Joel 3:2)
The LORD is determined, as He says through Zephaniah, to gather the nations together in order "to pour on them My indignation, all my fierce anger…" (Zephaniah 3:8)
Why is He so angry? Let us count the whys:
For 2500 years the Jews have been singled out for persecution, dispersion and destruction.
The history of the Gentile nations toward them has been one of hatred manifested in every form of cruel violence man, at every stage of his progression through the centuries, could devise.
Name it; it's been done to the Jews. And it's been done to them simply because they are Jews.
They have been crucified, skinned alive, broken on the rack, burned at the stake, pilloried, impaled, sawn in two, torn limb from limb, enslaved, driven from their homes, banished, baptized under pain of death, blood-libeled, robbed of all their earthly possessions, torn from their families to be raised in "Christian" homes, made the scapegoat for every social ill, from plague to fire to defeat in war to war itself.
The Jews have suffered the swords of the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, Romans, Crusaders and Arabs. They have endured the pogrom mob murders, the examinations of the Inquisition, expulsion from the lands of their birth, incarceration in ghettos, suffocation in cattle cars, frenzied asphyxiation in gas chambers and the flesh-devouring fires of the crematoria.
For millennia, in every generation, the Jew has been the prey of the Gentile, while Israel's anguished cry has rebounded, apparently unheard, off a bronze, uncaring sky.
That cry swelled to a crescendo at Auschwitz where, for Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and countless others, God died.
(But God did not die. God has been there for every minute of every one of those 2500 years, watching, agonized and tormented right along with His people, feeling their pain, yearning for their release from it, but bound by the curses they had brought upon themselves as Moses warned them they would.)
And then? Surely it should have finally ended then? After the liberation of the camps and the revulsion and self-loathing that gripped the Gentile nations forced to gaze upon the fruit of the Jew-hatred they had nurtured and cultivated for so long. Surely it should have ended then?
But it did not end. It has not ended.
For a brief moment, vows ascended around the globe as nation after nation swore that "never again" would such horror and terror be permitted to take place against the Jewish people.
But as a drunkard sickened by his lack of self-control pours his last bottle down the drain, only to instantly regret doing so, so did the nations, through the forum that united them, agree to give the Jews their own haven state, and then immediately wish they had not.
They had a chance - these nations: many of them guilty of abusing their own Jews, or of closing their doors to Europe's and abandoning them to the Nazis. They had a chance to redeem themselves, to rally in support of the Jewish people and stand between them and their enemies that remained.
After all the evils they and their forebears had inflicted on the Jews, or permitted to happen to them, the nations owed it to the people of Israel to stand solidly with them and commit to ensuring the survival and prosperity of their state.
Instead, they have let those enemies (who are every bit as determined to wipe out the Jews as Hitler was; they only lack the means - for now) hijack the very mechanism that was instituted to ensure a Holocaust could not happen again. And these enemies of the people of Israel are using the United Nations to drive the Jews into a corner, de-legitimizing their state and aiming to eventually annul it.
Granted, not every one of the UN's 190 member states is actively working to destroy Israel. But this does not pardon those nations that abstain from voting on the myriad anti-Israel resolutions regularly churned out. They are guilty of letting it happen. Again.
If 20 centuries of persecution of the dispersed Jew were not enough to fill the cup of God's anger to overflowing, then surely the fact that Hitler's unparalleled attempt to obliterate the Jews did not stop anti-Semitism, did not teach the gentiles a lesson, is surely topping it up.
Wait, you say, God Himself punished the Jews because they were unfaithful to Him.
Yes, God removed His hand of blessing and allowed them to fall under the curse.
But what has angered Him is the way the nations of the world have enthusiastically pitched in, eager to be instruments of that punishment in God's hands. (Zechariah 1:15) They have gone far further than He ever intended them to.
And it is not just the vicious behavior against the Jews; it is also the reason behind the behavior, the core motivation for anti-Semitism: Embracing secular humanism and other godless philosophies and beliefs, the nations have rejected God, His commandments, and by the same token the people He calls His own.
As the Psalmist says:
Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His anointed, saying, "Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us." (Ps 2:1-3)This is the reason the LORD God is so angry.
In the wake of last Wednesday's suicide bombing at the Erez Junction, the usual suspects were quick to demand that Israel take no counteraction against Hamas, the perpetrating organization, and, in particular, that it refrain from targeting the group's leadership.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, said that any attempt by Israel to resume targeted killings of Hamas leaders would only escalate the conflict.
Diego Ojeda, a European Union spokesman, noted that "the European Union has spoken on several occasions against the so-called extra-judicial killings of suspected terrorists" and warned that "proceeding in such a manner against a leading figure of a Palestinian terrorist organization would be counterproductive to efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East."
US State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher offered a more nuanced warning, saying that while Israel has a right to defend itself the US opposes targeted killings, and Israel must "consider the consequences of any actions that it might be contemplating."
Unfortunately for all these nay-sayers, a sober consideration of the consequences of targeted killings favors the conclusion that Israel ought to resume them – because according to both Palestinian and European testimony, Israel's last campaign of targeted killings was the main reason why Hamas has refrained from suicide bombings for the last four months.
In contrast, the subsequent let-up in this campaign enabled the organization to regroup and perpetrate last week's bombing.
From mid-August to mid-September 2003, the Israel Defense Forces conducted a spate of attacks on senior Hamas officials that left 14 of them dead. The attacks included a failed attempt on Hamas's so-called spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, on September 6. Soon after that, according to reports that appeared last month in the Palestinian media, Hamas asked Qatari mediators to approach the US and ask it to offer Israel a partial cease-fire: a halt to suicide attacks inside Israel in exchange for a halt to Israeli attacks on Hamas leaders.
Both Palestinian sources and a European diplomat confirmed these reports to Haaretz.
The very fact that such an offer was made is proof enough of how pressured Hamas felt by the targeted killings and how desperate it was to stop them. But the European diplomat even explicitly confirmed the connection, attributing the group's offer to a combination of two factors.
One, he said, was the EU's designation of Hamas's political wing as a terrorist organization – a move, incidentally, that the EU had refused to make for years until Silvio Berlusconi pushed it through during his recent six-month tenure as the EU's rotating president. The second was Israel's assassination policy, which, the diplomat said, made Hamas feel that its Gaza leadership was rapidly becoming paralyzed (Haaretz, December 23, 2003).
Obviously, Israel could not accept this offer since it would have allowed Hamas to continue targeting settlers and soldiers while depriving Israel of the right to respond. But Hamas was clever enough to realize that if it suspended attacks unilaterally Israel would suspend the assassinations de facto rather than risk the world's condemnation.
And, indeed, that is what happened. The result is that Hamas leaders, who had been driven underground in August and September, began reappearing in public over the past few months to mobilize support, recruit volunteers and otherwise rebuild their battered organization.
Needless to say, it is always easier to organize a bombing when the organizers are able to move about freely. But the grace period Israel granted Hamas was particularly important because Yassin needed to build support for a whole new direction: the use of female suicide bombers, which he himself had denounced less than two years ago as immodest and a violation of Islamic law.
Had he still been underground and unable to meet freely with his followers, it would have been much harder to persuade them that what he said two years ago no longer applied, and that because, as he put it last Wednesday, "male fighters face many obstacles on their way to operations," today "holy war is an imperative for all Muslims, men and women."
The culmination of this process, of course, was last week's bombing.
It speaks volumes about the EU's hypocrisy – and its disregard for Israeli lives – that it can denounce targeted killings publicly even as its diplomats admit, off the record, that such killings were a major reason for Hamas's four-month cessation of attacks, thereby saving the lives of untold innocent civilians. That is equally true of the PA.
But Israel's first obligation is to provide security for its citizens – even if that means defying foreign governments which value the life of "a leading figure of a Palestinian terrorist organization" above the lives of innocent Israelis.
The evidence shows that targeted killings work. Therefore, Israel must resume its military pressure on Hamas – and this time, keep it up unrelentingly.
3. LADY KILLERSBy Mona Charen - townhall.com - January 23, 2004
Reem al-Riyashi was a normal-looking 22-year-old Palestinian woman. On Jan. 14, she strapped several pounds of explosives and nails to her body and approached an Israeli security checkpoint in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis usually forbid any Palestinian who sets off the metal detector from approaching further. But al-Riyashi, limping and weeping, pleaded with Gal Shapira, the commander of the watch. She explained that she had recently undergone surgery and had a metal plate in her leg that set off the machine.
Shapira told her to wait while he called a female officer to conduct a search. That act of compassion cost him his life. When al-Riyashi was ushered into a private room, she detonated her body bomb killing herself and four Israelis (including Shapira) and wounding at least a dozen others, including several Palestinians.
Her funeral was a gala affair attended by thousands. She was hailed as a heroine and honored for a particular distinction: Reem al-Riyashi was the first Palestinian mother to commit murder-suicide for Allah. She left behind a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. In her farewell videotaped message, al-Riyashi smiled as she proclaimed that she "always wanted to be the first woman to carry out a martyr attack, where parts of my body can fly all over. That is the only wish I can ask God for." Her act was sponsored jointly by Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, and her husband, a member of Hamas, drove her to the checkpoint.
In one way, however, al-Riyashi did not get her wish. She was not the first woman to commit such an act. That "honor" goes to Wafa Idris, who detonated herself on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem in January 2002, killing an elderly Israeli man and wounding many more. Her act was praised throughout the Arab world. Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based Arabic language newspaper, hailed her for killing "in the heart of the occupied city." (Note well: the attack took place in West Jerusalem.) The Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, reports Memri (www.memri.org), praised "Her dreamy eyes and the mysterious smile on her lips, that competes with the famous smile some artist drew on the lips of Mona Lisa." A Jordanian Islamist wrote in the daily Al-Dustour, "Wafa carried her suitcase (of explosives) which is ... the most beautiful prize any woman can possibly win. Her spirit was raging, her heart filled with anger, and her mind unconvinced by the calls for peace and coexistence ..."
Americans have difficulty understanding how people can be driven to such lunacy. Liberals, in particular, are inclined to blame poverty for most of the hatred and violence in the world. During the Cold War, when communist movements were gaining ground in the Third World, liberals reflexively blamed poverty. They underestimated the power of ideas.
Al-Riyashi was not poor and, before her marriage, not particularly religious. She came from a prosperous family and lived comfortably with her husband and two children. There had been some sort of quarrel among her family before the attack, and rumors have circulated that she was actually moved to murder-suicide because she had committed adultery. But these rumors must be placed alongside the undeniable trend in the region. Women are beginning to sign on for jihad in significant numbers, and radical Islamists are deciding that while women may not show their faces in public, they may explode their bodies in order to kill.
Women in other Muslim nations are also succumbing. In Pakistan, mothers of "martyrs" are popular speakers. In Chechnya, a women's group called Black Widows is responsible for more than 165 murders by suicide. In March, an Arabic newspaper in London reported that Al Qaeda is setting up training camps just for women jihadis.
News events are filtered through a press in the Islamic world that is just staggeringly false and propagandistic. Conflicts in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, Iraq and Israel are presented as evidence of a worldwide anti-Muslim conspiracy. The most vile and idiotic slanders against Jews and Americans are presented as fact. It is the ideas in men's minds -- mad or fantastic though they may be -- that move the world. And it is the battle of ideas that we must fight with every bit as much vigor as we do that on land, sea and air.
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Israel has nothing to explain to the International Court of Justice at the Hague regarding the defensive wall being built in Israel.
In 1948, the Arabs in each country announced that they would attack Israel, kill all the Jews and, as they proclaimed, "We will dance in their blood" and "push them into the sea." As they proclaimed, so did they attack. They refused the partition voted upon by the United Nations in November 1947 and thus gave up any claim to land they would lose in their unprovoked aggressive war against the newborn Jewish State of Israel.
Israel, as the intended victim state, won that war, resulting in what can only be defined as "Defensive Conquest". Israel had to pay dearly in lives lost and in what lost monies they had to raise to buy junk weapons from the scrap yards of Europe at usurious prices. These same European nations now dare to judge Israel for creating a barrier to Arab terrorists. These were the same nations who refused to sell Israel weapons to defend herself and her people, many just liberated from the Nazi death camps.
The Arabs attacked and the Jews advanced.
In each of the seven wars launched by the Arabs against the Jewish State (including the 1991 Gulf War, when Saddam hit Israel with 39 SCUDs), the Arabs always attacked with the same intention of committing a bloody genocide, and overcoming their humiliation and shame due to always being beaten by the Jews they hated and despised - Jews who they thought were weak.
Their own religious legends assured them that each defeat was an anomaly and that the Jews were weak, cowardly people who could not, would not, fight.
They attacked and we advanced.
Each time, the price for the Jewish State to stay alive was paid in Jewish blood and great debt. Each war came at a greater cost in both lives and treasure, and in the form of more weapons. After each war that the Arabs instigated and lost, they retired to spend their treasure on re-arming (which should have gone to educate their primitive, backward communities). But the Arab terrorist losers diverted all the loot they got from donor countries and from sale of the black gold, that is, the oil, that the Western countries extracted. The Arab terrorist nations and organizations used these billions to buy tanks, guns, missiles, aircraft, explosives and, for many, to attempt to build WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction).
Israel is still fighting a war against the unremitting terror by Arab/Muslim terrorists, who have proclaimed in their manifesto, their Muslim Mein Kampf, that, they shall continue killing Jews even if it takes them 100 or 1,000 years.
And so, Israel has started to build a "Wall of Life" which fits their slogan of "ein breira" (no choice).
I do not agree with this wall, not because of its existence and purpose, but because of where it is placed. It walls off too many Jews who live in the villages, towns and cities called ‘settlements’. I believe there already exist two natural barriers against attacks by any coalition of Arab armies from the East. A first line of defense is the Judean and Samarian mountains and the second is the Jordan River. They are effective and they are much cheaper than the "Wall of Life" now being built for the protection of the Israeli peoples’ lives. Similarly, the Golan Heights is the first line of defense from the Northeast, protecting Israel from attack by Syria.
Israel paid for that land with tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands of injured. Israel earned that land over and over again, because the Arab/Muslims attacked again and again in war, and with terrorism between the wars. Israel owns that land because G-d promised it to the Jewish people. You can read that repeatedly in the Bible. (As a relevant aside, it is interesting to watch the Left liberal media give honor to the Koran, but the media scorns the Jewish Bible, from which the Christian Bible is derived.)
Arab/Muslims knowingly gambled away the land they controlled by attacking Israel in seven wars, and now they demand to get back the land they lost - as if they deserved it. They made bad judgements in their investments in war and death. They killed Jews and they got their own people killed. There is a price that unrepentant serial aggressors must pay.
Each time they attacked, their purpose was to occupy the Land of Israel, take as their plunder what the Jews had built and enjoy the "dancing in the blood" of their Jewish victims. Israel paid with rivers of blood and hundreds of billions of dollars. The Arab aggressors still owe compensation for the seven wars and for the Jewish lives and property they confiscated in the Arab countries that ejected their Jewish populations.
The Land of Israel owes no explanation to the world’s nations, to the Court in the Hague or to their American friends. I offer the same advice to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon now that I gave to Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir before the Madrid Conference in October 1991. Don’t go! It’s another ambush for the Israeli nation and the Jewish people. Whatever you say will be irrelevant. Whatever proof you submit will be considered trivial and ignored. All your planning and discussion on the merits of your case are wasted effort. This will be another international circus, where Israel will be put in the dock and pilloried. Regrettably, I do not expect you to take any sensible advice.
As for the "Wall of Life", it is only a temporary barrier, much the same as one would find in separation walls, moats and bars in a zoo. Israel’s wall is 3% high concrete (but this is all that you see in the news) and 97% chainlink fencing. Such walls exist in every civilized country, including America, to keep out illegal aliens. But Israel has always been judged under different rules, customs and laws - only because its people are Jews and anti-Jewish bias still exists.
People who take joy in blowing themselves up to kill an enemy who is not of their primitive pagan religion are dangerous animals. Perhaps one day they will evolve into civilized human beings. But, until that time, the Wall of Life must be erected to separate the killers from our people, who they have declared are their prey.
They attack. We advance. G-d promised.
“[T]he day will soon come when we will see 10-year-old boys and pregnant women strapped with explosive belts. How will we be able to justify to the world the death of our children by Israeli army gunfire when some of us are starting to send their children and mothers with explosive belts? How can the Palestinians persuade more international peace activists to risk their lives in solidarity with the Palestinians when we are beginning to equip our children and mothers with explosive belts?”— Hasan al-Batal, columnist for the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam, praising the families of suicide bombers who have spoken out against the phenomenon. (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20).
“She is not going to be the last [suicide bomber] because the march of resistance will continue until the Islamic flag is raised, not only over the minarets of Jerusalem, but over the whole universe. It is not enough to call her a hero. Calling her a hero does not give the whole truth. This woman abandoned her husband and children in order to win paradise.”—Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, giving the eulogy for Hamas’ first female suicide bomber, Reem al-Rayashi. (National Post, Jan. 16)
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