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Theology Thursday: Israel Must Show Restraint by Armstrong Williams

My worldly travels over the past two decades have brought me to Israel on four separate occasions, staying at least one month per visit. My surrounding environment there electrified my spirit and Christian values, revitalizing my beliefs more than any place in the world. Israelis exhibit their affinity for the American people by treating those visiting as they would their own families.

My Judaeo-Christian beliefs make me biased towards Israel; however, I have enormous concern after the incursion in Lebanon. While I sincerely believe that Israel garners every right to defend itself against terrorism, I also postulate that a mighty nation must show restraint when innocent lives are at stake. America's tight rope routine of supporting Israel's defensive rights while trying to avoid Lebanon's destabilization impresses no one.

Civilian casualty in war is a horrible stain on any military; however, in this situation it is especially difficult to avoid. Both Hezbollah and Hamas and their headquarters are located in dense residential areas or financial districts, utilizing the surrounding citizens as a human shield. As bombs fall and rockets rain, the severity of civilian causalities is inexcusable, and the terrorist group should be held accountable. Eroding their cause hourly, these groups are not bettering the lives of their countrymen like they say.

Lebanon , a country that was brutally torn apart by civil war, had finally begun to reclaim some of its past glory. The billions of dollars dispensed to restore Beirut as the Paris of the Middle East had begun to pay off as many tourist returned to this historic and beautiful city. However, just as this nation began to rise from its ashes like the proverbial phoenix, a dismal future awaited in the shadows.

At the same time, we must remember that as brutal as the violence seems, it is not as exorbitant as the media depicts. Images on television and the internet show mass devastation throughout Beirut, yet the damage is confined to one percent of the entire city. Hezbollah's media manipulation is evident in a news segment aired two days ago on Anderson Cooper 360. His piece highlights the control Hezbollah still has over southern Lebanon despite futile Israeli efforts. Cooper joined other foreign journalists for a media tour of a Hezbollah-dominated region. Militants allowed journalists only to videotape certain streets and buildings.

As the tour continued, authorities led the group to a site smattered with ambulances. Granted permission to interview the drivers, the reporters obtained forced action shots of the ambulances driving madly with sirens blaring through the air. Hezbollah instructed the medics to do this, yet meanwhile, there were no calls to respond to. This illusion is part of Hezbollah's media circus that continually allows them to manipulate the truth to what they want.

After two weeks of escalating violence, 42 Israelis (19 civilians) and at least 398 Lebanese have died. There are over 800,000 people in Lebanon and Israel displaced from their homes. Sufficient bloodshed forced an international meeting to be called in Rome where the majority of diplomats are calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Israel has been and always will be a special ally of the United States. As allies we have a responsibility to stand with each other during crisis, and more importantly restrain each other when one oversteps boundaries. By holding its tongue while Israel kills hundreds of innocents in its pursuit of Hezbollah, the U.S. confirms the Muslim world's perception that we value some lives more than others. Furthermore, we undermine our own ambitions to bring democracy to the Middle East.

America holds itself to a high moral standard, and we demand no less from our allies. There are occasions when I believe the Bush administration has overstepped traditional moral boundaries, and as a patriot, I speak out, hoping my words reverberate in our leaders' conscious.

Our actions in Iraq immediately come to mind. While I do agree that Israel needs to show restraint, I also feel that the American leaders are being hypocrites. Civilian deaths in Iraq have skyrocketed over the past few months, claiming nearly 6,000 innocent lives by Iraqi terrorists and US clashes with insurgents. If we are exuding moral turpitude in Iraq, can we ask Israel to stop the destruction? We initiated the conflict like Hezbollah did, but was Iraq a direct threat like Hezbollah to Israel?

Israel, like the United States, also holds itself to a high moral standard-one that distinguishes it from its neighbors. Remaining silent when an ally oversteps its boundaries is just as immoral as remaining silent when my own country does the same. Dissent is what keeps the U.S honest. If we ever lose this sacred element, we would nullify our constitution and its fortitude.

For now we must forget the hypocrisy, Hezbollah's media manipulation, fears of being called an anti-Semite and we must ask Israel to proceed with caution. Israel did have the right to defend itself, but it must be conscious of the innocent lives that perish from the superfluous bombings. The bombing must stop so the rebuilding may start.

Armstrong Williams can be contacted via e-mail at: Visit him at

Armstrong Williams

Thursday, July 27, 2006

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