Blowback

blowback: defn. a reaction or effect resulting from an action or cause, usually a negative reaction.

Blowback is the term government personnel use to describe the sometimes violent reaction in response to a military or covert U.S. action. For example, 55 years later we are still reaping the fruit of the CIA’s toppling of Mohammed Mossadegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, and replacing him with an absolute monarchy. Supporting repressive regimes is very costly in the long run. Take Israel.

In comparison with other governments in the region, the State of Israel seems a bastion of democracy. And if it weren’t for Hamas’ lobbing missiles into Israeli territory, things would be peaceful—so we are told. If you watched the news tonight, you would see footage of tanks and armored vehicles rolling through the poverty-stricken streets of Gaza, a tightening of the noose around the terrorists. But I would like to submit that the American media tells only one side of the story. The reaction the media would like us to have is similar in naivete to that after 9/11: “Why do they hate us? We’re nice people after all.” The Israeli’s are seen as the white hats, defending their kith and kin agin’ robbers and outlaws. But most Israelis know it’s much more complicated than that; why don’t we?

Since the 1967 War the Israelis have occupied Palestinian territories; they were supposed to withdraw after the war, but they never did. Now millions of Palestinians live as virtual prisoners amid great poverty in their own country, many unable to work, go to school or seek adequate health care. When people are stripped of citizenship, hope and human dignity, they will inevitably resort to any means possible to fight back, including blowing themselves up. Imagine if you kept someone chained for decades in your basement, unable to see the light of day. Would you be surprised or indignant if he spat at you? I’m not trying to justify terrorism, just to understand it.

Most Americans are ignorant of the fact that we support a repressive regime (Israel). Here we see Israel as merely defending itself against its enemies—a tiny island in a vast sea of hostility. “And if organizations like Hamas would just stop resorting to terrorism, there would be peace.” But without justice, there is no peace.

American Christians have had those Scriptures drummed into their heads: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” and “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you,” as though God’s Word were completely disconnected from any responsibility on Israel’s part (or our own) to act righteously. Sometimes I think we support Israel out of fear or simply out of a desire to reap blessing, rather than from a sincere commitment to truth and justice. Let me just state clearly that God will not bless America simply because we support Israel. Giving her carte blanche to trample other nations is not a New Testament concept, nor is it the teaching of the Lord Jesus.

I hate to say this. I’m not in the habit of agreeing with monsters and anti-Semites, but I do confess that Iranian President Ahmadinejad is partly right. In his recent Christmas message broadcast on the BBC, he said:

“Jesus the Son of Mary is the standard-bearer of justice, of love for our fellow human beings, of the fight against tyranny, discrimination and injustice….If Christ was on earth today undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers….If Christ was on earth today undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over….If Christ was on earth today undoubtedly he would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as he did in his lifetime.”

An ironic statement by a man whose country executes converts to Christianity, but nonetheless true in part. Jesus was not a freedom-fighter; he calls his people to love not hate, to peace and suffering not violence. But he also calls us to stand with the poor and oppressed, to speak out against injustice, to expose evil and to change the world through the power of the gospel, prayer and unselfish service to others.

Watching the news tonight, I felt tremendous anger and resentment, not just at Israel, but at the U.S. for allowing the military action in Gaza to happen and for the media’s lying to us about the reality of what is really happening there and why. Ignorance is no excuse. If we refuse to speak out and dissociate ourselves from repressive policies, we will suffer the consequences. God uses evil to judge evil. No wonder Muslims the world over call us the Great Satan. Sometimes I think they’re right.

Awake, O Church, and speak up. Plead the cause of the oppressed. For whatever you do for the least of these….

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  1. A very courageous and thought-provoking blog, Steve. I could not agree more. This situation is made even more insane due to the fact that the Bush Administration apparently “greenlighted” the operation by encouraging the end of the original cease fire in the first place.Yet another Christmas present from this president to Obama, as if his burden weren’t already difficult enough.

  2. P.S. To the apologists who keep insisting that we need to give Israel our unilateral support, I say this: You can love your friends and family and support them with all your might; but you have an obligation to point out when they’re wrong. I hope Obama can be strong enough to do just that!

  3. Exactly. There are basically two approaches the US can use: 1) to be publicly silent but hammer away at Israel diplomatically in private; or 2) to take a public stand. I believe under some Presidents we’ve used the former to no avail. I think it’s time to use the latter and to show the world where we stand.

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