Wednesday, November 8, 2023

It is Wednesday, November 8, 2023.

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The Meaning of “From the River to the Sea”— It Means the Elimination of Israel

Well, the off-year election was yesterday. Big decisions in states including Kentucky and Ohio, Virginia and Mississippi, but the most responsible thing to do is to wait until there is further definition and final computations before doing an analysis of what voters had to say on Tuesday. So today we’re going to turn to some other issues. We will look to the electoral results tomorrow morning.

Right now, let’s turn to one of the most pressing issues, of course in the entire realm of global affairs, and that is the war going on right now in the Middle East.

Let’s just remind ourselves of how this happened. In the days just before the October 7 attack by Hamas upon Israel, a murderous attack that had been plotted for a long time that included ground forces coming out of tunnels, that included parasails in which you had armed soldiers coming in to kill Jewish citizens, in which you had an attack upon a music festival indiscriminate killing more than a thousand dead in one of the most targeted genocidal attacks on the Jewish people in all of recent history and the biggest since the Holocaust itself.

When you look at this and you understand, you had babies, you had young people, you had elderly persons who were all massacred. The response of Israel was a bit slow in coming simply because of the complications of invading Gaza, but it has now happened, of course, and is now proceeding and as we’re looking at this, we need to understand a couple of things that have become very much a part of the cultural conversation. One is a statement, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” We don’t know the exact history of that statement. We do know that it has been openly embraced as a platform by Islamic terrorist groups, including Hamas, the very extremist terrorist group that carried out the murderous attack of October the seventh. By the way, incredibly complex in its planning and execution.

Hamas, which is also in political control of the Gaza Strip of the Palestinian people there in Gaza, Hamas has adopted as a formal statement and part of its charter from the river to the sea language, which means the eradication of the state of Israel and eventually as their charter makes clear, the eradication of the Jewish people from the land. So there is no doubt what that statement means in that historical context. There are people who are using it now, including some of the young people protesting on America’s college campuses.

That’s a scandal in itself, showing the moral bankruptcy and the ideological commitments of so many of these students and frankly, the antisemitism, which has been so close, at least to this point, under the surface in many of these elite universities but is now broken out in the open. That’s a statement that has a long pedigree and frankly, even as some people are saying, “Oh, that can mean peaceful coexistence,” or, “Oh, that is just a statement of Palestinian aspirations, it doesn’t mean the elimination of Israel.” Let’s be clear. It certainly has meant that. And under the attack by Hamas, there was an implementation of that from the river to the sea Palestine will be free commitment and the goal of Hamas is abundantly clear. And as you’re looking at this, you recognize we are seeing the evidence right in the open of what happens when an ideology turns homicidal or murderous, and that’s basically what has taken place here.

But even as that statement is now a matter of cultural conversation and even political debate, and even as we trace its pedigree and understand that there is no doubt what Hamas has meant when that expression is used and anyone who uses that expression has to understand its pedigree, means the elimination of Israel. It doesn’t mean any kind of peaceful coexistence, and at least as it has been used by Hamas and popularized, it means an Islamist ideology that requires the elimination of the Jewish people. Let’s be honest, that’s what it means. People who use that statement and say they mean something else. Well, quite frankly they’re being intellectually dishonest or they’re being at least disingenuous about what that statement means and where it came from.

Most ominously, that language has leapt into the public square associated with controversy about one member of Congress. That member is Representative Rashida Tlaib who represents a district there in the state of Michigan.

She’s a Democrat. She’s a part of the far left group in Congress on the Democratic side known as The Squad, and she has been given open support to the Palestinian cause, and by that we don’t just mean the good of the Palestinian people or even the protection of Palestinian civilians, we mean that she has sided with the Palestinian cause and she has used the very language we’re talking about here, “From the river to the sea.” Now what exactly does she mean by that? Only she can answer for it, but she has also accused the President of the United States because of his support for Israel as being guilty in genocide against the Palestinian people. On this count, I want to cite a columnist of the Washington Post, Jim Geraghty. The headline is this, “Representative Tlaib’s Incendiary Smear of President Biden.” The opening statement of this article is very, very interesting.

It’s revealing of where we now stand on this issue. “Even by the standards of today’s Washington, a video from Michigan, representative Rashida Tlaib is the most incendiary and provocative statement you’ll ever see from a member of Congress.” Now, this is the Washington Post. It’s a liberal newspaper, very much a part of the political establishment and if not on the left, at least on the center left, very democratically inclined in terms of the Democratic Party. But in this opening statement, you’d really do find a striking sentence that even by the standard of today’s Washington, this video from Representative Tlaib “is the most incendiary and provocative statement you’ll ever see from a member of Congress.” Let’s just step back for a moment and recognize that covers an awful lot of territory. That is an incredible statement. I think it also happens to be true. Geraghty continues, “You don’t often see a house member from the President’s party accusing him of supporting genocide.”

Every word of this statement is of vital importance. The word genocide is of particular importance. That is a morally and legally defined term. The geno in this case means an ethnic group. This is an intentional effort to try to eliminate an ethnic group. Now, just to state the obvious, that is what was happening in the Holocaust under Nazi Germany. It was a war against the Jewish people and outright plan to rid the Reich and indeed Europe and if possible, the world of the Jewish people. That was genocide. When you’re looking at Israel’s effort to eliminate the threat of Hamas, it’s just not fair to call that genocide. Now, what is fair? It is fair to say that there are innocent Palestinians who are paying the price. It is to say that there have been throughout history many innocent Palestinians who have paid an enormous price, an unjust price for how they’ve had to live, where they’ve had to live, and the threats that have been undertaken sometimes even in their name.

One of the scandals of Hamas is that it’s leaders by and large are conducting this kind of terrorist attack and they launched this kind of indeed murderous attack from some safe place like one of the Arab Emirates or a luxury hotel in Europe. This is a very different issue than what’s happening in the suffering of so many Palestinians. The Christian worldview understands and takes full moral account of that suffering. We need to pray for the protection of all innocent people, and that means in this case in particular, innocent Palestinians as well as we pray for the protection of innocent Israelis. But it is just not accurate to describe what Israel is undertaking now after this unprecedented attack as genocide. But representative Tlaib used that very language. As Geraghty says, “That’s literally what Tlaib does.” He mentions a video which was released last Friday on X that is formerly Twitter that begins with President Biden standing at a podium, he tells us, and saying, “We stand with Israel.”

“We then see snippets of video of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip followed by the footage of bleeding children.” The point is that soon after that, “The video cuts to images of a protest and the word Michigan on big white letters,” he continues, “We get similar footage in California, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and at the Ohio protest, we get our first caption of what the protestors are chanting, ‘no peace on stolen land.’ A few moments later, ‘We hear from the river to the sea.'” So here you have a member of Congress, a democratic member of Congress already very much identified on the left, and what makes that by the way further complicated is the fact that even though she identifies here with the Palestinian people, you are not seeing any kind of honest reckoning with the Islamist terrorist group that is behind this.

Geraghty gets right to the moral point, and this is just emphatically important to us right now. He says, “You can’t chant or endorse the chant, ‘no peace on stolen land’ and then insist you’re calling for peaceful coexistence. You just literally said you’re not willing to peacefully coexist with somebody else because you perceive them as living on land stolen from you. And everyone knows that the Palestinians and the groups such as Hamas see all of Israel as stolen land.” We’ve understood the ideology behind that. We also understand that there is a history behind this, and a part of that history is the fact that there were many Palestinians who were dispossessed by the creation of Israel and Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948. That is one of the very sorrowful chapters in world history. At the same time, I believe the international community, I believe the United Nations was absolutely right to declare its support for the existence of Israel by official United Nations action.

I believe that the United States was right to recognize Israel as a nation, the very first recognition, by the way, undertaken by US President Harry Truman. I believe that Israel has the right to exist and it has the right to defend itself. There are all kinds of issues that can and should be debated about how the Israelis and the Palestinians should relate to one another. But when you are chanting “from the river to the sea” and when you are talking about no coexistence on stolen land, you are feeding an ideology that has led we already know to genocide.

And furthermore, many in the Western media just aren’t being honest about what this means. This is not, and this is where Jim Geraghty is spot on, this is not a call for peaceful coexistence. This is a call for the elimination of Israel. I just want to suggest right now, I want to underline this fact that because those in Israel know exactly what those words mean and they know exactly what Hamas believes, and they have read exactly what Hamas has said from its very beginning about its aims, that is why Israel is not giving much attention to what so many of the people who are protesting its actions–well, Israel’s just not paying them much attention because Israel understands the foe that it faces.

Now, that’s not to say that Israel will not make mistakes and hasn’t made mistakes. Any warring nation makes mistakes. That’s true of the United States and every single one of our wars, but that does not affirm a moral equivalence that both sides are simply equally guilty. That is just profoundly not true. It was just to give one example, profoundly not true in World War II. Nazi Germany had to be defeated if human values were to survive. Speaking directly to President Biden, who let’s just remind ourselves is the president of her own party, Representative Tlaib said, and I quote, “Mr. President, the American people are not with you on this one. We will remember in 2024.”

Now, that’s an amazing statement. Just in terms of politics, Jim Geraghty is exactly right. This is one of the most extreme things you’re ever going to hear for two reasons. Number one, first of all, just the moral reason because of what is implied here in terms of support for the non-existence of Israel in terms of from the river to the sea. But the second thing is you’re talking about a liberal Democrat openly attacking the incumbent president that represents her own party. It’s hard to imagine any recent precedent in American history where someone has used this kind of language. It’s not to say there haven’t been Democrats who’ve opposed certain decisions and actions undertaken by the president of their own party. The same thing’s true of Republicans, but that’s quite different than saying we’re going to remember in 2024, and that’s quite different of making clear that you believe this is genocide supported by the American president.

Just a couple of other worldview dimensions for us to think about here. From time to time, something happens and you ask yourself just how important is this? The word unprecedented is thrown around far too much. That’s why I try to avoid it because there are often precedents that people don’t want to acknowledge. Very few things are truly unprecedented, but right now, in terms of recent decades, this is unprecedented in American history. And for one thing, it tells us something about the Democratic Party that even evidently many Democrats didn’t understand, and that is that the party is turned, at least in terms of its younger members and even members of Congress, it has turned with open anti antipathy towards Israel.

Now, just go back in history. When Israel was established, it wasn’t a democratic cause in the United States, it wasn’t a Republican cause/ Republicans and Democrats may not have been in exactly the same place, but if you go back a generation or so in American history, something like 90% of persons polled who identified as both the Republicans and Democrats offered very wholehearted support for the State of Israel and its right of existence.

So something’s happened here. In worldview terms, there has been a tremendous shift, and by that a very lamentable shift I mean, a very tragic shift, but it has to be explained by something. What has happened? Well, you could say on the one hand, patterns of immigration have meant something, and especially in places like Michigan where you have a much larger Muslim population. That would’ve been true a generation or two ago. But to be honest, immigration can’t explain the massive shift in numbers because at least in terms of Muslim immigration, those numbers don’t quite add up. So that means that an awful lot of young people on America’s elite college and university campuses whose presence is not explained by Muslim immigration, they’re neither immigrants nor Muslims. The reality is that this means an ideological seduction of so many students, of so many younger Americans, especially of younger Democrats, of an ideology that turns out to be openly hostile to the existence of Israel, and furthermore, demonstrates an open hostility to the Jewish people.

That’s why there is headline after headline of people on the left, not so much on the right coming to this realization because this is the great shock on the left. Those who are protesting on these campuses don’t represent the right, they represent the political left, and many on the left are simply recognizing the fact that something fundamental has changed while none of them were watching, or at least they weren’t watching closely enough. Ideology matters, this is something for us to understand. We know that worldview matters, ideology matters, a murderous ideology produces a murderous series of events, or at least the intention of murderous events. With Hamas, it was more than an intention. But it also produces support that you wouldn’t have expected. That’s exactly what’s happening. But quite frankly, it’s shocking in terms of how strong it is, how vehement it is, how clear and honest it is, and how widespread it is.

Israel and the Jewish people, wherever they are found, they’re going to have to take some time to take in account of what this means, the rise of antisemitism, the fall off of support for Israel. But we need to know Israel’s going to deal with that after it does what it must do to eliminate Hamas as a direct threat to Israeli lives and by extension to Jewish lives. It’s going to be a very rough battle for Israel on the ground, yes, undoubtedly, but also in the court of public opinion. But Israel is not going to be able to deal with the court of public opinion until it secures itself from the imminent threat of the non-existence of the Jewish people and the Jewish state as undertaken by Hamas. So let’s just understand ourselves that in the real world, you’ve got to deal with the army that invaded you before you deal with public opinion locally or globally.

Part II

If Authorities Did Not Take Adequate Action in This Case, Then When Would They? — The Horrifying Inaction Behind the Mass Shooting in Maine

But next, turning to the United States, another grievous, tragic story that continues to raise massive questions. In this case, we’re looking at the mass murder that was carried out in Lewiston, Maine by a man named Robert Card and what is now pouring out as an urgent issue for the United States and for law enforcement and all of us to face is the fact that Robert Card’s family, his military superiors, a medical team and others had offered dire warnings about the fact that he was mentally ill and potentially dangerous. So much so that we now know that he was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility for a matter of days, and that authorities have been looking for him in the days before he carried out this murderous rampage.

And when it was understood that this military reservist had carried out this mass murder, what is perhaps shocking to us is the fact that there were many people who weren’t shocked at all. Among those who weren’t shocked, but obviously greatly grieved were members of his family, also people who knew him in the military reserves, and that includes some superior officers and some people who were involved in military medical facilities who had ample evidence of the fact this was a deeply troubled person who was thought by some people to be capable of carrying out some kind of very violent act. That’s exactly of course what he did.

Now, you have two United States senators, Republican Susan Collins of Maine, and the independent US Senator from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, Angus King. Both of them are asking huge questions, and they have sent a joint letter to the Inspector General of the United States Army asking for an account of how these things may have been possible. How is it that someone who was known to be so mentally unstable and potentially so violent, even murderously so, how is it that he was nonetheless let out of a facility? He was not being adequately watched, he’d been lost by law enforcement and other officials, and he was capable, and eventually he was determined to carry out this mass murder. Remember, 18 persons killed, the youngest of them, a 14-year-old boy. 13 who were injured, 18 people dead in a small Maine community.

A lot of people knew Robert Card. A lot of people knew Robert Card to be very dangerous. How’s this for a headline: Wall Street Journal Dire Warnings Failed to Stop Rampage. Now, in a headline, when you see language in a paper as establishment as the Wall Street Journal, when you see a headline that begins with the words dire warnings, well, that tells us that this was not your normal level of concern or anxiety about a deeply troubled person. The subhead in the article is this, “Massacre Illustrates Blind Spots Remain in Legal and Mental Health Systems.” I don’t want to try to do an analysis of exactly what institution, what profession, what network failed. I don’t want to consider the military, or I don’t want to consider the medical profession. I want to look at this from the most basic level of the Christian worldview. To what extent are we able to adequately evaluate the danger represented by another human being?

To what degree are we able or perhaps more importantly, unable to read a single human heart? And you could say, “How could anyone read Robert Card’s heart?” Well, they could read his actions, they could read his anxieties, they could read his words. But when you look at whether or not this person was actually determined to carry out a murderous rampage, well, we just evidently lack whatever it takes to read the human heart. At the same time, it does appear that there were adequate signs that a sane society would’ve done something to either restrain this man or to keep him in some protective situation under adequate observation. That didn’t happen. As a matter of fact, a search for him had been called off, not just after, but just before this murderous rampage was undertaken.

So what explains why our society, even though we just admit right up front, we’re unable to read the human heart, we’re not unable to listen to what human beings say, we’re not unable to see adequate grounds for someone believed to be planning and plotting such an evil endeavor, we’re not incapable of understanding that there are persons who are deeply mentally ill and are furthermore dangerous. The problem is, as a society, we have elevated personal autonomy to such a level that we made it very, very difficult for this society to even take protective action against dangerous individuals. We have elevated personal autonomy to a level in which it takes far more evidence, it takes far more proceduralism, it takes far more concentrated social and cultural energy to keep a person from carrying out this kind of crime than we’re able to muster. And that’s very sad. It’s not just who should have seen this and didn’t. It’s not even the question of some kind of accountability; who dropped the ball in this case, so to speak?

It’s actually even more pressing, what have we begun to value as a culture that is making it increasingly impossible to protect innocent people, and furthermore, to keep dangerous people from doing dangerous things? Every society has to understand there’s a balance there. But that balance right now is way out of balance in the line of personal autonomy where quite frankly, we are looking at event after event like this with people having to admit they knew more than they want to admit they knew about how dangerous someone was. Let me just go back to the headline in the Wall Street Journal, “Dire Warnings Failed to Stop Rampage.” You look at this case and you wonder, people did not take adequate action in this case. What exactly would it take for them to take action? And that’s not just individuals, that’s also a society that has arranged policies and laws and a claim of a certain kind of set of rights that makes it virtually impossible, even when we know someone is dangerous from preventing them from carrying something like this horrible crime out in real life with so much death.

Part III

Magic Mushrooms or Not, This Was Evil: The Sinful Human Heart and its Actions

Finally, for today, we understand it’s not just a murderous rampage, sometimes tragically, all too frequently undertaken with a gun or a similar kind of weapon, it can be a passenger airliner in which an off-duty pilot can try to mid-flight turn off the engines and crash the plane with death for all the passengers and crew on board. That’s what happened on an Alaska Airlines flight in which a pilot attempted to shut off the engines in the middle of the flight. Now, the active flight crew was able to prevent him from doing so. He also tried other things in terms of misbehavior, threatening behavior. During the flight, he tried to open a door that also would’ve led to a potential catastrophe for the plane in its passengers. The big question is, how does an airline miss this? Because it’s a similar pattern to what we just saw in the case of the rampage in Maine.

There must’ve been evidence you’d like to think that someone would’ve seen this was a very disturbed pilot. The pilot, by the way, was said that at least part of his behavior might be traced to the fact he was using so-called magic mushrooms. But let’s face it, we can’t blame this on a mushroom no matter how magic. This is human evil, and it was once again, an intention to bring about massive human death. But the situation here is even more troubling because you’re looking at an industry and a profession that requires regular psychiatric screenings. And I think speaking for all of us, we can be thankful for that. But once again, we see the limitations of those psychiatric screenings. And at least a part of this is because as the Scripture makes clear, the human heart is more devious and more wicked than we might be able to handle in psychiatry or in law enforcement or in private investigations or in any kind of human endeavor.

The fact is that evil is more clever than we are, and as the scripture makes clear, this evil emerges from the human heart. It sometimes emerges in human actions, even murderous actions as we see in these cases. And there will be people who will say, “You know I thought he was troubled.” And yet no one is able to say, “You know, I could read his heart, I knew exactly what he planned.” No, the reality is the human heart is deceitful. The scripture tells us that. In these cases, of course, we’re looking at very dramatic illustrations of what that means, but it’s also important that we recognize every single human being to some degree, thankfully, very, very few ever harbor murderous intentions, much less conduct murderous acts. But let’s face it, when it comes to understanding the human heart, we are not even 100% knowledgeable about our own hearts, and that’s perhaps more frightening than anything else.

This is why Christians learn to pray, “Lord, guard my heart, protect my heart, shape my heart in conformity to Jesus Christ. Free me from the to sin, and lead me in the paths of righteousness and holiness for your namesake.”

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to

For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

I’m speaking to you from near Asheville, North Carolina, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).