The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

It’s Tuesday, November 14, 2023.

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

Part I

‘We Wanted A Permanent State of War in Israel on All Borders’: Hamas Makes Its Aims Chillingly Clear

We’re all trying to understand what’s going on right now in the war between Israel and Hamas. In the aftermath of the deadly genocidal attack by Hamas back on October the 7th, it has basically been the most important news story in the world since then. And given some of the other stories, some of the other happenings, that’s really saying something. It continues to dominate the news because right now it is the most important story. In terms of the weightiness of the Christian worldview, in terms of understanding what’s important as contrasted sometimes with what’s urgent, this story is both urgent and important.

Sometimes the importance of an issue or the way to understand it can be changed by one comment. I’m thinking particularly of a comment made on Sunday by Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s National Security Advisor. When he was asked about the context of the current war undertaken by Israel against Hamas, Jake Sullivan said, “Well, we now know what the aims of Hamas were from the beginning, and it was a state of constant war in order to lead to the eventual disappearance of Israel as a state.” And in order to back up and give evidence for what he said, that the American government now knows and is informing America’s national policy as well as Israel, he pointed to an article that had appeared on the front page of the New York Times. And that article, by the way, appeared last Thursday in the print edition.

The article didn’t get as much attention as it deserved at the time, because after all, there was such a flood of news, even a deep and rapid flood having to do with the war in Israel and in Gaza, particularly the war between Israel and Hamas. And you look at this story, the headline is this, “Hamas’ goal for October 7: A permanent state of war.” The subhead in the article, “Groups leaders say carnage was needed to restore focus on Palestinians.” The interesting thing here is that the New York Times ran the article and it ran it on the front page above the fold, prime real estate in the print edition, but it didn’t seem to get a lot of attention until the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States said, “This is what’s informing our administration right now.”

Oddly enough, this tells us that at least a lot of the information that’s shaping the judgments made by the government in Israel and the government in Washington is drawn from news reports and not from military intelligence. Just about everyone has agreed that the vulnerabilities of Israel demonstrated on October the 7th represented a failure of military intelligence. In the history of the United States, we have also seen some tremendous successes when it comes to military intelligence. We’ve also seen tremendous failures.

When the New York Times ran this story, it was doing so on the basis of interviews with senior leaders of Hamas. That turns out to be really interesting, because these leaders of Hamas revealed exactly what they were seeking to do in that attack. The attack was necessary, said one man, to “change the entire equation and not just have a clash.” That statement was made by Khalil al-Hayya, a member of the top leadership body of Hamas. And he told the New York Times in an interview undertaken in Doha, Qatar, “We succeeded in putting the Palestinian issue back on the table, and now no one in the region is experiencing calm.”

The New York Times article really does cite numerous sources. And what’s important to us is to recognize that both the government in Israel and the government in Washington seem to be giving attention to this intelligence.

This is one of the ways that war is fought. War is sometimes fought on the ground with battle, sometimes in the air with planes and with missiles, sometimes war is undertaken in the media. This is particularly true of the modern era that we’re living in right now and the modern media, not to mention almost instantaneous media in the digital age. And so, Hamas is out giving its side of the story. And what’s really interesting and chilling is that Hamas is not backing off of the aims of the attack. It is claiming victory and it’s also going on to brag that it accomplished more than it had intended or expected on October the 7th. And furthermore, it is announcing its aims, which continue to be the elimination of Israel and the state of permanent war with Israel and with other factors in the region, if necessary, until Hamas gains its aims.

Just a few lines later, the paper quotes Tahar al-Nunu, a Hamas media advisor who told the New York Times, “I hope that the state of war with Israel will become permanent on all the borders and that the Arab world will stand with us.” So, in one sense, we now know that what Hamas was up to was a long throw, so to speak. It was a big move that was intended to create a state of permanent war–more on that in just a moment–but was also intended to bring other Arab forces and Arab nations into the battle against Israel. The thing we need to note is that that statement is not particularly important in the past tense. It’s important in the present tense. That is exactly what Hamas is seeking to achieve in the war right now. Remember that this official Hamas media advisor said that the hope was that this would become a permanent war against Israel on all the borders.

The article goes on to explain, “The attack ended up being broader and more deadly than even its planners had anticipated. Largely because the assailants managed to break through Israel’s vaunted defenses with ease, allowing them to overrun military bases and residential areas with little resistance.” But the October 7 attack was, as these Hamas leaders tell us, something else. It was sending a signal about what Hamas is really all about in terms of its identity, its plans, its aims, its goals. We are told that the answer to the question, what is Hamas about, was asking whether it’s mainly a governing body. That’s what Israel had hoped, at least some in Israel had hoped, that Hamas was going to be a governing body there in Gaza. But is it a governing body or was it “still fundamentally an armed force unrelentingly committed to destroying Israel and replacing it with an Islamist-Palestinian state?”

So this is the New York Times telling us. And now you have the President’s National Security Advisor pointing to this statement, even to this article, saying this is what Hamas is all about. This was Hamas ending the debate about whether it was a governing group or it was an Islamist terrorist group with the intention of destroying Israel. Was it seeking to create a military action and undertake that action against Israel? And was it somewhat successful? Was it thwarted? What was its aim? Well, its aim was to create a state of permanent war. Now, some within the Biden administration are saying, “Well, that’s a sticky wicket, because what that means is that Israel plays into the strategy of Hamas by fighting back.” Israel’s played this game before. It understands that the only way to avoid entering into this kind of dynamic is to refuse to defend itself, which is the one thing Israel certainly will not do.

Speaking of the October 7 attack, Mr. al-Hayya, the Hamas leader said, “What could change the equation was a great act. And without a doubt, it was known that the reaction to this great act would be big. We had,” he said, “to tell people that the Palestinian cause would not die.” So there you have a very clear, straightforward statement. It’s not evasive. What was called for, he says, was a big act. Hamas knew exactly what it was doing. It intended this unprecedented attack. In many ways, the worst attack on the Jewish people since the Second World War. It did so in order to create a state of permanent war until the group could accomplish its ultimate goal of the total elimination of Israel. And as the Hamas charter says, the elimination of the Jewish people, at least in terms of the Middle East.

It’s frankly striking to see how much is revealed in this article. I cite it again, “Hamas effectively sought to undo history, starting with 1948,” that’s the year that Israel declared its independence, “when more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in what will become Israel during the war surrounding the founding of the Jewish state. For Hamas,” I continue reading this quote, “that displacement in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 Mid-East War were great historical wrongs that had to be righted by force of arms. Hamas dismissed peace talks with Israel as a betrayal, viewing them as a capitulation to Israel’s control over what the group considered occupied Palestinian land.”

So again, what is Hamas up to? It is seeking to create a situation of permanent war until the Jewish state is no longer in existence and the Jewish people are removed from the holy land. Now, you’ll have many people, at least in terms of the Palestinian cause, say this isn’t about the Jews, it’s about the state of Israel. But with Hamas, you have at least the clear understanding that that distinction doesn’t matter. The article concludes with a similar statement made by Mr. al-Hayya, who said, “Hamas’ goal was not to run Gaza and to bring it water and electricity and such.” He went on to say that Hamas and other groups, “woke the world up from its deep sleep and showed that this issue must remain on the table.” His final words in this story, “This battle was not because we wanted fuel or laborers. It did not seek to improve the situation in Gaza. This battle is to completely overthrow the situation.”

That, we just need to note, did not come as a result of sophisticated military intelligence. That didn’t come years later when historians go back to interview people involved in the attack. No, those statements are coming right now. And thus the freshness and urgency, indeed the horror of those statements should be very clear in our minds as defining reality. And there are so many people in the mainstream media, there’s so many people who, in America, even in Congress, are beginning to say, “I’m not sure what this is now all about.” Well, once again, the leaders of Hamas have made it extremely clear what this is all about.

Along the same lines, an article that appeared in Sunday’s edition of the Washington Post offers a similar insight. The headline in this article, “Hamas envisioned deeper attacks, aiming to provoke an Israeli war.” The subhead, “Evidence gleaned since October 7 shows Hamas militants prepare for a second phase of assaults amid hopes of inspiring violence in the West Bank and beyond.” More very good reporting, more important statements made by leaders of Hamas and others. In this article, the most chilling revelation is the fact that the leaders of Hamas knew that the attack on Israel would lead to an attack on Gaza, on Hamas in Gaza, and that would lead to civilian casualties. And those civilian casualties are basically celebrated. If anything, they’re simply acknowledged in this article as a goal of Hamas.

One of the men involved here, Ghazi Hamad, a member of the Hamas Politburo, told Beirut’s LCBI Television in an interview, we’re told, that aired on October the 24th, “Will we have to pay a price? Yes. And we are ready to pay it. We are called a nation of martyrs and we are proud to sacrifice martyrs.” The context here is that those are not only Hamas soldiers, those are civilians in Gaza. As the Washington Post reporter explains, “Hamas was willing to accept such sacrifices as the price for kick-starting a new wave of violent Palestinian resistance in the region and scuttling efforts in normalizing relations between Israel and Arab states.” Earlier in the article, the Post reported, “Hamas meticulously planned and prepared for a massacre of Israeli civilians on a scale that was highly likely to provoke Israel’s government in descending troops into Gaza, analysts said. Indeed, Hamas leaders have publicly expressed a willingness to accept heavy losses, potentially including the deaths of many Gazan civilians living under Hamas rule.”

So when Israel says that Hamas is using civilians as a human shield, you don’t have to take Israeli leader’s word for it. All you have to take is the word of Hamas leaders who are saying openly the very same thing, and they’re putting it in the language of martyrdom and necessary sacrifice. Again, the goal: the elimination of Israel.

It is no doubt certain that in time to come we’re going to understand more. We’re going to know even more details about what Hamas was seeking to do. But the fact is that right now we are responsible to know what we now cannot not know. And that is that the leaders of Hamas have announced exactly what they are doing and their goals, permanent war to lead to the elimination of Israel. They’re willing to produce sacrificial martyrs and they’re willing for civilians to be those martyrs for their cause.

And again, the most striking thing perhaps in all of this, other than the sheer evil of it, is that this is not produced by some kind of spying on Hamas. These are statements coming from the leaders of Hamas. Sadly, on this account, we have every reason to take them at their word.

Part II

Is the LGBTQ Agenda Unstopped and Unstoppable? Countries Around the World Challenge That Western Notion

Next, coming back to the United States, and we’re going to be looking at some other nations around the world. Coming back to the United States, the moral revolutionaries want to act as if and argue as if and create policies as if the LGBTQ revolution is unstopped and unstoppable. That indeed it’s inexorable globally, worldwide. The total victory of the LGBTQ agenda, and of course that’s an expanding agenda, it is inevitable. And yet at the same time, you can look at developments elsewhere around the world and recognize a fundamental truth that the activist community for the sexual revolutionaries don’t want you to know or don’t want you to think about and recognize. And that is that if you look around the world today, those that are actively, proactively, aggressively pro LGBTQ, that is not representative of most of the globe.

Instead, it’s rather localized in nations that had been very much a part of the Christian project in terms of Europe and North America, but have clearly, through a process of secularization, switched teams, so to speak. If you look to other continents, for instance, Africa, you’re going to find a very different understanding. If you go to the Middle East with the exception of some liberal enclaves, and by the way, Israel is at least in part one of those, then you’re going to find a very clear understanding of sexual morality and you’re not going to find any LGBTQ activism. None. You go to much of the Muslim-influenced world, the same thing. And that expands of course into nations like Indonesia.

And you look at Asian countries, we’ll just take for example a headline that appeared in recent days in the Financial Times. That’s a major newspaper published in London. This has to do with Hong Kong and Beijing, because Hong Kong, as you know, is now under the control of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, and Hong Kong, that when it was under Western influence was trending in an LGBTQ-friendly direction. Well, it now has to look over its shoulder, and Beijing is not in favor of pressing the LGBTQ limits. The occasion for this article was the gay games as they are known in Hong Kong. And as it turns out, there had been government officials involved in making public appearances at these games in the past. But right now, well, not so much. Only one leader in Hong Kong showed up, and the reason is they know Beijing is watching very closely.

One Hong Kong legislator who did not show up at the game said this, “We can sympathize with the LGBTQ+ community, but that doesn’t mean the majority of us need to endorse such abnormal behavior.” The article goes on and it just reveals the increasing tensions between Beijing and Hong Kong. And remember, Beijing is eventually going to be in full control here. And you’re looking at the fact that in this part of the world, that kind of language is not surprising coming even from a senior government official. It’s simply a statement of moral reality. But then comes another article. This one’s in the New York Times with the headline, “LGBTQ crackdown unsettles Hungary’s cultural world.” This is an article, and frankly, it’s lamenting the fact that the crackdown, as it says, on LGBTQ+ relationships, behaviors, and for that matter, the propaganda and the larger culture, that the crackdown here is beginning to affect Hungarian culture, including Hungarian cultural institutions.

This particular article in The Times mentions that there are those in Hungary’s cities who are more favorable to the LGBTQ+ revolution, but when it comes to the countryside and the smaller towns in Hungary, well, there’s a lot of support for a crackdown on the expansion of the LGBTQ+ movement. And of course people in the West, and in particular Western Europe, but also in the Biden administration in the US, they see this as a step backwards, a regression. This is something that the United States government needs to step in on, and the Biden administration through its foreign policy has been trying to advance the LGBTQ+ agenda. You look at other articles from around the world, and it’s very clear that the United States, this current administration is putting itself on the line for these LGBTQ+ issues, but not successfully everywhere.

My point in raising this issue today, using these two examples, is not just to say, look, the whole world is not going along with this. But rather, to understand that the argument being made by progressives in the West is that modernity, the modern age, modern democratic government, modern culture, it produces this kind of sexual confusion. That’s the message that’s being sent. If you’re going to join the modern age, if you’re going to be with the popular kids in the globe, then you’re going to have to get with the program and join the revolution. But the interesting thing here is not only that that’s how that’s being packaged by so many in the liberal West, it’s just interesting that it’s not being received, and frankly, it’s not being persuasive in much of the rest of the world.

We have to understand this is an open question, and that’s one of the reasons why I raise it. It’s an open question as to the direction other nations are going to take. Will efforts such as that undertaken by the Biden administration in terms of our State Department, will the public messaging of the United States be eventually overpowering to these other nations, or will there be a resistance to the idea that if you’re going to be modern and if you’re going to be advanced and if you’re going to honor human rights, then you’re going to have to buy into the entire LGBTQ+ agenda?

I think another thing for us to consider is that if that argument is persuasive–that if you’re going to honor human rights, you got to buy into the identity politics and the entire construct of the sexual revolution–I think it’s fair to say that a lot of the ambitions of the US State Department in terms of spreading, say, constitutional self-government, it is not going to be as persuasive as it might otherwise be. Because if it is packaged with the sexual revolution and all that goes with it, then many nations around the world are going to have nothing of it.

Part III

A Father, Patriot, and Astronaut Signs Off One Last Time: Frank Borman Dies at 95

But finally for today, I want to make mention of an obituary. This obituary is for a man who died at age 95, one of the historic astronauts in the American Space Program, the Apollo program. His name was Frank Borman. Like a lot of young boys in the early 20th century, Frank Borman became absolutely enamored of the airplanes which were then barnstorming the nation. He decided to become a pilot, and he did. He went on to West Point, earning admission there, and he graduated. And yet, he became an Air Force fighter pilot in 1950, but he wasn’t assigned to be a combat pilot. Instead, his skills as a pilot, they led the Air Force officials to ask him to become a test pilot. And he did. And some of those most select of the test pilots became the early space explorers known to Americans as the astronauts.

He was trained as a fighter pilot, but Frank Borman understood airplanes like few others. He had a feel for airplanes that meant that he was such a good test pilot, he can know exactly when a plane had reached its points of endurance, when it had been maximized in terms of its performance. People described him as having lightning-quick impulses, and frankly, being a pilot that stood head and shoulders against most others. In December of 1965, he commanded what was known as the Gemini VII spacecraft that set a record in a 14-day flight. And as you had Gemini VII, it rendezvoused with the aircraft known as Gemini VI-A, and as the New York Times says, that was “a significant step toward perfecting a similar maneuver that would be required when astronauts reached the moon.”

But Frank Borman became known to most Americans, and indeed he became known in 1968 to most Americans as the commander of the mission known as Apollo 8, a space flight in which astronauts became the very first human beings to orbit the moon. And they did so several times. And Frank Borman spoke of that experience, and Americans later began to see that experience, as Borman said, seeing the earth rise over the moon, it represented the only color and light in that sense found anywhere in the entire cosmos that could be seen. There were sparkles of light here and there, but everything was black and white except the Earth rising, by their perspective, over the moon. The photograph that was taken became known as Earth Rise, and when it was published for the American people in color, it became the first time that human beings had seen the entirety of planet Earth from that kind of distance in outer space. It was breathtaking. It was history-making. It was awe-inspiring. And in biblical terms, it was humbling.

But to Americans of my generation, Apollo 8 is remembered for the fact that we were watching, spellbound, on television as images were being streamed to us from a space vehicle that was orbiting the moon and seeing the Earth, and it happened over Christmas in 1968. And on Christmas Day in a broadcast from outer space, from all the distance all the way from the Earth to the moon, Commander Frank Borman had an audience of millions and millions and millions of people from around the world, not only in the United States. And on that day in that setting, what he did was to read aloud Genesis 1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” That was later put on a stamp in honor of Apollo 8.

My point is this, that statement, that act, was uncontroversial in 1968. The vast majority of Americans thought that that was exactly the right thing to happen on Christmas Day, with these astronauts apart from their family and as they were orbiting the moon, looking back at the Earth, what would come to their minds? But in the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.

Frank Borman was the commander of Apollo 8, and he was a Senior Apollo Astronaut. If he had wanted to, he certainly could have commanded another Apollo mission and he could have walked on the moon. He didn’t do so. He didn’t, he said, because he didn’t need to. He had accomplished what he needed to do. What did he need to do in his own sense of mission? What he wanted to do was to help the United States of America get to the moon before the Soviet Union. That was his goal. He understood the Cold War. He understood the race in space. He understood what was at stake. And as a patriotic American, he wanted to make certain that when the first astronauts landed on the moon and planted a flag, it was the flag of the United States of America.

He was a plain-spoken man. When he explained why he wanted to beat the Soviets, he just said this, “I wanted to participate in this American adventure of beating the Soviets, but that’s the only thing that motivated me.” And speaking about why he didn’t feel an impulse that led him to have to go to the moon, he said this, “I would not have accepted the risk involved to go pick up rocks.” He said, “I love my family more than anything in the world. I would never have subjected them to the dangers simply for me to be an explorer.” Another fascinating statement. Not only a patriot, but also a husband and a father puts things in perspective.

In later years, he would become an executive in the aviation business and would eventually become the chief executive of Eastern Airlines, known again to millions upon millions of Americans because of his personal advertising for his beloved airline. As he said to Americans, “We have to earn our business every day.” As on that Christmas Frank Borman and his colleagues in Apollo 8 were orbiting the moon, preparing to return to the Earth after they had shared the reading of Genesis I, Commander Borman signed off with these words, “Goodnight, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.” Frank Borman signed off one last time this past Tuesday in Billings, Montana at age 95.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’m speaking to you from San Antonio, Texas, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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