Wednesday, January 17, 2024

It’s Wednesday, January 17, 2024.

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

Part I

100 Days After October 7, 2023: Israel Pledges to Fight On Against Hamas and Faces a New Global Reality

Israel has just marked 100 days of active battle against Hamas after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. They killed about 1,200 persons, an unprovoked attack by a terrorist organization. Israel’s been pushing back now. And even as we’re looking at 100 days of war, we understand this has not been an even schedule because it took some days for Israel to be ready to mobilize forces to go into the Gaza Strip and to seek to eradicate Hamas. And that is the main ambition Israel set from the beginning, the elimination of Hamas. Now as we’re going to see, that raises an interesting question. Does that mean the elimination of Hamas as a terrorist group? Or does it mean the elimination, or at least effective elimination, of Hamas in terms of leadership and the ability to strike Israel from the occupied territories? That remains an unanswered question, and it is probably in the interest of Israel not to answer that question.

But marking 100 days of the conflict, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was very clear that Israel is determined to finish the battle that Hamas had begun. And with very unmistakable language, the Israeli Prime Minister went on to make a pledge that Hamas would be eradicated and defeated. He pledged to continue the effort until Israel had achieved what he determined to be “total victory.” Now, in the aftermath of the attack by Hamas, Israel did mobilize its forces, and with the intent to neutralize Hamas, went into the occupied territories, in particular, Gaza, and has conducted active warfare. This has been not without controversy, but Israel has been undeterred.

As you look at the situation, you recognize that over the course of say 100 days, international opinion has grown a bit shakier. That was absolutely predictable from the beginning. It’s also something that is deeply rooted in Israel’s history. Israel had to break the expectations of others in order, first of all, to even win its existence as a nation, to declare its existence and then to defend itself against invading Arab forces back in 1948. Subsequent wars, most importantly in 1967 and 1973, have made very clear to Israel that it has no choice but to prosecute war as war, and in particular when it has been invaded and attacked as took place on the October seven attacks by Hamas.

Now, one of the things we need to note, and there’s a lot of worldview significance to this, one of the things we need to note is that human attention is a very rare commodity, and it’s also a very precious commodity. And whether it’s on the part of politicians or just on the part of the average citizen, it is very difficult to keep one’s eye on the ball, so to speak, even to remember exactly why something is being done.

One of the things we need to note is that in a span of time, say 100 days, especially with today’s advent of social media and modern media technologies, the speed of modern politics, you have people who have basically been able to recast Israel’s war against Hamas as something other than what it is, which is a defensive action after an unprovoked attack by Hamas on October 7th. And you also have a lack of context here. And the lack of context includes the fact that so many people including, and this is sad to say, so many Americans, particularly younger Americans, have no understanding of the history whatsoever. One of the most shocking developments over the course of the last 100 days is not what took place in Israel and it’s not what is taking place right now in Gaza. It’s what’s taken place on America’s elite college campuses and in certain circles of American culture and American politics.

For instance, a matter of weeks ago, the New York Times ran a major article asking the question, “Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitism?” Which is to say, “Is opposition to Israel anti-Semitism?” Now, from the vantage point of Israel, it couldn’t be anything else. But frankly from the vantage point of honesty, at least in terms of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, well, it turns out that anti-Zionism in that sense is pretty much translatable into anti-Semitism, the denial that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.

Almost immediately after Israel began its effort to neutralize Hamas and went into Gaza, people began to say, “Well, you have Israel as a Jewish state. There should be no religiously identified state. That’s an anomaly. It’s unimaginable in the United States. It’s unimaginable right now in the context of Western Europe.” And so people say you simply shouldn’t have a religiously identified state. But we need to remember two things. Now, the first is just a matter of math. The reality is right now that is if you look at the globe, there are numerous countries that have the modifier Islamic in the name of the country. I’m not going to give you a list of them, but you can quickly determine that that’s a fairly lengthy list.

And when it comes to Israel being a Jewish state, that is not simply by the Declaration of Israel. That was the declaration of the United Nations in its resolution establishing the right of Israel to exist back in the period 1947, 1948. Israel has existed from its very beginning as a Jewish state. And even as Israel’s Prime Minister voiced his determination to see this through to the end, and that’s over against criticism within his own country, we’ll talk about that in just a moment, and criticism in the global community, even overt pressure from the Biden administration, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, simply said that Israel would press forward and would be undeterred. Here’s something else to note. Similar statements have been made by the leaders of Hamas. Even as the Israeli Prime Minister made his statement of determination, a similar statement was made by the leader of Hezbollah there in southern Lebanon, a Shi’at Islamic terrorist group. And in that case, the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, went on to say, “After 99 days, we are ready for you. We are not afraid of it.”

Now all this just serves to underline the fact that this is a very real conflict, and we are not looking at an expected end anytime soon. And in one sense, Israel has to look at this in completely different terms than say even the worldwide press talking about the 100 days. Israel has marked the 100 days. But Israel has seen, in one sense, its existence as a battle going all the way back to 1948.

And so in the Israeli consciousness, and here’s something to note, Israel has been deeply divided in political terms in recent years, even in recent months leading up to October 7th. Israel was facing what some described as an existential political crisis. But Israel’s amazingly united when it comes to the opposition to Hamas and the military effort against Hamas. There is a form of a unity government that is now in place. Then that underscores the fact that Israel is a nation. It’s not to say there are people in Israel who do not hold a contrary position. It is to say that the vast majority of people in Israel understand exactly what the Israeli government is up to in terms of prosecuting this effort to a successful conclusion.

Now that raises another issue. What would that successful conclusion look like? The Biden administration and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken have been pressing Israel to define the terms. And Israel’s given three issues that are absolutely, it says, non-negotiable. One is the end of Hamas as a military threat. The second is the end of this kind of attack coming from the occupied territories. And the third is a long-range solution that would protect the integrity of the state of Israel. Now, there’s more to it than that, but there’s not less to it than that.

Something else we have to keep in mind is that what Hamas is demanding is not some agenda of change on the part of Israel. What Hamas is demanding is the non-existence of Israel. And Hamas has made that very clear going back to its founding charter. It’s also making it very clear by the attack of October 7th and all the subsequent comments made by Hamas thereafter.

And so even as we’re looking at this, we recognize that Hamas had been presenting itself to the world with two different faces. One of them was a political face, which they claimed was separate from the military face. No one in the know basically acknowledged that distinction anyway, although there were many in western nations and even some in Israel who wanted to offer some kind of recognition to Hamas as a political entity. But now of course, all that has been swept away as an illusion.

We also have to remember that there are about 130 hostages still very much in question in the aftermath of the Hamas attack. And let’s just think about that in moral terms for a moment. Here you had a terrorist group that killed wantonly and seemed to kill not only with premeditated violence, but also with the intention to desecrate bodies and conduct what can only be described as some of the worst atrocities of war. And at the very same time, they took hostages. Now, some of those hostages, in particular, some women and children have been released, but there are still a large number of hostages who remain. And this has led to, and this is very predictable, pressure from within Israel for the government to declare a ceasefire or to do whatever is necessary to get the hostages home.

Now, I’ve discussed this on The Briefing before, but Israel has made some very important strategic mistakes when it comes to hostages. Israel has paid far too high a price in order to gain the liberation of hostages. Sometimes, for example, letting many prisoners go who were verifiably guilty of attacks upon Israel in order to get just one IDF soldier back. That sets a very bad precedent. Now, it’s also interesting to note right now that President Joe Biden and his administration appear to be willing to play a somewhat similar game when it comes at least to some context in which American hostages have been taken, particularly in recent months dealing with Iran.

In any event, world history will demonstrate that paying for hostages sets up a market for hostage-taking, and Hamas has clearly responded to that market by taking these hostages. And yet it’s also very interesting to note that it appears that the Israeli government is quite unified in understanding in this context that it must press the effort against Hamas even as Hamas makes threats against the hostages. And that was done, for instance, with a Hamas-released video just in the last couple of days. This is a very sad situation. All of us feel for those families in Israel. We can only imagine the trauma, the fear, the terror that is in their hearts. At the same time, we have to understand that Israel basically has no choice but to respond with force against Hamas. And coming up short in that effort will in the long range be far more expensive in human life than even the prospect of what might happen to some of these hostages, or perhaps even all of them.

It’s a very, very difficult situation. It points to the lack of symmetry between a civilized nation and a terrorist organization. A terrorist organization acts on behalf of its terrorist agenda. Regardless of its ideology, modern terrorism in particular, which emerged from, its interesting to note historically, Russian roots in the 19th century, modern terrorism has been about breaking all the rules. And Israel has to at least keep the rules of a civilized nation. That doesn’t mean Israel doesn’t make mistakes. The United States of America has made mistakes.

War is not a clean endeavor when it comes to human activity by definition. It is often defined as the fog of war. But at the same time, Israel is a part of the community of nations and there is accountability there, more on that in just a moment, even as the United States owes a certain kind of accountability to the world of nations. I didn’t say to an organized group like the United Nations or some international court. But in general terms, the United States ever since it began its global involvement has considered itself a nation among other nations. And that’s actually key to the very science and the art of what is known as foreign policy. It is the action of nations, and nations exist among nations. Hamas is not a nation. Hamas is a terrorist organization.

What also sets Israel apart, and that’s not apart from all other nations but many other nations particularly in the region, is that Israel is a form of democratically elected government. There’s accountability there. Israel is also a multi-party government, which is to say that the arguments emerge not from just outside the country or outside the government, but from inside the government, inside Israel’s parliament and inside its democratic process. All of this sets it apart not only from the Islamist terrorist group that attacked it and the others that threaten it, but also from virtually all the other nations in the area. None of which is actually a functioning democracy in the sense that Israel is.

That leads to something else that was in the background of the prime minister’s comments just a couple of days ago, his statement of defiance and determination. At least partly in the background is the fact that South Africa has filed charges of genocide against Israel and has done so at a world court known as the International Court of Justice. Hearings began. Two days of hearings were held just at the end of last week. Israel again is undeterred. It is determined. But it is interesting that Israel is mounting an active defense in this case and is not acting simply in defiance of the International Court of Justice.

Now, here’s where we need to understand something. There is a history here, and we need to be candid about this history. South Africa has very clearly sided with the Palestinian cause. It has done so especially since the emergence of Nelson Mandela as a major political leader in South Africa and later as the president of the country. Nelson Mandela, who of course was a freedom fighter for his own cause there in South Africa, sided with the Palestinians and has drawn absolute parallels between his cause against white minority government in South Africa and the parallel that Mandela saw with the plight of the Palestinians.

But there’s a very important moral and worldview background to the use of the term genocide. And we need to understand that the South African charge against Israel is precisely that genocide. And genocide is defined as the intentional effort to eliminate an entire ethnic group. Israel is made very clear that is not what it’s doing in terms of the war against Hamas, but it is really interesting to note how this is breaking down along some ideological and political lines. For example, those who side with the Palestinians are siding with South Africa and making this charge.

But it’s also interesting that even as Israel is offering a very stalwart defense, some surprising nations have come to the defense of Israel and most importantly the nation of Germany. Germany has offered to enter into this process, at least in part to defend Israel against the charge of genocide. Now of course, in worldview terms and historical terms, what does that mean? Well, the most important thing it means is that the word ‘genocide’ was most famously applied to the crimes of Nazi Germany in seeking to eliminate the Jewish people. And by that determination, in what was known as the plan for The Final Solution. The Final Solution was the ultimate eradication of the Jewish people from the face of the earth. Germany knows what genocide is, and Germany is ready to stand with Israel to defend Israel against this charge of genocide. That’s no small thing. That sends a very loud signal. And the United States has also sent the signal that this nation also stands with Israel against this charge.

But let’s just think about the fact that genocide is still quite possible in history, quite possible in the present. You have had documented cases of genocide clearly on a smaller scale than what you saw in the Third Reich against the Jewish people. But the Jewish people know exactly what genocide is because they experienced it. As a matter of fact, politically and historically, one of the reasons why Israel is a state by action of the United Nations is that the United Nations understood the threat against the Jewish people undertaken by the Third Reich, and thus the expression “never again.”

In his address marking the 100 days, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “We are continuing the war until the end, until total victory, until we achieve all of our goals.” He went on to describe those goals as “Eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza will never again constitute a threat to Israel.” Again, a statement of three goals in that case. And the process of repetition is a matter of simplifying the issue so that people can understand it, and that’s exactly what the Israeli prime minister did in his address marking the 100 days. There is more to this story unfolding, no doubt, even as we speak, and we’ll be tracking this with you, including what takes place at the International Court of Justice.

But we also need to note as we conclude this section of The Briefing that the big question looming over all of this consideration right now is what comes next. And in this case, there’s going to be a lot for us to talk about even in coming days because the Biden administration has a plan for what comes next, and that plan is absolutely incompatible with the plan of Israel for what comes next. One of the big questions has to do with whether there will be one state in the region or two. The so-called Two-State Solution, as we’re going to see, has been very problematic historically and is problematic right now. Furthermore, the Biden administration’s insistence that the so-called Palestinian authority be the governing authority in a reconstituted Gaza. I’m going to be making the argument that that is completely untenable and actually quite immoral.

Part II

Taiwan’s Bold Election Results: Taiwanese People Elect Leader In Opposition to China’s Claim of Rule, Raising Interesting Questions of History

But next I want to turn to another issue of headline news from around the world, and this has to do with the recent election just days ago in Taiwan in which Taiwan did something quite unexpected but very important. It continued, though the party that’s been in power for the last several years, in electing a new president. And that new president is a determined advocate for democracy and a very clear opponent of communist China taking over Taiwan as an autonomous province, which is to say this is about Taiwan’s existence as a nation and it’s about Taiwan’s autonomy as a nation.

The voters of Taiwan under intimidation by China, and by intimidation we mean massive military maneuvers that took place just months ago and recent saber-rattling by China, statements made by Xi Jinping, the premier of China, that China will absorb Taiwan and that Taiwan will inevitably become a part of China under the domination of the Chinese Communist Party, against all those threats, the people of Taiwan showed up, and they elected a proponent of Taiwanese independence, self-determination, and democratic self-government. That’s a very, very bold development and one we need to know.

This doesn’t of course end the discussion about Taiwan, but it does raise some very interesting questions of history. Why is Taiwan right now off the mainland of China? It’s a series of islands, but most importantly the island of Formosa. Why is it not a part of China right now? China claims it as part of its natural territory. Why do we consider it a separate nation? Well, that’s a complicated question, but it has to do with the aftermath of World War II and with the fact that the Chinese nationalist movement, which appeared very much in control of mainland China even in the face early on of what was a communist insurgency, as the communist insurgency led by most importantly Mao Zedong when it gained power and gained territory, eventually the nationalist government fled to Formosa. The pledge at the time was that this was a temporary retreat, but it’s turned into a very long arrangement. And Taiwan, which is known as the Republic of China, that’s what it calls itself, was actually the nation recognized by the United States for decades after World War II, and in particular, decades after the Chinese Communist Revolution.

All that changed in the 1970s, and at least it was claimed that it was simply bowing to political reality that communist mainland China was so large and so powerful that it could not be ignored by the United Nations, but the United Nations had two nations, neither of which would acknowledge the other. And so eventually the United Nations recognized the Communist party dominated mainland China, known as the People’s Republic of China, and it basically withdrew recognition from the republic there on Formosa, which is to say Taiwan. And the United States government did the same thing, and that was a very controversial action at the time.

It was considered by many Americans to be an abandonment of a key ally, but especially under the administration of President Richard M. Nixon, who of course is well known and often remembered for having opened the door for relations with communist China. He saw it as important for America’s stature in the world and for a process of triangulation. Nixon clearly believed that developing a relationship with China would offer a check on the expansionist power of the Soviet Union. And thus the triangulation is exactly what Nixon began along with his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and it was Taiwan that was left in the cold. But not exactly, because two other developments have taken place. Number one, the United States has basically, to some extent, never defined by treaty or law, offered a pledge of assistance and defense to Taiwan against communist aggression from the PRC. Again, not defined, but nonetheless, very much in place.

The second thing is that there in Taiwan developed an enormous engine for high technology and for capitalist expansion. And so what you’re looking at Taiwan is a capitalist miracle of sorts. And right now, truth be known, the entire world is dependent on Taiwan for certain high technology products. As a matter of fact, the United States is not in a position right now to fuel its own economy, our own technology, your own smartphone, without some of the products that are coming from Taiwan.

Now, interestingly, even in the last few days, you’ve had major media and foreign policy analysts who have said, “You know, that is turning out to be a check on China’s ambition,” because it turns out that China is also dependent on those very same technologies. And as China’s trying to build a massive military and all the rest, even as China’s trying to run its own draconian surveillance state, it can’t do so without those technological products. And the bottom line is, that economy would move from Taiwan if it is overtaken by the people’s Republic of China. So again, very interesting, complex situation. A reminder that on the global scene you have all these different parts and often they’re more related than you might think, the Palestinians and the South African government. You have the government of Taiwan and even other governments that do not recognize it as a nation, but nonetheless are highly dependent on it when it comes to technology.

As we wrap up these considerations, let’s just remember the vast world view distinction between, just for example, Israel and Hamas. Let’s remember the vast world view distinction between Taiwan and China. The worldview is very much the story.

Part III

Popularity of New Orleans Wings on the Rise Worldwide — The Kicker? They Never Were From New Orleans

But we need something lighter, and I want to end by reference to a food that is increasingly popular there in China, and by that I mean the PRC, the People’s Republic of China, mainland China, and that is a dish known as New Orleans-style wings. That would be chicken wings.

The Wall Street Journal announced on the front page that New Orleans-style wings are a global hit and especially in China, and yet people in New Orleans are unimpressed. There’s absolutely nothing New Orleans about New Orleans wings. But nonetheless, it’s basically a fried chicken wing. It’s now taken on an identity of its own. The article begins in China saying that a resident in Beijing, a 30-year-old by the name of Alan Lee, he’s been “hooked on New Orleans-style chicken wings for more than a decade. He first tasted them, we’re told, in his hometown as a high school student and was taken by the mildly sweet and savory marinated meat.”

We’re also told that he imagined New Orleans as a place where “delectable roasted wings could be found on every corner.” Then American friends told him that is not what New Orleans is about. It turns out the New Orleans chicken has absolutely nothing to do with New Orleans. As the Journal explains, “They, meaning New Orleans-style wings, are a uniquely Chinese concoction that is hard to find in the U.S., just like how General Tso’s chicken sold in virtually every Chinese takeout in America is hard to find in China.”

All of this is about what some people would accuse as being cultural appropriation, but others would say is just simply misguided marketing. And so people who developed what are known as these New Orleans-style wings just wanted to identify them in some sense with America, and so they chose a city recognizably American, New Orleans. Turns out people in New Orleans are very much aware that these wings have nothing to do with New Orleans. And it’s also true in reverse that Americans have favorite Chinese dishes that it turns out the Chinese have never heard of.

Weilun Soon, reporting for the Wall Street Journal, tells us, “Hawaiian Pizza is a Canadian creation. Sweden says its national dish, Swedish meatballs, came over from Turkey. General Tso’s chicken has roots in a dish invented by a Chinese chef, a modified version created by a New York based chef in the 1970s is what became popular across the United States.”

My favorite section of the Wall Street Journal article includes these words, “Winston Ho, born and raised in New Orleans by Taiwanese immigrant parents, doesn’t approve of the wings. A specialist in modern China and Chinese American history in the city, he first heard about New Orleans-style wings when he visited Beijing in 2012.” Remember, he lives in New Orleans. “He refused to try them because, in his words, it was completely made up.” Mr. Ho went on to say, “Chicken wings served in New Orleans are identical to wings anywhere else in the United States.” And the paper then says that his friends are confounded, his friends from China who visited New Orleans, “He wishes they were more familiar with its seafood, jambalaya and Po Boy sandwiches.” This is a city that is famous for its food.” Except it’s not actually famous for New Orleans chicken.

Okay, to bring this to conclusion, here’s something we don’t often think about. All of this just points to the fact that if you compare what Americans eat now to what Americans ate a half century ago, we’re eating all kinds of things with all kinds of international influences, and we developed all kinds of favorite dishes that kind of do and don’t have something to do with the origin country we understand.

In that sense, it really doesn’t matter if the Chinese don’t know about General Tso’s chicken. You do, you like it, so eat it. And the same thing is true for the people of Beijing. If you like New Orleans Chicken wings, well help yourself to them.

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’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).