Tuesday, March 26, 2024

It’s Tuesday, March 26, 2024. 

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

Part I

A Dark Day in US Diplomacy: The U.S. ‘Abstains’ on UN Gaza Ceasefire Resolution

Well, looking around the world, there is no doubt where we have to start today. We have to start at the United Nations Security Council, where yesterday, that body adopted a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. An immediate ceasefire that, according to the resolution, should be immediately binding upon Israel and Hamas. There are some huge issues related to this, as you might imagine. The most important question is how did such a resolution pass? And the answer is because the United States abstained.

Now, that abstention, that supposed non-action is actually a very, very big action, and it’s a very bad action. This amounts to a form of betrayal by the Biden administration against the nation of Israel, and it may have very long-lasting consequences, but the story behind it, and the story of how it unfolded, and the analysis of what it means is going to require a little bit, and we’re going to have to think. It’s going to require us to go back to the United Nations where there are both permanent and non-permanent members.

The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council include Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States. All five of those nations have the power to veto any matter coming before the security council. Now, that’s longstanding. It goes back to the founding, but the important issue is for us to understand that this resolution got through the Security Council without being vetoed by the United States. That’s the historic status of what happened yesterday, and it came as something of a surprise. Now, the Biden administration says that the Netanyahu government in Israel shouldn’t have been surprised because the United States had given some kind of heads up, but the bottom line is that Americans were surprised, and I can only hope that a vast majority of Americans were disappointed in this action, which is close to a cowardly action on the part of the Biden administration. 

We are talking about an abstention. So let’s be clear, the United States did not vote for this resolution, but the resolution now goes with international effect as adopted by the United Nations Security Council, precisely because the United States didn’t veto it. So let’s be absolutely clear, let’s be intellectually honest, an abstention in this situation meant that the United States knew that the measure would pass and did not block it when it had the power to veto it, to block it. Now it’s happened. Now, make no mistake, this is a game changer. It’s hard to predict exactly what the fallout’s going to be on this because Israel is not going to be deterred by this United Nations Security Council resolution, but this is one of those historic moments.

Another moment goes back to the Obama administration in 2016, a similar action, an American abstention, but we remember it now because that was a very loud abstention, and again, it was about Israel, and now we’re back in the very same place with another Democratic administration, this one headed by President Joe Biden. Now, remember in the aftermath of the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas, one of the most deadly terrorist groups on planet earth, the United States government pledged that it was entirely behind Israel. And for one thing, it’s not just the longstanding relationship between the United States and Israel, it’s not even just that Israel is the only real democracy and bastion of freedom there in the Middle East, it’s also because the United States has been so loud for the last several decades about a war on terror. How could the United States not be solidly behind Israel?

But there are political dynamics that have been pulling the United States and Israel apart. Well, that’s not exactly true. Let’s just state it more accurately. There are political dynamics that have been drawing the Biden administration in the United States and the Netanyahu government in Israel apart. Those turn out to be two very different things. There is good reason to believe that the vast majority of Americans remain very solid in their support for Israel, especially when the score is made clear, when the truth is made clear about what this resolution is really all about. So before we get into the politics of it, let’s just look at the resolution.

The resolution is a call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Now, here’s something for us to think about. If you were just to go up to the, say, metaphorical man or woman on the street and ask, “Should there be a ceasefire?” Almost everyone’s going to say yes because that sounds very positive. It sounds a lot better than shooting at one another. So yes, in almost any situation, people are going to say, “Yeah, we should be pro-ceasefire.” But then when you begin to fill in the details and connect the dots, you say, well, this means an immediate ceasefire which leaves Hamas with the advantage of maintaining at least much of its presence and power, and it also means that the Hamas holding of Israeli hostages is not a condition for the ceasefire.

Well, then Americans are likely to think very differently about this. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty confident that a majority of Americans would say, “Wait just a minute. That’s not exactly what I would call a ceasefire.” But in the details of the resolution that the Biden administration abstained on, and that means, let’s face it, elections have consequences, the United States abstained. As you look at the actual resolution, it does call for an immediate ceasefire, but there are two other big complications.

The first I’ve already mentioned, it does not require the release of hostages by Hamas. Hamas, by the way, said in the aftermath of the resolution that it was basically pleased with it, that it was ready to cooperate, and that it was ready to talk with Israel about a prisoner exchange. Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about anything that morally can be called a prisoner exchange here. We’re talking about civilians taken hostage and held hostage, and we now know that there are credible accusations of rape and assault, other things when it comes to these hostages. The fact is this is an inherently immoral situation, and if the American people understood it, they would be outraged about it.

There are two other issues, and frankly they’re related. They both have to do with timing. This is a call for an immediate ceasefire. Now, what you need to know here is that an immediate ceasefire freezes the situation as it is, and there’s no doubt that that is a situation that still allows Hamas to have a significant presence there in Gaza, because in Rafah there is a huge concentration of Hamas. They have basically been driven there. To freeze the situation right now leaves Hamas with that presence. And the lessons of history are that if you leave a terror group with that kind of presence, it’s just going to metastasize as soon as you turn around, and that’s exactly what Hamas plans.

Now, another issue here when you think about that situation is that the United States refused to play by the rules we now demand of Israel when the military actor was the United States and we were engaged in a fight with terrorist groups in Iraq. At that point, the United States was not following the logic that we are now seeking to impose upon Israel. But it’s not just the word immediate, it’s also the word permanent. And in the context of international law and this kind of resolution, permanent means this is supposed to be something that’s not just for a period of negotiation, but is instead to be a condition that will lead to another condition that also might be stipulated at some point in a resolution by the United Nations Security Council. Now, Israel has to be opposed to both immediate and permanent. There’s just no doubt about it.

And I think the government of Israel has been clear about that and we’ll be clear about it again. We also need to recognize, however, that the Biden administration speaking on behalf of the United States, functioning of course as our government, and that’s something that’s going to be up to the voters in November, the Biden administration had been adamant about standing with Israel, if nothing else, on the matter of the hostages. And here’s where the duplicity on the part of our government just gets worse. The Biden administration is claiming victory for getting the word permanent out of the final text of the resolution. As I said, that is a very important issue, and at least in terms of what’s being reported by the press, the Biden administration claims that it was persuasive in getting that word taken out. But at the same time, it’s also trying to hide behind the claim that it demanded other changes including having to do with the word immediate, unrelated to hostages and also in terms of references to the hostages as connected to a ceasefire.

But the bottom line is that the United States effectively now holds a different position than we did just a matter of a few days ago at the United Nations Security Council. So even though immediate ceasefire is now the language and permanent is taken out of the final version, there is nonetheless a fundamental change that is now entered into American policy. Now, is this a permanent change or not? And I don’t mean that with reference to the November election. I mean that even in terms of the posturing of the Biden administration right now, because it is likely that there will be an aftermath to this action that’s going to require further American clarification, and we’re going to have to be watching that very closely, and obviously we’re concerned about it in advance.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, she is the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, said, “We did not agree with everything,” meaning she was speaking about the final document, but she went on nonetheless to abstain. Now, another way to read this, this is just important, one of the ways to understand this is that United States ambassadors don’t do what they want to do. They don’t say what they want to say, they represent the administration, and thus, they do what the administration instructs, and they say what the administration suggests, and suggests here is kind of a mild term for the reality.

Part II

Biden Looks Left as Netanyahu Looks Right: The Political and Global Pressures Pulling the U.S. and Israel Apart over Gaza

So alright, let’s come back to the political situation because it’s never separable from all of this. You’re talking about politics, morality, statecraft, foreign policy, terrorisms. It’s all part of one mix. So what’s the political reality we see here? Let’s be abundantly clear about what’s going on. With the President of the United States, Joe Biden, you have someone who is unquestionably liberal, but he’s being challenged from his left. When it comes to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, he is unquestionably conservative, but he’s being pulled by pressure from the Right. In his case, the right means coalition partners with small parties that are absolutely necessary to the functioning of the government and to his parliamentary majority, and to the fact that he continues as prime minister, enormous power from those very small parties.

When it comes to Joe Biden, the problem is not other parties in the Democratic Party, it is the Democratic Party. And the fact that even as he is unquestionably liberal, the Democratic Party is moving further left all the time, and it’s very important we recognize that’s particularly true as you look at college campuses and as you look at younger Democrats. It’s also true as you look at what amounts to the intersectionality of the Democratic Party and the deliberate inclusion of outreach to Muslim voters who may be a crucial swing vote, particularly in places like Northern Ohio, but less significant there as the presidential election approaches, more significant, in Michigan.

In a state like Michigan, the Arab-American vote can be a very significant swing vote, and quite frankly, the size of that vote is larger than the margin of President Biden’s victory last time in Michigan. So there you see what’s going on. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has to look to the Right. In the United States, Joe Biden, President Biden is looking to the Left, and that’s what is drawing these two nations apart. And that means that with different leaders, the equation might be very different. A different coalition in Israel might produce a different equation. A different administration in Washington would certainly produce a very different equation, and that’s why, to be honest, at an unprecedented level, not equal, but at an unprecedented level, Israel has a very real stake in the November presidential election in the United States, and you have figures in the Democratic Party who’ve been very clear about the fact that they want Benjamin Netanyahu out as Israel’s prime minister. They want that government out. And Israel, quite frankly, though less openly also would like to see the Biden administration out.

The weakness of the American position was made very clear when a team of reporters for the Washington Post, a newspaper that by the way follows this kind of thing inside politics very carefully, speaking of the situation behind the U.S. abstention, the Post says, “The United States still wanted a clear condemnation of Hamas and a link between the release of hostages and a ceasefire as it continues to seek in ongoing Israel-Hamas negotiations.” The next line, “But in the end, Washington felt it was enough.” If you read that at face value, you had the Washington Post reporting that the administration said, we need this, we need this, we need this. It didn’t get much of anything, and it came back and said, that’s enough. That means by the way, that regardless of what the United States said in words, is what the United States did in deed, in this case, the abstention, the decision not to veto the resolution and to allow it to pass. That’s why it speaks so loudly around the world.

The prime minister of Israel pulled back a delegation of those who were going to brief the American government on the current status of the situation in Gaza, and that was seen by the Biden administration, at least it says so publicly as something of an unexpected rebuke, but it’s hard to imagine how exactly that would’ve gone forward just hours after the United States took this action very clearly at Israel’s expense.

By the way, the Wall Street Journal, in its lead reporting on this story, recognizes the politics in both nations in a very unusual paragraph. This is what the Wall Street Journal published yesterday, “Allowing a ceasefire resolution to pass could help Biden politically with Democrats who say he hasn’t done enough to reign in Netanyahu. In canceling the Washington talks, Netanyahu underscored his distance from Biden a stance that could help him as he battles to keep intact his far right governing coalition.”

So you have statecraft, you have diplomacy, and you have politics. And this is where Christians need to recognize it’s intellectually dishonest to think you can ever separate those things. Human beings are composites. Human situations are combinations. There’s no way you can extricate politics in this process, but that doesn’t mean you can’t morally evaluate or even just politically evaluate the consequences of such actions or policies. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal pointed to distance. And by the way, it’s not distance between the United States and Israel. It’s a distance between the Biden administration statements days ago and this action undertaken yesterday. The lead to the editorial board statement is this, “In his State of the Union address, President Biden made a promise to the families of U.S. hostages held by Hamas. ‘We will not rest until we bring their loved ones home,’ at the United Nations On Monday says the report, he undermined that pledge.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board also noted something, and that is the fact that Hamas immediately responded to this resolution with affirmation. That should tell you something. When a deadly Islamist terrorist group that launched this murderous attack, the deadliest in Israel’s history since its founding, going back to October 7, when Hamas says, “Hey, we’re ready to play ball here.” Guess what? You started the wrong game.

White House spokesman, John Kirby said, “Nothing has changed about our policy. Nothing.” That sounds very much like assurances from other president’s and other White House, other administration spokespeople who basically say nothing has changed. But as is so often the case, if you have to trot someone out as a spokesperson to say nothing has changed, you can almost count on the fact that something has changed.

At Commentary, which is published by the American Jewish Committee, Seth Mandel points out that in the end, the loser of the UN resolution is likely not to be Netanyahu, not to be Israel, but instead, in political terms, to be Joe Biden running for reelection in November. And that is because even as he appears to be quite intimidated by the Arab-American vote and by pressure from America’s campuses and the cultural Left, the fact is that survey after survey shows that the average American is pretty clear about support for Israel in this situation. And that turns out to be particularly true when information is filled in about Hamas holding hostages and all the rest.

Seth Mandel points out that Russia had been pushing for this kind of resolution and refused to demand the release of the hostages before a ceasefire would take effect. In a particularly powerful sentence Mandel wrote, “The Biden administration declared Russia to be correct, let the hostages rot or else Joe Biden may lose a few thousand votes in Michigan.” Now, there is of course more to the situation than this. There always is, but there isn’t less to this situation than what we have just outlined and discussed. From a Christian worldview perspective, we should be those who seek peace. But in a fallen world, we understand that that does not mean a false peace, and a situation that would leave Hamas very much in power, and a situation that would leave the hostages held by Hamas. That’s a very dangerous situation.

Now, we also have to talk about the facts on the ground, and the reality that worldwide Israel is losing a great deal of political support, a great deal of international support, a great deal of moral sympathy because of what’s happening in this protracted effort in Gaza. But I say it’s protracted not because it is so in military terms, but only because it is so in humanitarian terms. And the international media are continuing to show images, which make very clear that when Hamas embedded itself in the civilians of Gaza and basically said, you’re going to have to get them if you get us, that has created a horrifying situation for the people in Gaza, and it has created a horrifying challenge for Israel.

Part III

Sociologists for Palestine? Proposed American Sociological Association Resolution Goes After Existence of Israel

But next, coming back to the United States, a very related development. I mentioned the Leftist influence of America’s academic culture, and that’s never universal, but it is overwhelming. There’s just no doubt about that. And by the way, the most interesting evidence of how overwhelming the ideological imbalance is on America’s college and university campuses is a list legally required of political contributions. Let’s just say it is so lopsided 10 to 1 wouldn’t get close to the equation, at least on America’s most prestigious campuses. And if anything, that divide is just growing wider. But it’s also ideological and it’s deeply embedded in some of the disciplines at the heart of the American academic project. And one of them is the discipline of sociology, which by the way was begun as a discipline, as an intentional effort to try to explain human social behavior in terms other than the answers Christianity had provided, the structure, the Christian faith that provided in understanding human beings. And that’s not putting words in their mouth, that’s what the founding sociologists said, including Auguste Comte in France.

But now the American Sociological Association, that’s the faculty and, for that matter, also to some extent, graduate student guild of sociologists in the United States, the largest of them, 573 sociologists members of the American Sociological Association have proposed a resolution to be adopted by the body. It is very, very anti-Israel. It’s very pro-Palestinian, and over the next several weeks, the membership of the American Sociological Association is going to vote on it, but it’s likely to pass. The text of the resolution, for example, identifies Israel from the start as a state of settler colonialism. So there again, you see the ideology deeply steeped in a Marxist worldview that is behind this. And I just hope Christians understand that when it comes to many of these professional associations, many of these professorial categories, many of these academic disciplines, yes, there may be Christians in them, but to a tremendous extent, you’re talking about an entire intellectual ideological superstructure that is absolutely incompatible with biblical Christianity.

And in the case of this association, they’re representing a  discipline that’s basically sold out to psychotherapeutic and Marxist ideological patterns. And you see that on the group’s website. Just google American Sociological Association, look at the documents. You’re not going to have to look far. One other thing we need to note here is that this resolution and many others who follow the same ideological commitment when they refer to Israel and they speak against Zionist occupation, there’s some people who might think, well, that means the occupied territories. That means the West Bank. No, that actually means Israel. This is basically a call for the extinction of Israel as a nation, and it’s not subtle. What I fail to understand is why so many American Christian parents send their kids to these universities and they take a class like sociology, where frankly, this is, in most cases, what they’re going to be receiving, and they continue to pay the tuition bills, and they seem to be completely unaware of the intellectual toxins that they’re paying for.

One final thought. The upcoming 2024 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. Yeah, I just had to look this up. Well, this is what I report to you. It’s going to be held in Montreal, Quebec, and in the announcement of the meeting and what’s in the academic world called a call for papers, there is a statement, and you’re going to see more and more of these at this kind of website from this kind of organization on your local campus in time to come. It is a land acknowledgement and recognition statement at the very end of the document. And you wonder what is that? Well, it is an acknowledgement that this is a group meeting in Quebec, which after all, at some point, according to their own theory, belonged to someone else from which all the land was stolen, and they’re going to be meeting at probably a very nice convention center and going out to very nice restaurants and doing all the things they do on the university’s dime. But they have to do so after making a politically correct statement. It’s a pretty bizarre statement.

I’m only going to read the last sentence or so. “The American Sociological Association acknowledges that academic institutions, indeed the nation state itself was founded upon and continues to enact exclusions and erasures of indigenous peoples. This acknowledgement demonstrates a commitment to beginning the process of working to dismantle ongoing legacies of settler colonialism, and to recognize the hundreds of indigenous nations who continue to resist, live and uphold their sacred relations across their lands. We also pay our respect to indigenous elders, past, present and future, and to those who have stewarded this land throughout the generations.”

Now, here’s my point. Are there real moral issues behind something like this? Of course. But this kind of statement doesn’t deal in any real way with real moral issues. Instead, it is just a statement to salve the Leftist conscience by saying, “Hey, we’re going to go ahead and hold our meeting. We’re going to hold our party. We’re going to do it in a convention center built on land we know you claim. We’re going to put a little statement at the end of our call to papers to say, we acknowledge that. Don’t you feel better now?”

By the way, as I said, there are real moral issues, real issues of history for us to consider, but let’s also remember that the people show up and say, “At some point, my ancestors had some claim to this land.” Well, the reality is they’re called indigenous, but if we’re honest, there were probably people here before them. Before long, I’ll just say, in closing, you’re going to have to take this logic all the way to the book of Genesis.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com. 

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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