Dr. David Mazel
Adams State College
Joseph Lieberman, senior senator from Connecticut and former vice presidential candidate, is on most political questions a reasonable man. But when it comes to American policy toward Israel, his religion makes him a fanatic.
Lieberman would be the first to agree that it’s a crime to steal someone else’s land — except when the thief is Israel. He would agree that apartheid should be condemned — except when the apartheid is Israel’s. He supports the general precepts of democracy, human equality, human rights, secular government, and other fruits of the Enlightenment — except when it comes to Israel.
In Israel’s dispute with the Palestinians, compromises that work elsewhere are off the table, because, says Lieberman, Israel is exceptional. Israel is exceptional because it belongs to the Jews, and it belongs to the Jews because God gave it to them, and we know God gave it to them because the Bible tells us so.
Why he believes what the Bible tells him, I can’t say. The mysteries of faith elude me. But I do know the Bible is a dangerous thing to take literally.*
Behold Lieberman taking the Bible literally in the process of licking the boots of his political allies, Christians United for Israel (CUFI):
“I see God’s hand in all this…. I know you will agree with me when I say in a larger sense, this organization was founded more than 4,000 years ago with the first words that God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12: ‘Now get thee unto the land that I will show thee, and I will make thee a great nation.’”
Lieberman believes in the “words that God spoke to Abraham.” I wonder whether he also believes the words that God spoke to Joshua when it came time to take the Promised Land from those already living upon it:
“Do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land.” As instructed by God, Joshua’s army defeats Ai and then proceeds to slaughter the city’s inhabitants, right down to the last woman and child:
“When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day — all the people of Ai.”
Deuteronomy relates other slaughters: “Of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: thou shalt utterly destroy them.”
More divine instructions, this time from the Book of Samuel: “Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, and infant.”
Set aside the question of how anyone can worship a God who commands the slaughter of “man and woman, and infant.” That’s a personal matter. I’m interested in the political question: How can anyone blink away the genocidal character of the biblical God, yet still believe in the historicity of God’s gift of Israel to the Jews, and believe it so strongly as to make it the basis of American foreign policy in one of the most volatile regions of the globe?
* And what, you may ask, about the Qur’an? Does it not also contain passages that if taken literally are incitements to all kinds of violence and folly? Absolutely. So why do I pick on the Bible? Because American politicians do not suck up to Muslim voters by citing the Qur’an; they humor Christian voters by citing the Bible, precisely as Lieberman did with CUFI. It is the Bible, not the Qur’an, that fuels the most dangerous of the fantasies we call our Middle East policy. Let the Muslim world attend to its extremists while we rebuke our own.