For decades the German Army, the army of World War I, the army of the Nazis a generation later, had the words Gott Mit Uns emblazoned on their belt buckles. While the Americans never went that far, the military chaplains down to the present day have had a propensity of assuring the troops that theirs was a war blessed from somewhere On High.
The world is all too terribly aware of the Islamist jihadist's call, "Allahu akbar" as the clicker is pushed or the airplane flown into the building. The Islamist emphasis on killing for Allah plays a deadly counterpoint to the fear of hell which is a major defining feature of all too many sermons and religious instruction.
Comes now incontrovertible evidence that at least some members of the Israeli Defense Forces have joined the ranks of the world's "Holy Warriors," with the expectable ill-effects upon any civilian so unfortunate as to encounter them. Under the stimulus of religiously reactionary members of the rabbinate, the IDF is no longer a purely secular force pursuing nationally defined goals using an ethical base of operations derived from the general Western notions of war.
While it is possible to accurately criticise the Western ethical schemata of war fighting, there are generally observed limits. The intentional targeting of civilians is prohibited by general usage to say nothing of international conventions. The employment of indiscriminate area weapons in built up areas is frowned upon even if not always possible to prevent.
During the early days of its history, the IDF, despite occasional lapses such as those committed during "counter terror" operations by Detachments 101 and 202, fought clean wars. Now those days seem to be long past.
Testimony by combat troops leaked last week concerning operations in Gaza Strip during the recent incursion demonstrates that IDF members went way over the edge in their treatment of unarmed people. It shows that the IDF's on board rabbis from the Chief Rabbi on down encouraged and used religious justification for outrageous behavior by some of the troops.
By experience as well as study the Geek is sensitive to the extreme difficulties found in fighting guerrillas who fight from the cover of civilian structures and bodies. He knows how easily mistakes can be made--and how lethal the mistakes are.
There is a vast gulf between the normal difficulties and concomitant killing errors which are associated with military operations in urban terrain against guerrillas and the notion apparently promulgated by the right wing rabbinate that in waging war against interlopers on "holy soil" restraint is somehow in violation of divine command and will. The former is a brute fact. The latter is the creation of religious zealotry.
The rabbis who argue for "holy" war against "evil" intruders on "God's" land and counsel that "to be merciful to the cruel is finally to be cruel to the merciful" are morally equivalent to those Islamist clerics who issue fatwas authorising the killing of civilians in the name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate. Rabbi and mullah are brothers under the skin.
Brothers in enlisting a personal view of the deity in pursuit of a political goal. Brothers in perverting any reasonable understanding of divine compassion, mercy and justice. Brothers in hatred.
If the rabbis and the assorted mullahs, ayatollahs and sheiks really, really believe that JWH or Allah is willing war to the death, then let them fight it out directly. Cut out the middle men. Let the troops and civilians alike stand on the sidelines while the rival clerical gangs duke it out. Why are these assorted and diametrically opposed "Men of God" so willing and eager to see others die? Watch as the middle men slaughter one another? Invoke the blessings on those of their side who kill? Call on the deity to damn those who kill and die on the other side?
Time after time in the bloody history of humanity there is a propensity for the extremes to grow. To squeeze the middle, those who are not afflicted with True Belief, to the point of oblivion.
But, there is always a Thermidor. There is always a time when the long oppressed members of the middle strike back. Reclaim the field for something less than the ideological zeal of the True Believers.
In Iraq the middle struck back by withdrawing even tacit support from the apostles of sectarian violence. In one Islamic country after another, hesitant voices are being raised in opposition to the totalistic and lethal urgings of the Islamist jihadists. Observant Muslims are slowly recognising that not only can they be truly observant without being Islamists, being observant Muslims requires rejecting the exhortations of the death oriented Islamist jihadists.
Now in Israel the secular voices are being raised and heard. Israel will have to suffer one more round in the sporadic debate over the nature and character of the country and the people. If it is to survive as a viable state with international support and understanding, the Israelis will have to argue it out.
The men and women of Israel generally and the IDF in particular will have to determine which they are: A divine miracle. Or a state with national and strategic interests in which the deity does not have a stake.
Across the Mideast and far beyond, Muslims have to go through the same process. Are they a people destined by faith and those who interpret it to be the people of killing and death? Or, are they a people of a faith which celebrates life and all the potentials that go along with being alive?
As Abe Lincoln observed when both North and South claimed divine approval for their cause, both cannot be right but both can be wrong. As the Geek sees it, leave God to the ageless, the time beyond time. History is for people.