Palestine, where is thy God?

Plus: Colonial Pipeline's surprising admission

Elijah stood upon Mount Carmel and taunted the Israelite prophets of Baal: “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” (1 Kings 18:27.) The prophets of Baal shouted louder, slashed themselves with swords and spears, drawing their own blood. But there was no answer.

Then Elijah prayed, and God sent fire, which consumed the altar filled with wet wood, the sacrifice, a trench around the altar filled with water, and the stones used as a foundation for the whole thing. (1 Kings 18:38.) In 2010, fire again fell on Mount Carmel, consuming the mountain, burning at least 250 homes, sending 17,000 Israelis fleeing, and searing 12,500 acres of land. Experts estimate the land won’t recover until 2050. Israel built a memorial to the fire’s victims on the mountaintop where Elijah stood.

What will be the memorial to the Palestinians in Gaza?

Palestinians have been asking their God to free them from the “occupation” of the Israelis for 62 years. The Israelis, for their part, evacuated 8,000 of their own citizens, forcibly, from Gaza and north Samaria in 2005, yielding that land, complete with homes and businesses, to the Palestinians. Israel told the Palestinians to govern themselves in those areas. In return, the Gazans burned the homes and businesses, and elected a terrorist organization, Hamas, to govern themselves. Was it worth the sacrifice?

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have never recognized Israel’s legitimacy nor its right to exist as a sovereign state. They are finding themselves more and more isolated in this position, as neighbors Egypt and Jordan both have formal treaties with Israel. Egypt enforces the southern trade border with Gaza, and Jordan lies to the east of Jerusalem. It was from Jordan that Israel wrested control of East Jerusalem during the 1967 “Six Day War.” In 1980, Israel passed a law changing its “Basic Law”—its constitution—recognizing Jerusalem as its “forever” capital.

It is almost always in Jerusalem where the spark of violent conflict begins.

In 2020, Israel gained the United Arab Emirates, an astoundingly rich kingdom consisting of primarily Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and Sudan, as nations formerly standing upon the rock of Israel’s destruction, and now openly friendly and recognizing the Israeli government and people. Saudi Arabia has made overtures, such as allowing Israel overflight privileges, without taking any formal treaty action.

The Palestinians are shouting louder, but as with the prophets of Baal, there is no response, no one paid attention. (1 King 18:29.) Where is their God?

Americans are consumed with navel-gazing, re-litigating the sad events of January 6th, the media frantically screaming for anyone to listen, pandering to either the angry Left or the angry Right over a shrill ex-President who can’t even tweet anymore. We have our Unmasking Day to celebrate, and gas lines to wait in; we can’t be bothered getting upset over yet another Gaza war.

Yesterday, May 13, was the day of two religious feasts, I’m told by my erudite seminary professor friend. In orthodox Christianity, it was the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, and in Islam it was Eid al-Fitr. I will quote him, because he lays it out very well.

  • For Muslims it is a celebration to close the month of Ramadan, for Christians it is a celebration to conclude Jesus' coming to earth. 

  • For Muslims, the month of Ramadan is a time of reflection and the purification of their soul. For Christians, Jesus' coming to earth, His life, suffering, death, and resurrection, is the basis for the cleansing of their souls. 

  • During the celebration of Eid-al-Fitr, 30 days after the start of Ramadan, there is gratitude to the Almighty for fulfilling the fast. During the celebration of Ascension Day, 40 days after Jesus' resurrection from the dead, there is gratitude that Jesus brought about reconciliation with God. 

  • During Eid-al-Fitr it is prayed that the resolutions made during the month of fasting will also be fulfilled in the coming year. During Ascension Day Christians pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who wants to work out God's purposes in their hearts.

Sunday night begins the Jewish festival of Shavuot, the feast occurring 50 days after Passover. Shavuot celebrates the spring wheat harvest, along with the end of the counting of the Omer—the completion of a tithe of the harvest to the Lord. It coincides with Pentecost Sunday, which is the day in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit fell in “tongues of fire” upon the believers, those in the “upper room” in Jerusalem. That day, Peter preached and about 4,000 joined the Church.

The Palestinians are praying for liberation from the Israelis, and the Israelis are preparing for open war, the AP reports.

Israel has massed troops along the border and called up 9,000 reservists as fighting intensifies with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants have fired some 1,800 rockets, and the Israeli military has launched more than 600 airstrikes, toppling at least three high-rise apartment buildings, and has shelled some areas with tanks stationed near the frontier.

Where is the Palestinian God?

Without engaging in hyperbole, the IDF can raze Gaza to the ground. David French corrected two false arguments about Israel’s response to attacks from Gaza (subscription required). To summarize, Israel has every right to defend itself from deadly attacks, the Palestinians do not have “legitimate grievances” in this; and the definition of “proportionate” in military law and rules of engagement is well within Israel’s actual response.

If Israel wanted to live up to its critics version of “proportionate” response, it would gather hundreds of children around a rocket launcher and send the same kind of untargeted, “dumb” ballistic rockets Hamas launches back into Gaza. The rockets would do little damage, and the children would be killed in the counter fire. Then Israel would be accused of murdering its own children by the very people who won’t accuse Hamas of doing the exact same thing.

But Israel doesn’t have to do that—it has advanced weapons that can accurately target what they want to hit. Israel “knocks” on buildings using non-destructive charges to warn residents to clear out before firing for effect. Israel calls cell phones on towers close to targets to warn residents that the area is about to be a war zone. Who does that, if they want to kill indiscriminately?

Israel could, as French noted, take the same tack that U.S.-led coalition forces took in Iraq under President Obama to eject ISIS from Mosul. Suffice to say, Mosul was razed to rubble. Israel has the capability to do the exact same thing to Gaza. Its artillery, rocket systems, tanks, air force and ground troops can destroy Hamas and rob it completely of the ability to make war. Doing so would harm hundreds of thousands of innocent Palestinians, and leave the rest homeless, destitute, and without any hope of shelter.

Obviously, it’s not in Israel’s interests to do that, as in who would have to deal with the survivors, but Israel? But it’s also morally wicked to even contemplate it.

The fact that Gazans have an enemy so advanced, with the complete ability to wipe their cities off the map, taking relatively few casualties in return, in such a lopsided war, but Israel chooses to very carefully target what it considers the worst threats, leaving everything else alone to rearm and attack Israel again, is evidence of something. It’s evidence of mercy.

Where is the Palestinian God? He is in Heaven, showing mercy to all. Maybe that’s not the Allah God that the Islamic texts say rules by submission. I am no expert here, but I am pretty sure it’s not the same portrait of God Muslims see. But the Palestinian God is protecting them, all the same, as He protects Israel, and He gives freely of His mercy and grace to all on earth.

The God who sent fire to Mount Carmel, in Elijah’s day, then sent an angel to cheer Elijah up after he ran for his life from Jezebel, is the same God who sent fire in 2010 by a strong east wind. He is the same God who caused Israel to defeat its enemies in 1948, 1967, 1973 (against all odds), and the same God who gives Israel wealth and friendship with former enemies.

The best way for Palestinians to “win” their war against Israel is to do what Abraham Lincoln is generally quoted as saying: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

God’s purpose—the God of the Hebrew and Christian Bible—on earth is to make “one new man” of two distinct peoples. The Church, and the Jews will join to one tree, but the Palestinians do have a place in this. Their God is right there in front of them, protecting them, using a weapon against their enemies, the Israelis, that none can resist. God is striking against the hearts of Israelis, propelling them to mercy, and through grace, He is keeping the Palestinians from complete destruction.

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As Christians, we can do no more than ask God, once more, to send the fire.


Colonial Pipeline makes a surprising admission

Bloomberg and other media are reporting that Colonial Pipeline paid hackers the $5 million ransom to return control of its network.

Initially, it was reported that Colonial did not pay the ransom, so this is a surprise to many. It’s not surprising to me, however. Here’s why.

  1. To decrypt its network, Colonial would have to restore a backup from before the first intrusion, or when the initial “trojan” was planted. The virus could be widespread enough and well enough hidden (even in the NVRAM in the power supplies!) that doing this successfully involves a high level of risk.

  2. If the operation to restore the network failed, and the virus was able to reinfect and therefore give control back to the hackers to re-encrypt the systems, the hackers would then multiply their ransom demand by many times. This would increase the cost to begin operations to unacceptable levels. Hacker criminals get angry when you try to beat them and fail and they use this opportunity to send a message.

  3. There may be a path to beat the hackers with #1 and #2, as the City of Atlanta did, but Atlanta took months to resume “normal” operations and even then, lost quite a lot of data that had to be recreated. The pipeline could not be down for months. Time was of the essence, and therefore the risk could not be taken.

  4. Colonial very likely did not make the call to pay the ransom. This is normally a decision made by the company’s cyber insurance carrier. Carriers have experts they call in who deal with this (unfortunately) day in and day out. They know the risks and the chances of success. Upon weighing all of that, and the very public nature of the hack, the insurer certainly decided that paying the ransom is the cheapest and safest route.

  5. This leads to the last question: why did Colonial initially say they didn’t pay the ransom? I can only speculate here, but I believe it was likely in deference to the wishes of the DOE and the FBI. Again, almost certainly this was done with the approval or agreement of the insurance carrier.

That’s all I have for today, have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend!

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