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See No Hezbollah; Hear No Hezbollah; Speak No Hezbollah By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 26, 2006


In keeping with the Religious Left’s sympathy for the suffering for the victims of U.S. and Israeli “aggression” -- and absolutely nobody else -- a group of senior religious officials recently visited Lebanon to bemoan U.S. complicity in the Israeli strikes against Hezbollah targets.

Naturally, the news release and public statements hardly mention Hezbollah, ignoring that Islamist terrorist group’s years of rocket attacks against Israeli towns, its strikes against U.S. targets, and its reliance on Iran’s radical regime.

According to this delegation, a U.S.-backed Israel attacked Lebanon, with a special focus on civilian targets, for no reason beyond simple sadism.

“They [the Lebanese whom the delegation visited] were deeply troubled that our government did nothing to influence the cessation of the relentless bombing,” discovered the Rev. Michael Livingston, who led the five-day trip through Lebanon as president of the National Council of Churches (NCC). “They simply could not understand how we could abide saying nothing to Israel while innocent people were killed, roads and bridges destroyed and oil storage facilities were bombed spilling oil and polluting the sea.”

According to Livingston, the nine-member delegation “wanted to express our solidarity with the Lebanese people, to listen to them, to ask them what we could do to help and what messages we could take to the members of our congregations and to our government in the United States.” No similar Religious Left delegation ever visited Lebanon to express “solidarity” during that nation’s nearly 30-year occupation by Syrian military and intelligence operatives. Nor has any delegation expressed alarm by the continued occupation of southern Lebanon by Hezbollah.

The other ecclesiastics who joined Livingston in his Lebanon tour were the Rev. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA; Greek Orthodox Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos; Rev. Raymon Hunt of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; NCC executive Antonios Kireopoulos; and Quaker officials Thomas Swain, Martin Kromer, Edward R. Moon II, and Patricia Finley.

In a surreal interview on the NCC’s website, Livingston never actually utters the word “Hezbollah.” He does make an oblique reference to terrorism, but only to offer empathy with the motives of suicide bombers, painting them as supposedly oppressed victims acting out their understandable rage.

Asked what he would tell his congregation if he were still a pastor, Livingston responded: “I would ask them to do some homework, to try to understand, not justify, but understand, why a young man would strap explosives to his chest and walk into public place to kill and to die. And then to use that understanding to work for a more balanced approach to creating a lasting peace in the Middle East.” That more balanced approach doubtlessly means becoming more hostile to the State of Israel.

Quickly, he turned the topic back to the real ultimate oppressor: the U.S. “I would ask them to search their hearts for a good reason our government might sit on its hands while innocent people were bombed relentlessly in Lebanon and while people on both sides were dying. I would tell them the people of Lebanon want to live in peace, to raise their children without the dread of the next attack.”

No doubt, most Lebanese do want to live without war. But most of Lebanon’s strife over the last 30 years has come from conflict between the Land of Cedars' growing Islamic population and Lebanon’s stedily diminishing Christian community; this has been compounded by an occupation by Syria, the headquartering of the PLO in Lebanon during the 1980’s, and the more recent nesting of Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces.

Most of this conflict would have occurred even if Israel did not exist, but Livingston emphasizes that the solution to Lebanon’s future depends on a resolution of the Palestinians' fate; and this is to be orchestrated by the United States pressuring Israel into more concessions. He urges parishioners to “agitate their representatives with calls, visits, emails, letters, until we begin to act as a responsible agent for the resolution of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.”

Livingston quotes Lebanese Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Elias Aude, with whom the U.S. religious delegation met. The Metropolitan told of the “fear of his people at the fragility of small, beleaguered Lebanon as a whole, subject as it is to the desires of more powerful nations.” Livingston recounted, “He spoke also of the precarious existence of Christians in Lebanon and his sorrow at their dwindling numbers. He knew that we had little power to do anything, none of us really, and he affirmed the sovereignty of God and his trust in God's providence.”

Why is the Christian population so “precarious?” Why is it “dwindling?” Livingston does not explain. That would require some reference to the demands and pressures of radical Islam, whose war against Lebanon’s Christians, compounded by the Christians’ own low birthrate, have made Christians a shrinking minority in a nation where they were once the majority.

Naturally, Livingston shifts to what he believes really distressed the Metropolitan. “Even as he said this, I got the sense that he did indeed desire that we go back to the United States and challenge our government to act with justice toward the whole region, to balance its unqualified support of Israel with a more profound concern for the things that make for peace in a land that has long been home to Christian, Moslem, and Jew.” 

Thank you, Dr. Livingston, for your interpretation of what the Metropolitan actually meant to say. Did all the Christians you met only complain of the U.S. and Israel? Do they not have some other concerns as well? If so, Livingston does not share.

For good measure, Livingston mentions that his delegation visited the site of the 1996 “massacre” in Qana, where Lebanese civilians were killed when Israeli artillery returned fire against Hezbollah militia. (Coincidentally, Hezbollah exploited the locals as human shields.) “We found the older graves and headstones of victims of what they call the 1996 massacre, and we found the fresh graves of several families including children, who were killed in the last days of the bombing when the home in which they were all huddled was destroyed,” Livingston remembered.

At least Livingston qualified his mention of the “massacre” by saying “they call” it a massacre. He did not explain the circumstances behind this tragedy. Once again, we can only assume that U.S.-backed Israel was simply sadistic.   

If Israel did not exist, and the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, would Religious Left delegations ever again visit the Middle East? That region’s various unsavory and corrupt regimes would go on oppressing, censoring, jailing, torturing, and murdering their opponents and favored victims -- especially ever-dwindling Christian minorities. But there would be no consequent interest, much less protests, from any major left-leaning church group like the NCC.

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Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.


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