On April 1, 2010 Connor Boyack published a piece which he titled “Foreign Entanglement with Israel” on his Connor’s Conundrums blog. He re-posted a link to that article recently as Israel invaded Gaza in response to relentless rocket attacks by Hamas. Essentially, Brother Boyack considers America’s long standing support for the state of Israel as a foreign entanglement which is contrary to the counsel of President George Washington as given in his Farewell Address. He quotes Washington:
“Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible” (George Washington, Farewell Address).
Brother Boyack follows the Washington quote with this statement:
“Those who most frequently refer to this letter as a signpost from which America long ago deviated often reject this wise counsel in at least one specific case: when the subject at hand is a country whose name and citizens’ lineage share a Biblical connection. The mere mention of Israel leads some otherwise-faithful advocates of Washington’s guidance to cast their principles to the wind and embrace deeply entrenched relations with another country.
Why the cognitive dissonance?”
It should be pointed out that, while Washington’s counsel is well-founded and wise, it is based largely on his assessment of “European ambition, rivalship interest, humor, or caprice” (Farewell Address). He says:
“Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities” (Farewell Address).
I think Washington was absolutely right in this assessment of Europe. But does this assessment transfer neatly to the nation of Israel? Do the primary interests of Israel (which, simply put, is to survive) have only a “very remote relation” to us? Are the “collisions of her friendships or enmities” merely the fruits of Israeli “ambition, rivalship interest, humor, or caprice”? Are America’s ties to Israel artificial? Are the causes of Israel’s “frequent controversies” “essentially foreign to our concerns”? I say no. The controversies and collisions in Europe are not analogous to the controversies and collisions in the Middle East vis a vie Israel, Washington’s admonitions regarding Europe do not transfer neatly to Israel, and America’s ties to Israel are and ought to be anything but artificial. In fact, Israel’s enemies are our enemies. Here is an example of the world-wide ideology Israel and America are facing:
“We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again. The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world – except for the Jews. The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquility under our rule, because they are treacherous by nature, as they have been throughout history. The day will come when everything will be relieved of the Jews – even the stones and trees which were harmed by them. Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew” (Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris, sermon of May 13, 2005 aired on Palestinian Authority TV, translated by MEMRI).
I am reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s assessment to his fellow revolutionists at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Knowing the dire consequences they were facing because of their determination to be free, Franklin said: “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” I think Franklin’s assessment is far more pertinent to the reality facing America and Israel today than Washington’s assessment of European “foreign entanglements.” America and Israel must hang together because, most assuredly, if we do not, Islamists around the world intend to see us hang separately. Islamists consider Israel to be the Little Satan, and America to be the Great Satan and they consider the destruction of both to be their inevitable responsibility.
Franklin’s counsel on hanging together lest we hang separately was not lost on George Washington, who gave great emphasis to that principle in his Farewell Address when he argued that if we would preserve liberty in America, we must preserve our national Union:
“Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.
The unity of government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts…In this sense it is, that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear you to the preservation of the other” (George Washington, Farewell Address).
No doubt this eloquent portrayal of the necessity of hanging together as a nation was not lost on Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is often demeaned as a tyrant for his refusal to allow the southern states to secede from the Union. But it is clear that Lincoln understood what Franklin and Washington understood: liberty, that human condition which is so very rare in this world and has been since the dawn of mankind, cannot survive if free men fail to remain unified. Those who possess this pearl of great price must hang together in spite of our differences or we shall lose it.
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up…
“And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12).
These great men also understood this: that those who would destroy us will work tirelessly, internally and externally, covertly and insidiously, to break down our union and divide us.
The principle applies to Israel and America. It is the oft-stated intention of Islamists to destroy the Little Satan first. Then they will turn their attention to the Great Satan.
Our Duty to Defend Liberty
Those who possess liberty have a duty to defend it.
The Nephites were taught by the Lord that they should defend their families, their lands, their country, their rights, and their religion “even unto bloodshed” if necessary (Alma 43:45-47). The right to defend oneself is a natural right. But there are a number of accounts in the Book of Mormon – Amalickiah, Morianton, the king-men, and Pachus – where Moroni shed the blood of his own countrymen for their failure to defend their country and their freedom. In his letter to Pahoran, a righteously indignant Moroni warned Pahoran that if those in the government failed to “be up and doing” in the defense of the country, that he would come back there and “[cleanse] our inward vessel” (Alma 60:24) for
“Ye know that ye do transgress the laws of God, and ye do know that ye do trample them under your feet” (Alma 60:33).
The law referenced by Moroni is not explicitly given in the Book of Mormon. However, it is my assumption that this was a law given by King Mosiah and had been taught to and was understood by all the Nephite people.
“And thus it became expedient that this law should be strictly observed for the safety of their country; yea, and whosoever was found denying their freedom was speedily executed according to the law” (Alma 62:10).
Those found denying their freedom were speedily executed?
“What other conclusion can we arrive at but that with ‘unalienable rights,’ which come from God, come ‘unalienable duties,’ which also come from God? And if unalienable rights may be defended with force with the approbation of God, ‘even unto bloodshed’ (Alma 61:10), so, it would seem, may unalienable duties be enforced according to the commandments of God, ‘even unto bloodshed'” (This theme is fully developed in Walking in Darkness at Noonday, John C. Greene, pg. 33-40.)
I believe that the Book of Mormon teaches us this principle: where there are unalienable rights, there are also unalienable duties. Those people who are blessed by God with freedom are also charged by God with the unalienable duty of defending that freedom. Clearly, that is the essence of the law referred to by both Alma and Moroni.
Spending Tax Dollars Defending Israel is Unconstitutional
Which leads me to another argument made by Brother Boyack:
“The scriptures that I read contain no commandment that we submit to taxation and inflation in order to send billions of dollars to a foreign government (despite no constitutional authority to do so) which has adopted for itself the identity its ancestors once shared. While the people themselves may properly be referred to as Israel and be worthy of our support, to argue that our government must have a ‘special relationship’ with theirs is an outright rejection of [George] Washington’s counsel, wholly un-constitutional, and a recipe for continual geopolitical conflict.”
I recognize that there is no specific authority in the Constitution to come to the aid of another nation. But the Constitution was inspired by the same God who taught the Nephites and Moroni the principle that where there are unalienable rights, there is also an unalienable duty to defend those rights. I believe we Americans, who have been made by the Lord to be a light unto the world with the introduction of the eternal verity that the rights of man are endowed upon him by his Creator, and that therefore those rights are unalienable, have a duty to defend unalienable rights beyond our borders lest we be guilty of taking the talents the Lord has given us as a nation and burying them in the ground. How, exactly, and to what extent we should go about doing that I do not say. Prudence and principle must certainly prevail in such a decision. But to characterize our relationship and stand with Israel as merely a “foreign entanglement” as opposed to a sacred duty seems to me on par with minimizing the sacred nature of a child in the womb by dismissing it as merely a “fetus.”
Is the Modern State of Israel the Same as the Biblical Nation of Israel?
Brother Boyack’s phrase “a country whose name and lineage share a Biblical connection” leads to his question: “But is the modern nation state of Israel the same thing [as the ancient biblical nation of Israel]?
He follows with :
“What if the citizens of Israel decided to change the name of their country to something else? If they were no longer known as Israel, would people still be as inclined to support them financially and militarily? What if they chose the name Babylon? Would we then look at them with scorn, somehow tying them to the actions and culture that once described the ancient city of the same name?”
The question seems intended to raise the possibility that the founding of the modern nation state of Israel was entirely the work of men, not directed by the hand of God, and therefore not to be confused with the Israel of scripture. Many Americans, and especially most Latter-day Saints, see the hand of God in the founding of America in spite of all the wrong turns we have made on the way, to include slavery and our treatment of the native Americans among many others. But are we unable to see the hand of God in the latter-day founding of the nation of Israel? To draw an analogy to Connor Boyack’s argument, some might say to us, “If Joseph Smith had called the church he founded the Church of Joseph Smith, then where would that leave your claims of the divine origin of the Church?” Perhaps this is so. But that is not what happened. Joseph Smith was the instrument of the Lord in accomplishing His purposes. Accordingly, the name of the Church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not by happenstance, but by divine design. I believe that the name of the nation state of Israel is no less the work of God than is the name of the Church. The nation of Israel is as flawed as is the nation of America. But both are the yet-to-be-completed, yet to be perfected, work of God. Both have been established under His direction and for His purposes.
The Return of the Rightful Heirs
The Lord tells us:
8 I came unto mine own, and mine own received me not….
24 And this I have told you concerning Jerusalem; and when that day shall come, shall a remnant be scattered among all nations…
43 And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place (D&C 45).
On March 27, 1836 in the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, a prayer which was given by revelation, the Prophet Joseph Smith offered this supplication:
62 We therefore ask thee to have mercy upon the children of Jacob, that Jerusalem, from this hour, may begin to be redeemed;
63 And the yoke of bondage may begin to be broken off from the house of David;
64 And the children of Judah may begin to return to the lands which thou didst give to Abraham, their father (D&C 109:62-64).
On the 10th birthday of the Church, April 6, 1840, Orson Hyde, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was called in a conference of the Church in Nauvoo to undertake a mission to several foreign cities, including Jerusalem. On Sunday morning, October 24, 1841, Elder Hyde ascended the Mount of Olives and offered a dedicatory prayer. Excerpts of that prayer follow:
“O Thou! who art from everlasting to everlasting, eternally and unchangeably the same, even the God who rules in the heavens above, and controls the destinies of men on the earth, wilt Thou not condescend, through thine infinite goodness and royal favor, to listen to the prayer of Thy servant which he this day offers up unto Thee in the name of Thy holy child Jesus, upon this land, where the Son of Righteousness set in blood, and thine Anointed One expired…
“Now, O Lord! Thy servant has been obedient to the heavenly vision which Thou gavest him in his native land; and under the shadow of Thine outstretched arm, he has safely arrived in this place to dedicate and consecrate this land unto Thee, for the gathering together of Judah’s scattered remnants, according to the predictions of the holy Prophets — for the building up of Jerusalem again after it has been trodden down by the Gentiles so long…
“O Thou, Who didst covenant with Abraham, Thy friend, and who didst renew that covenant with Isaac, and confirm the same with Jacob with an oath, that Thou wouldst not only give them this land for an everlasting inheritance, but that Thou wouldst also remember their seed forever…
“Grant, therefore, O Lord, in the name of Thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to remove the barrenness and sterility of this land, and let springs of living water break forth to water its thirsty soil. Let the vine and olive produce in their strength, and the fig-tree bloom and flourish. Let the land become abundantly fruitful when possessed by its rightful heirs; let it again flow with plenty to feed the returning prodigals who come home with a spirit of grace and supplication… Incline them to gather in upon this land according to Thy word. Let them come like clouds and like doves to their windows. Let the large ships of the nations bring them from the distant isles; and let kings become their nursing fathers, and queens with motherly fondness wipe the tear of sorrow from their eye.
“Thou, O Lord, did once move upon the heart of Cyrus to show favor unto Jerusalem and her children. Do Thou now also be pleased to inspire the hearts of kings and the powers of the earth to look with a friendly eye towards this place, and with a desire to see Thy righteous purposes executed in relation thereto. Let them know that it is Thy good pleasure to restore the kingdom unto Israel — raise up Jerusalem as its capital, and constitute her people a distinct nation and government, with David Thy servant, even a descendant from the loins of ancient David to be their king.
“Let that nation or that people who shall take an active part in behalf of Abraham’s children, and in the raising up of Jerusalem, find favor in Thy sight. Let not their enemies prevail against them, neither let pestilence or famine overcome them, but let the glory of Israel overshadow them, and the power of the Highest protect them; while that nation or kingdom that will not serve Thee in this glorious work must perish, according to Thy word — Yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.”
In the letter that Elder Hyde wrote reporting on his mission, he added this:
“I have found many Jews who listened with intense interest. The idea of the Jews being restored to Palestine is gaining ground in Europe almost every day. .. Many of the Jews who are old go to this place to die, and many are coming from Europe into this eastern world. The great wheel is unquestionably in motion, and the word of the Almighty has declared that it shall roll.”
How can there be any doubt that what we have seen in the last 140 or so years with regard to Israel is an answer to the prayers of the authorized servants of the Lord? Some forty years after Elder Hyde’s dedicatory prayer, the remnant of the Jews which had been scattered around the world began what was known as the First Aliyah to the land of their ancient inheritance. They purchased land from Arab landowners and began building small communities. Soon, some Arabs began to take offense at the small but growing Jewish presence. Opposition, violence, and jihad began early and has continued almost unabated since the late nineteenth century.
A brief history of the birth of the modern state of Israel: On November 29, 1947 the United Nations, in a peaceful and legal process, partitioned land which had been ruled for 400 years by the Ottoman Turks but lost by them when, allied with Germany, they were defeated in World War I. This land became known as the Palestine Mandate. The states of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq were created out of about 80% of that land. From the remaining 20% the UN created the State of Israel for the Jews, and a state for Palestinian Arabs.
Isaiah foresaw these events and prophesied of them with these words:
22 Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.
23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me (Isaiah 49:22-23).
Is this not a scriptural description of the establishment of the nation state of Israel under the auspices of the United Nations? I think it is. The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob comments on the words of Isaiah:
8 And now I, Jacob, would speak somewhat concerning these words. For behold, the Lord has shown me that those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried away captive.
9 Nevertheless, the Lord has shown unto me that they should return again…(2 Nephi 6:8-9).
8 And it shall come to pass that they shall be gathered in from their long dispersion, from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth; and the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me, saith God, in carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance.
9 Yea, the kings of the Gentiles shall be nursing fathers unto them, and their queens shall become nursing mothers; wherefore, the promises of the Lord are great unto the Gentiles, for he hath spoken it, and who can dispute? (2 Nephi 10:6-10).
Note how pleased the Lord is with those nations of the Gentiles who “shall be great in the eyes of me” because of their “carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance.” And because of the kindness of the Gentile nations, and because of their nurturing the Jews, the Lord promises great things to the Gentiles. The Lord hath spoken it. So why would Brother Boyack or anyone else who knows of these things dispute it? If these things are pleasing to the Lord, how can they be displeasing to any Latter-day Saint?
Where should we stand?
In the end, the Lord will
“…make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:2).
This is indeed the circumstance in which Israel finds itself today, under siege by all the people round about them who, as Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris stated, want Israel and the Jews annihilated.
“And in that day I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it” (Zechariah 12:3).
Brother Boyack asks:
“Does this ‘unbreakable’ commitment [to Israel] know no limits? Should the American people be forced to fund the operations of another government which – like any other government – is riddled with corruption, waste, and power-lusting politicians?”
Evidently, to Brother Boyack, to some Latter-day Saints, and to “all the people of the earth,” Israel has become a burdensome stone, the warning of the Lord against such notwithstanding. The whole world is turning against Israel, and will soon be gathered against her to battle. The Lord has warned that he will “gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle” (Zechariah 14:2). I have to assume “all nations” will include America. “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations…” (Zechariah 14:3). And, it would seem, against those people to whom Israel has become a burdensome stone.
I write this not to castigate, not to upbraid, not to make an enemy of Connor Boyack or anyone else who has a different point of view. I write this because I love liberty, I love justice, and I love the ways and the works of the Lord. Israel, with all its imperfections, is the work of the Lord. Turning away from Israel because she has become a burdensome stone seems to me to be unsound. Joseph Smith taught “It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:286.) It is in this spirit of persuasion that I write.
If we would “stand in holy places” (D&C 45:32), we must stand with Israel.