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10 Reflections on a Divided World: Israel, and The Voice to Parliament

By: Akos Balogh

We live in a divided world.

From the conflict in the Middle East to the defeated Voice to Parliament. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be feeling emotionally exhausted. Or perhaps even traumatised by the massacre in Israel (not to mention the escalating conflict in Gaza). And many in the Yes camp for the Voice are feeling utterly devasted by our nation voting ‘No’.

It’s been a tough time recently.

There’s been a lot to think about and process. And as I’ve thought about the various issues, here are 10 of my reflections on the Voice, and on the Israel situation:

The Voice

1) The Deep Sorrow of the Yes Camp

It’s hard to understate how devasted many in the Voice camp are.

This was obvious from the commentary on the Saturday night, when it became clear that the No vote had won. And it was obvious from many Yes voter friends of mine, who see this as a missed opportunity that has set back Indigenous wellbeing and reconciliation for at least half a decade.

From the Yes perspective, this was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a permanent difference to the voices of our First Nations people. Such an opportunity (for amending our nation’s founding document) won’t come again anytime soon.

2) Making assumptions about No-voters

Many commentators from the Yes camp seemed to make assumptions about No voters.

Here are a few assumptions I’ve picked up:

  • No voters aren’t interested in Indigenous wellbeing (otherwise they would have voted ‘Yes’)
  • No voters have made decisions about Indigenous people that really shouldn’t be theirs to make. I.e. why should the many non-Indigenous decide the fate of the Indigenous (by getting to vote on the Voice)?
  • No voters have been misled and lied to by the No campaign (they’re victims of misinformation: had they had better information, they would have voted ‘Yes’)
  • No voters are racist

In other words, much commentary by Yes campaigners (at least from what I’ve seen on the ABC) is that No voters were unthinking, uncaring, or at best misled.

But I think that’s a mistaken way of framing No voters.

A better way to understand why many people voted No is provided by American Political Scientist David T. Koyzis:

‘Many of the battles in the political realm are shaped, not simply by the refusal of one side or another to ‘face facts’ or ‘be reasonable,’ as one typically hears, but by differing views of reality rooted in alternative worldviews.’[1]

In other words, many No voters had a completely different perspective on the whole debate. While many ‘Yes’ voters were comfortable amending the Constitution, ‘No’ voters saw risk and uncertainty to amending the Constitution: a constitution that belongs to all Australians, not just Indigenous people.  Not to mention the potential for permanent division. The ‘No’ voters I spoke to cared deeply about Indigenous wellbeing: they just weren’t convinced a constitutional amendment was the way to do it. Or they didn’t feel they had enough information about the Voice to say ‘Yes’.

Many Yes and No voters viewed the issue through differing lenses, and (unsurprisingly) came to different conclusions.

3) The Temptation of the No Camp: Business as usual

While many No voters were relieved that the amendment did not get up, I think it would be a mistake to go back to business as usual. In many cases, doing what’s always been done leads to the same suboptimal results.

I was heartened to see No Campaigners Senators Jacinta Price and Kerrynne Liddle suggest something different, that would begin to make a difference to Indigenous wellbeing: A Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities, and an Audit of Indigenous welfare programs (to see what’s working, and what’s not).

4)  Should the Referendum Question have been simpler?

Looking back on the campaign, I think it was a mistake to tie together Indigenous Voice to Parliament with First Nations recognition in the Constitution.

Although hindsight is 20/20, most people would have voted ‘Yes’ to a simple amendment of the constitution to recognise First Nations people.

Israel and Gaza

What a traumatic week it’s been for the people of Israel, and now for the people of Gaza.

Israel suffered the most horrific attack on its citizens since being founded in 1948. It hasn’t experienced such a loss of life in one day since the Holocaust.

1)  The disturbing morality of many Palestine supporters

The massacre in Israel was horrifying.

But the response by many Palestinians, and Western supporters of Palestine, was also disturbing. Instead of condemning the targeting massacre of innocent men, women, and children, many supporters of Palestine here in Australia and around the world rejoiced at the act and saw it not as a terrorist act, but as a reasonable use of force against Israel.

2) Hamas and Israel are not morally equivalent. Here’s why:

There seems to be a vibe in the media, and among our elites that both Hamas and Israel are guilty of doing bad things, and so are morally equivalent to a large degree.

But I think American commentator and comedian Bill Maher hit the nail on the head about the difference between Israel and Hamas:

‘I don’t think Israelis would ever purposefully kill babies. I think they have killed babies – that’s collateral damage – and it’s a horrible thing but that’s part of war. [But] there’s a very big difference between rejoicing when you kill civilians, and the Israelis regret when you kill civilians.’

That’s one big moral difference between Hamas and Israel.[2]

3) The crux of the Problem: One side wants the other side dead

The crux of the problem in the Middle East is this: one side – consisting of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and several other Arab states – wants to wipe Israel off the map. They have made their intent known many times (not least the recent attack on Israel).

Israel, however, does not want to destroy any other people or country. It wants to live in peace more than anything else.

Don’t believe me? Let me ask you this:

What would happen to Israel if it decided to disarm itself?

You don’t need your imagination. Just look at what happened on Saturday, October 7th. Israel would be attacked, mercilessly. It would be a bloodbath not seen since the Holocaust.

And now let’s ask this: what would happen if Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and all the Palestinians decided to put down their arms?

Peace would break out in the Middle East. (We’ve already had a taste of this with numerous Arab states having signed up to peace treaties with Israel).

4) What does Justice look like in this situation?

While Israeli and Palestinian relations are complicated – with good people on both sides disagreeing about what justice would look like broadly speaking (e.g. what does a two-state solution look like? Should Israel give back more land?), the urgent question is what justice looks like considering the recent massacre.

I argue that biblically speaking, the nation of Israel has a right, nay a responsibility, to bring the Hamas evildoers to justice (Rom 13:1-6, cf Gen 9:5-6). The government of Israel – like all governments – has been authorised by God to punish evil (Rom 13:1,4). This includes launching a defensive war to destroy the terrorist organisation that is Hamas (but doing it in a lawful and proportionate way).

5) Israel’s moral and military bind

And yet, because Israel is a country that seeks to honour international military norms, it is facing a moral and military dilemma:

On the one hand, it wants (and has a right to) carry out justice against Hamas. Which means war against Hamas.

On the other hand, this would involve invading Gaza, to root out the Hamas terrorist organisation. Missiles and artillery won’t do it. However, invading Gaza would lead to urban warfare. Think snipers. Think booby traps, IEDs, mines. The IDF casualties would be horrific.

And then you have likely civilian casualties. Even though the IDF has given notification and time for civilians in the northern Gaza Strip, many civilians won’t be able to leave (not least because Hamas is telling them not to).

 

6) This war could stop tomorrow.

War is horrible, and the upcoming incursions into Gaza will be awful.

But this could all stop tomorrow. The IDF has already stated that they will cease attacking Gaza if the following conditions are met by Hamas:

‘Release our hostages without conditions and surrender unconditionally. Come over towards our troops and that will be the end of the war in Gaza’.

Will it happen?

No way – Hamas would die rather than give up. But shouldn’t those who want this war to stop – including Palestinians and their supporters who complain about the war – start pressuring Hamas to do just that: give up the hostages, and give themselves up?


Article supplied with thanks to Akos Balogh.

About the Author: Akos is the Executive Director of the Gospel Coalition Australia. He has a Masters in Theology and is a trained Combat and Aerospace Engineer.

Feature image: Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash 

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