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Opinion: Why we’re standing with Israel

The war against Hamas isn’t retaliation. It’s a morally justified endeavor to remove the bases of terrorist power

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People attend the Stand with Israel rally at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023.

People attend the Stand with Israel rally at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

We write at a time when the state of Israel is fighting for its existence. Moral and religious clarity demands that we speak our conscience to the world: The state of Israel must decisively defend itself from terrorism. Israel’s war against Hamas is not retaliation or revenge for Oct. 7. It is a justified endeavor to finally eliminate attacks by removing the bases of terrorist power.

Let’s be clear: Hamas is not a legitimate army fighting for the territorial rights of the Palestinian Arabs; it is a terrorist organization bent on killing Jews the world over. The Hamas Covenant of 1988 states, “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees.”

As Latter-day Saints, we feel compelled to express our support for Israel’s existence as a matter of our personal faith and principles, and that includes her right to defend the lives of her citizens.

In 1841, the Prophet Joseph Smith sent Elder Orson Hyde of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to dedicate sacred space to the Lord. Hyde’s dedication of the land of Israel for the return of the Jewish people became effective immediately. Elder Hyde prayed 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.” 

A distinct Jewish state needed to come into existence. 

What would be the purpose of such a Jewish state, according to Hyde? He prayed “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, and for rearing a Temple in honor of Thy name.”

Elder Hyde also blessed those who will stand with the Jewish people. “Let not their enemies prevail against them ... but let the power of the Highest protect them.”

The Hamas Covenant lamentably states: “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”    

Israel’s Declaration of Independence provides wise guidance for the state of Israel and how it must conduct itself in this current war. First, the purpose of the state:

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.”

The state of Israel must remain open as a safe and secure Jewish national home. Israel’s primary purpose is to be the gathering point of the Jewish people, while at the same time extending development, freedom, justice and peace to its citizens and beyond: Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Baha’i, Armenian, Druze — and all others.

Terrorist organizations work to impede this vision.

And so the state of Israel must be a country “loving peace but knowing how to defend itself,” as it says in its Declaration. Israel’s Declaration further states it is “the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.” 

We stand with Israel in defending its God-given destiny. The Gaza Strip must be demilitarized. This is a way to the “freedom, justice and peace” that the prophets of Israel envisaged for the Jewish people. It is also a way to make peace possible for the Palestinian Arabs, who were likewise created in the image of God.

We believe that loving our neighbors as ourselves is the key to peace. This calls us to stand up unequivocally for Israel’s right to self-defense, for its liberty, lands, children and peace. But we must also not forget the humanity of innocent Palestinian Arabs who reject jihadist ideology in this time of war. While Israel conducts its war on terrorism, we extend our own sense of the sanctity of human life, asking that they allow adequate food, water and medicine to flow to those who truly have no involvement with the terrorist actions of Hamas and its allies.

We stand with Israel and say “Am Yisrael Chai” — may the people of Israel live, along with their innocent Palestinian neighbors, in peace. 

Jason Olson received his Ph.D. from Brandeis University in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies in 2016 and is the co-author of “The Burning Book: A Jewish-Mormon Memoir” (BCC Press).

Bart Marcois is a former U.S. diplomat and the former principal deputy assistant secretary of energy for international affairs. He served 10 years in the Arab Middle East and now heads a private consulting practice in Washington, D.C.

Alan Clemmons is founder of American Patriots for Israel and served for 18 years in the South Carolina House of Representatives where he authored the first law establishing penalties for those businesses that engage in any discriminatory boycott of Israel; his state-based template has now been employed in 37 U.S. states.

The views of the authors are their own.