Editor's note: Joshua Ahrens recently authored a version of this op-ed in response to a friend's critique of Ahrens' support for Israel.
As a Christian supporter of Israel, I often share articles with my friends that highlight Israeli culture and innovation. Recently, a Christian friend suggested my support for Israel must mean I was blind to the Palestinian plight. I explained that I care deeply for all people living in the region, but that I do not see the conflict in terms of Israel vs. Palestinians. I see it as a sustained attack by Islamic extremists on both Israelis and Palestinians.
I was not born supporting Israel, and at one time sounded very much like my friend. When Hamas seized control of Gaza and began to launch rockets into Israeli towns, Israel responded with Operation Cast Lead. At that time, I believed Israel's actions were heavy-handed and would only perpetuate a cycle of violence.
As a student, I began to write a research paper on the topic. And at that time, I saw no moral distinction between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian “militants.” But once I gathered outside sources (i.e. stopped just blindly following my professors), I noticed some curiosities about how Israel was being portrayed on campus and in the press.
The media’s accounts of Israeli actions in Gaza encouraged me to see Israel as an aggressor. Reporters systematically ignored details that were necessary for a proper perception of Israeli actions.
The press subtly demonized Israeli soldiers. Their articles lumped Hamas-backed terrorists into the same category as civilians, presumably to inflate Palestinian casualties. They ignored Hamas' continued call for Israel's destruction and they likewise ignored Hamas' atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza. Since I had no awareness of what they were leaving out, the news coverage appeared to be straight-forward.
I couldn’t conceive of professional reporters ignoring something like Hamas’ violent takeover of the Gaza Strip. I never thought news outlets would fail to mention something as important as the fact that Palestinian terrorists were regularly murdering Palestinians and Israelis. And I just assumed that if a reporter made a mistake, I would hear about the correction. I was wrong.
The more I studied the conflict, the more my perspective changed. And now I understand the context. I know that Hamas continues to call for Israel's destruction. Hamas targets innocent civilians as a matter of policy. In contrast, Israeli soldiers take great risks to employ extensive precautions to minimize Palestinian casualties.
Most students continue to see the conflict between Muslim extremists and Israel as a cycle of violence. It is no more a cycle of violence than was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The media failed to deliver a clear picture, and I cannot know why. But perhaps it is because they are products of a university environment which continues to tolerate and legitimize anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism (not that the distinction is that great).
After conducting my own research, and learning the reality and history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, I have come to this conclusion: under the guise of Palestinian nationalism, Muslim extremists are trying to destroy the Jewish State because they do not like Jews.
At their core, the terrorists who target Israel have the same motivations as the Soviets and Nazis before them. They hate the Jewish value system because it serves as the foundation for Western civilization. Our understanding of liberty, equality, humility, and honesty has Jewish roots - as does our intolerance of tyranny.
I support Israel because I am a Christian. And I am not alone. I and more than a million other members of Christians United for Israel stand with Israel.
Our support for Israel has nothing to do with any convoluted end times scenario. And I was not indoctrinated into my present worldview – quite the opposite actually. I choose to stand with Israel because of the values I share with the people of Israel. And I recognize that these values were given to me and my Christian brothers and sisters by the Jewish people.
There is no contradiction between supporting Israel and caring deeply for every man, woman and child in the Middle East. In fact those who demonize Israel – to the delight of Hamas and their ilk – harm Israelis and Palestinians alike.
As an outspoken Christian Zionist on an American college campus, I face anti-Christian bigotry and anti-Israel vitriol. But I find great solace in knowing that a rapidly growing number of students see the value in sharing the truth about Israel with their fellow students. Our prayers for the peace of Jerusalem will be answered, and on that day all of God's children will celebrate together.