Last Friday, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach began an advertising campaign to defend the State of Israel by arguing that Hamas and ISIS are equally vile. According to his press release, “The ad equates ISIS and its execution of American journalist James Foley and Hamas’ actions in Gaza.”
Not only is the opinion of “America’s Rabbi” wrong, it is dangerous.
Let me be clear: I believe Hamas is an existential danger to the State of Israel, and I denounce that bellicose terrorist regime vigorously. I was a strong supporter of our recent efforts in Gaza, where we probably should have fought longer and harder.
But ISIS represents a new kind of evil with scant precedent in world history.
[Warning: very graphic descriptions follow.]
ISIS lines its enemies up in front of ditches, makes them kneel, and shoots them from behind so they fall into pits. Sound familiar?
The organization publicly crucifies their perceived enemies, including some as young as twelve.
ISIS warriors place decapitated heads on sticks, marching them through the streets. Sometimes, after they’ve murdered someone, they rip his brains out for all to see.
ISIS captures non-Muslim women and girls and sells them into sexual slavery for as little as $25. The rest are raped and tortured in special prisons.
Their soldiers have cut Christian children in half, including those as young as five.
And, perhaps most importantly, the would-be caliphate engaged in actual genocide (not threatened genocide) against Yazidis, an ancient Kurdish ethno-religious community.
Certainly, Hamas does evil things, including far milder versions of ISIS’s grotesque actions. But the two organizations are not even in the same category.
The advertisement Rabbi Boteach placed in The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other major newspapers shows two photos: an ISIS soldier getting ready to behead Foley; and Hamas militants preparing to murder men accused of collaborating with Israel.
To Rabbi Boteach, ISIS and Hamas are twin examples of the same phenomenon. But the fact that both are part of radical Islam is largely irrelevant. Technically, North Korea and South Korea are part of Korea, and each has government corruption. But to paint both countries with one broad brush would be ludicrous.
Even the images in the ad itself show the obtuseness of Rabbi Boteach’s argument. The Hamas soldiers are killing other Palestinians – using guns. Foley’s murderer beheads him with a knife, a much more barbaric and painful method of execution. Further, ISIS videotaped Foley calmly denouncing America and urging President Obama stop to his attacks. Foley would only have cooperated after extreme torture and brainwashing. And the murderer threatened to behead another American if his demands were ignored.
Worst, Foley was a journalist. We need journalists to risk their lives by going into crisis zones. They inform us about events of concern in far-off places, and gather news that can rally the public to take action. Without people like Foley, ISIS propaganda would be our only information from that part of the world.
Anyone who doesn’t believe in levels of evil is a moral fool. Raping a woman and killing her is awful; but raping eleven women, torturing them, and burying them alive is not equivalent – not even close.
It’s tempting to harness one’s pet cause to something everyone agrees is wickedly brutal. But that hamstrings the ability of good people to galvanize the free world to fight one of the worst evils ever known to man.
The rise and growth of ISIS is probably this generation’s greatest moral challenge. Please, people. Let’s keep our eyes on the ball.
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