Yesterday was October 2, 2019. It was also the 3rd of Tishrei 5780.
According to the Gregorian calendar, yesterday marks the one year anniversary of the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was brutally murdered in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul presumably at the behest of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS).
According to the Hebrew calendar, yesterday marks the anniversary of the death of Gedaliah, the Jewish governor of Babylonian controlled Judah who was assassinated at the behest of the aggrieved King of Ammon.
And yet, with the exception of a small group of mourners, this day went unnoticed by almost everyone. These two murders were borne out of unsavory alliances aimed at combating a mutual enemy. These two murders have much to teach us about the world today.
The Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi was a journalist a general manager and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel. In 2017, he fled Saudi Arabia as MBS consolidated his power and clamped down of dissident journalists and clerics. He wrote several articles critical of Mohammad bin Salman and the ongoing Saudi war with Yemen (the last of which was posted less than a month before his murder). On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi went to the Saudi embassy in Istanbul to retrieve papers for his upcoming wedding. He was never seen again.
Several months after the murder, it became clear that Khashoggi was brutally murdered and dismembered by a squad dispatched by MBS. Despite accusations of MBS’ involvement from the CIA, UN investigators, Congress, and Turkish police, President Trump refused to condemn MBS or even acknowledge MBS’ involvement in order to “sustain the illusion that safeguarding his ‘friendship’ with the prince was critical to arms sales, confronting Iran, securing oil supplies and producing a Middle East peace plan.”
According to the New York York Times, “Mr. Khashoggi’s dismembered body, taken from the consulate in suitcases, has never been found. The trial of 11 men charged in Saudi Arabia with the killing has been slow, secretive and utterly lacking in credibility. Saud al-Qahtani, the prince’s former top aide and the alleged architect of the murder, has not been charged and has vanished.”
Justice for Khashoggi is far from being served and it is being directly prevented by the US, Russia, Japan, and others with vested interests in the Saudi Kingdom.
The Murder of Gedaliah
Gedaliah ben Achikam was the Babylonian appointed Jewish governor of the province of Judah during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. After Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the First Temple, a small portion of the Jews were allowed to remain.
The King of Amnon was envious that a group of Jews were allowed to remain and sent Ishmael ben Netaniah, a royal descendant of the bloodline of Judah, to assassinate Gedaliah.
Gedaliah knew of the brewing plot but agreed to receive Ishamel believing the claims to be lies. During the meal, Ishmael and his ten followers murdered Gedaliah and a number of the Jews who had remained in Judah.
Following Gedaliah’s murder, most of the Jews who had remained in Judah fled fearing a Babylonian reprisal (a Jew had murdered the Babylonian appointed governor). This event served as a crushing blow to Jewish life in Judah which did not recover until the miraculous return of Ezra and Nehemiah.
The Enemy of My Enemy is Still My Enemy
Political alliances are part of the natural order of the international world. They allow us to have an impact far greater than just ourselves. Often times we must curb our own interests for the sake of compromise and cooperation. But we should not delude ourselves into believing that old enemies will suddenly transform into friends overnight.
Practical alliances have many benefits, but we cannot sacrifice our core commitments whether they be the American ideal of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” or the Jewish call for “Justice, justice shall you pursue” or to “choose life.”
How terrifying is it that these dates have passed without much notice? How horrifying is it that every day could be just as mournful?
The world is becoming an increasingly interconnected and dynamic place. As we set out to manage this dangerous and confusing world we should think back to days like yesterday to remind us of the risks involved with getting into bed with our enemies. The “greater good” is meaningless if it covers up a sea of “lesser evils.”