Now is an appropriate time to morally clarify the underlying narrative of what is happening in Israel and Ukraine.
Survivors of the last century’s greatest genocides, the Holocaust and the Holodomor, these countries again find themselves at the forefront in the world’s mind by providing a courageous example of what it takes to respond to a direct challenge to their existence, or put another way, how they must deal with the evil of genocide.
The present situation necessitates a clarification of a “theology of evil” because as the modern world grapples as to, ‘what to do?’, it is imperative that a philosophical framework be established as to why they must act.
In a world that is dominated by a secular and materialistic view world, thank goodness that it still grudgingly seeks to understand and comprehend the meaning of ‘evil’, even in absolutist terms.
The use of the term ‘evil’ has disappeared from the vocabulary of present-day politics. Modern Western societies lack for a theology of ‘evil’, quite a sorry predicament considering the understanding and the order of our existence is being challenged illustrating that we are clearly not beyond good and evil.
‘Evil’ is the deliberate destruction and ruination of human beings.
Its purpose is to kill and destroy human beings while causing fear through massacre and acts of intimate barbarity, like torture and rape.
Its’ present practitioners, Russia and Hamas, form the basis of a political ideology whose societies are bereft of respect for the dignity and the spiritual sanctity of human beings.
This is because Hamas and Russia are essentially “death societies”, cultures which are not inspired and have no regard for the pursuit of the affirmation of life. They are societies and historic practitioners of ‘terror power’ which do not have traditions for the respect and protection of human life in their civic polity.
Russia and Hamas are purveyors of an authoritarian cynical nihilism, promulgators of a political ideology inspired by a mentality of a “death culture” whose quest, both historically, and in present day, seek to establish and perpetuate ‘disorder’ onto other societies and the world’s civic life through pursuing their political objectives by the slaughter of civilians and the denial of basic and widely accepted definitions of human rights.
This is the underlying meaning of the narrative now being played out: law and dignity-based societies, or more simply, democratic societies, are being directly challenged by authoritarian cynical forces through the use of ‘terror-tactics’.
The Western world is quite aware that something is amiss, but they have failed to understand the full implications of this underlying moral component. They have neglected to confidently develop a vocabulary and philosophical frame work to explain this struggle. They have come short, finding themselves within their peaceful and comfortable cultures, to contemplate evil’s horribleness, and in so doing, have created barriers for what requires definitive action. Timothy Snyder, the Yale historian, has suggested that the reason Westerners don’t ascribe the word ‘genocide’ to Russia’s action in Ukraine is because then they would have to act decisively. This is not so for Ukrainians and Jews. If they wait and don’t ‘resist’, they will cease to exist.
The West’s fear of supporting decisive military action is a denial of the existence of the insidious nature of evil in the modern world and the fact that evil must be confronted by power.
Western societies, though very familiar with the crimes against human dignity committed by the Nazi’s through the works of Eli Wiesel, Bernard-Henri Levy, and Imre Kertezsch, still have not hardened their resolve in combating present day evil because they are incapable of admitting that they lack political courage and moral resolve. They are morally floundering while unable, and even unwilling, to properly categorize that evil exists in the modern world.
The use of terror tactics is an ideological expression of authoritarian power through violence against human beings. The end result of terror tactics is always death.
Bloodied children, women who have been tortured and raped, the elderly being shot in the chest, the beheadings of captured soldiers are just too ‘horrible’ to see. However, for Jews and Ukrainians, this is the reality of daily life.
The use of terror tactics is evil. Terrorism is an ideology of death. Hamas defines and bases its world view and existence on this principle. Hamas is a purveyor of a “death culture”, a death cult whose primary intent is to not only kill human life, but to desecrate the bodies of human beings. This is the level of contempt they have towards Jewish human dignity.
Terror, its use and practice, is not ‘normal’, but evil. It is the corrupt fruit of moral deficiency. It is “anti-life”, its’ very essence subjugates individual expression. Through the expression of ‘terror power’, their definition of what is ‘good’ is defined by the number of people they deliberately slaughter. It is not in the pursuit of being or attempting to do ‘good’.
This sort of attitude is ‘anti-peace’.
Societies based on fear or “fear societies” as the great Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky argued in his book, The Case for Democracy, deny the freedom of individual expression in language, the freedom to pursue chosen economic ambitions, or the liberty for unique cultural expression. They are authoritarian, offshoots of totalitarian ideology, whose order is defined by causing disorder.
Such societies are led by those who are voracious in their use of malicious power and its expression. They are not law abiding, nor care for the fundamentals of human rights.
They use terror as an evil ideological political expression because they don’t believe in negotiation and words. They believe in the primacy of weapons and the violence they inflict and the deaths they cause.
For both Ukrainians and Jews, there is little gain in defining ‘evil’ in philological terms. They experience evil as a threat to their existence. They don’t need to define it. They see it, they live amongst it, they feel its oppressive power, they are terrorized by it. They know what evil is when it is visited upon them.
They have no choice but to ‘resist’ it and to seek the isolation of its practitioners. At such a time, words are ineffective, negotiation is of virtually no use, calls for a ‘cease fire’ inadequate and for cessation of hostilities naive for it will only prolong human tragedy.
The Western mind cannot comprehend and neither can it imagine evils’ horribleness. But it must.
Jews and Ukrainians are not preoccupied with evils’ literary definition because they simply see it and are forced to resist.
Their existence depends on it.
In “fear societies” children, women, young people and men are expendable. They are considered meat. And whether it is the massacre of young people at a music festival, or the events perpetrated in kibbutzes, or in deliberate killings, summary executions and torture in Bucha, the intentional destruction of Mariupol, and the deliberate daily bombings of civil infrastructure, the principle of creating fear and terror remains the same.
The real purpose of the barbarians is to challenge and create doubt as to the intentions of their evil deeds, for like the Nazis and Soviet communists, such cynical authoritarians want to hide and escape accountability of the perpetuation of their crimes against humans. But today, with the availability of modern technologies, the evidence of evil acts cannot be denied. These disruptors of normal democratic and peaceful order seem to revel in the transgressions and perpetuation of human tragedy. They don’t rely on the considerations of contemplative thought on the moral implications of their terror actions, but on images that fuel the objectives of their cynical and nihilistic propaganda ends.
Evil must be judged in the present. Evil doers must be held accountable for their crimes. However, the ascribing of legal responsibility must wait. Justice must be waited for with patience. Evil identified in this moment, must be resisted. More specifically, “good” people of conscience, must ‘stand up’ against the present evil and fight it even by military means.
Eventually, these crimes must be adjudicated in courts of law, but till then, those societies which pursue peace and normality, most overcome their denial and hesitation to confront “evil doers” by force. Because evil only understands the use of power, it wreaks havoc over those who hesitate to use force to restrain its objectives. Not to act is evidence of the absence of moral clarity, but is also a sign of the lack of political courage in the face of existential threat.
Indeed, this is what Israel and Ukraine are presently doing, they are forced to ‘resist’. Not by negotiation or diplomacy because they have learned that authoritarians, whether in the guise of Hamas, Russia or Iran, their enemy does not respect their humanity and rightful existence.
The Jews have always known this, but Ukrainians also understand this. There can be no discussion or compromise with evil doers because one can’t talk with a neighbor who seeks the destruction of one’s existence. Jews, regardless of their political leanings have had to relearn this. Ukrainians are also learning that there are those who seek to destroy them, their uniqueness, their culture, and their very way of life. Russia is perpetrating a genocide upon Ukraine.
The present generation which represents today’s civil world is only beginning to learn this historic lesson once again. That is why ‘good’ people support Israel and Ukraine. For unlike the generation during the Holocaust, they have at least learned that power which does not submit itself to international law, normal and moral civil behavior and which seeks to destroy the dignity of a civil human being, will result in death.
We must resist evil by standing with Ukraine and Israel. And whether it is accepted or not, there can be no compromise with evil.