The biblical story of Saul teaches us a powerful lesson regarding the individual’s moral choice and what that choice may lead to.
In ancient Israel, as the era of the judges was ending, it came time for the Israelites to finally have a king. Saul was God’s first choice. He had the strength and support necessary to protect the Israelites and, under God’s command, once and for all destroy the threats and specter of death that the Israelites had lived under for centuries. And yet when it came to the key battle with the sworn enemy of the Israelites – the nation of Amalek – Saul thought he would be more compassionate than God Himself, ignoring His command by sparing the life of the Amalekite king Agag – the Bin Laden of his time.
Later on in his life, Saul wrongly believed that a young shepherd named David was a challenge to his throne and pursued him with his army. Mistakenly convinced that a village of priests had aided David’s escape, Saul in a fit of paranoia massacred the village.
That’s quite a moral shift.
How did such a promising young man who was hand-picked by God end up going down such a wicked path? The Talmud offers this famous response: “Those who are kind when they should be cruel will end up being cruel when they should be kind.”
We today witness this teaching unfolding before our eyes, living as we do in a bizarre era where so many people in a position to support nations who stand for freedom and justice choose instead to support forces of evil, all in the name of compassion.
Why, in a world where we know what organizations like Hamas stand for – brutality towards women, murder of gays, suppression of freedom, genocidal aspirations toward the Jews – can people elevate the terrorist organization over democratic Israel? The answer lies in evil’s ability to hide in the shadows and escape the light of scrutiny. To hide behind masks as it commits atrocities. To cower behind lies and propaganda that ensnare the illiterate and befuddle the blind. It is found in the refusal to analyze and scrutinize one’s own biases and to uncover the contradictions and fallacies that pervade one’s own thinking.
Hamas, ISIS, AL Qaeda, and Hezbollah all thrive from a deficiency of information and critical thinking on the part of the public. People whose knowledge of the Middle East comes from pictures on the internet of Israel dropping bombs on Gaza will quickly conclude that Israel is the aggressor. Morality that results from two-dimensional images rather than deep-seated values cannot easily distinguish between right and wrong. This phenomenon is found in William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, where otherwise innocent young boys slowly turn into savages. Golding understood all too well how deprave action, when freed from the light of scrutiny, can corrupt one’s very humanity.
In describing the character of Jack, Golding wrote how the boy began painting his face and “the mask was a thing of its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness.” The boys who challenged and refused to be taken in by the evil “understand only too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought.”
Jihadi John, once an aspiring British rapper, committed some of the most ghastly crimes imaginable while hiding his face behind a black mask. Hooded Hamas executioners who were themselves once just innocent children grew up to be monsters, able to freely murder dissidents in broad daylight, knowing their masks would both conceal their identities while simultaneously striking fear in those who would challenge them.
Evil flourishes when concealed. Brutality thrives in fog.
Hitler only started his program of mass genocide against the Jews under the cover of the Second World War, just as the Turks had done to the Armenians a quarter century earlier under the cover of the First. Kim Jong Un, the young monster dictator of North Korea, commits his atrocities – as did his father and grandfather – in the most inaccessible regime on earth. And in this latest terror war against Israel, Hamas fired its murderous rockets from under tents, all the better to conceal their genocidal intent.
Then there are those individuals who hide behind organizations – distorting facts and perpetrating outright slander – allowing evil to proliferate. Hiding behind warped morals and a political correctness that has become extreme, it accomplishes the opposite of its intended purpose.
Recently, it was discovered that a gang of pedophiles molested over 1,400 girls in Britain. They got away with this crime for the last fifteen years because authorities, abetted by the police, did not wish to seem racist in investigating the charges because the alleged perpetrators were of Pakistani origin.
Brutality dare never be allowed in the name of compassion.
Readers of this publication will be aware that a few weeks ago I called out Naomi Wolf for her fraudulent and monstrous allegations of an Israeli genocide against the Palestinians. After being spotlighted and closely scrutinized, Naomi attempted to defend herself and was finally forced to write that she condemns Hamas.
I publicly challenged her to a debate on her charges of an Israeli genocide which she at first accepted. However, when I continued to expose in detail just how far Naomi had deviated from her own humanitarian and feminist principles in condemning Israel while being most lax on Hamas – its human rights violations, brutality against women, execution of homosexuals, suicide bombings – Naomi chose the path of the fainthearted and canceled her participation in the debate. She gave the excuse that she wanted to first wait for the facts from the UN investigation to come out before debating whether Israel committed genocide. Funny how those same facts didn’t matter when it came to libeling the Jewish state in the first instance and providing fuel for anti-Semites the world over who wish to destroy Israel. In offering a flimsy pretext for her withdrawal, Naomi was simply donning yet another mask rather than owning up to the truth: she knew she’d be utterly crushed in an open exchange over her venomous and ridiculous charge that Israel seeks to exterminate the Palestinians.
Naomi also ironically claimed that she could not do the debate because she was already scheduled to speak that day on sexual violence at the Oxford Union. I trust that she will choose to mention the sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas and other Islamist extremists that she has until now largely omitted and excused so many times before.
In the end Naomi’s claims of an Israeli genocide – which she still refuses to withdraw – cost her not only her credibility but even the support of so many of her Hamas-embracing Facebook followers who feel she has sold them out by uttering even a word of criticism toward the terrorists.
So much for compassion.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is founder of This World: The Values Network, the foremost organization influencing politics, media, and the culture with Jewish values. The international best-selling author of 30 books, he has just published Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.