November 16, 2018
I know a thing or two about underdogs, having lived for some time in an underdog town in an underdog country. The town: Kiryat Shmona. The country: Israel. To the north and to the west, beyond a ridge of high hills, lay Lebanon. To the east, beyond majestic Mount Hermon, stretched Syria. I was hired for the crew of an American television broadcasting and news gathering operation headquartered in Marjayoun, southern Lebanon. This was a good three decades ago, and in those days, the south of Lebanon amounted to Israel’s “security belt.” The Lebanese in the region called it “Christian Free Lebanon.” That’s because the whole country was embroiled in civil war, coinciding with Israel’s invasion of the country (under Menachem Begin), aimed at putting an end to the regular rain of Katyusha rockets that for many years had plagued Kiryat Shmona and other northern Israeli communities. What Begin’s government called “Operation Peace for Galilee” turned into a quagmire, but in the midst of the carnage, the Lebanese Christians were able to carve out their own autonomous region, having suffered murderous attacks at the hands of Shiite and other radical Muslim militias, intent on turning what had been the “jewel” of the Mediterranean into an Islamic republic.
Among my jobs (being the only member of the crew who spoke Hebrew) was to procure from the Israel Defense Force permits to pass from northern Galilee into Lebanon. Every day I drove to work wearing a flak jacket, and after my late shift, I drove back to the border of Israel, my heart pounding for fear that I might be assaulted from out of the shadows in the dead of night. During the course of my employment, I witnessed things I never imagined. A Lebanese teenage girl drove a pickup full of high explosives into a convoy of Israeli troops, blowing herself to smithereens and taking 13 young IDF soldiers with her. I was tasked with videotaping the gruesome aftermath of the attack, as Israeli choppers landed in the broad valley and soldiers with large plastic bags fanned out to collect body parts. Then there was one of my good buddies, Bill, who helped out at the TV facility, and who had brought his whole family to live, not in Galilee, but in Lebanon, for the purpose of taking in a number of Lebanese children, orphaned during the bloodshed, and creating what amounted to a makeshift orphanage. Bill, being a Christian, also understood what it’s like to be an underdog in the Middle East. Unfortunately for him, he was associated by the Shiite militias in the region with the Israeli “underdogs” south of the border.
That was a problem, since Israel had long lost its underdog status. In Israel’s case, bullied underdogs are sometimes prone to stand up and fight for themselves. And Jewish Israelis, having been bullied perhaps more than any people on earth, decided that they had had enough. They stood up and fought. But then an odd thing happened. The oppressed were labeled as oppressors, precisely because they stood up. History’s quintessential underdogs now became aggressors in the eyes of the world. A new narrative was born. Call it Underdogma. It’s a kind of mob mentality, with deep roots in Marxism (not to mention the French Revolution), that divides all of humanity into “oppressors” and “oppressed.” Of course, oppressed peoples, worldwide, must throw off the yoke of oppression. How? Unleash the mob, and create social and political revolution. Anything is justified to that end. Historically, those who resisted were sent to the guillotine, or worse. But now, the state of Israel was seen by a new international mob as the new oppressors.
My buddy Bill, whose heart was with the Christian Lebanese and who had barely set foot in Israel, was viewed by the Lebanese Shiite “mob” in the region as an Israeli “agent.” The mob warned him to leave. He turned to me one day and said, “You know, the Good Book says ‘Go ye.’ I don’t recall that it ever said ‘Go back.’” Bill stayed. One evening, as he gathered his family and the orphans for devotions, a Shiite militia mob came to his door. Barging in, they grabbed his wife and the children, tied them up in one of the bedrooms, and dragged Bill into the bathroom. They put a single bullet in his back and another in his neck, leaving him in the bathtub in a pool of blood. The next morning I watched a feed from CNN in horror, as his body was carried out on a stretcher. So much for Bill’s “orphanage.”
The mob had prevailed, and over time, the will of the Israelis, who had taken more than their share of casualties, was broken. A slow retreat ensued, leaving Lebanon to new militias and ultimately, the tyrannical “Party of God”—Hezbollah. As for me, I was more than happy to come home. Today, “Christian Free Lebanon” is neither Christian nor free. The Christian Lebanese of the “security belt” have been crushed and decimated. Israel for its part is more isolated than ever—a victim of the “new anti-Semitism,” which amounts to a modern manifestation of metastasizing underdogma, being spurred on by the hard left under the mantle of progressivism. In today’s politically correct climate, reasoned argument is worthless. Israel is racist, apartheid, and of course, “Nazi.” Most obscenely, underdogma masquerades as “social justice.” There’s certainly nothing wrong with social justice, enshrined as it is in the Torah (tzedek, tzedek tirdof: “Justice, justice shall you pursue”). But to modern progressives, social justice has come to mean something entirely different. It is a radical egalitarianism, born of Marx and Engels, intent on redistributing wealth and personal property to the world’s “underdogs.” Shout it loudly enough and long enough, and most people, who are after all creatures of the herd, will believe it. Get the international media on your side, and resistance becomes futile. Those who disagree with the “mob” are shunned, shouted down, or even assaulted. The mob, who claim to represent the “underdogs,” have become the new bullies. Support for Israel may by now have become a classic “lost cause.” Yet, when Mr. Smith famously went to Washington, he remarked, “Sometimes lost causes are the only ones really worth fighting for.” The very least we can do is to advance the cause of the most “bullied” nation on earth, to be “upstanders.”
Kenneth Hanson, Ph.D., is a scholar of Hebrew language and literature, the history of biblical lands, and Jewish and early Christian culture. He is the author of six books. View his YouTube courses at https://bit.ly/1R3YlBm.