On the Brink of War

On Saturday I found myself wondering how close we were to seeing full scale war in the Middle East. 

Beginning last fall I have been writing articles on the application of Just War Theory on the conflict between Israel and Hamas.  In my article, “Are You Like David or Saul?,” I wrote about the Houthi.  They are a group of terrorists who have been attacking cargo ships in the waters around the Middle East.  They are believed to be supported by Iran.  Iran used them as a shield so they would appear to remain not involved.  The timing of the present Houthi attacks is thought to be a response to the Israeli attacks on Hamas.

Last Friday, the conflict moved to a new level.  An advisory was issued saying Israel was expecting attacks directly from Iran.  Iran was responding to the killing of Iranian officials at their embassy in Syria.  This attack was supposedly made by Israel.  So, Iran was retaliating against an attack on them.

At the same time Iran seized a cargo ship.  I do not know if there was a specific provocation for this.  I spent Saturday wondering how bad the attacks would be.  Were we on the brink of war?

Iran did indeed attack Israel.  They fired hundreds of missiles and drones.  99% of them were shot down without causing any damage. 

The weapons were slow moving and fired from long distances, giving Israel plenty of opportunity to shoot them down.  Thus, it seems likely to me that Iran was more interested in sending a message that they would defend themselves than actually attacking Israel at this moment in time.

War was averted, at least for this moment. 

Unfortunately, now it seems Israel is preparing to retaliate against Iran for the attacks that caused almost no damage.  Does the threat of retaliation by Israel keep us on the brink of war?

I am pleased to hear the United States, while we helped to defend Israel against the Iranian attack, will not participate in any retaliatory strikes against Iran.

Why am I pleased?  First and foremost, I do not see where anything would be gained by retaliation.  Remember, Iran was responding to the attack on their embassy by Israel.  I am not saying their retaliation was justified but they were responding in the moment to actions by Israel. 

Israel attempts to justify their continuing attacks against the Hamas as necessary for their defense.  Under the same premise, one could argue that Iran was justified in attacking Israel.  I am not saying they should have.  It’s time for the fighting to end. 

Again, I do not agree with any of the attacks but I do not think that Israel has justification to retaliate against Iran.  The immediate problem started with Israel’s attack on the Iranian embassy. 

I am afraid that what we are seeing is not a series of justified attacks (see my page explaining Just Way Theory).  We are seeing governments react when their pride is hurt.  Israel had some justification to attack Hamas to defend themselves (see “Just Cause” in Just War Theory).  They have far surpassed that (see “Proportionality” in Just War Theory).  If they have a reason with evidence for their attack on the Iranian embassy in Syrian, perhaps there is some justification but what did they hope to accomplish (see “Probability of Success” in Just War Theory)?  Did their attack on the Iranian embassy qualify as a “Last Resort” according to Just War Theory?  I don’t know.  I haven’t heard any justification for that attack.

Why am I writing this?  This is a blog about faith, not politics.  I am writing this out of concern for how people are being treated.  How many innocent people have died?  How many people have not been treated with the dignity given to them by God, no matter their beliefs or ethnicity? 

I am afraid that what we are seeing is people in long conflict with one another who seem to be looking for a reason to attack.  This is all part of a long history of hatred between peoples. 

It is time to end the hatred.

War will not end the hatred.  For instance, Israel has said their present conflict with Hamas will end when Hamas is completely destroyed.  What good will the destruction of Hamas do?

What Israel is accomplishing is making a whole lot of people mad.  If they do succeed, fueled with angry by Israel’s actions, another group will arise to take Hamas’ place.

War cannot and will not end the hatred.

If we want to end the hatred, we need to focus on the dignity of the people (Just this week the Vatican issued a new document, Dignitas Infinita, on the dignity of people – I will be writing an article or two on this document in the coming weeks.)

If we want to end the hatred, we need to follow Jesus’ words,

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?  So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

Jesus calls us to love.  Love means letting go of the angry (see Matthew 5:21-26).  How is anything accomplished by holding onto our anger? 

I mentioned above how some may have had their pride wounded.  “Pride” in this form is one of the seven deadly sins“Anger” is also one of the seven deadly sins.

The third beatitude is “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land” (Matthew 5:5).  Being “meek” should not be equated to “giving up” or being a “coward.”  To be “meek” is “enduring injury with patience and without resentment, …not violent or strong” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary phone app, accessed 4/16/24).

It’s time for everyone involved in both the immediate conflicts and the long-term conflict in the Middle East to let go of the hurt, anger, and pride.  It is time to love our enemies.  It is time deescalate the conflict, not increase it.  Only when we love can hatred be defeated.

It’s a complex situation.  I know it is unlikely to change overnight but I also know that nothing is impossible for God.  I ask that you join me in letting go of any hurt and praying for everyone in the Middle East to find peace.


Fr. Jeff 


  1. Carol H Clendenin on 04/18/2024 at 2:03 pm

    The Middle East has been a difficult and complex place for me to understand for a long time in part due to the various cultures and religions involved.

    I look forward to your article Fr. Jeff on Dignitas Infinita, a new Vatican document, in the coming weeks. I really appreciate this article On the Brink of War and your heartfelt concern, Fr. Jeff, for the various people involved. I will pray for everyone in the Middle East to find peace for themselves and for us, their fellow humans, in the rest of the world.

    • Fr. Jeff on 04/18/2024 at 3:18 pm

      Thank you Carol. We pray for everyone in conflict.


      Fr. Jeff

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