By Bob Allen
A Southern Baptist Convention leader criticized former President Jimmy Carter’s suggestion that Washington should recognize Hamas as a legitimate political actor as “morally reprehensible” and “an outrage.”
Carter, a lifelong Baptist, joined Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland, in an op-ed arguing the U.N. Security Council should adopt a resolution denouncing the 7-year-old sanctions and blockade that isolate the 1.8 million people in Gaza.
In addition to ending the siege, the two former presidents said the United States and the European Union “should recognize that Hamas is not just a military force but also a political one.”
“It cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise,” they said. “Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor — one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people — can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons.”
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded Aug. 6 in a daily podcast commenting on current events: “This is an absolutely morally reprehensible argument.”
Mohler cited statements in a 1988 document known as the Hamas Charter calling for establishment of a Palestinian state, elimination of the modern state of Israel and advocating jihad, or Islamic holy war.
“For many years now, continuing right up to the present, the United States, the European Union and many other nations identify Hamas as a terrorist organization, and rightly so,” Mohler said.
“Something has gone horribly wrong when two former presidents of Western nations — the nations of the United States and Ireland — call for a terrorist organization like Hamas to be recognized as ‘a legitimate political actor,’” Mohler said. “That in itself is an outrage.”
Hamas was created in 1987 during a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation known as the first intifada. The organization carried out its first attack against Israel in 1989. When elections for Palestinian Legislative Council brought Hamas to power in 2006, Israel responded with economic sanctions aimed at isolating Gaza from the rest of the world.
Hamas says unless Israel lifts the blockade there will be no truce, while Israel insists on ridding Gaza of weapons before it will agree to a treaty.
Carter and Robinson, writing as members of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders advocating peace and human rights founded by former South African President Nelson Mandela, said ever since the internally monitored 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power in Palestine, the West’s approach to resolving Mideast conflict has contributed to the opposite result.
“Ultimately, however, lasting peace depends on the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel,” they wrote.
Mohler has been critical of Carter in the past. In 2005 he panned Carter’s book, Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis. He also criticized Carter’s announcement in 2009 that he no longer considered himself to be a Southern Baptist.
Mohler and Carter discussed some of their differences in a 2012 interview described by Mohler as “one of the most interesting conversations I have ever had.”