I was watching some footage of the violence in Gaza on the news today.
A house destroyed by a tank shell. A mother and three children still in the rubble.
Two small bays covered in blood and concrete dust carried into a hopelessly overwhelmed hospital, staffed by western volunteers. Lacking crucial supplies because of a blockade imposed by the same people who now send the bombs.
Ali posted a link to this film below. If you have any interest- sit down with a coffee and watch it through…
What are we to make of this?
There are two main perspectives it seems;
Israel the defender of the free against the forces of terror.
Israel came into being as a rag tag group of survivors of a Nazi Holocaust took control of their own fate. The Jewish Diaspora was called home, to the land promised by Yahweh.
From the very beginning, they faced overwhelming odds- first the British ‘peacekeeper’ force, who were overcome by the gallant Zionists (albeit using terror tactics.) Then, outnumbered several times, they fought back attacks from every point of the compass by the surrounding Arab nations.
These surrounding nations could not accept the reality of a re-established Jewish nation, and so set themselves on a war footing- committed to driving Israelis into the sea, and returning Palestine to the Palestinians.
But Israel got tough. It’s fighters tenacity and idealistic strength were more than a match for anything the Arabs could throw at them, so the Arabs turned to terrorism.
So Israel fights on still- sending planes and tanks into the hills and streets of Lebanon, and Gaza- in measured, professional response to the missiles launched and the suicide bombers sent.
Israel the victim, striking back.
This view of Israel seems to find a ready home within some Christian groups- most notably, right wing Evangelicals. I have always struggled to understand this. As far as I can make out, this seems to be for a lot of reasons;
- Theological reasons- Modern Israel is seen through a set of Old Testament goggles. Israel is the promised land of the Jews, and so God will always favour Israel.
- Escatological reasons- there are understandings of the ‘end times’ predicted by the book of Revelation that centralise Israel- as a necessary stage for the final dramas of the Human Race. As such, the watchers and readers of the coming great tribulation seem to value their understanding of this Biblical prophetic work more highly than human life- or at least, Arab human life.
- Political reasons- the American Religious Right has become a powerful political force. Mingled in with this is a strong bias towards Israel- perhaps for the reasons above- perhaps also because of other business interests- that familiar relationship between political and economic power. The accommodation with the spirit of the age that the Book of Revelation may also be understood to be commenting on.
- A lack of understanding because of a media bias. The film above makes this point very strongly. To hear a journalist of the stature of Robert Fisk describe just how strong the media blackout has been on any critical news reports describing Israeli aggression gives more than a little pause for thought.
- A willingness to believe ‘Christian’ sources, and discount any information that emanates from contradictory sources- such as Amnesty International, the Red Cross, or even Christian Aid.
So- to the second understanding…
Israel the aggressor, the war criminal.
Here a different Israel can be seen.
A people formed in terrible adversity who went from the victims of genocide, to the perpetrators of terrible human rights abuses within a single generation.
This is a story of UN resolutions ignored. Of internationally recognised borders ignored. Of property and land destroyed and violated. Of thousands of women and children murdered.
And of an allegiance with the worlds only remaining superpower, with an unlimited supply of armaments.
Of thousands killed in the refugee camps of Lebanon. Rockets and shells fired into densely populated slums- full of civilians.
Of an on going occupation of the West bank, and Gaza- against specific UN resolutions. Whose brutalised young people, raised on stories of martyrdom and oppression, lacking opportunities for work, or the hope of any kind of stable life. Lacking all the advantages of a people who live the other side of the fences and walls that surround them- these young people then turn to the very violence employed by zionist terrorists only 50 years ago.
They put bombs on buses and in hotels. They strap explosives to their bodies and walk into school yards.
What should our response be?
I am a follower of Jesus. In his name, we stand as peace makers, healers, chain breakers and bringers of sight to the blind.
No-one carries a sword in the name of the Prince of Peace. Even if many (starting with Peter in the garden) have made that terrible mistake.
So let us stand with Jesus with the poor and oppressed- wherever they are, and whomsoever is the oppressor. Let us seek to understand, and never call this weakness. Let us seek to love, and never call this treason. Let us seek to reconcile and never call this surrender to terror.
And let us raise voices that hold to account those who wield the sword over the weak. Let us be never accommodate and excuse evil- even when it is wrapped in a flag, or the ideology of freedom.
Let us also remember some of the followers of Jesus who remembered the way of the Kingdom under terrible oppression.
Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.
The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.
Quotes from Martin Luther King