11 January, 2009

Gaza Strip Conflict

A friend asked where we stand on what's happening in Gaza and why...

It is undeniable that there are several, prominent conflicting perspectives on offer. Many in the US government and in society more generally seem quite convinced that Hamas is basically a terrorist organization and brings this punishment upon themselves and upon the Palestinian people. On the other hand, there is a growing voice in the US and much louder internationally which is convinced that Israel has consistently been the aggressor in this relationship, and is involved in major human rights abuses in oppressing the Palestinian people.
I find myself standing more and more on the side of Palestine.

There have been several articles (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) that show the severity of how lopsided this conflict is.

In the U.S. we suffer from several misguided cop outs. As a Christian I am furthered annoyed by the seemingly blind acceptance of Israel and all their actions because of flawed reasoning. There is a startling lack of debate in the American church about what is going on in Israel. And, sadly, I don't think many Christians have seriously thought about the issue for themselves. They blindly accept that God blessed Israel and therefore continues to do so. And sweep over the many human right violations and acts of terrorism Israel has taken.

I seek to disassemble two of these cop outs here:

1) That to be with Israel is to be blessed. I found three verses in the OT where this concept of blessing vs. curses comes up. 1) Genesis 12:3 - Here God is speaking directly to Abram when he calls him to leave his family and go out on his own. 2) Gen 27:29 - This is where Jacob steals his brother's blessing. Isaac thought he was blessing Esau but through Rebekah and Jacob's duplicity the blessing goes to the wrong brother. And 3) Numbers 24:9 - Balaam is speaking to the princes of Balak. They have had a series of conversations - as God is speaking through Balaam to rebuke Balak. There are three oracles (God's words to Balak) about why He is protecting Israel. The famous phrase comes in the third oracle. Taken in context (a marvel idea, I know!) none of "blessed and you'll be blessed, curse and you'll be cursed" statements apply. I love it when Christians take a verse, or half of one, and use it to justify their agenda - but that's another post entirely.

And furthermore, I'm sorry, but have you read the New Testament? Jesus came and established a "new Israel" on earth. (Neither Jew nor Gentile... Read Acts or Romans or Jesus' words where He said that He did not come to change the law but to fulfill it and bring freedom to all). "Israel" is no longer a group of people or a country in the Middle East - it is all those who believe and profess His name. "Israel" is the people God will call back to Himself when He returns. "Israel" is you, me, and whoever else is a follower of Christ. If we are going to cling to this principal of the OT we need to cling to other ones as well (oh, how selective most churches are!).

2) That to be a good Christian one must love Israel. (Which should include cop out 2.b - that the U.S. is a "Christian" nation. Um, no, we're not. Our forefathers were religious - but the U.S. was not founded by a bunch of Christian men using the Bible as their guide... Again, check your history!). Because of this cop out there is very little (if any) accountability for Israel's actions. Their mass movements against Palestine are called simple "retaliations" and are, therefore, justified. Palestine is far from innocent in this situation, Hamas even less so. But look at cultural context, and consider the dehumanizing conditions Palestinians live under. Further consider that Israel destroys Palestinian homes every day, and keep expanding their borders further into Palestinian territory. Look at the number of Palestinians killed yearly verses Israelis. It's Goliath beating down on David - but this time Goliath wins. Israel is provoking an already wounded Palestine and then crying when they get attacked.

And why are they allowed to carry all of this out?

Because big brother, bully USA has so fully integrated the two cop outs into our modern day psyche that we can't even have a public discourse on what is really going on in Israel. It has become unacceptable to disagree with Israel. And to disagree with Israel to be say that Jews have no right to exist --- explain that connection to me?!?!? That's like saying because I disagree with Nkunda in the DRC I am saying that Hutus and therefore Rwandans have no reason to exist.

Why do we accept this stupidity?

Further, no act of genocide gives the group attacked the right to become an aggressor and, in some ways, the genociders themselves to another group. Nothing that was ever does to the Jews justifies what some of them have chosen to do to the Palestinian people.

And none of these statements make me anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish or whatever name you could come up with. Imagine if the situation was different. Imagine if Israel had decided to all move into one community in Palestine (instead of occupying the entire country!) and Palestine was slowly moving their borders into Israeli territory. They had never allowed Israel to have a military, restricted their access, denied them ports and airports and other sources of commerce, and refused to become a democracy (giving Israelis basic rights) because Israelis vastly outnumbered Palestinians - so an apartheid continued in Palestine but it was the Palestinians who were the instigators, and the Israeli people who had to live under occupation... Imagine! What would the world be saying or doing then? Would the U.S. secretly smuggle arms to Israel, would the UN push harder for a solution?

The US needs to take a logical stance on this. And by that I mean not abstaining from UN resolutions and actually denouncing (not supporting) the violence! I love it that our Senate says that Palestine has no right to defend itself and calls that terrorism and uses horrifying images of rockets being fired on us from Canada, but doesn't turn the analogy around and say that if Canada decided to invade us we would sure as hell defend our homes! (pathetic!)

One more thought, I thought this was a good article on how your view of the conflict depends on your media outlet...

Let there be a ceasing of violence soon...