I received this request on 8/24/14 but needed to spend some time thinking and reading more about it. The original question: “What perspective can you add to what’s going on in Israel/Palestine? It seems horrible to me from either perspective, and I’m often confused when people like my grandmother mindlessly “support Israel” while denying that their actions have a genocidal flavor. And yet, with Hamas shooting rockets, building tunnels, using human shields, I have a hard time sympathizing and I feel that, yes, Israel has the right to protect itself – and yet, Israel has been, arguably, a colonizer for the past 60 years, and not one with a light tread. It’s hard for me to understand what’s going on. Can you shed some light?”
That’s a doozy. First, I’ll say that I agree that it seems horrible from both sides and that it’s hard for *most* people to understand what’s really going on, given, among other things, that the mainstream media in America is beholden to powerful and monied special interests that ostensibly do not include keeping the public informed. And this is precisely why I would caution against blindly supporting anyone. The Middle East has been a volatile region for a long, long time; the conflicts there are deep, entrenched and nuanced. In other words, this is not a new issue; it takes work and study to understand what’s happening. No one should support anyone or anything without educating themselves on the multiple perspectives involved (rather than seeking information that only supports a preconceived opinion) and considering the sources of their information. Rather than using ignorance as an excuse, though, it is my position that we need to learn at least enough to know our part in this – if and how we’re contributing to bloodshed and suffering. As Christians, we cannot stand for this no matter what “side” it’s coming from.
Second, let me say clearly that I am *no expert* on this (and there is much conflicting information out there) so please take this as my opinion and, as I said above, educate yourself on these matters. While we shouldn’t be pressured into having an opinion on every single conflict or problem in the world (who could bear this kind of weight anyway?), issues of genocide and perpetual warfare are humanitarian crises and they affect us all. This is decidedly not an unbiased site (no human source is), but the numbers here indicate to me that Israel is engaged in a genocide of the Palestinian people. But let’s be clear about who “Israel” and “Palestine” are in this case – or at least who each is not. “Palestine” is not synonymous with “Hamas;” you can be against Israel’s actions without automatically condoning Hamas’ terrorism. “Israel” is not synonymous with “Jewish;” which means that being Jewish and supporting Israel are not and do not have to be the same thing (as one writer points out). The same goes for Christians: our allegiance is first and foremost to Christ, not any human-constructed nation or ideology. Jesus is about reconciliation; as His followers, we cannot stand for anything less. We can’t make “exceptions” for violence, especially since we are to be *for* life, love and peace, as these are very close to God’s heart. We simply cannot stand for the inhumane conditions implied by the following:
I swam in #Gaza beach today. Guess how it was? Stinking with untreated sewage water
— Mohammed Omer (@Mogaza) August 31, 2014
When people say they “stand with Israel” or they “support Israel” they need to be pressed to clarify. Do they mean the colonialist power using oppression, violence and brute force against a people group? Do they mean the nation-state “simply” wanting to establish or defend itself (and what are people willing to excuse or overlook in the name of self defense?)? When people are for or against “Palestine,” what is their understanding of Palestine? To what or whom are they referring to? Before we form our own opinions – which will unavoidably shape our actions (like the Block the Boat campaign, for example) – we need to ask ourselves the same questions.