Israel and Palestine.
Is there any more divisive a topic facing our world today? Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has an answer. And nothing ever gets accomplished.
Conflict between the two is nothing new even in my short lifetime. My generation has seen it multiple times, early 2000’s in the West Bank, 2006 in Lebanon, and Gaza in 2008-09, and 2012. 2014 in fact seems a repeat of the last two outbursts. Except its not.
For me this, along with the MH17 ordeal, is the first world event I have followed primarily using a Twitter hashtag. Type in #Gaza and pictures of crumbled apartment blocks, mangled bodies, overwhelmed hospitals, and anguished survivors along with widely diverging commentary from around the world instantly deluge your timeline. Global opinion, while not usually sympathetic to Israel, has erupted into a social media induced, unadulterated fury.
Even here at home, half of older adults and a huge majority of those between 18-29 believe Israel’s latest offensive to be unjust.
But it sure doesn’t feel like it. With a few exceptions, all I’ve heard on traditional media, from conservative Christian outlets, and in personal conversations is the usual troupe: I stand with Israel. Israel has the right to defend itself. What if Mexico was lobbing rockets into Arizona? Hamas uses human shields. And so on.
To some degree American Christian sympathy is understandable, and to some degree I share it. Israel and America shared a common plight the last few decades battling the Islamist menace. Israel is a democratic society in a tough neighborhood. Perhaps even more foundational, we share a religious DNA. It’s easy to read the stories of King David or Moses and transmute them onto the modern Israeli fight for survival. In short, it feels normal to “Stand with Israel.”
But what does standing with Israel mean? Does it ONLY mean blindly giving the Israeli military a blank check to wreak whatever havoc whenever it deems necessary?
I have two children. I love them deeply. Nothing will ever change that. I will stand by them no matter what. But obviously that doesn’t mean I let them do whatever they want. Because I love them I (often) chastise, correct, and discipline. Does such a blatant fact really need stating? Apparently it does.
American evangelicals, even if you believe our faith compels supporting Israel no matter what as we do our children (a notion I vehemently disagree with but that’s another blog post): Does that not also mean we should challenge and restrain them at times?
Maybe standing with Israel means telling the IDF that 80% civilian casualties and the deaths of 149 children (as of July 21) is unacceptable.
Maybe standing with Israel means recognizing Israel is not just a secular government administration and military in the Middle East, but in fact is a religious and ethnic community that spans the globe. (see the above picture)
Maybe standing with Israel means accounting for the thousands of Jews around the world, including on our own shores, who have protested for peace. (again see the above picture)
Maybe standing with Israel means listening to those inside Israel demanding peace. Have your heard in US media about the 3000 protesters in Tel Aviv today, or about the 50 reservists who refused deployment to Gaza and wrote an open letter explaining why? Didn’t think so.
Maybe standing with Israel means pressuring the Israeli administration to drawdown the occupation and halt further settlements as the Palestinians renounce terrorism. The Palestinians in the West Bank have done this and Israel refuses to budge (while allowing settlements to continue growing).
Maybe standing with Israel means helping them to see Gaza will remain desperate and violent as long as they are besieged without commerce, without education, without resources, and without hope.
Maybe standing with Israel means challenging the government to give all citizens equal rights and to end human rights abuses in the occupied territories. Absues such as impeding liberty of movement and the right to work, to health, to education and to an adequate standard of living are common place according to the International Court of Justice.
Maybe standing with Israel means first looking ourselves in the mirror. Maybe it means our repenting of blowing off real time human suffering and complex socio-political issues with vague, glib cliches and bible verses ripped out of context.
Maybe standing with Israel means asking our fellow Christians around the world what they think of the situation. What insight might they offer?
Maybe standing with Israel means challenging them to hear the voices of the prophetic tradition we share. What would Jeremiah and Amos have to say to a government that denies justice to the poor and relies on its military complex for salvation?
Because here’s the thing, ultimately, Israel will not stand if it continues to deny hope and opportunity to its neighbors in Gaza and the West Bank. If we truly love Israel we will do everything we can to show them the only sustainable way forward is for the Promised Land to become just that . . . for everybody living there.
Impossible? No way. Ask the Irish.
In the meantime . . .
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Psalm 122:6
But don’t stop there. Also . . .
“Do justly and walk humbly” Micah 6:8