Like many of you, I have been following the recent escalation of tension and Israel’s “all our war” on Gaza with much sadness, frustration, and prayer. As a usual sympathizer with Israel for various reasons, I have been appalled at the current assault and the lack of strong condemnation by the U.S. leaders including both the current president and president elect.
The issues are immensely complex and Hamas had “something coming” [in my opinion] but the fallout on this “all-out assault” will only escalate to more deaths – on both sides and on both sides of the ocean. As you’re reading up on news wherever you are, also check out these additional news sources: BBC News and Al Jazeera.
I’m currently on vacation so I don’t have time to write more but I do want to “share” couple posts by others – today and tomorrow to engage your thoughts. This is a note that one of our church folks, Cyra, wrote and I thought it was worth sharing [with her permission].
Question: What do you think?
Here’s Cyra’s thoughts on Israel and Palestine:
I’m no blogger, but Matt’s at work, and he’s sick of listening to me vent about Israel and Palestine anyway.
One of the hardest parts of growing up, I think, is learning that some of the things you were taught as a child are just wrong. Fortunately for me, as my worldview has shifted, so has my parents’, so we are able to agree that some of the things they taught me were wrong. One example is the relationship between Israel and Palestine.
As a child, all I ever heard about Israel and Palestine was that Israel is constantly under attack and that as Christians it is our duty to support Israel (since the Jews are God’s chosen people) and encourage our government to do the same. I heard this at home, but mostly I heard this at the various churches I attended. Just writing this, I can feel anger swelling up inside me toward all the people who propagated this lie, until I remind myself that many of those people, my parents included, were simply unaware of the truth of the situation and had been lied to themselves.
The (nutshell) facts of the story (I AM an history teacher afterall):
Post-World War II, the Jews want their own land. And after Nazi Germany, who can blame them? Many sites are proposed (including areas of Argentina), but under pressure from Zionists (who committed some terrorist acts of their own to get their way), Great Britain opened up the land of Canaan (which was under British control) for Jewish settlement. The problem? The land was already inhabited by the Palestinians.
War breaks out in 1947 as Jews flood into Canaan and begin pushing Palestinians out of their homes. Many Palestinians flee during this war to the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The United Nations steps in and divides Canaan into three parts: Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. The Jews are given Israel, and the Palestinians are given Gaza and the West Bank. Thus the two countries of Israel and Palestine were born. Why is Gaza part of Palestine? To give the Palestinians access to the Mediterranean. What is the problem with that logic? Israel controls the area between Gaza and the West Bank, and therefore decides whether the Palestinians in the West Bank can actually make use of their Mediterranean access.
So this was the plan: two separate countries. Israel, though, started moving into the West Bank and creating “settlements”, which has been the onus for much of the current strife between the two people groups. Jews are paid to move into the West Bank, Palestinians retaliate against the occupation, and then the Israeli government “defends” itself by building walls all through the West Bank, cutting off routes between Palestinian cities, and randomly bulldozing Palestinian houses.
Is this story sounding vaguely familiar? Think of our own history. The United States pushes the Native Americans to the western part of the continent. Later, it pays citizens to settle the western part of the continent (40 acres and a mule!), when the Native American tribes resist this settlement, the US sends in troops to defend its people.
These are the documented historical facts. Then, I learn about events like Israel’s current bombing campaign in Gaza, and I literally get sick to my stomach. The Gaza strip is 139 sq. miles, with a population of roughly 1.4 million Palestinians. That’s a population density of roughly 10,000/sq. mi. The strip is surround by a wall, controlled by Israel on the east and north, and Egypt on the south, and the Mediterranean sea (which has Israeli gunboats patrolling just off shore). So where can the civilians go when the bombs start dropping? Nowhere. They are sitting ducks. Of course, Israel claims to only be aiming at Hamas targets (recognized by the US as a terrorist group, recognized by the Palestinians as their democratically elected leaders), but with 10,000 people packed into every square mile, there are bound to be some civilian casualties – currently 62 women and children according to the UN, with an unknown number of civilian men – totaling 320 Palestinian casualties and 1400 injured.
This current bombing campaign is in response to Hamas rockets being propelled over the wall into Israel. I do not, at all, excuse Palestinian violence, and I feel as deeply for the Israelis who loose their lives due to suicide bombings and rocket launchings, but I sympathize for the Palestinian’s feeling of desperation. When you have been pushed off your land, your refugees have not been allowed to return home, the land you had been given is being occupied, UN resolution after UN resolution created on your behalf has been flagrantly disregarded, and your oppressors are backed by the most powerful country in the world, what other choices do you have?
I do not propose taking away Israel’s statehood. Given the history of my own country, I would be a hypocrite unless I also proposed reverting the United States to tribal land. Both suggestions are, at this point, completely impractical. There are, though, two main solutions proposed to this problem: keep working on the two state solution, or create one state. Clearly, the two-state “solution” is not a solution at all. This has been the plan since 1947, and since 1947 there has been horrific violence. The other option, which is less talked about, is to combine Israel and Palestine into one country. In reality, since Palestinians have very little control over their UN-granted land, this is already the case. The difference, though, is that Palestinians are very much second-rate citizens (think South Africa under Apartheid and you will get an idea of what kinds of freedoms the Palestinians have). South Africa was able to come out of that dark period of its history, and I pray that Israel will be able to as well. I pray that the violence will stop on both sides, that all the land will be opened to all Israelis and Palestinians, and that the two groups can live together as equal citizens under the same law, with the same rights and freedoms. Will this be easy? Absolutely not. Is it possible? Absolutely. Israel will need to recognize that it is indeed oppressing the Palestinians and take responsibility for its contribution to Palestinian violence. World powers, most notably the US, need to stop supporting Israel’s oppressive policies, and begin pressuring Israel to change. The people of the world need to, at the very least, be educated about what is actually happening in the region. And most importantly, Christians everywhere need to stop blindly supporting Israel and support instead love, compassion,and justice for ALL the people of the world.