Tuesday, January 6

Here is an excerpt from an article written on the website of Israel National News (IsraelNN.com) with some commentary from MCC. You can read the full article here.

Rabbi Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, the number four man on the National Union's Knesset list [a political party in Israel], thinks the leaders of Israel should follow King David's advice from the Eighteenth Psalm regarding Gaza: "I will chase my enemies and catch up to them and I shall not return until I annihilate them."

"This should be the slogan of every leader and IDF commander," he said. "The enemy must know that whoever raises his hand against Israel, we will teach him a lesson and annihilate him as well as all his helpers and supporters, and only thus will we take out their will to fire missiles at us."

As followers of Jesus, we think that violence will never secure peace. This statement from an aspiring politician reflects the grossness of the state of Israel's misjudgment as to how to achieve peace. Yes, rockets have been fired at Israeli citizens. Will dropping more bombs change the situation? From here in Israel/Palestine, it seems that there is not much difference between the goals of Hamas and the goals of the Israeli military. Hamas thinks that with enough violence, they will be able to push Jews out of what was historical Palestine and reclaim the land for themselves. Violence is a means to their goal. For the Israeli military, the stated goal of the current military action is the cessation of rocket fire from Gaza. As the Gaza Strip was being bombed by Israeli aircraft, rockets were still being fired. If Hamas is still finding a way to launch rockets while under aerial bombardment, does the Israeli military really think that after the cessation of military action there won't be people willing to launch rockets?

It's difficult to understand the situation in the Gaza Strip. The average Israeli views the situation differently than the average Palestinian.

The average Israeli hears about the constant rocket fire towards Israeli towns and cities. They see images of demonstrations against Israel, demonstrations with guns and men calling themselves 'martyrs', swearing their readiness to die in defense of Palestine.

The average Palestinian hears about the siege of the Gaza Strip, and friends or family members explain that they're largely unable to cross borders to go to university abroad, visit family in the West Bank, or leave Gaza for medical treatment. They feel the humiliation and frustration of living under and occupying power, and having that power decide who can go where, and when, and how long it will take. They know the frustration of being stopped on a daily basis simply because they are Palestinian.

No one can say for certain what will happen when the Israeli military has finished its actions in Gaza. No one knows if popular support for Hamas will be stronger (which Hamas expects) or weakened (which Israel expects). No one knows how long the Israeli military will continue to occupy Gaza in an attempt to stop rocket fire from Hamas. There are things that can be said for sure though:

Dropping missiles and bombs on a population is not a way to bring peace. Hamas launching rockets at Israeli towns hasn't convinced Israel to acknowledge the wrong done in 1948 or 1967, when Israel forced Palestinians from their homes. Previous Israeli military action in Gaza, the closing of the Gazan borders, not allowing people to leave or people to enter, hasn't stopped the rocket fire. This military action won't stop the rocket fire.

Over 500 are dead and 2500 wounded. Hamas will claim victory if, when Israeli military action has ceased, they are able to launch even one rocket. Israel continues to tell the media that this war is not against civilians. And yet civilians continue to die. Should we judge our actions based on our intentions or on the results of our actions? Dropping bombs and missiles from the air into cities and towns is safe for Israelis and poses little risk to soldiers. But bombs and missiles don't have eyes; they can't tell who is and who isn't in a building. Israel says it was 'forced' into this war. Is it forced to deal with rockets in this way, by dropping bombs from airplanes?
Yes, Hamas uses civilians as human shields. Yes, they hide rockets and ammunitions in schools. Does Hamas also force Israel to drop bombs?

There is a better way. For every person killed in Gaza, it's likely that the attitude of the people in Gaza hardens. Regardless of what you're told, if missiles are falling on your neighborhood, you're going to have a hard time believing you're not the target. Gazans feel abandoned. In their eyes, Hamas is one of the only parties to stand up for the rights of the people living in Gaza. While the rest of the world pleads with Israel to stop military actions, Hamas is the only group actually doing something about it. This doesn't make it right, but it helps explain the popular support for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
At the same time, while Israelis weren't dying on a large scale, there was no international outcry for Hamas to stop launching rockets at Israel. Israel feels that the international community doesn't understand it's situation and that it must act unilaterally in order to take action to protect Israeli Jews living in the south.
The better way involves speaking to one another, seeking to understand what the other wants. Not all Gazans support Hamas, and if the population there saw a viable solution to their current situation, one that acknowledged the wrongs done to them and provided them with a material, civic, and emotional way to move forward, most likely a majority of them would support it. Not all Israelis think the best way to deal with extremists is to bomb the towns and cities they live in, and if they were able to overcome their fear and believed that a majority of Palestinians wanted peace, they'd be willing to encourage their government to find such a solution. The problem is that both sides play on the anger, fear, and distrust of the other. The extremists on both sides are loud enough that moderates and others willing to pursue peace are pushed out. Each side has in the extrememists of the other a ready excuse as to why they the ones responsible for peace.

The quote with which this post opened was from an Israeli Jewish rabbi running for office in Israel. We in North America often hear such things from Hamas, but it is because people on both sides speak in such ways that peace will be difficult to find here.
The enemy must know that whoever raises his hand against Israel, we will teach him a lesson and annihilate him as well as all his helpers and supporters, and only thus will we take out their will to fire missiles at us.
Hamas firing rockets hasn't convinced Israelis to leave the country. The Israeli military attempting to 'annihilate' the enemy hasn't convinced Hamas to stop launching missiles. Violence is not the way. There is not a path to peace; peace is the path. Acknowledging the absurdity of continuing to expect violence, whether from the Israeli military or Hamas, to bring peace and security, is one of the first steps that needs to be taken. Seeking to actively live peace, even at a great cost to oneself, instead of waiting for it to come, is another.

No comments: