The third side: justice
A student’s reflection on the Israel/Gaza conflict.
For some, the timeline begins on November 8, when Israeli soldiers paraded their way to Gaza to fatally strike down a 12-year old boy. For others, the timeline begins on November 10th, when 110 rockets were fired over 48 hours, lobbed from Hamas’ hands into Israeli land. No matter where you begin, faults can be found on both sides.
In such a tragic and complicated situation, we must think carefully about God’s standards of righteousness and justice before we demonize one side and extend exclusive sympathy to the other. Although I am (and believe we all should be) more pro-justice than pro-any-particular-side, I have developed a tougher attitude against the state of Israel. This is not for any anti-Semitic or pro-Hamas reasons, but rather, after spending six weeks in both nations, I have come to believe that Israel simply has more options than Palestine.
For this particular event we will start the clock on November 14, when Israel defiantly named their mission after the Pillar of Cloud; the one that once watched over them during the Exodus and thus declares their commitment to God’s promised land.
The recent clash began with the assassination of Hamas’ military chief, Ahmed Jabari. Over the next eight days, Israel launched an offensive (or defensive, depending on your perspective) against the 360 square-kilometre Strip. Palestinians, including Hamas loyalists and Islamic Jihadists, returned the assault by firing rockets into bordering cities. In all, 162 Palestinians and 6 Israelis lost their lives. While some terrorists were killed, so were bystanders. The majority of deaths were civilians caught in the crossfire between warring governments. A ceasefire was declared on November 21st. But a ceasefire by no means equates with a peace agreement.
This is a tragic and complicated situation. But let’s think for a minute about the sort of privileged attention and sympathy Israel receives. When terrorist acts occur against Israel, they cry out, and the world pays attention. TV stations are tuned in and international politicians pay attention to the injustice at large. However, when the terror goes the other way, so do the reactions. Everyone turns their heads away and Palestinians are left wondering what they have to do to get attention to their cause, and what to do under Israeli injustices.
So when Israel clenches its fists around the Gaza Strip like it recently did, it leads me only to frustration. They have international leverage, they have strong voices who speak to ears that willingly listen, and most importantly they actually have the power to initiate some kind of peace process. Now, I’m not saying Gaza’s only option is to fire rockets, and thus their killing of Israelis is justified. Not at all. I’m simply saying they have fewer options on what to do to get international attention than the nation with the upper hand. Israel has an incredible power over Gaza that Gaza simply does not have (and may never have) over Israel.
Furthermore, if Israel continues to pursue the same kinds of actions over and over, can they truly expect a different reaction from the other side? If they continue to pursue settlement building and then demand Palestinians’ only road to peace is through negotiations with them, can they truly believe that peace (of any kind) is attainable?
Just because Israel seems to have the upper hand in this situation, it does not mean they have not experienced horrific war and hostility. They have, and unfortunately will continue to unless someone decides to fill the role of the “bigger man” and initiate reconciliation.
We cannot allow countries—even chosen people to whom God revealed himself in the Old Testament– to use this potential and power for injustice rather than good. Especially since Israel enjoys this favourable status in the West as God’s historically chosen people, we must be willing to question their actions and hold them to a higher standard of righteousness.
Consider Micah 6:8 as such a standard: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” This standard doesn’t just apply for Israel and Palestine, but for us. We must think carefully about what exactly we are aligning ourselves with when throw support behind a particular side of this conflict.