With many of you, I’ve been following news from Gaza as Israeli snipers have killed and wounded many in the large weekly crowd of non-violent protesters seeking an end to their fenced-in border. I’ve always been skeptical of Israeli news releases about such events. Now international reports and even some US reporting has moved me from skepticism to outrage. To the point where I recently added an opening line about “f…ing Israeli murders” to a form letter to Congress. Won’t do no good since our politicians have long been swayed by AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) money and lobbying.
I won’t trouble you here with such ranting. I’m just writing to ask you to join many other US Christians and Jews in protesting our governments unquestioning support for Israeli terrorism in Palestine – now exacerbated by Trump.
I recently went back through my writings about Israel and Palestine over the past 20 some years. Many blogs posts and letters and op-ed pieces for the Denver Post, as well as commentary and reviews in a small magazine I used to edit.
I began by writing carefully balanced pieces about “Israel and Palestine.” At some point I reversed the order, writing about “Palestine and Israel” and hoping to give more attention to realities in the occupied territories and Gaza, and to the legitimacy of the Palestinian quest for freedom.
I’ve never denied the reality of Palestinian terrorism and the terrible character of their internal politics. Even as I’ve tried to put a light on Israeli terrorism and the terrible character of their politics.
Now, though, while I remain aware of Palestinian problems and violence, I write mainly about Israel. For it remains one of the most dangerous states in the world. Yet its military continues to be underwritten by US tax dollars even as it’s become a sacred cow for our politicians and media. Because it’s been since the Cold War a paid foreign legion protecting our oil interests. And also because of the distorting influence of Jewish money on US politics and media.
To be sure, mention of Jewish money and media power risks resurrecting terrible anti-semitic stereotypes. I’ll take that risk because we Christians need to be willing to risk offending Jews by criticizing Israel. Indeed, we need to join many US Jews in alerting this country to the ways Israel continually undermines efforts for peace with Palestine and throughout the Middle East. (When I speak of “we Christians” I exclude those US fundamentalists whose crazed faith has so contributed to building this golden calf.)
Here, then, is a highly condensed summary of how I have come to understand the situation of Israel and Palestine and the need for our response:
1) The state of Israel. Despite the better dreams of early Zionism and because of colonial power politics after World War I and then the immense effect of the Holocaust on Zionism, Israel established itself after World War II by means terror and the expulsion of the native population. It has grown ever since in the exercise of such realpolitik by war, by massive military build up (grounded on nuclear weapons and supported by the US) and a world class (world- supplying) arms industry. It’s propaganda regularly seeks a moral high ground with claims about being the only reliable democracy in the Middle East and by provoking Western and Christian guilt about the Holocaust. So that we will always have some reason to give Israel a “good buddy pass” for its latest violent expansion towards the goal of a mythic Eretz Israel (the goal of taking over all of Palestine and reducing Palestinians to an “apartheid like” subservient labor force). There are of course many Israelis seriously engaged in opposing that goal, yet it seems (though I hope I am wrong) that their numbers and influence have declined of late.
2) US Christians and Jews. Despite some legitimate (and many illegitimate) fears about militant Islam, religious folk in this country must awaken to similar threats from Israeli militarism and must work for peace in Palestine. Of course many humanists are already providing leadership in this effort. Yet it is this country’s broad religious mainstream that especially needs to be challenged if there is to be any movement towards a different politics in this country.
3) US Christians. Precisely because we have acknowledged that centuries of Christian anti-Semitism culminated in the Holocaust, we Christians must challenge not just ourselves but the mainstream of US Judaism for its complicity (by active support or passive silence) in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the continuing militarization of the entire Middle East. Public and private dialogue with our Jewish sisters and brothers will be very difficult. Hopefully we will all learn much, and be much humbled, as we struggle in our different ways for peace in Palestine and Israel, and at home.
I end by appending a short list of resources for those interested in deepening their understanding of Israel and Palestine and US politics.
Reports on Events in Gaza:
The New York Times and the Washington Post, while like most US media in following the foreign policy mainstream, nonetheless provide good on-the-ground reports from Gaza as well as from NGO’s and other international news sources.
England’s Guardian is an especially good resource, as in its recent publication of a letter from former Israeli snipers openly challenging what Israel is doing on the border.
A recent example of informed Christian comment, “Bodies Against Bullets at the Gaza Border,” comes from America Media, the national Jesuit resource.
Online Resources for news, commentary, and background:
- Foundation for Middle East Peace, an almost 40-year-old Washington based foundation “to promote a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Sends daily and weekly reports via email.
- Jewish Voice for Peace, a US Jewish activist/advocacy group geared mainly towards enlisting Jews in the struggle for real peace. It’s report on the current situation in Gaza is perhaps the most succinct and accurate available.
- Wall Writings, the single best blog about Palestine and Israel written by former Christian Century editor James Wall.
- B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Their name says it all.
- Sabeel is an ecumenical Palestinian Christian group working for non-violent peace. See also Friends of Sabeel North America and local affiliates such Friends of Sabeel Colorado.
Among many good books, I especially recommend:
Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace is a very good Presbyterian study guide geared to church folk.
Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006) remains an important and readable history and policy analysis.