Wednesday, May 15, 2024

What to do about Gaza ... etc?

Angels should not rush in where fools do tread! Hopefully I am not a fool and I am sure I am not an angel. But, perhaps, it is time to put some thoughts about the situation in Gaza/West Bank/Israel into this blog.

The Anglican angle here is that our Anglican brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Jerusalem are deeply caught up in care and concern for Christian brothers and sisters in this region of God's world, and, viewing messages from (e.g.) the Dean of St. George's Cathedral, Richard Sewell, and visitors to the cathedral, Anglicans have a special anxiety about how Palestinians are being treated as the war in Gaza continues and as the disturbances on the West Bank continue, mostly under-reported, as far as I can see, as so-called "settlers" are violent towards West Bank Palestinians. (Such quick observations are not the limit of the Anglican angle - but let me press on.)

Perhaps the first thing to say is that most of the world have no idea what it means to be Palestinian and to live in fear of what Israel or Israeli individuals or groups (e.g. incursions into West Bank) may do next to impose control on ordinary Palestinian lives, let alone control and restriction on expanding such ordinary lives (e.g. through travel, securing employment, developing businesses). Ditto re what it means to be Israeli (especially Israeli Jews) and to live in fear of what a future coherent, well armed, widely backed by regional powers Palestine might do by way of giving effect to the aspiration to cleanse Jews from the Middle East - to say nothing of fear of rockets from Gaza and southern Lebanon, and bombs and so forth, should the walls which prohibit movement of Palestinians in Israel came down. Most of us have no idea about what the climate of fear is in the background or foreground to everyday life in the Middle East. We do not (it seems to my notice) understand the deep commitment of Hamas to obliterate Israel as a state and to drive the Jews within away to some other (unknown, improbable) "homeland." [It is not from Poland that most Jews in Israel descend! And, many Jews in Israel have descent - via intermarriage through generations - with Jews actually indigenous to the area.] Nor, do we understand what it is like to fear that Israel is genocidal in its current intent to get on top of Hamas - because it is not only destroying Hamas soldiers but also ordinary Palestinian people.

Nevertheless, the second thing to say is that all of us who are not Palestinian or Israeli belong to other countries who are implored, both by high level officials and by lobby groups/protestors to give voice to some possible solution to the situation, whether it is voting in the UN for (say) a ceasefire, a two state or one state solution, recognition of the statehood of Palestine, denouncement of the alleged war crimes of Israel, and so forth. Neutrality is an option for many of us as individuals, but not for our governments who make decisions whether to vote for this resolution or that, and, depending on capability, may also choose to export arms to one or other side or both, and to make some sanctioning step against, say, Iran/Russia/China or, conversely, the USA, or some multinational company such as Coca-Cola, Pesi, McDonalds. More simply: those who do not understand what it means to live in the Middle East nevertheless are invited - frequently through many years of this conflict - to support a solution to the problems those living in the ME face. 

Yet, what is that solution to be? Recently our government voted with most of the world on a UN resolution supporting Palestinian statehood (I do not have the exact wording of the resolution in front of me and no time to look it up!). Cue protest that such a move basically was a resolution supporting the existence of Hamas - a terrorist organisation with its terrifying agenda for the future of Israeli Jews! However, not to promote some kind of “two state” solution is to ignore the plight of Palestinians, in Gaza and the West Bank, who long - as any of us would - for clarity, certainty and safety in independent, unthreatened statehood. And, yes, in case your fingers are itchy over the keyboard, I entirely get it (as I am sure our government gets it) that any such statehood must also be unthreatening to Israel itself.

Put alternatively, the space in which one might, whether as an individual or as a state government propose some way forward, is fraught. As a bishop I have had correspondence from brothers and sisters in Christ through the past six months which amounts to (a) how dare you and your fellow bishops give comfort to Hamas, or (b) how can you support Israeli genocide by not calling for an immediate ceasefire, or (c) it is unbelievable that you bishops have not made a statement about the situation (we have: the first, way back in October was scarcely noticed and not remembered; the second, more recently in late March, better noticed).

Nevertheless, fraught though the space for comment is, I personally cannot escape the following:

- there is no way forward without the states around Israel, including Iran, and Palestinian entities themselves recognising the right of Israel to exist as a state (whatever borders might finally be agreed to be the borders of that state);

- it is unrealistic to work on a one state solution (i.e. A state where Israeli citizens and Palestinian citizens freely mix and mingle and vote in democratic elections to choose a government which fairly leads all peoples within the state of (for want of a better working name) Israel-Palestine). Perhaps one hundred years from now that could happen (along with a united Ireland and a united Korea, but in my lifetime, that ain’t gonna work);

- a two state solution is therefore required and should be the aim of all participants in the matter (currently, at best, it is the aim of most participants - it needs to be all).

- whatever merits Israel may have in its current drive to obliterate Hamas with willingness to kill innocent Palestinians along the way, it surely only stokes future resentments which will harm the points above for a long, long time.

I pray for a just and permanent peace for the Middle East, and for the well-being of the Anglican church there.


Mark Murphy said...

I strongly agree with your balanced analysis, Peter.

Is it too self-indulgent to also ask: what inner work, what acts of repentance even, might Christians be called to around this issue?

Might local Canterbury churches issue a joint ecumenical statement expressing our extreme discomfort that the name of our local rugby team - the Crusaders - implicitly glorifies heinous religious wars, violence, and land theft by Christians against Muslims?

What seeds of violence and polarization, that may have little or nothing to explicitly do with Palestine amd Israel, lie within our own hearts? What might the Spirit be calling us to do about these?

Moya said...

A very thoughtful post! I think most people think a two state solution is the best we can hope for. The only hitch is, as I understand it, neither side wants that solution.
May God’s Kingdom come and his will of help and healing be done in the midst of the fear and carnage.

Liz C. said...

Thanks for this post +Peter.

As I read it, I received a new email notification of an article on the Gaza situation via The Washington Post. It's disturbing there's no progress on how to work on a process of developing a governing body for the Palestinians that's not Hamas. “It will be a Sisyphean task.” ~IDF chief of staff Herzl Halevi.

It's an interesting (albeit sobering) read so I'll share a gift link.
"For Netanyahu, Gaza’s ‘day after’ must wait"

Gift link:


Moya said...

Well worth reading, thanks Liz. Such a short-sighted policy to start a war with an uncertain and maybe impossible end, but that’s politics it seems…

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of things to be said in criticism of Israel, especially around settlements and contested land. But Israel’s stance is not what explains the destructive and genocidal machinations of a group like Hamas, the doctrine of jihad does.

These religious beliefs are fervently held and apparently align with the structure of the universe. They explain perfectly how the average person can commit despicable acts of violence against innocent people and then still consider themselves to be good. They believe that life in this world has no value, apart from deciding who goes to hell or paradise, it becomes possible to feel at ease killing anyone or even using vulnerable people as human shields. They know any other practitioners of their faith who get killed will go to paradise for ever.

The jihadists really believe these things, and this is the current reality for Israel. It’s not Palestinian nationalism, or about resources, or about land. It’s not even hatred, it’s based on religious certainty.

Protesting started before Israel had fired a missile and now there have been thousands of Palestinian casualties cities across the globe are boiling with rage. Assad has killed hundreds of thousands of his fellow religious adherents in Syria. Saudis have killed well over one hundred thousand fellow religious adherents in Yemen, let alone what is happening in China and Africa. Where are protests? NO ONE CARES. They only care when non-Muslims produce the casualties and especially when it’s Jews. Israel is always condemned by the United Nations, and the U.N. would not pass a condemnation of Hamas for the atrocities it committed on October 7th.

Israel had to act - they have to destroy Hamas and unfortunately civilians will get killed in the process and this is Hamas’ doing.

Eric Jacobsen

Moya said...

You are right, Eric, that jihadist thinking and belief lie behind the actions of Hamas, Boko Haram, ISIS, Al Qaeda and others like them, who create mayhem and destruction wherever they work. But not all Muslims are jihadists, including many Palestinians I guess, and to try to bomb a fixed belief out of existence is short-sighted in the extreme, as for every jihadist who is killed probably five more are created! Israel (and USA) has fallen into the mire, I think, with the current action.

Anonymous said...

Hi Moya, I completely agree, not all Muslims are jihadists. The magnitude of the situation is beyond comprehension. The two state solution is simply not going to work and it would seem there is no end game in sight or path forward for Israel. It’s all just such an appalling situation and one really has to look at humanity and ask some big questions.

Regards Eric

Mark Murphy said...

Um, we haven't tried the two state solution yet, Eric, so not sure why you say it's simply not going to work. What we've seen historically and recently is simply not going to work, IMHO - it is so so sad.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I pretty much agree with your reading of this situation, along with a certain despair of contemporary politics and the resurgence of antisemitism. the world's oldest hatred, especially among the young in western nations. This has been fuelled by the amazing levels of historical ignorance among the young and the enormous contemporary salience of Islam in western cities, caused almost entirely by immigration. Add to this the new identitarianism in leftist politics. I am old enough (just) to recall that being left-wing meant supporting Israel (Zionism was once socialist) and I can't really get my head around groups like 'Queers for Palestine'. I put it down to the wilful ignorance of the TikTok generation. Historical ignorance is of course a widespread problem - as NZ's internal politics also shows.
I was never much or a leftist myself but I have always supported Israel, as well as sought to understand better the plight of the Palestinians, especially the Christians who are caught in this horrible nutcracker. The Nakba was real. But so also was the expulsion of 750,000 Jews from Arab land s post 1948. It grieves me that the Palestinian cause is just but their decisions are constantly wrong. How else could it be when they are used as the battering ram of Iran and Islamic fundamentalism? And is it not significant that Egypt, in signing a peace treaty with Israel and regaining the Sinai, declined to take back Gaza, which it ran from 1948 to 1967? The Arab nations seem to have little fraternal interest in receiving their Palestinian 'kin'. One thing is clear, at least: there can be no peace while Hamas still holds sway.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

The answer to your two state question Mark is summed up in William’s last sentence below. Regards Eric