Once again our hearts ache as we see Palestinians and Israelis alike seeking refuge from airborne death.
Their leaders in Gaza and Israel speak sternly with the unassailable logic of violence. “Every time that Hamas fires [missiles into Israel] there will be a more and more severe response,” says Israel’s foreign minister. “Hamas responded to the Zionist aggression and hit them in the depth of their land,” says the Hamas prime minister in Gaza. Israel calls the Hamas missile attacks “unprovoked.” Palestinians answer that years of economic strangulation and endless checkpoints are provocation enough.
In my own mind, the arguments could continue endlessly. When Obama says that any country in the world would defend its citizens from missiles launched outside its borders, I want to know what kind of borders we are talking about. If Israel claims the right to control Gaza’s very existence, it should also extend the protections of civil rights and ordinary competent policing to the people whose fate it controls. Who ever heard of finding criminals with bombs and artillery? On the other hand (continues this never-ending debate in my own mind), who in their right mind would launch missiles of no military value whatsoever, willy-nilly, in the vague direction of Israeli population centers, knowing retribution is certain? What kind of propaganda value for Palestine could be gained from random deaths of Israeli civilians??
And each round of retaliation, in turn, sets up the next confrontation. Countless centuries of human experience tell us that violence can only give us an illusion of coping with today’s threat; it gives no assurances for tomorrow. Even so, our politicians continue to repeat the same ancient cliches: “We’re only responding to THEIR aggression….”
Christians are not fooled by the logic of violence. We live by another promise entirely: “Christ in us—the hope of glory.” We live to extend that hope to everyone trapped in the logic of violence—by praying for all sides; by refusing to accept secular definitions of “enemy”; by standing in the breach ourselves, or supporting our members in Christian Peacemaker Teams; by teaching our children and new believers that the call of Christ trumps every call of nationalism or tribalism; and by anchoring our own lives in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Our ultimate vision: hearing the songs of Zion in the presence of reconciled enemies, Hamas and Fatah and Israelis as well, liberated at last from the logic of violence. Until that day, there will be many more heartaches, but I will not let go of the promise.
Contributed by Johan Maurer, Friend Serving Abroad, Reedwood Friends