Gaza: A Response
First of all I am safe. Gaza is the most dangerous place to be, followed by Israel, and the West Bank, where I am, is in a distant third. I am spending my day off with my cousins in Bethlehem, and it was decided it’s a good idea for me to stay here tonight instead of trying to make it back to Hebron.
There are no signs that the West Bank will be involved in the conflict at all. With that said there are a lot more soldiers out and about, and a lot more demonstrations. In Hebron there was some stone throwing, and tear gas in response. That, along with demonstrations throughout the West Bank, is not unexpected given what is happening, and there are no signs of it escalating.
The latest events in Gaza have brought up some pretty strong emotions in me which I’m still trying to understand and work through. It has brought up confusion, and frustration and most of all it has brought up the question: As a person of peace, what is my response to the situation?
It is hard for my thoughts to be that of a ‘person of peace’. I remember Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’ 4 years ago which left 1,400 people dead, one third of them women or children. I fear that happening again (Already 27 Palestinians, 7 children, and 3 Israelis have died). I think of the inhumane Israeli policies that led Gazans to such a misguided strategy. The strongest emotion I had was anger, and what made me most angry was not the news itself but the Israeli rhetoric. The talking points were clear and practiced. “They are terrorists” “We are protecting ourselves”. “They target civilians” “We target terrorists”. “When they target civilians it’s an act of aggression that demands a response”, “When we kill civilians it’s their fault for putting civilians in harms way.” As words like these came streaming through the air waves it made me want to scream. It very clearly showed the underlying principle Israel held: “We are always right and our actions are always justified. They are always wrong, and their actions are unjustifiable.” And the worst part was, the world (or at least America) was promoting the same thing.
I found myself so enraged at the rhetoric that I lost sight of the humanity of those in the situation. I created a rhetoric of my own. I refused to hear that Israelis live in fear, because Gazans live in greater fear; I refused to hear that Israel has a right to defend itself, because it’s an excuse for disproportional retaliation; and I refused to sympathize for the 3 Israelis who died, because ten times that many died in Gaza and the media didn’t care.
And then it hit me. I was repaying evil for evil within my own mind. ‘They’ refused to sympathize, so I refuse to sympathize.
I had to very intentionally remind myself that there is a lot of fear and uncertainty on both sides. I had to remind myself that firing rockets into another country, no matter the reason or effectiveness, is wrong. I had to remind myself that no matter which side is suffering more, both sides are suffering. I had to remind myself that both sides are aggressively trying to kill human beings, while using the rhetoric of the self defending victim, even if one side gets heard more than the other.
I’m still ‘in it’. I’m still working on seeing the humanity in both sides, on loving the idiots and liars on both sides. (Because no matter how much I empathize there are still plenty of both that I have to love anyway). As the situations looks to be escalating I don’t know that I have a concrete pacifist perspective to offer on the conflict. Instead I will start by looking for the humanity, and even the divinity, within each person I interact with, and work from there.
Pray for me to see the humanity in those I interact with.
Pray for the people suffering in Gaza.
Pray for the people in fear in Israel.
Pray for Peace.