In July 2014 while I was visiting a town in the West Bank, I met a Christian businessman and a member of the Syrian Orthodox Church; the same denomination that has been severely persecuted by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (a.k.a., ISIS/ISIL). My interaction with this shop owner; a man I had met a few years prior but whom I did not know well; took place during Israel’s military operation in Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge. At that same time in Mosul, Iraq there were Christian friends of this man fleeing for their lives from Islamic jihadists, so the geopolitical climate was ripe for engaging in a candid conversation between two people who scarcely knew each other.
In the course of dialoguing with this man about current events, I decided to probe deeper and asked him what would happen if he spoke out against the policies and actions of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Without hesitation and while making a horizontal slash with his hand, he said, “I’d be finished.”
Since he is a business owner and I wanted to make sure he wasn’t referring to his business being shut down, I asked him for clarification, “What do you mean by ‘finished?’”
With a stern look and a finger pointed to his head, he replied, “Finished, as in a-bullet-in the-head finished.”
He added, “So I just keep to myself, don’t talk about politics with anyone, and just try to live and let live.”
I inquired further, wanting to know more about his life and perspective about living under occupation and in a society where he can’t publicly express what he thinks.
I did not expect to hear what he said next.
Coming closer into my personal space and making sure that no one around us could hear what he was about to say, he said, “If I had to choose between living under Israeli occupation and a sovereign Palestinian state, which would almost certainly become just as radical as Gaza or the Islamic State in Iraq, I choose occupation.”
He continued, “The only reason why we Christians aren’t facing more persecution here [in the Palestinian territories] is because Israel is our buffer. Without Israel there would be even fewer of us left.”
A Different Perspective
Aware of the fact that there are other Christians in the Palestinian territories who would tell a very different story, I asked him about the ones who say that the root of the conflict is Israeli occupation. He made it very clear to me that those Christians aren’t telling the whole story.
The Christians he and I were referring to, as represented in a statement put out by Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) in July 2014 about Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, assert that as long as Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and maintain a blockade of Gaza, the conflict will escalate. In other words, they contend that Israel is doing these things without just cause, and if they would simply withdraw all of their military and civilian presence in the West Bank, allow Hamas to control the border crossings and all imports into Gaza, then those who shoot rockets into Israel, blow up civilian buses, and call for the entire eradication of Israel would eventually cease, the conflict would deescalate, and peace would emerge.
If only it were that simple.
Our conversation concluded with this man asking me very firmly, but politely, to keep our conversation between us, which is why I have not revealed his identity or precise location.
What’s Really Going On?
Unfortunately this conversation was not the first I’ve had with Palestinians who have expressed deep concern over the negative impact that fundamentalist Islamic ideology has had within Palestinian society. There are multiple reports that attest to the rampant corruption and abuse of civil and human rights within the PA against its own people. But as former AP reporter and editor, Matti Friedman, testifies in his revealing expose’ in Tablet on media bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is not nearly enough emphasis on what’s really going on in the Palestinian territories. He writes:
If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. …Corruption, for example, is a pressing concern for many Palestinians under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, but when I and another reporter once suggested an article on the subject, we were informed by the bureau chief that Palestinian corruption was “not the story.” (Israeli corruption was, and we covered it at length.)
Considering such, is it really possible for those who genuinely care about the Israeli and Palestinian people caught up in this conflict to know how to assess the situation without factoring in the corruption, human rights abuses, and Islamic fundamentalism that exists within the Palestinian society?
From my observations, many people, particularly the Palestinians themselves, aren’t talking much about this dark aspect of Palestinian culture, which is of no surprise considering the persecution that is almost certain to come to their doorstep if they do.
For example, Mamdouh Hamamreh, a journalist for the al-Quds TV channel in Bethlehem, was arrested and then sentenced in March 2013 to a year in prison merely for a picture and comment on his Facebook page that was deemed to be offensive to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Far more disturbing than what happened to Hamamreh are the frequent extrajudicial executions that Hamas carries out against their own people to deter others from breaking outside of political lines. In August 2014 alone, Hamas soldiers massacred 18 people, including 2 women, who were “convicted” of collaborating with Israel. The Wall Street Journal reported:
In one instance, about 20 militants dressed in black and with their faces covered brought six of the condemned men, their heads covered with cloth bags, to an alley near the Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City after midday prayers, witnesses said. A militant shot the men in the head one at a time with a pistol, after which he sprayed them with automatic rifle fire, the witnesses said. The bodies were loaded into government ambulances and taken away.
Another report said that there were men and boys “cheering and clamoring” for a good spot to watch the executions.
This is horrifying.
The Impact of Tyranny
The obvious result of tyrannical governments who bully and terrorize their own citizens like this does nothing but suppress the voices of many decent and honest Muslim and Christian people who truly want to live in peace with Israel. It also creates an environment where it is far more desirable for Palestinians to capitulate to the oppressive power structure and toe the party line. While most of them will never join the militant factions within their society and throw a rock or shoot a rocket at Israelis, they’re also not likely to risk their lives or livelihood to oppose those who do.
This reality was reinforced to me during a conversation I had in November 2012 with Humam, a Sunni Muslim businessman from Saudi Arabia. We were enjoying a flight from JFK to O’Hare, when he told me, “It is much easier for Arabs to criticize or remain silent about Israel than it is to stand up for it, because they will be persecuted by the radicals if they do.”
Many who choose to criticize Israel rather than stand up for it, are doing it under the banner of what has become known as “non-violent resistance.” These voices frequently advocate for peace, reconciliation, and various outcomes of justice, but have a propensity for over-emphasizing or mischaracterizing Israel’s actions and failures, while rationalizing or downplaying those of the Palestinians.
This sort of unbalanced portrayal of the conflict can clearly be seen in a very emotive video produced by BBC about Israel’s recent military operation in Gaza. The video characterizes the operation as a “genocide…against women, children, [and the] elderly,” but conversely portrays all Palestinians as “dear, warm-hearted people.” Never once does the video condemn Hamas’ ideology and behavior. For example:
- Using foreign-aid to acquire weapons and build terror tunnels into Israeli territory
- Firing rockets at Israeli civilians
- Rejecting ceasefire proposals
- Using their own civilians as human shields
- Storing and firing rockets from hospitals/schools/mosques
- Inflating civilian casualty reports
- Extrajudicial executions
The video encourages and perpetuates a narrative that the Israeli government is systematically oppressing innocent Palestinians without just cause and uses its military power (funded by the West and unwittingly supported by those who just don’t know any better) to do so. In effect, it is a cognitive assault against the State of Israel.
[The aforementioned video that had been posted on YouTube has been blocked by BBC, but an extensive article was written about it in the Jerusalem Post that is available here.]
Other videos and voices in the cognitive campaign against Israel will often talk about the dwindling percentage of Christians who are barely surviving within the Palestinian territories, and while it is true that many Christians have left to find better living conditions elsewhere, factual studies also reveal that the Christian community has actually grown numerically since Israel took control of those territories in 1967. The primary reason the percentages have decreased is because the numerical growth within the Muslim community has greatly exceeded that of the Christian community. In fact, it is fair to say that Christians within the Palestinian territories are currently far better off there than those in other locations in the Middle East where persecution by radical Muslims is causing tremendous hardship.
Another common practice within the non-violent resistance movement is to emphasize the 800,000 Arab Palestinians who were forcibly displaced (or “ethnically cleansed”) from their homes and villages during the war in 1948, yet downplay the fact that many of them were encouraged to leave by their own leaders or left of their own accord. They also neglect to mention that there were an equal number of Jews who fled for their lives from within the surrounding Arab territories, but thankfully found a safe haven in Israel.
It is also common to give the impression that the former territory of the Turkish-Ottoman Empire referred to as Palestine was a free and independent Arab state that was stolen from them by European colonialist Jews who invaded the land. Rarely do these voices recognize that there never was a Palestinian state or that there was more than enough room for both the growing Arab and Jewish populations in the land to peacefully coexist in two states. Also frequently absent in their narrative is that these Jewish immigrants helped revive the land, portions of which they purchased (sometimes at triple the cost of what it was worth), and turned it into a thriving agricultural enterprise that brought jobs and prosperity to the Arabs living there and to those who migrated from surrounding territories.
Finally, it is incredibly rare to hear voices within the non-violent resistance movement acknowledge that following the war in 1948 that Gaza and the West Bank were occupied by Egypt and Jordon respectively and that Jews were not permitted access to return to their homes or visit any of their holy sites within those territories, including the Western Wall in Jerusalem, until Israel won a defensive battle in 1967 that had been intended to erase them off the Middle East map.
The BDS Movement
This kind of unbalanced assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has frequently been ascribed to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has been advocated by many Palestinians and entertained at many churches and college campuses across Europe and the U.S. Many critics of the BDS movement contend that it has a strong undercurrent of anti-Semitism, including Harvard Law professor, Alan Dershowtiz, who writes, “…[BDS] promotes false views regarding the nation state of the Jewish people, exaggerates its flaws and thereby promotes a new variation on the world’s oldest prejudice, namely anti-Semitism.”
Similar to the video produced by BBC, non-violent resistance campaigns like BDS often leverage stories and photos of suffering Palestinians, devoid of situational and historical context, that make Israel appear intolerant and abusive toward the weak and innocent. Oftentimes Israel’s atypical failures from the extreme fringes of Israeli society will be highlighted in an attempt to equate Israel with some of history’s most condemned regimes, including Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa, and the U.S. prior to the eradication of the Jim Crow Laws.
The Irrational Condemnation of Israel
When these ideas are coupled with the oft-repeated notion that the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was a catastrophic injustice committed against the Palestinian people by the international community or that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exacerbates more instability and conflict throughout the world than any other, as some have asserted, the result is that Israel is turned into a scapegoat or pariah that must be “dealt with.”
Sadly, the outcome of dealing with Israel for many is to condemn, criminalize, delegitimize, isolate, abandon, or seek to eliminate it altogether, while the inhumane tactics of Israel’s enemies are often deemed as an understandable or excusable response. This visceral reaction is eerily similar to what well-educated and civilized people in Europe were doing to the Jewish people prior to WWII (i.e., blaming the Jewish people for most/all of the ill and corruption in the world and believing that they could not be trusted or tolerated).
All of this begs the question—
Is history repeating itself?
Rabbi Irving Greenberg, in response to the June 2014 narrow decision by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to financially divest from several U.S. companies who do business in Israel, thinks it is:
To join the delegitimization campaign which seeks to end [Israel]…is a reversion to the worst policies of the past 2000 years—policies which decent Christians everywhere now regret and express repentance. …Any elimination of Israel would inexorably doom its Jewish citizens—and undermine the existence of the rest of the Jews in the world. Aiding or abetting an attempted destruction of a people is not compatible with love.
Loving Both Israelis and Palestinians
To truly love both the Israeli and Palestinian people requires an even-handed and honest assessment of what the primary obstacles to peace are, and ignoring the oppressive corruption, human rights violations, and influence of Islamic fundamentalism within the Palestinian society does not lead to that, just as a good marriage counselor who genuinely cares about the couple she is counseling could never marginalize the substance abuse problem in one of the spouses and hope to guide them to a positive outcome in their marriage.
A good marriage counselor must also consider the ultimate aspirations of each spouse. Do they really want to be married to that person? Do they really want to see their spouse thrive? Do they genuinely care about the well-being of the other?
The Aspirations of Israel and Her Neighbors
This is why it is so important for people who care about the Israelis and Palestinians to understand and draw a clear distinction between the declared aspirations of Israel’s leaders and those of the Palestinian leaders and their allies.
Here are a few of the voices from the Israeli side:
Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948:
We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, in 1970:
We hate war. We do not rejoice in victories. We rejoice when a new kind of cotton is grown, and when strawberries bloom in Israel.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, in April 2012:
I don’t want to govern the Palestinians. I don’t want them as subjects of Israel or as citizens of Israel. I want them to have their own independent state but a demilitarized state.
On the other side of the equation, here are a few statements from the not-so-distant and recent past:
Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and leader of the Arab Palestinians from 1921 to 1948, in 1944:
Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.
Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egyptian President, in 1965:
…We aim at the destruction of the state of Israel. The immediate aim: perfection of Arab military might. The national aim: the eradication of Israel.
Hamas Charter, 1988-present:
Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Leader of Hezbollah, on October 22, 2002:
If the Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, in October 2005:
Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury.
Yunis Al-Astal, Hamas Parliament Member and cleric, in May 2011:
All the predators, all the birds of prey, all the dangerous reptiles and insects, and all the lethal bacteria are far less dangerous than the Jews. In just a few years, all the Zionists and the settlers will realize that their arrival in Palestine was for the purpose of the great massacre, by means of which Allah wants to relieve humanity of their evil.
Khaled Meshaal, leader of Hamas, in 2012:
Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land. We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation [this includes the current state of Israel] and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take.
Sultan Abu Al-Einein, Fatah Central Committee member and adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, on July 6, 2014:
Let every hour of the settlers’ presence on our land [meaning all Jews living in Israel and the West Bank] be a source of threat and terror for them. Let us deprive their lives of security, so that the Palestinian land becomes a minefield against the occupation.
The point in sharing these statements is not to characterize one side as all good and the other all bad, nor to incite Islamophobia, but to clearly demonstrate that there are fundamental differences in the declared aspirations among the dominant figures on both sides of the conflict. It is incontestable that the tiny state of Israel has faced legitimate and formidable threats from the Palestinians and their surrounding allies since its inception in 1948, which is long before they took jurisdiction of the Palestinian territories in 1967 following the 6-Day War.
It also provides some context to the continuing occupation and reluctance of many of Israel’s leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, to make concessions for a sovereign Palestinian state any time in the near future as long as their citizens continue to be threatened with annihilation. If Israel withdrew its military presence from the West Bank, just as they did from Gaza in 2005, is there any reason at this point in history to believe that it would not “create another 20 Gazas,” as Netanyahu understandably declared in July 2014 during Israel’s conflict with Hamas?
The more and more Israel’s existence and legitimacy is threatened and their actions to defend their citizens are unduly characterized by the international community; the less and less likely Israel will feel secure about moving towards peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Presuming that the Palestinian leadership is fully aware of this, one would think that they would be more outspoken about Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state in peace and security. But that has not been the case, leading many to believe that they are not genuinely eager to aspire to their own independent state, but rather support the aforementioned declarations to wipe Israel off the map.
The Palestinian national movement has remained unchanged, throughout the different periods of the struggle, whether under the leadership of Hajj Amin al-Husayni or his successor, Yasser Arafat. It did not even change during the years of the Oslo process. In the end, both sides of the Palestinian movement − the fundamentalists led by Hamas and the secular bloc led by Fatah − are interested in Muslim rule over all of Palestine, with no Jewish state and no partition.
Understanding What Is at the Heart of the Conflict
It seems clear at this point that Palestinian refusal to accept the existence of the one and only Jewish state on the planet has been and continues to be rooted in anti-Semitic Islamic fundamentalism (i.e., the elimination of a nation), while Israel’s reluctance to embrace a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza has been and continues to be rooted in pragmatism (i.e., the safety and security of its people). Fair-minded people should be able to recognize that these are not morally equivalent ideologies, just as cancer and the flu are not of equal consequence. Failing to understand the pervasive and cancerous nature of Islamic fundamentalism and its anti-Semitic ideology is a recipe for failing to understand the seminal cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the remedies to counteract it, just as it would be a failure for a doctor to give a patient a Band-Aid for a compound bone fracture.
We must call this for what it is. The ambition to completely eradicate the one and only Jewish state and its 3000+ year history from every square inch of the Holy Land is evil, and it kills any chance for a just outcome for both Israelis and Palestinians living there.
Hate groups like Hamas must also be called out for who they are. They are not freedom fighters. They are in their own words, people who “love death more than Israelis love life.”
When people contend that the tunnels Hamas built (some of which were directly into Israeli territory) were primarily used for practical necessities that Israel was restricting, but diminish that they were used to smuggle in weapons and that the goods were taxed at an exorbitant rate by Hamas to build-up their personal coffers (e.g., Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal alone has an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion), then people have lost their perspective.
When people disregard that Hamas had the golden opportunity in 2006 after they forcibly took control of Gaza from Fatah to prove to the world that they could turn their beautiful beachfront property into a thriving and peaceful metropolis, but instead used it as a launch pad for their radical agenda (as clearly defined in their charter), then people have lost their sensibilities.
When people blame Israel for Gaza’s high unemployment rate and ignore that the Fatah controlled PA itself has refused to pay the salaries of thousands of civil servants living there because of their differences with Hamas, then people have lost their equilibrium.
When people sanitize Hamas as a legitimately elected government that is merely compelled to use guerrilla warfare tactics in an attempt to attain their freedom and independence against a far superior army, then people have lost their objectivity.
Is there any reason to believe that if Hamas or any of Israel’s other enemies had the means and ability to get away with annihilating Israel that that is exactly what they would do?
Knowing what we know about the aspirations and barbaric tactics of groups like ISIS, is it too hard to imagine what they would do if they infiltrated or cooperated with like-minded factions within the Palestinian territories? This is a real question; not a rhetorical one intended to scare people into isolation or irrational behavior. These are the kind of questions that Israel’s leaders must think about, and it’s the same kind of question that many people within Europe were thinking about in the previous century when Nazi Germany was seeking to expand its oppressive empire. Thankfully at that time there were leaders and every day civilians who woke up to what was happening (some sooner than others) to fight a just war against a merciless enemy.
Israel Is Not Perfect, But…
Now to be fair to the Palestinians, it is wrong for those who recognize Israel’s plight to overlook or disregard its shortcomings. To ignore that there are racists within Israeli society; Jews who hate Arabs simply because they’re Arabs; radical Zionists who venerate their own extremists, and agents within the Shin Bet or soldiers in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) who have abused their power (similar to things we have seen within our own country that make people cringe) is to live in a fallacy that one side is all good or all right and the other side is all bad or all wrong. That scenario rarely occurs anywhere in the world.
For example, the retaliatory killing of an Arab teen by Israeli vigilantes following the equally reprehensible murder of 3 Israeli teens by Hamas militants that occurred in June 2014 was a despicable and cowardly act that was motivated by hate and revenge.
But incidents like these must be seen and understood for what they are; an exception and not the rule. They have been consistently condemned, not celebrated, by the mainstream Israeli society and its leaders. The perpetrators were arrested and will be tried. At the most, they are a complicating symptom of Israel’s war against the widespread and aggressive ideology of radical Islam, the same cancerous types we have seen in other parts of the Middle East, including ISIS, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and others. Israel has proven time and again that it has a far better track record condemning and prosecuting hate crimes targeted at Arabs than the Palestinian Authority has ever had in doing so in prosecuting crimes committed against the Jews (or other Arabs for that matter). There is no denying that Palestinian terrorists who murder Jews are celebrated, even idolized, while Israelis that commit crimes against Palestinians are genuinely reviled within Israeli society.
People who support Israel must also recognize that there were atrocities and injustices committed against the indigenous Arabs during the establishment of the State of Israel and thereafter, just as there were against the Jewish people. But those who oppose Israel must also take into consideration that there were many Arabs who didn’t oppose the establishment of a Jewish state and today there are nearly 1.5 million of them who are citizens of Israel; many of whom hold positions within the government, choose to serve in the IDF, and have experienced far greater economic success and opportunity than they ever would have in a neighboring Arab state. Would Jews experience the same rights and freedoms if they were allowed to live in a sovereign Palestinian state? Almost certainly not.
This is not to say that Israel could not stand to be more sensitive and accommodating to Arabs living within its own borders and those within the Palestinian territories who clearly aren’t out to destroy them and just want to make an honest living, yet we must always take into consideration that many of the policies that Israel introduces and actions it has taken (e.g., security barriers, checkpoints, travel restrictions, limited building permits, etc.) would not have been instituted if their civilian population had not been previously and consistently threatened and attacked by Islamic radicals and Arab armies who have been intent on eradicating the Jewish people from the Holy Land (e.g., 6-Day War, Khartoum “3 No’s” Resolution, El Al Flight 426 hijacking, Munich Olympics Massacre, Yom Kippur War, 1st and 2nd Intifadas, etc.). We must also remember that the PA must be held responsible for its role in not improving the living conditions of its own people (e.g., infrastructure for water) or their practice of disseminating false information to their people via state controlled media (e.g., Yahya Rabah, a member of the Fatah Leadership Committee in Gaza, on 8/16/14 wrote in the official PA daily that the murder of the 3 Israeli teens on 6/12/14 was a “fabrication” and a pretext for Israel’s war against them).
Israel should never be blamed for the PA’s self-inflicted wounds.
When people blame Israel for all or most of the challenges that the Palestinians have experienced, it is paramount to blaming a battered wife for the problems her abusive husband experiences after she throws him out of the house and files for an order of protection to keep her and her children safe.
At the same time, Israel must carefully evaluate how it responds to its aggressors and the wisdom of certain policies (e.g., targeted killings of terrorists, settlements, house demolitions, etc.); not only for its own moral integrity, but because many within the international community have had the propensity for holding them to a far higher standard than they often do of other governments who frequently top the list of the world’s worst human rights violators. While living under a microscope may not be comfortable, it’s the reality that the Jewish people have had to navigate since God called Abram out from Ur to become a vessel of blessing to the nations.
Courageous Voices in the Holy Land
All of this to say, the destructive aspirations of the few have sadly complicated the lives of the many, just as we seen at other times in history and in other parts of the world today. It is why we must continue to do whatever we can to seek out and advocate for moderate and courageous voices in both the Israeli and Palestinian societies, those who truly want what is best for all the people living in the Holy Land; voices of people who are loving their neighbors and their enemies. People who forgive their debtors just as their debts have been forgiven.
Thankfully some of these people exist, and thankfully there are people within the Palestinian community who genuinely believe in Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state for the Jewish people, and people within the Israeli community who believe that the Palestinians deserve a government that will provide the same civil and human rights that the Jewish people experience within their own society. Their voices need to be heard; because without them it is impossible to have a fair and balanced perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to support the decent and genuinely peaceful people caught in the middle of it.
They need our encouragement. They need our prayers. They need our voice.
What Is Your Voice Saying?
Without our voice, I only see the growing animosity in the world toward the state of Israel and the Jewish people getting far worse, not better. Without our voice, I believe that we will see Israel’s enemies make significant progress in fulfilling their declared aspirations, which will not only be tragic for the Jewish people, but tragic for the innocent Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire.
As a follower of Jesus who believes in the inherent dignity and love that all people created in the image of God deserve, as well as in God’s irrevocable promises to the Jewish people (Romans 11:28-29), I take great comfort in the words from the Prophet Zechariah, chapter 12, verses 1-3 :
A prophecy: The word of the Lord concerning Israel. The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person, declares: “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves (emphasis added).
But in the meantime, the question for those in the Christian community, and for everyone in the world, should be—
Did I, in any way, intentionally aid and abet Israel’s enemies in their attempt to destroy it or did I do everything within my ability to stop it? Did I speak up or did I remain silent?
In these tenuous days for Israel and the Palestinian people, may we consider the insight of Lutheran pastor, Rev. Martin Niemoller, who commented on the events in his native Germany during WWII:
They came first for the Communists…
but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews…
but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Unionists…
but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Unionist.
Then they came for the Catholic…
but I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me…
and by that time…
there was no-one left to speak up for me.
Voicing the same sentiments as Niemoller was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian and founder of the Confessing Church movement who gave his life resisting Nazi fascism:
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:
God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.
May God help those whose voices remain silent and do not act.