My four children are sitting in our lounge watching “Frozen”. Again. The fire is roaring away, and they’re relaxed and quiet. I’m having a beer (a Founders 1981 IPA, I recommend it), and our dinner is bubbling away on the stove (turns out the kids didn’t like it). My wife is working on her diary. Tonight we will sleep, warm, contented and safe.
Ten thousand kilometres away, a father, like me, is holding his four children and his wife in a room with no power, no air conditioning, no running water, and broken windows. Outside it is mid-morning, and the sky is obscured by ash, riven by explosions. The building rattles as tanks roll past and shakes with the regular thump of explosive rounds. Gunfire sounds on the street and the occasional thin whine of an ambulance. People are screaming, yelling, anger and pain siblings through the wall.
The mystery lottery of birth. That is the difference between me and the man in Gaza today.
Israel are on my radio. They’re telling me in carefully manicured voices that they are in control. The inhuman, perhaps subhuman, members of Hamas have created tunnels into Israel to spread the terror that they started with the horrific rocket strkes. The brave soldiers, pilots and sailors of the Israel Defence Force will go in to surgically remove this cancer from Gaza. Civilian deaths are the fault of Hamas, who make Palestinians human shields. Meanwhile, the silence of our own government signals that we condone and support the view of this most important American friend.
Gaza. A strip of land about the size of the Hutt. One and half million people. An urban cage, mostly young people and children, two thirds of the people are officially recognised as refugees. Muslim. That word, that curse, that identity that marks you as a threat to all that is civilised, rich and right. They’re Muslims.
Israel. The current state is the creation founded in our guilt, our inability to save six million Jewish people in the Holocaust. A land we split after World War 2, driving out the Palestinian families into the West Bank and Gaza. America’s foothold in the Middle East, given US$3 billion a year. Foolishly attacked by Egypt in 1967, subject to countless terrorist attacks. Jews. That word, that mark of difference, that identity that marks our sense of collective shame. They’re Jews.
But let us not be brow beaten into avoiding the truth: Israel are the aggressor here. Israel has imprisoned Palestinians behind their wall in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel have denied basic supplies to the peoples of Gaza and West Bank. Israel has denied them freedom of movement. Israel has eaten into the Gaza and West Bank with illegal settlements. Israel have killed children, women and men who have nothing to do with Hamas. Israel has created the very terrorists it decries. Israel has become the very image of the regime that murdered them in their millions 70 years ago.
In this current offensive, Israel have lost one volunteer and one soldier in the last two weeks of bombing and in today’s ground offensive as against Palestine’s over 230 dead. Hamas are firing unguided, poorly made rockets into Israel, barely reaching populated areas, whilst Israel flies bombing runs and fires smart missles into a densely populated city. Israel sound like us, look like us and reason like us, whilst Palestinians look Arabic, sound Arabic and react in a way we struggle to understand. We have let the collective guilt of World War 2 blind us to what is happening.
Supporting all of this, to my great shame as a follower of Christ, is a reading of the Bible that demands loyalty to a Zionist state. I’ve watched Christians in Aotearoa New Zealand sharing Facebook posts and email alerts of racist, hateful information in support of Israel. For those who don’t know, there is a fundamentalist reading that claims the second coming of Jesus Christ is dependent on Israel claiming its Davidic borders (these include much of Syria, Jordan and Egypt) and predicts attacks by Satan against Israel. These believers give Israel a hall pass to do whatever it wants, because at some stage soon they will turn to Christ. It is a disgusting, racist, imperialist view that is not worthy of Jesus of Nazareth. But it is a view nonetheless.
As I think on the families in Gaza, I want an end to all of this for Palestine and Israel. I support a two state solution based on the 1967 borders. I support both states signing up to the International Criminal Court and allowing their criminal leaders to be tried. I support a tribunal of reconciliation. I support a path to peace. I am not expectant, but I hope. I hope for the families in Gaza. They would end this now if they could, as I expect many in Israel would. The crime is that the politicians, the media and the international community do not support their aspirations. It is a crime on a par with the Holocaust, for all involved, Jew and Muslim.
Tonight, I pray that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God is Israel and Palestine, may protect the children and the parents who love them, and that He would lead them out of slavery to freedom.
Luke 13.34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”