Hundreds of children are dead; thousands of missiles have been fired, and over a million people are living without access to water. With statistics like these showing up every night on the evening news, it’s a situation impossible to ignore.
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is taking over every social media platform as people from all over the world come together to join in the debate. On Instagram pictures are shared of displaced people, on Twitter the hashtag #israelunderfire is trending, and on Facebook my newsfeed is brimming with political, religious, and humanitarian opinions.
But my Facebook newsfeed looks a little different today than it would have looked a few months ago before I visited Beirut, Lebanon during my spring break. Where before the majority of the posts would have been pro-Israel, it now seems that my most vocal Facebook friends lean in a different direction.
The disgust of my new Lebanese friends for Israel isn’t masked in the posts that have been popping up on my newsfeed. From linked articles, to graphic photos, to simply the words: “Free Palestine!” they have no sympathy for the other side.
It isn’t only my friends in Lebanon who have opinions, though. People from Walla Walla University have been posting updates like:
"Keep fighting & never compromise." –Israeli Citizen. Destroy Palestine. #pro #Israel
Israel makes a statement to the world. This is what happens when you mess with a westernized country. You will be destroyed.
As for me? I support human rights. Listening to the BBC and reading the numbers coming out of the UN and UNICEF, I’m horrified. Children are dying. Citizens are dying. I watched one news clip that told the story of a Palestinian woman who had her children sleep in different corners of the house, so if a rocket came, and part of the house was destroyed, at least some of the children might make it. She can’t afford to relocate.
I don’t support Hamas, and I don’t support extremist groups, but the people of Palestine are being used as pawns in a political game that they didn’t necessarily choose to be a part of. I support the Palestinian people and their rights to live in peace and have freedom from the restrictions imposed by Israel.
Let’s take a look at how this all got started.
How It Began
This is not the first conflict between Israel and Palestine. Since the country of Israel was created following the Second World War, there has been violence between Israel and its Arab neighbors. This most recent military conflict comes in response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June.
Israel blames this abduction on Hamas, the Palestinian militant and political group who in the past has claimed it is intent on Israel’s destruction — although Hamas has also said in recent years that it is open to a long-term truce with Israel. The United States officially considers Hamas a terrorist group. Hamas denies any involvement in the capture and killing of the three teenage civilians.
On July 8 Israel began Operation Protective Eagle. According to the BBC, as of August 11, 2014, there have been 4,760+ airstrikes on Gaza and 3,356 rockets fired at Israel.
It is estimated that 1,875 people have been killed in Gaza. Over 85% of those deaths were civilians and 426 of them were children.
Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed and three civilians (as of August 6).
According to the August 6 UN situation report on Gaza:
9,500 people have been injured in Gaza, and 2,877 of those were children.
520,000 people in Gaza have been displaced.
1.5 million people in Gaza have no or limited access to water
10,609 Gaza housing units have been destroyed or severely damaged
141 Gaza schools have been damaged
2-4 hours of electricity are available each day in Gaza
What Both Sides Want
According to Hamas’s charter, and Hamas’s political leaders, Hamas acts in response to Israeli militant control, which imposes restrictions on people and food from entering and leaving the Gaza Strip. Hamas also claims it acts in self-defense as a response Israeli airstrikes and other militant attacks.
Al Jazeera reports that Hamas demands Israel lift its seven-year-blockade and allow the Gaza seaports and airport to reopen. Hamas also demands that Israel stop aggression in Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank. It insists that Israel commit to the 2012 ceasefire, stop undermining the Palestinian government, and free prisoners that have recently been re-arrested.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Israel’s biggest demand is the disarming of the Gaza militants.
Where the World Stands
During the United States Human Rights Council on July 23, the United States was the only country to vote against an investigation into possible war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Out of the other 47 participating countries, 17 abstained from voting and 29 voted in favor of opening an investigation against Israel.
Where Adventists Stand
While GC President Ted Wilson recently made a statement about religious violence in Syria and Iraq, there has been no official GC statement on the Gaza conflict. My opinions on the conflict have nothing to do with being Adventist; they come from my love of people, life, and basic human rights. Statistically, Palestine is being destroyed. I can’t support that. But am I Biblically off-base? One of my Adventist Facebook friends would say absolutely that I am wrong.
She posted recently on Facebook sharing her pro-Israeli opinions, and several other friends jumped to the attack, trying to persuade her otherwise. They pointed out various statistics and news articles. Her response? “Israel is God’s people. So we stand behind them.”
Is that enough to stand unquestioningly behind Israel?
Biblically, I think she is correct. God explicitly calls Israel His people many times throughout the Old Testament (I Kings 8:53, Exodus 19-3-6). God promises not to abandon his people (Lev. 26:44-45), to reunite Israel with the Promised Land (Jeremiah 30:3) and reunite them as a people (Jeremiah 3:18). There generally isn’t much argument on the subject of Israel being God’s people.
However, a lot has happened since Israel’s deliverance from Egypt – including the death of Jesus Christ on the cross at the hands of the Jews, God’s chosen people.
God has a plan. For all we know, God anticipated the Jewish involvement in His Son’s death. This doesn’t mean that Israel is not still God’s people. However, when Jesus was on Earth He taught an inclusive story: “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32, New Living Translation).
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the apostles went out and began to preach the good news. They not only shared the message with the Jews, but with the Gentiles too. This is good news for all of us, because not all of us can claim Jewish ancestry, and we’d like to go to Heaven to be with Christ too.
What Jesus taught us with his death and with his ministry is this: Heaven is for everyone. He wants all of us to be there. We are all God’s people now.
How does this relate to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict?
I will admit that it’s impossible to know for certain where the guilt behind this conflict lies. I also think that ultimately it doesn’t matter. We spend so much time picking sides on this conflict, whether for religious or political reasons, that we lose sight of what is important: people are dying. Men, women, boys, and girls are being killed; there has been death and destruction on both sides of this latest violent equation. I believe as a religious community we should put our efforts toward a prayer for peace.
We are all children of God, whether black or white, male or female, Palestinian or Israeli, and we all deserve a life of peace on Earth before eternal life with our Heavenly Father.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” Galatians 3:28, NIV.
Rachel Logan is an intern in the Spectrum office in Sacramento, California. She recently graduated from Walla Walla University where she studied creative writing and was a page editor for the campus newspaper, The Collegian.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6188