In the last few days, more than 100 Palestinians – half of whom were women and children – have been killed by Israeli bombs. Eight hundred have been injured. Thousands of homes – homes! where kids eat breakfast and sleep in their beds! – and businesses have been damaged or destroyed.
Hospital generators will be out of power within days. There is no way to get fuel for ambulances. Medicine and food are running out.
As of midnight Friday, no Israelis had been killed, though 10 were injured.
This is not a defensive move. This is not mere retaliation. This can scarcely even be called war.
This is raining rockets on a prison camp called Gaza.
Pundit One: “But Gaza fired rockets into Israel! They have to defend themselves!”
Pundit Two: “But Israelis murdered a Palestinian!”
Pundit One: “That’s because Palestinians kidnapped and killed three Israeli teens!”
Pundit Two: “Because Palestinian men and boys are brutalized and arrested by Israelis all the time!”
Pundit One: “Because Palestinians are taught to hate and kill Israelis!”
Pundit Two: “Because Israel illegally settles Palestinian land!
Pundit One: “Because it is their land! Because they need to protect themselves!”
Pundit Two: “It’s not their land! It belongs to the Palestinians!”
Pundit One: “It belonged to the Jews before that!”
Pundit Two: “And the Arabs before that!”
And lots more exclamation points and venom and accusations. Lots of “But he started it!” and “We’re just protecting our people!” on both sides. And the debate never ends.
* * *
It doesn’t matter if you think Israel is God’s chosen people. It doesn’t matter if you support Israel’s right to exist. On this issue – the issue of Israel’s suffocating siege and murderous aerial rampage (and possible ground invasion) – one’s political and religious views cannot justify what’s happening. Christian, Jew, or atheist; liberal or conservative; historian/sociologist or ignoramus; we simply can’t turn a blind eye to this oppression.
That’s what it is – oppression.
Yes, Jews have been too-often oppressed throughout history. Yes, they are granted the right to self-defense as a state and a member of the United Nations.
But how does that make blatant oppression, occupation, and deprivation of Palestinians okay? Doesn’t Palestine have a right to self-defense? (And if we call all Israeli violence “self-defense” while we call all Palestinian violence “terrorism” we need to ask ourselves, “Hmm, does that sound reasonable?”)
I like America, but our government – both parties – needs to stop being complicit (or being merely voices spewing empty, actionless words, which may be worse) on this subjection, which can at times accurately be called “abuse,” “persecution,” and “tyranny.”
Here’s a disturbing exchange in which a State Department spokeman, Ms. Psaki, says Israel can defend itself, but can’t say the same for Palestinians:
MS. PSAKI: I would say, Said, that I don’t think any country would be expected to allow rockets to come in and threaten the lives and health and well-being of the citizens in their country, and Israel has the right to defend themselves.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you believe that the Palestinians in Gaza have the right to defend themselves?
MS. PSAKI: I think – I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Said.
QUESTION: I am asking you: Do they have the right to defend themselves against Israeli aggression?
MS. PSAKI: What are you specifically referring to? Is there a specific event or a specific occurrence?
QUESTION: Do they have the right to respond to Israeli rocketing and bombing their homes, their houses, their areas, their schools?
MS. PSAKI: We’re talking about attacks from a terrorist organization, Said. I don’t think you’re –
QUESTION: No, but there is also a population –
MS. PSAKI: — we’re having a conversation about what’s happening here.
QUESTION: I mean, you agree that there is a civilian population in Gaza that is also subject to –
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, and the threat, as I mentioned earlier, to civilian populations is of great concern to us. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re so focused on encouraging all sides to de-escalate.
I will not say Palestinians are innocent and Israelis are evil. Those would be huge generalizations, and wrong ones — there are millions of people in Israel and Palestine, of all political and ideological stripes. But neither is Israel innocent and Palestine evil. And, frankly, to the futile, nebulous, impractical-but-kind-of-significant question “But who is more guilty?” it’s hard to look at the facts on the ground and the mangled bodies in the coffins and conclude that Israel is not the tyrant here.
What we have before us is a huge historical irony. Israel now resembles Goliath. Only this time, the Palestinian David probably won’t pull it out, especially if the rest of the world remains so willingly blind.
Closing our eyes and waiting for morning might solve some problems, but it won’t solve the one boiling – once again – on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.
* * *
Sometimes we think we should defend Israel. The Jews have been through a lot of dark valleys, after all! Evangelicals especially have a soft spot for the nation of Israel – or, perhaps more accurately, the idea of the nation of Israel.
And in the back-and-forth about what “side” one should be on in The Middle East Conflict, the word “anti-semitic” gets thrown around (semitic refers to the language group of historical peoples in and around Mesopotamia), and we really, really, really don’t want to be that.
But it is not anti-semitic to speak out against what Israel is doing here. It is not anti-semitic to condemn Israeli oppression of Palestinians. It is not anti-semitic to stand up to Israel.
Three reasons: 1) Palestinians are semites, too! That means discrimination against Arabs is as much anti-semitism as discrimination against Jews! 2) Opposing the Israeli government’s hostilities does not mean we oppose the race, people, or religion; it just means we oppose the government’s hostilities! And 3) it is never anti-semitic, racist, sexist, or bigoted to oppose oppression, no matter who’s doing it!
Read the names of the Palestinians killed so far.
Here’s a really smart analysis about the geopolitical strategy going on here.