Every morning this last week in the group home I work at we have been watching the new regarding violence in Gaza and Israel. I have heard again the standard array of apocalyptic predictions from Christian friends of mine, and have heard a ton of chatter from all types of media demonizing both or either side.
Certainly the situation and violence in the Holy Land is incredibly complicated. I used to be, like many American Christians, uncritically pro-Israel but I really did not know why. In the last several years I have become a lot more sympathetic and critical of both sides, as I’ve become increasingly aware of the complex issues that surround the whole situation.
As a follower of the Way of Jesus I am a committed pacifist and am thoroughly convinced violence only breeds hatred and more violence. Any Palestinian who launches a rocket at Israel and any Israeli who fires a missile at Palestine is just participating in and perpetuating this cycle of violence.
Whoever “started it” is now irrelevant and such arguments inevitably rooted in the various one-sided histories both sides are deeply and understandably entrenched in.
For my part, I am a lot more concerned with who will end it.
As an outsider, when I see pictures of dead children I do not see dead Palestinian children or dead Israeli children.
I just see dead children.
When I see pictures of people cowering in fear for their lives, I do not see Palestinians or Israelis living in fear.
I just see people living in fear.
And I wish the world was not like this. I wish it could be different. I wish the Holy Land could know a lasting peace and true justice.
As I have spoken out, against and for both sides on different issues, people have criticized my stance and suggested I am just participating in propaganda from the IDF or Hamas. There are many competing voices on this issue and I have to own the fact that I have not studied these issues incredibly deeply, nor do I live in Gaza or Israel. I live in safe and sunny Pasadena California. I do not know the realities in Gaza and Israel, the only illegal settlement I am familiar with is our state (which resides on stolen Native American land), I do not suffer under a blockade, I do not have terrorist groups threatening my existence, I have not lost loved ones in any sort of bombings or airstrikes and the hardest border crossing I have had to make was into Canada.
There are many people who are more invested and informed than I about these issues, so who should I listen to?
I think I’ve come to a way to filter who I’m willing to take:
JR, a French street artist and urban activist, did a project called Face 2 Face where he set up gigantic pictures of Israeli and Palestinian citizens.
If you can tell the difference between who is Palestinian and who is Jewish, I’ll listen to you.