It is impossible not to be horrified by the violence in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has ratcheted up the tensions and, dropping the ceasefire, has been rocketing Israeli territory. Israel has responded with a level of violence that cannot be justified. It is an exercise of naked power that should make the world freeze with incredulity and boil with anger.
What makes this so tragic is the unwillingness of violent powermongers to learn the lessons of history. Israel might bomb a recalcitrant people into the dust, but it cannot bomb an idea or a grievance into disappearance. However short-term the gain by Israel today, the anger and grief of the Palestinians – rooted in a sharpened sense of victimhood – will now feed the vengeance of generations to come.
In other words, whatever the ‘justification’, however severe the provocation, wherever the violent imposition of ‘order’, Israel’s violence will not achieve what Israel wants: it will merely prolong the agonies and everyone will continue to suffer.
The problem is, however, that Israel knows that the West will whimper its objections, but do nothing. The warring factions in the Congo and that great despot Robert Mugabe know that words of condemnation will not be followed up by action, thus rendering them untouchable. Israel knows the same. If the weight on Obama’s shoulders was not already enormous, here is another burden for him to address quickly: how to uncouple uncritical American support of Israel from its necessary role in enabling a just solution to Middle East conflict.
I guess this will now incur the wrath of those who see any questioning of Israel as being anti-Semitic (despite that the Palestinians are also Semitic people). So be it. But it seems to me that to uncritically ignore the strictures derived from the Hebrew Scriptures themselves against behaviour such as that of the Israeli government is of itself deeply anti-Semitic – that is to say, it declines to take seriously the vocation of a powerful people to exercise mercy.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.