As I’ve been following the Israel/Gaza conflict via the major news outlets, VICE News, and even in the blogosphere, it has become readily apparent to me that there is an overwhelming sympathy towards the people of Gaza and Hamas as well as a general demonization of the state of Israel.
Now, some of the criticisms weighed toward Israel are, I think, legitimate, but only to a degree. One of the biggest criticisms of Israel and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is that there have been a lot of civilian casualties including women and children. And while the death of innocents is tragic, I would weigh this counter-criticism: War is not clean. It never has been, never is, and never will be clean. War brings death, and inevitably people not directly involved in a conflict suffer either by death, loss of property, or by some other means. By saying this, I would say that I’m stating a truism. What I’m not saying, much less implying, is endorsement for war of any kind waged by any nation.
Another thought that has been bugging me about the Israel/Gaza conflict and people’s reactions is the idea that just because everyone is doing something or taking a certain stance does not necessarily make it right. And so, I have to ask myself on what basis should I differ my opinion from everyone else?
The answer, as always, is unequivocally, Scripture.
The Bible has something to say about this conflict? Yes. In fact, I think that the Bible sheds light on the very cause and nature of this conflict. Both Judaism and Islam trace their lineages back to a man named Abraham. The Jews trace their line back to Isaac who was born of Abraham’s wife Sarah. Muslims trace their line back to Ishmael, Abraham’s son through Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar. Realistically, from a theological/historical perspective, it’s not completely out of line to make the claim that the conflict that we see playing out today is really just a centuries old family feud. More than that, I would wager that it’s also the repercussions of the failure of the Israelites to clear out the Promised Land as commanded by YHWH in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua. This is only a wager, and not something I’m completely sure on, but I will be looking into it further.
One of the heaviest criticisms leveled against Christianity is the Canaanite genocide as commanded by YHWH. Men, women, children, and livestock were to be completely wiped out by the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land as commanded by God. I think that I would be quite heartless to deny that that’s a horrific command, and surely must have been a horrific spectacle to behold. We like to think that we’re more civilized than in those times and therefore in a better position to bring judgement against a God who claims to have created all of Creation ex nihilo, and repeatedly reminds us that His ways are not our ways and our cognitions cannot compare with his. God has his reasons for doing and saying what He does, and those reasons are never unjustified, and quite frankly, as much as we hate it, one of those justifications is, “I’m God. You’re not.” It would be naive to say that God was not grieved at the loss of life during those times or at any time in history, but we do need to understand our place in relation to God. At this point I’m tip-toeing debating the Problem of Evil and the question of why a good God would let bad things happen. However, that is not the full direction I wish to go today, so I will get back to the discussion of the current events in Israel and Gaza.
What I think many people fail to see in this conflict, are the deep-seeded theological, historical, and even supernatural elements to this conflict. It is more than just a geopolitical squabble. YHWH chose an elect people to be His, and He chose Abraham, and from Abraham came Isaac and Ishamel, and from Isaac came Jacob whom YHWH renamed Israel. From Israel came 12 tribes that made up the nation of Israel, and there was a specific plot of land that they were to occupy, and it is more or less where modern Israel is today. However, as a chosen people of YHWH, Scripture proves again and again that being such is rarely – if ever – a popular thing. For most religious people, and specifically Christians, it’s the idea that there is an objective right and wrong to morality. It’s the idea that there is a divine. Paul says in I Corinthians 1:18 that the gospel is foolishness to those who are not Christians, and I think the case is similarly true in the Israel/Gaza conflict. God did not forsake Israel for the Church. The Church is Israel. God has simply used Christ as the channel to bring the gentile into Israel (cf. Romans 9-11).
The Scriptures, time and again, point out the theme that YHWH uses the weak and the underdog to demonstrate His power and majesty. In light of this and the Scriptures I have referenced above (as well as the innumerable others I did not cite) I am inclined, ladies and gentlemen, to take the stance less popular. War is messy and tragic, and it will never be otherwise. To speak to the humanist: Take war as a lesson for what must yet be overcome in the human condition to bring about a better tomorrow. To the speak to the Christians: Take heart and do not despair. Remember that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30).
- “Tel Aviv’n.” Matisyahu. Spark Seeker. Fallen Sparks. 2012.
- VICE News coverage of Israel/Gaza conflict: Rockets and Revenge