As the conflict in Israel and Gaza is going on, conservative Christian friends of mine are posting videos and images that tell the message that everything is Hamas fault while Israel only defends itself, that Hamas wants to kill civilians and use them as human shields while Israel actively tries to avoid hurting civilians, that Hamas wants war while Israel wants peace, that Hamas is evil while Israel is good. Over and over again I hear that if Hamas lays down its weapons, there will be peace, but if Israel does it all Israelis will be killed. One Christian friend told me that Israel is righteous while Hamas has a demonic, Nazi spirit.
Now, there are indeed big differences between Hamas and Israel. Hamas is a fundamentalist organization where there is a lot of antisemitism and hatred, and they do indeed target civilians and use them as human shields. But to blame everything on them and nothing on Israel, is not a true portrait of reality. Israel has done attrocities (for example, the use of human shields) and many of them are on a structural level: the settlements, not letting enough goods through to Gaza in order to stop the humanitarian crisis, breaking international humanitarian law over and over again, etc.
And in the conflict, it is the Palestinians that suffer and die the most. People that are pro-Israel often point out how many rockets Hamas is firing into Israel, but they are often quite silent about the fact that very few die from them. During operation Cast Lead in 2009, 1391 Palestinians died and 5 Israelis. More than half of the killed Palestinians were civilians, while all five of the killed Israelis were soldiers. In the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, over 100 Palestinians have died and 77% of them are civilians.
The pro-Israel response is usually that not many Israelis die because of the protective anti-rocket system Iron Dome, while Israel tries to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible. And while the Iron Dome is a good defensive system, bombing Gaza isn’t. As I wrote in my last blog post, the bombs only escalates extremism and doesn’t end the conflict at all. When Palestinians over and over again see that Israel kills women and children, they will be more keen to support extremism and hatred. And it is unavoidable to kill civilians when you bomb a city, which is why the civilian causalty always is so high. If Netanyahu cared as much for Palestinian civilians as he does for Israeli civilians, he wouldn’t bomb at all.
Now, I wonder what theology my Christian pro-Israeli friends use when they try their best to portray Israel as a good country that bears no guilt of the bloody conflict. Many of them believe that Israel still is God’s chosen people and that the Jewish return to Israel is a sign of the time, a view I am challenging in my blog series The Promised Land. This doesn’t explain the idea of the righteous Israel though, because when you look in the Scriptures, Israel is criticized over and over again for not obeying God even as His chosen people. Throughout the Old Testament into the New, the prophets of the Lord tell Israel to repent and stop being disobedient.
In fact, Paul makes it very clear in his letter to the Romans that all Jews need to admit that they sin, just as all the other people. They too are in need of a Saviour. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:23-24). There is no need to whitewash Israel, you aren’t a bad Christian if you point out that the Israeli politicians and military also do wrong things. We need to pray and act for both Israelis and Palestinians to repent, reconciliate, love and establish peace and justice in the holy land.