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Can We Please Stop Treating the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Like A Sports Event?
Originally posted at PCPJ.
Once again, the Holy Land has been struck by war.
I feel compelled to write something that I wish nobody should have to write, something that should be obvious to everyone but which for some ill-conceived reason can be controversial to state in certain contexts:
War is awful.
Hamas firing on and killing the Israeli civilian population is awful.
The counterattacks by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) killing Palestinian civilians are awful.
War has no winners, there is no one to “cheer” on as if it were a sports event, there is no victory in war that does not come at the price of hating, tormenting and killing your fellow human beings.
Take a look at these pictures.
The upper image shows an apartment in Israel that was hit by one of Hamas’ rockets a few weeks ago. Five-year-old Ido Avigal, pictured to the right, lived in that apartment. He died immediately.
The picture below shows a girl being rescued by medical personnel after an Israeli attack in Gaza. The attack destroyed nine buildings and killed 43 people, including eight children.
In total, 68 children have been killed in the Holy Land these last couple of weeks. 66 of them were Palestinian.
All of this is awful. It’s sickening.
I honestly can’t understand those who are either trying to portray Hamas’ rocket attacks as a legitimate “freedom struggle” or the Israeli excessive violence as a legitimate “self-defense.” It’s madness on both sides.
They all kill children. I repeat: THEY KILL CHILDREN.
Of course, some will say: “Yes, but the children that my favorite team kills are really the other team’s fault because they use all the children who happen to die as human shields”.
Can’t you hear how crazy that sounds?
Sure, human shields are being used in this conflict both by Hamas and by the IDF, but many of these children have nothing to do with the warring parties. For example, five of the 66 Palestinian children who were killed by IDF attacks were sons and daughters of an employee of the Danish organization DanChurchAid.
They had nothing to do with Hamas or the war. They were just children living in Gaza and now they are dead because war is awful.
Thankfully, the violence has currently ended in a ceasefire, but it’s a fragile one. Please pray that peace negotiations are reactivated and that both sides lay down their weapons for good.
We know for a fact that more rockets from Hamas won’t end the occupation, because it has never worked so far. We also know for a fact that IDF bombing Gaza doesn’t end the Hamas’ rocket attacks, because it has never worked so far.
We don’t need people cheering on either side of the conflict as if the killing were some kind of a football game. We need peace. Even those who do not follow Jesus need to realize the wisdom and power of loving their enemies. And that love means that we cannot rejoice in anyone’s death.
God lets the sun shine on the righteous and the unrighteous, he wants us not only to love those who love us but to break the spiral of violence by reaching out to those who hate us. That’s the only way forward.
Yesterday I defended my paper on the Isreli-Palestinian conflict and since it seems to have gone pretty well, this means that I know can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in peace and development studies. And it’s summer break! Now, I will get much-needed time to work on some really cool projects that I’ve felt God wants me to do.
First of all, I will spend more time writing on my book. An American publisher has given me the opportunity and honor to publish a work on church history through them. The main thesis of the book is that Christian movements that have emphasized evangelism and miracles have almost always also emphasized peace, justice and social activism. I hope to get the project finished by the end of this year.
Secondly, I will release my very first documentary film. It’s about how the Jesus Army in the UK practice community of goods, and will hopefully give insights on how it’s not only possible but also really nice to share all one’s stuff with others. Half the movie is already edited, and I hope to get this thing done this summer.
Thirdly, I will of course continue to blog here as well as publish videos on my Youtube channel. I have an unfinished blog series on a Biblical, non-Zionist perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which could be suitable to pick up now that I’ve studied the actual conflict a bit more, and when it comes to the Youtube videos I’m thinking about perhaps posting some theological sketches that could be fun to do, and perhaps reboot my old God vs Wealth series to some better quality. We’ll see, God knows 🙂
Away from keyboard, I will visit and speak at some Christian conferences here in Sweden, travel to the Jesus Army together with some friend as well as rest, enjoy God’s creation, evangelize and help the poor.
So, what are you up to this summer? And would you like to help me out in some of my projects? Let me know in the comments!
Israel and Palestine: Solving this Mess Once and for All
This semester, I’m finishing my bachelor program in Peace and Development studies at Uppsala University, and I’m doing that by solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Seriously, I solved it. It’s done.
Now, what’s left is simply Israeli and Palestinian leaders obeying my policy recommendations, which could be a little trickier. But when it comes to the actual conflict resolution proposal, I’m quite confident that this would indeed solve the Middle East conflict once and for all.
Here you can download my paper as a PDF: Israel and Palestine – Solving this Mess Once and for All
The paper includes a lot of background, conflict resolution theory and a discussion about pros and cons with both a two-state and a one-state solution. The juicy part is of course my actual solution, which reads like this:
I propose the establishment of a Federation of the Holy Land, consisting of the State of Israel and the state of Palestine based on the 1967 Green Line, as well as the federal district of Jerusalem (including Abu Dis). Both the Knesset and a Palestinian parliament may be located in Jerusalem, together with a new federal parliament and possibly a senate.
Did Yasser Arafat Become a Christian Before He Died?
RT Kendall, a preacher known for his zeal to combine evangelical and charismatic Christianity, says in an interview that he wouldn’t be surprised if he met Palestinian freedom fighter/terrorist Yasser Arafat in Heaven. In fact, he has met him here on earth five times, bringing him closer and closer to Jesus. Premier reports:
The first time RT Kendall was granted rare access to Arafat,the Christian writer and speaker told him he had prayed for him every day for 20 years. According to Kendall, the 20-minute appointment turned into an hour and 45 minutes, and an unlikely friendship began.
The third time Kendall visited Arafat, the pair watched The Passion of the Christ together, along with 30 members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Arafat wept during the viewing and allowed Kendall to pray for him at the end. During each of his five visits, Kendall was able to speak to Arafat about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and of how to accept Christ.
Kendall says that, despite Arafat’s translator attempting to intervene, the Arab leader was determined to hear more about Jesus and the gospel.
Now, there are no evidence that Arafat ever became a Christian. Of course, even if he did convert there are tons of reasons why he and PLO would keep silent about it. Kendall doesn’t say he know that Arafat received Jesus, but he “wouldn’t be surprised” if he did. And this is primarily because of two prophetic visions (I told you he’s charismatic!): (more…)
Is Israel Practicing Apartheid?
Desmond Tutu, formerly archbishop of the Anglican Church in South Africa and a well-known anti-apartheid activist, is one of those people that accuse the state of Israel of practicing the crime of apartheid when it comes to how Palestinians are being treated. This is a quite controversial accusation though, even if it is supported by several human rights advocates and academics, it has also received a lot of criticism, since the situation in Israel and Palestine is noticably different from the South African case.
Mitchell G Bard from Jewish Virtual Library points at the fact that around 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs that have equal rights compared to Jews and other people groups in Israel. Arabs and Muslims are represented in Knesset, in the courts and at the universities. FW De Klerk, former South African President who together with Nelson Mandela ended apartheid, also says that because of this reason it is unfair to call Israel an apartheid state. “You have Palestinians living in Israel with full political rights. They are represented in the Knesset. You don’t have discriminatory laws against them, for example that they may not swim at certain beaches or anything like that.”
However, people who use the apartheid analogy to describe Israeli policy usually discusses how Palestinians are treated by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza rather than how Arabs are treated within Israel. The thing is that race actually can equal nationality according to international law. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Israel along with most other countries has signed, defines racial discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life” (emphasis mine).
John Piper: Why Jews Don’t Have a Divine Right to the Land Anymore
Ten years ago, John Piper held a sermon on Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. It was a hot topic then and may be an even more hot topic now, and I really recommend you to read it. It may not be any convincing for Jews themselves, since they don’t believe in the New Testament, but Piper gives a good case why Christians should not think that Israel has to occupy Gaza and the West Bank in order for Jesus to come back, but instead support a solution that secures the safety and peace of both Israelis and Palestinians, no matter how the borders look like. Below, I qoute point 3-5 from Piper’s seven-point sermon:
3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.
This was the point of Romans 9. When Paul grieved over the lostness of so many Jews who were rejecting Jesus and were perishing, he said in verses 6-7, “It is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring.” In other words, the promises cannot be demanded by anyone just because he is Jewish. Jewish ethnicity has a place in God’s plan, but it is not enough to secure anything. It does not in itself qualify a person to be an heir of the promise to Abraham and his offspring. Romans 9:8 says it clearly: “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Being born Jewish does not make one an heir of the promise—neither the promise of the Land nor any other promise.
This was plain in the Old Testament, and it was plain the teachings of Jesus (which we will see under truth #4). For example, in the terrible list of curses that God promised to bring on the people if they broke his covenant and forsook him was this: “ And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it” (Deuteronomy 28:63 ). Throughout the history of Israel, covenant breaking and disobedience and idolatry disqualified Israel from the present divine right to the Land. (See also Daniel 9:4-7 ; Psalm 78:54-61 .)
The Difference Between Palestinian Rockets and Israeli Bombs
I involuntarily get a lot of updates from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in my social media feeds, since I follow other Christians and some of them think it’s godly to share and retweet war propaganda (frankly, that’s what military forces’ public messages are, per definition). IDF regularly updates how many rockets are being fired from Gaza and how far they reach, but not so often what destruction these rockets cause. And this is of course because most of them either miss or get shot down. Whenever they hit something though, IDF immediately shares it on Twitter:
Well… it sure sucks for those people living there, but personally, I wouldn’t kill 200 children because of that. IDF started “Operation Pillar of Defense” before one single person had been killed by the Palestinian rockets. During the conflict though, three Israeli civilians have unfortunately been killed, and IDF could provide some more disturbing images: (more…)
Stephen Sizer on Israel, Palestine and the Bible
Stephen Sizer is one of the most influential critics of Christian Zionism, and he has done some extensive research both on Israel and the holy land in the Old and New Testament, as well as the history of Christian Zionism and the present conflict in the middle east. I can highly recommend his Bible studies and other articles where he effectively challenges Christian Zionism and present an alternative Christian response to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that is based on peacemaking, reconciliation and love for all people.
In this video, Sizer is interviewed by Allan Lee, who is clearly pro-Israel but who tries to hold his arguments back in order to listen to Sizer’s reasoning. I’m very impressed by Sizer in this video, he gives a very balanced, respectful and convincing impression when he argues for peace, justice and a biblical viewpoint on Israel.
When Lee talks about the threat of islamist terrorism, Sizer points out that we should ask ourselves why people become terrorists and argues that if we want a secure and peaceful Israel, we should work for justice for Palestinians. When Lee discusses how several Palestinian leaders haven’t recognized Israel, Sizer agrees with that it’s a problem but points out that Israel has never defined its borders and has not recognized a Palestinian state. And when Lee brings up how Gen 12:3 says ” I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” as an argument for standing with Israel, Sizer points out that those words were to Abraham, and according to Gal 3:16, it’s fulfilled not many people but in Christ.
In a time when many Christians are eager to support everything Israel does due to bad theology, Sizer’s input is very welcome to the debate, and I hope this video can convince some Christians to be more balanced, biblical and peaceful when it comes to Israel and Palestine.
The Idea of the Sinless Israel
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. (more…)
Supernatural Protection in War
One of the most amazing events during World War Two was that a small Italian village called San Giovanni Rotondo never was bombed. The Allied forces tried to eliminate a German base there several times, but they never succeeded. The reason? All the pilots who flew near the village suddenly saw a monk who stretched out his hands towards them, signing that he wanted them to turn back.
General Bernardo Rosini of the United Air Command reported that
“Each time that the pilots returned from their missions, they spoke of this Friar that appeared in the sky and diverted their airplanes, making them turn back. Everyone was talking about these incredible stories. But since the episodes kept recurring, the Commanding General of USAF General Nathan F. Twining, who happened to be in Bari, decided to pilot himself a squadron of bombers to destroy a target near San Giovanni Rotondo.
“When he and his pilots were in the vicinity of the target, they saw the figure of a monk with upraised hands appear in the sky. The bombs got loose from the plains falling in open areas, and the planes made a sharp turn to return to base without the pilots intervening.
“Back on the ground, everybody asked everybody else about the happening and wanted to know who was that friar. The General was told about Padre Pio and decided to visit him with the pilots in that squadron. The pilots immediately recognized Padre Pio, and he told the general: “So you are the one that wanted to destroy everything.”
Blessing Israel=Ignoring Gaza?
A week ago many Charismatic and evangelical Christians started to express their anger towards the increased rocket attacks from Hamas. They eagerly reported how many rockets were fired every day. They described the pain, fear and horror Israelis felt when they had to flee into bomb shelters (see the clip above). They mourned that four Israeli soldiers had been injured by the rockets.
However, no one I saw mentioned that while these rocket attacks to that point had killed no one, four civilian Palestinians were killed and thirty were injured in the counter attacks of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). There’s no doubt that we as Christians need to sound the alarm when the Israeli people is facing suffering and fear because of the violent terrorist attacks of Hamas. But that duty forces us to sound the alarm even more if the Palestinians is faceing more suffering and fear because of violent IDF attacks. (more…)