So, I’ve been struggling to figure out how to write this post for a while. Just like you probably are, I’m following the events in Israel/Palestine with a growing pit of grief burning in my gut. When I visited this place seven months ago, the political situation was strained (as usual) but stable, and Israel and the PA were actually engaged in a peace talk (which collapsed in April). Suddenly, out of the blue, there’s an Israeli ground offensive unfolding in Gaza and almost 800 people are dead.
Eight hundred people. The vast majority of them are civilians. I can’t even wrap my mind around that.
It’s not the terrible savagery of that rising number that made this blog so hard to write (though I’m embarrassed to admit that–isn’t it reason enough?). Instead, it’s the ongoing fight between the leap of anger in my throat each time I see an article shared on Facebook that claims to contain the “real story” or the “concrete facts” about the conflict–which is always actually an article promoting Palestine’s narrative over and against Israel, or vice versa–and the weight of my sinking heart when I see that the people posting them are people I respect and admire, whom I do not wish to hurt.
But here’s what I believe about the truth wrapped up in this conflict: both sides have it. Both Israel and Palestine have an array of stories and facts and histories that are both factual and compelling. That’s why this conflict is so damn hard. Because both sides are “in the right.”
And both sides believe that truth is a zero-sum game.
Which makes giving ground is out of the question: sympathy to Israel is tantamount to hatred of Palestine, and vice versa.
Dear reader: if you don’t know a great deal about Israel and Palestine, and what’s going on in Gaza right now is just a distant blur of politics, please start working on that. Please. I’ll post some resources at the end of this post if you’re looking for a place to start. As you do your own reading, learning and thinking, I urge you to keep this in mind above all: choosing to be moderate, seeking the middle-of-the-road, striving to hear and hold all stories with honor and understanding–these are not the actions of the indecisive or the cowardly. It takes courage, conviction, and most of all compassion to make room in your heart for two narratives that each cry for a sympathetic response.
But I am convinced that it is the choice necessary for anyone who wishes to make that blood-soaked ground into fertile land for peace.
Israel/Palestine Further Reading:
- To get a solid grounding in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I highly recommend The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Dale Hanson-Bourke. It’s easy-to-read, under 150 pages, and just a $10 Kindle download away. Read it.
- For more thorough and decidedly academic coverage of the conflict, including a solid grounding in the historical aspect, go for Alan Dowty’s Israel/Palestine.
Gazan Conflict Further Reading:
- If you ain’t got time to read a whole book about the issue, read this article: 9 questions about the Israel-Palestine conflict you were too embarrassed to ask. It even includes a music break!
- This article from Vox helps paint a picture of what life in Gaza is like, and helps explain why the Palestinian death is so high.
- This is a compelling explanation for why Palestinians continue to support Hamas.
- If you are a pastor or churchy-type person and at all interested in this conflict, you should know about Churches for Middle East Peace. They’re pretty awesome about staying balanced and emphasizing the acts of reconciliation that can and do happen in the midst of this conflict. I’ve found them to be a reliable source from which to seek news.
Threads of hope:
- The conflict in Gaza seems to have touched off a truly repugnant round of anti-Semitism in France. This is a poignant article from a Palestinian-American Muslim in response to this, and to the conflict in Gaza.
- Don’t imagine that every Jew in Israel feels the same about the conflict in Gaza. Here’s an article about an event arranged by Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran Israeli combatants who tell stories about life in the occupied [Palestinian] territories.
- Similarly, here is a Palestinian man whose three daughters died in Gaza in 2009 who urges peace over and above justification and revenge.
- A beautifully-written piece from the (Jewish) editor of the Times of Israel that calls for national introspection in the wake of one of the deaths that sparked this violence.