The following is an excerpt from a recent post made by Colin Chapman. Though not all will agree with all of his theological perspectives related to the Israel-Palestine tensions, this article gives useful background to the current conflict that should be helpful for all - at the end of the day, all believers should agree that injustice is never justified, even when it pertains to Israel. We felt it was helpful to share his reflections because he is part of our broader CMS family for many years, serving with CMS in the UK for 18 years.
Note: the views expressed below do not necessarily represent the views of NZCMS. We do, however, recognise the importance of careful reflection on issues such as these along with Jesus' call to peace-making. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
If there’s been a cease-fire by the time this article appears, none of the underlying issues will have been resolved. Here then is a brief attempt to analyse what this recent outbreak of fighting between Israel and Gaza has been about – with four clues which help me to make sense of the big picture.
1. Most Palestinians in Gaza today are the children or grandchildren of Palestinian Arabs who were expelled from their homes in the Nakba in 1948.
Benny Morris was one of the first of the new revisionist Israeli historians who documented the process by which around 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes in the months before and after the creation of the state of Israel in May 1948. In his book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (1988) he debunked the myth that they had fled because their leaders encouraged them to do so, and described how some went to Gaza, while others moved to Egypt, the West Bank, Syria and Lebanon.
2. ‘It’s the blockade and the occupation, stupid!’
No one can deny Israel’s right to self-defence, subject to the test of proportionality, and it’s understandable that Israel should want to force Hamas to stop firing rockets indiscriminatingly into Israel. Hamas could have stopped firing the rockets as soon as the casualties began to mount and the international community called for a cease-fire. But Gaza has been described as the largest open-air prison in the world, and the rockets (which have so far killed only three civilians in Israel) have been an expression of the desperation of the Palestinians over the eight-year economic blockade imposed by Israel after Hamas seized power in 2006. Israel is clearly determined to destroy Hamas’s arsenal of weapons and the network of tunnels penetrating into Israel. But the Hamas leadership believes that it can’t afford to agree to a cease-fire without securing concessions from Israel which relieve the humanitarian crisis developing inside Gaza. The appalling numbers of civilian casualties, therefore, and the destruction of so much property are seen as a price that must be paid in order to force Israel to bow to international pressure and end its crippling blockade. Palestinians in Gaza feel that if they don’t die under the rockets, they will be strangled to death by the blockade.
3. The Israel-Palestinian conflict is a conflict of two nationalisms, with two peoples claiming the same piece of land for different reasons.
Theodore Herzl spelled out his vision of political Zionism in his book The Jewish State in 1896, and the following year he convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel. Having concluded that the emancipation of Jews in Europe in the nineteenth century had failed, he believed that the only way for them to feel secure in the modern world was for them to return to their ancestral homeland in Palestine and create some new kind of Jewish polity there. At the time when he wrote the book, Jews were no more than 8% of the total population of Palestine. The remaining 92% of the population – Palestinian Arabs – were aware of nationalist movements in Europe and were beginning to develop their own dreams of Arab nationalism and independence from Ottoman rule. One of the ironies of history, therefore, is that Jewish nationalism (Zionism) had the effect of stimulating Arab nationalism. ...
Palestinians today need somehow to understand that European anti-semitism, which culminated in the Holocaust, created the longing for a homeland in which Jews could feel safe and secure. By the same token, Jews in Israel and elsewhere need to understand that Jewish nationalism and Arab (and especially Palestinian) nationalism have developed side by side during the last century, and that the biblical understanding of justice is that we should seek for our neighbours what we seek for ourselves.
While Hamas has maintained its Islamist stance, it’s thoroughly misleading to say that Palestinian enmity towards Israel is motivated primarily by Islam. Palestinian Muslims are bound to turn to their religion to find motivation in their struggle. But the root cause of the conflict is dispossession rather than religion. ...
If some Palestinians have not been supporters of Hamas and blamed it for the escalation of the fighting in the last two weeks, the ferocity of Israeli attacks on Gaza has probably had the effect of rallying widespread support for Hamas and its demands. One of the lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process was that there was no significant breakthrough until all parties – including those regarded as being extreme – were brought into the political process. ...
As we watch this terrible tragedy unfold, therefore, we should be praying for all who, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, ‘hunger and thirst to see right prevail’ and seek to be peace-makers.
Colin Chapman has worked with CMS in the Middle East for 18 years and in his last post he was teaching Islamic Studies at the Near East School of Theology. He has taught at Trinity College, Bristol, and was principal of Crowther Hall, the CMS training college in Selly Oak, Bristol. He is now enjoying semi-retirement in Cambridge. His books include Whose Promised Land?, Whose Holy City? Jerusalem and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict, Christianity on Trial (Lion), Cross and Crescent: responding to the challenges of Islam (IVP), and "Islamic Terrorism": is there a Christian response? (Grove).
To read the full article visit www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/articles/trying-to-make-sense-of-gaza
Another useful document is by David P. Gushee and Glen H. Stassen at www.newevangelicalpartnership.org/?q=node/139
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