A friend passed along to me an electronic newsletter he received from a PC(USA) worker based in Israel who is currently visiting congregations in the United States. What caught my eye was a segment in the newsletter entitled “What everyone is asking: why is there a conflict between Gaza and Israel?” The answers given were striking and called for a response.
Here are the paraphrased “answers” given as the root cause of the Hamas/Israel war:
2/3 of the population of Gaza are descendants of 1948 Arab refugees
Israel has blockaded Gaza since 2007, ostensibly to inflict poverty on the people of Gaza
Egypt closed the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt in 2013, also apparently intended to inflict hardship on the people of Gaza
Hamas agreed to join a “unity government” effectively recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and meeting all the demands of Israel and the international community, but Israel and the international community reneged on their commitment to open borders and permit payment of salaries of Palestinian workers in Gaza. Hamas, feeling betrayed for their acts of good will, attacked Israel with rockets and missiles
Israel used the pretext of the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank last summer as an excuse to attack Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, intentionally inflicting even greater suffering on Palestinians
The fundamental problem with these “answers to the question everyone is asking” is their startling inaccuracy:
Hamas, the Palestinian jihadist rulers of Gaza, are openly committed to the destruction of Israel, consider the intentional killing of civilians a “legitimate act of resistance”, and have launched thousands of rockets and missiles at Israeli civilians. These are indisputable facts that Palestinian jihadists do not deny. Status as descendants of 1948 refugees gives Palestinians no right to attack and kill Israeli civilians.
The intent and purpose of the Israeli blockade is to prevent the importation of weapons from Iran, Syria, and elsewhere. It has been relatively unsuccessful, as Palestinian jihadists have thousands of rockets, missiles, and other deadly weapons stockpiled in Gaza. The stated purpose of these weapons is to kill Israeli civilians. The jihadists are proud of this position and do not deny it.
The Egyptians closed the border with Gaza after the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown to prevent Gaza-based jihadists from entering Egypt to attack and kill Egyptians. These steps have been only partially successful and attacks on Egyptian security personnel in the Sinai continue.
Hamas has never renounced violence, agreed to recognize Israel, or agreed to disarm.
In addition to the rockets and missiles launched from Gaza at Israeli civilians, Hamas built a network of tunnels from densely populated civilian areas of Gaza near the border of Israel for the purpose of launching coordinated lethal attacks on Israeli civilians. Many of the tunnels had their entrances in civilian homes. Israel responded by entering Gaza with military forces to destroy the tunnels.
The troubling inaccuracies of the newsletter by a PCUSA worker brings to mind defenses made by apologists for the Soviet Union in its heyday. Seeing the Soviet Union as a “socialist experiment,” apologists ignored the oppression and atrocities committed by that brutal regime.
Jihadist groups like Hamas, ISIS, and Al-Shabab in places like Gaza, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere post videos of brutal massacres and executions on YouTube and take great personal pride in their criminal acts. They make no effort to conceal their intentions, yet we find apologists and defenders in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere who are unable or unwilling to condemn the atrocities. Instead, they call for a boycott of Israel. Where is the outrage within the PCUSA over the actions of Hamas when they line people up in the streets for summary executions? Where is the outrage when they make life impossible for Christians in Gaza? Peacemakers condemn violence and injustice wherever they see it.