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When it comes to Israel-Palestine, you can do two things at once
You don’t have to support Hamas to oppose apartheid, nor do you have to support Israeli occupation to fight antisemitism
In Jesus Takes A Side, I argued that when it comes to oppression, followers of Jesus must take a side. Bigotry and violence are simply not viable options when it comes to the rights of minorities such as BIPOC and queer folks. I am passionate about this idea and completely committed to living it.
Sometimes the choices before us are so terrible that we need both to take a side and also imagine something else altogether. When we have warring political parties that seem indifferent to the lethal consequences of their actions, we need to think outside the box. That’s the situation we find ourselves in with the war between Hamas and Israel.
I am an Egyptian-American, and have been devastated by the effects of U.S.-backed occupation and apartheid on my Palestinian siblings. It’s gut-wrenching to see people who look like my children and me being starved, subjugated, threatened, and killed. What Israel has done to Palestine is unconscionable. We don’t talk about this enough. In many ways, I understand the desperation that leads many Palestinians to support Hamas as their only hope. Decades of blockades, oppression have made Gaza an open-air prison; the brutal and condemnable response of Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. I am sympathetic to the plight of Gazans and Palestinians and I decry the actions of Israel that have escalated the conflict and led to Hamas’ unjustified force. The side we need to take when it comes to Palestine is the one that fights for their dignity and survival. Hamas’ actions do not advance that cause; they only advance Hamas’ political muscle. Hamas doesn’t represent all Palestinians, nor their interests. We can support Palestine without supporting the violence of Hamas.
Similarly, for Israelis seeking peace after centuries of pogroms in Europe, the need for land and safety is paramount. All across the globe, antisemitism reigns and Jews are not safe. The trauma and horror of the Holocaust haunts the memory of countless Jews and their families. To witness another brutal attack on their people is a message that the world has not progressed beyond its sordid prejudice. A safe homeland is of the utmost importance, and many, for generations, have made Israel their home. The ethnic cleansing espoused by militant Arabs is utterly immoral and it should be met with resistance. At the same time, the policy of the current regime in Israel is inhumane and it leads to more acts of violence. Israel’s actions, with the support of its American and European allies, put everyone in Palestine and Israel at risk. Israelis deserve a peaceful home, but the government of Israel is not acting in a way that allows this.
Both the militant Hamas and the far-right regime of Israel have other interests in mind than the safety and dignity of their people. While it may seem far-fetched, given the current political environment, a nation-state that serves both Palestinians and Israelis is possible, and it is the only solution for peace. That is the side that we, as advocates of peace and justice, should take.
Again, we can condemn the actions of both Israel and Hamas without robbing Israelis of a home or Palestinians of their dignity. We can speak of both groups without falling into shameful Islamophobic and antisemitic rhetoric. Both have suffered under the power of Western interests. Europe is complicit in the harm against Israelis that they denounce, and their support of Israeli aggression makes them complicit in the counteroffensive of Hamas.
I don’t have political solutions to these complex problems, but I do believe that at this moment, a peaceful Middle East must be what our prophetic imaginations embrace. When we find ourselves allying and supporting one power over another, we contribute to the debacle. America must be critical of its historic support of Israel, which intensifies and escalates the conflict. As outsiders, we must be agents of non-violence, supporting diplomacy, which we pray is still possible, despite the worst intentions of Hamas and the far-right Israeli government.
We need to be able to do two things at once, and the regimes both in Gaza and Israel deserve our fierce opposition. Meanwhile, the people of Israel and Palestine remain victims of this power struggle. Ultimately, theirs is the side that we can and must take.