Today, Israel forces assassinated Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jaabari in Gaza City, the first assassination attempt by Israel of top-level Hamas personnel in almost four years. An act that has thrown the Middle East into a frenzy today, with eight confirmed casualties in Gaza from Hamas and Israeli bombings, Egypt formally withdrawing their ambassador and the United States officially (however unsurprisingly) casting their lot with Israel in what could possibly escalate into all-out war sooner than later. Today’s statement from The US State Department confirms this:
“We support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
“We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence,” he added.
“There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel,” Toner said in his statement, calling on them “to stop these cowardly acts immediately.”
However, this is not a black and white situation and requires some critical thought (and potentially some theological reflection as well). It is easy for Christians to understand and sympathize with Israel, especially since the relatively recent advent of Christian Zionism. The United States has always supported the acts of Israel without question, even despite the very prominent issue of Israeli oppression of Palestinians , even to the point of unswerving UN support of racial oppression, Nuclear rearmament and countless UN Vetoes to the benefit of Israel (and detriment of a lot of other individuals). Essentially, the United States has allowed Israel to raise some hell without any fear of UN involvement. This has naturally resulted in resistance, which is just as awful.
And while some Christians have theological reasons for wanting the state of Israel to exist, it seems as if Israel is acting more like the Israel that Jeremiah was sent to condemn than a chosen people. And while this doesn’t necessarily mean that they shouldn’t be a sovereign state, Christians must understand the historical context of the state of Israel and understand the position of Palestine in this awful situation. As Christians, it is our duty to stand up for the rights of the oppressed (Deuteronmoy 15:7-8, Zechariah 7:10, Luke 6:20, 1 Corinthians 9,) and right now that may be both the people of Palestine and the people of Israel involved in this conflict. And while our American-Christian culture has taught us to support Israel without question, maybe we should pray for both sides and heed the timely words of James:
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory…
Mercy triumphs over judgment.
(James 2:1,13 ESV)