Navigating a Complex Middle East Situation in the Midst of Assassination

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)

About Nick Rynerson

Nick Rynerson lives in Normal, Illinois (no, seriously). In his free time, He writes, attempts to play mandolin, reads and hangs out with his groovy wife. Nick has a soft spot for any song with a banjo and thinks Bruce Campbell is the best actor on earth. However, he is a terrible golfer and has particular distaste internet controversy . Nick is passionate about the Church, (lower case) orthodoxy and whatever he's been reading about recently.

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or at his website: nickrynerson.com

  • Brad Williams

    I’m not sure that “assassination” is the proper word here, though it is popular. Technically, Hamas and Israel are at war, despite the fact that there has been a ‘ceasefire’ for a couple of years now. They killed an active combatant, so I am not sure that this constitutes assassination. Because despite that ceasefire, Israel has endured rocket attacks into its territory, even before they killed the Hamas military chief.

    I am not saying that Israel is right, but my sympathies certainly lie with them over Hamas. Would you advocate for Hamas over the state of Israel, Nick? Do you know enough about Hamas to make that decision?

  • Jon

    Brad:
    While the legal technicalities might make the Hamas leader a “combatant”, from what I can gather he wasn’t engaged in combat when the strike was made. Whatever terrible deeds the man has done, he was driving down the street in a car when that car was struck by…I can’t tell if it was a small guided missile, a guided bomb, or what. But it was a small, precise explosion. So for all intents and purposes, the *method* was “assassination”. Which leads into the incredibly thorny waters, both moral and legal, of if such a method is right/correct.

    I’m of the mind that says that it would be at least understandable if they struck against the rocket sites, though I’m cautious because as I understand it, they’re typically in civilian areas. And I don’t believe there’s such a thing as “acceptable civilian collateral damage”.

    Further, Nick spoke of the “people of Palestine”, not Hamas, when he expressed sympathy. I think that’s a valid distinction, and an important one. Just as not all people in Afghanistan are Taliban, not all people in Palestine are Hamas. The problem is, it seems like the Israeli government has had trouble making that distinction.
    As well, from what I’ve seen in the past, it seems hard to deny that Israel has acted questionably toward the Palestinian people. There’s no easy answer, to be sure, but to me it seems like both sides seem determined to go for the wrong answer(s).

    Really, it’s not unreasonable to take a nuanced approach. Just as you can have a friend that you love and support in *general*, but call out when they do something negative/harmful, so too should national allies be able to support each other in general and still say “we don’t support or condone that action you just took”. I think such an approach would help both the US (showing us to be reasonable and compassionate) and Israel (showing them there are limits to what we support, and that they should be more cautious and compassionate in their responses).

    Hopefully that makes sense….


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