As the world is gripped by the situation in Israel and Palestine – including Hamas – it is critical to be informed – it’s literally a matter of life and death.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that freedom brings with it an implicit responsibility – to actually know what you’re talking about. Without accurate knowledge, we only make things worse. By passing along misinformation, or poorly-informed opinions, we may inadvertently support the worst players
As my husband and I wait for news from our family in Gaza (we haven’t heard from them in almost a week), we watch the news for a glimpse of a familiar face in the crowds as they flee for safety, scour maps to see where airstrikes have hit, and we pray.
I also enter the social media arena to fight misinformation and ignorance. Below are some of the fallacies I have run into again and again, with fact-based responses.
If you believe any of these fallacies, here is a chance to learn and grow. If you know someone who believes these fallacies, please share this with them.
LIVES HANG IN THE BALANCE.
“Both sides have blood on their hands,” aka “ALL the killing needs to STOP!!!”
This is called “both-sides-ism.” The idea is to spread the blame equally between the two equal partners in violence. To the untrained eye, it sounds fair and balanced (all caps and extra exclamation points highlight sincerity).
Here’s the thing. These are not two equal partners, and the blame is not equal. These are facts (click the links for details):
- Israel is one of the strongest military powers in the world; Palestinians are not allowed to have a military
- Israel has been an occupier for fifty-six years and an oppressor for seventy-six years; Palestinians have been on the receiving end of this occupation and oppression
- Israel has had Gaza under a devastating blockade for sixteen years, withholding food, medicine, and many other staples
- Not including the current conflict, Israel has killed over 13,000 Palestinians (2,434 of them children) since 2000; Palestinians have killed 2,646 Israelis (143 of them children).
Do both sides need to stop? Yes. Has one side been killing more (and longer) than the other side? Yes. That doesn’t mean only one side should be condemned. It means if we have integrity, we must acknowledge that one side carries a heavier burden of guilt. That’s how justice works.
What about the beheaded babies? The rapes?
Even if Hamas members HAD killed 40 babies (which Israel is unable to confirm, and news media have retracted), does that justify the deaths of (so far) 750 Gazan children (and counting)? How many Palestinian babies must die to atone for one Israeli baby?
The alleged raping of Israeli women is also unconfirmed as of this writing.
(You may respond that Israel is bombing Gaza to smithereens because it is crazy with rage against Hamas. That may be so – Human Rights Watch declares: Israel has “a decades-long pattern of using excessive and vastly disproportionate force” against civilians.” If you are willing to excuse Israel’s ruthlessness in this case, you’d have to give Hamas members the same pass for their rage against a lifetime of Israeli brutality.)
One more point: even if the baby and rape rumors are true, this would be the work of one or a handful of men. To stereotype all Palestinians or all Gazans, or even all Hamas members as baby-beheaders, is racist. I shouldn’t have to say this, but each and every Palestinian is an individual. They’re not a monolith.
Israel has kidnapped, raped, performed strip searches and body cavity searches, and humiliated Palestinian (and other) women in countless other ways – and killed (see stats above) many times more than Hamas ever did. (Don’t believe me? click on the links for factual proof.) Last week alone, Israel kidnapped over 250 Palestinians.
Does Israel get a pass?
(Further reading on Palestine and Israel HERE)
“But, Genesis 12:3!” (aka Dispensationalism)
I have read the Bible from cover to cover multiple times, and nowhere have I seen a hint that believers should support a settler colonial country that oppresses the indigenous population. Israel practices apartheid – is it biblical to support that? Didn’t Jesus command us to care for the poor and marginalized? Supporting Israel right now includes supporting the genocide of the poor and marginalized.
(One friend countered this argument by saying, “If the Palestinians live in an apartheid state, it is under the boot of Hamas.” This shows a total lack of understanding on her part. She would have been better off staying quiet or doing two minutes of research.)
The burden is on dispensationalist Christians/Christian Zionists to defend their supposed mandate to unconditionally support apartheid, oppression, and now, genocide. Some questions we can ask them:
- Are you sure you’re interpreting Genesis 12:3 (and related verses) correctly?
- Are you sure modern Israel is under that promise? If so, why are you sure?
- And importantly, nowhere does the Bible suggest that believers should support a violent, genocidal entity. And Jesus commanded us to care for the poor and marginalized, not commit genocide against them. How do you harmonize your theology with these points?
Never, not once in many years of discussions, have I gotten an answer to these questions from a dispensationalist – even a weak one. Never.
A thinking Christian would take the hint and back away from unconditional support for Israel. Instead, all I’ve seen these folks do is dig their heels in, plug their ears, and repeat the mantra, “God’s ways are past finding out.”
Then when they see they’re not going to win a debate, they say, “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree,” and disappear.
NO. Genocide is not something you agree to disagree on.
Lack of effort
Actual comment (slightly edited): “I hate the Hamas violence. Now you’re going to tell me Israel has been doing the same thing for years. Screw it. I’m going to pray for (or root for) Israel because I just don’t know what to believe.”
It’s amazing how often I’ve heard this one. If you don’t know what to believe, stay quiet or pray for/root for both sides! If you don’t know what to believe, get educated. If you don’t know what to believe, do the words “Amnesty International” sound trustworthy to you? “Human Rights Watch“? “The International Committee of the Red Cross“? “Physicians For Human Rights“?
(I told one friend that any website or article that doesn’t frame the Palestine-Israel conflict with the 1948 Nakba in the picture has to be biased. 1948 is essential to the Palestinian narrative – which is why pro-Israel sources tend to ignore it.)
If you want to share your opinion, make an effort to be informed.
Also, “Muslim” and “Arab” or “Palestinian” are not interchangeable. There are tons of Arabs and Palestinians who are non-Muslim and millions of Muslims who are non-Arab. Such blending of identities is careless and…kinda racist.
Hamas = Gazan = Palestinian = terrorist (savage)
“The people of Gaza elected Hamas, so Gazans are pro-terrorism, ergo, terrorists. And I don’t really get the difference between Gaza and Palestine, so I’ll just assume all Palestinians are terrorists.”
This is lazy racism and dehumanization.
The only things most Americans “know” about Hamas is that they’re rapists and baby-killers (again, Israel is unable to verify these accusations), and that they are “trying to kill all Jews/drive them into the sea” (this is patently incorrect). In the news, the factual context of Hamas is never included.
We assume that since Hamas does things that make Israel retaliate, obviously Hamas doesn’t care about justice or its own people. It has no respect for human life – it’s a death cult. This is enough evidence to condemn all of them, including the people that voted them into office! What else could we possibly need to know?
Actually, there is a lot more to know. For example:
- The people of Gaza voted for Hamas because the other political party (Fatah) cooperates with Israel. Hamas’ campaign promise was to resist the occupation, not cooperate with it – and Gazans were sick of Israeli oppression and ready to shake things up
- Resistance against occupation – even armed resistance – is a universally recognized human right
- Occupation itself – when it drags out as Israel’s has – violates international law. Gaza is considered to be occupied, although Israel claims it is not. Israel, as an occupier, has many responsibilities toward the occupied population, which it is shirking – again, violating international law
- Hamas’ resistance against the Israeli occupation hasn’t always been moral; Israel’s occupation hasn’t either (see “Both sides have blood on their hands,” above)
- Often Israel targets Hamas members when they are at home, sleeping alongside their families. Israel bombs the home, killing the whole family and neighbors. This explains the death toll in the current conflict: over half of the dead are women and children
For those who think the Israel-Hamas conflict has been going on “forever,” newsflash: Hamas was just created in 1987 with Israel’s encouragement. Yup – Jews and non-Jews used to get along fine overall in the historic land of Palestine. When it became clear that there was plan to take over Palestine and turn it into a Jewish state, that’s when the situation began to deteriorate. This was less than one hundred years ago.
When early Americans wanted to conquer the continent, we looked at the indigenous people and called them “savages.” It’s easier to kill savages than human beings. This is where many of us are at with Hamas. We can’t see them as humans. All we know about them is what we’ve heard on the news, and it’s all bad.
But Hamas members are human, just like you and me. They were shaped by the environment in which they have lived – under occupation and blockade.
Palestine: where compassion goes to die
This is one of the greatest casualties of the Palestine-Israel debate: the death of compassion.
When I mentioned to a friend that a genocide is taking place, and my loved ones are part of it, all she could say was “I’m sorry for the tragedies on both sides.”
Hello? If you are not experiencing grief over the imminent genocide of the people of Gaza, you need to do some serious soul-searching. I say this to many of my friends as well as strangers. If your heart doesn’t go out to Palestinians, something is wrong. Sad to say, you’re not alone – millions of people have hardened their hearts.
But if this post makes you aware of an indifference in yourself, seek the humanity in the one you can’t seem to love.
Let’s not be a world in which a people group has to beg to be considered human.
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- What People Of Faith Need To Know About Gaza And Israel Right Now
- In Gaza, she now inhabits a solitary space between life and death
- In recordbreaking heat, Israel intentionally impedes Palestinian families’ access to water
- Christian org The Israel Guys calls for a “biblical” massacre of innocent Palestinians
- The ethnic cleansing of Emmaus
- Terror attack on Church of Gethsemane, Jerusalem
- Presbyterians courageously acknowledge Israeli apartheid – what’s next?
- Palestinians don’t just need peace – they need Just Peace
FEATURED IMAGE: “hear no evil” by SoCal Photo Design is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.