Friday, July 18, 2014

A little bit less racist

A while back - say, 12 years ago - I would have been largely unmoved by the current atrocities being perpetrated by Israel in Gaza.   I like to think that even then I would have felt some basic human sympathy for people who have lost loved ones, and some sense of the injustice involved in the deaths of innocent children.  But it wouldn't have been the gut-wrenching, horrible feeling that I have today.  It wouldn't have left me wondering how we can all go on.  And it wouldn't have led me to desire, and in so far as it lies with me demand, the end to the system that stands behind this cycle of violence.  I would have been bothered, but not that bothered.

And this is why.

I was on the side of law and order.  It is funny how easily this works - it's a matter of language and perceptions.  Israel has an army - nay, a 'Defence Force' - whilst the Palestinians have 'militants'.  Israel has uniforms and organisation and rules, whilst the Palestinians have, well, Hamas.  My perception was that one side in this conflict upheld order and the rule of law, whilst the other represented chaos.  (I wouldn't have put it quite like that at the time, but there it is).

I was swayed by Biblical reminiscence.  I had been taught the Old Testament far too well to fall for the theological train-wreck that is 'Christian' Zionism, but I think looking back I was influenced by the fact that Israel was - well, it was Israel.  Although I knew that this was hardly the Israel of Scripture, still the name has resonance - and with it all the place names, all the bits of Bible that float in the back of your mind and seem to connect with something you're hearing on the news...

I was afraid of Islam.  I 'knew', back then, that Islam was the enemy.  I didn't know, because I hadn't bothered to find out, that there was a substantial Christian community in Palestine.  I also didn't know, as far as I can recall, a single Muslim personally, or at least not closely.  There was just a sense of background fear.  Christians spread this fear easily, and I had picked it up without doing any analytical thinking about it.

And fundamentally, I liked people who were like me.  This is what it comes down to.  Israeli society looked familiar.  I found Palestinian culture, in the almost-nothing exposure which I had through the TV, to be not to my taste.  In other words, I was a racist.

I hope that since then I have become a little bit less racist.  I know that in this particular case, I have come to see that it is my job to speak for those who are oppressed.  I try to do it, in my limited way.  It is my job to be heart-broken for every human being who suffers.  It is my job to see in each group of people those for whom Christ died, and therefore those who are of infinite worth.  It is my job to stand against those who would use power to keep others down, and then would use fear to legitimise their actions.

In this instance, it is my job to be against Israel, not as a group of people but as a state and an organisation which thinks that its own security is worth bombing children for.  Not because I've become all left wing (really, really haven't), or because of a general anti-colonial stance (it's all nonsense), or because I think Islam is okay after all (it isn't).  Just because of humanity, and fundamentally because of Jesus.

Thanks to all those who helped me along the way.  Sorry for who I was.  God help me be better.

And God have mercy on all those who suffer today.


  1. I love this. Thanks, Daniel

  2. Anonymous6:22 pm

    In an area as small as Israel, that old adage: two's company, and three's a crowd, goes double. Perhaps Jews and Muslims could live together, if it were not for the elephant in the room, the largest and most historically- violent of the three monotheistic faiths, Christianity.

    1. What an odd comment! And one which I think you'd struggle to justify historically, or in terms of social and political reality now. Having said that, I won't deny that Christians with a particular interpretation of the Bible, mostly based in the US but also here in the UK, have made things worse, sadly.

  3. Jo Silva10:23 am

    Beautifully written and so true!