By Femi Aribisala
OUR very own Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, may not be a Christian, but in 1972 he made a statement that resonates with the heart of Christianity. He says: “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” This statement is in congruence with the second commandment which requires Christians to love our neighbour as ourselves.
We are witnessing today a tyranny that has gone on for far too long: the oppression of the Palestinian people and their massacre by a wicked and evil Israeli government that has come to believe “might is right.” Before our very eyes on our television screens, computers and cell-phone, we are witnesses to the callous bombing of defenseless Palestinian men, women and children by an unscrupulous Israeli army.
It is past time for Christians to stop silently supporting the Israelis because of outdated biblical norms, and to come out in support of our Palestinian brothers and sisters.
It is a big indictment on Israel that a people who were subjected in the past to so much oppression and brutality; with six million of its people massacred in the German Holocaust; is now the one responsible for so much pain and anguish in others. By this reversal, Israel has become an enemy of our common humanity. Christians can no longer in good conscience keep silent as Israel continues in its oppression of God’s people, and in this senseless massacre of the innocent in Gaza.
For over 60 years, Palestinians have lived in abject poverty in refugee camps. The Israelis have instituted an apartheid system where their human rights are violated and their homes systematically demolished to make more room for Israeli settlements.
With the active collusion of the Egyptians, the Israelis have maintained the largest prison in the world in Gaza since 2007. 1.8 million Palestinians are locked in this cell, blockaded by land, sea and air. They are confined in abject poverty; denied basic human necessities. Their movement is restricted. Their economy is stunted. Their fishermen cannot even fish in their own waters.
This is the underlying cause of the current conflict. The Palestinians are frustrated but helpless. In exasperation, they fire home-made rockets into Israel from Gaza, in a pathetic attempt to signify their displeasure and perhaps orchestrate a break free from their gulag.
Occasionally they hit some target and even harm or kill somebody. In retaliation, the Israelis respond disproportionately with surface-to-air missiles and laser-guided smart bombs. While the Israelis rely on the protection of the sophisticated Iron Dome defense-shield sold to them by the Americans, the Palestinians have nothing but the human-shield of their own civilian population. This is routinely disregarded by the Israelis who have little or no qualms about killing the defenseless.
The Israelis insist their disproportionate responses are designed to teach the Palestinians a lesson, and to make them think twice before firing new rockets into Israel. However, the peace they seek to enforce is illusory, especially since their idea of peace would still retain the Palestinians in jail with the Israelis and the Egyptians as their jailers.
The current conflict arose over the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers. In retaliation, the Israelis have massacred Palestinians. According to reports, many of those killed are children. When they are not maimed or killed by made-in-America bombs, they are ravaged by malnutrition and lack of medicine. As a result, a voice is heard this time in Gaza. It is another Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.
The average age of those living in Gaza is 17 years. More than half of them are under 16. This civilian population is defenseless, densely packed into this besieged enclave with no place to run or take refuge from Israel’s indiscriminate military onslaught. The Palestinians have become sitting ducks to Israeli military might, with no place to hide.
This is outrageous. The implication here is that the lives of Palestinians are not important. By a jaundiced Israeli calculus, the life of one Israeli is equal to those of hundreds of Palestinians. That is why in avenging the mysterious death of three Israelis, thousands of Palestinians are now dead. But by a cruel hand of fate, the Israelis themselves have sustained scores of losses.
The Israelis have bombed the most incongruous of neighbourhoods. Locations like hospitals, clinics, refugee-camps, mosques and churches, which are normally off limits to warring factions, have become fair game for them. Even ambulances and medical-workers have not been spared. Israeli forces shelled an open market in the Shujaiya neighborhood of eastern Gaza City. This became the site of a grisly massacre.
Worse still are the Israeli attacks on schools. They bombed a United Nations school in the city of Jabalia in northern Gaza, killing many innocent Palestinians. Over 3,000 displaced persons were taking refuge there. Little did they know they were facing an enemy that would make even schools its target. Inevitably, according to reports, some of the victims were children; killed as they slept beside their parents on classroom floors.
In spite of the international outcry that followed this atrocity, the Israelis went head to bomb yet another U.N. run school in Southern Gaza. As far as the Israelis are concerned, the Palestinians have no rights. Their children are not human-beings.
Crime against humanity
Clearly, the Israelis are bent on destruction in Gaza. They have bombed the only power-plant in this sliver of a territory, plunging the entire place into darkness. As a result, even the injured cannot receive proper care in the strained and over-burdened clinics and hospitals. Mobile-phone networks were damaged or destroyed, ensuring that Gaza is effectively cut off from the outside world. Internal communication is also virtually non-existent.
This siege on Gaza has gone on for the better part of a month, bringing untold hardship and suffering to the Palestinians. Nearly 2,000 Palestinians, have been killed so far, many of them women and children. Over 10,000 others have been injured. According to the United Nations, over 240,000 Palestinians have since been displaced.
U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon called Israeli action in Gaza “a moral outrage and a criminal act.” Pierre Krahenbuhl, a U.N. Commissioner, observed that Israel’s brutality is “an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, declared the Israeli offensive “a deliberate defiance of international law.” The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling for an independent probe into Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.
Impetus for terrorism
Israeli heavy-handedness is a major headache for international peace and security. Israeli atrocities in the Middle East are fueling the Boko Haram and other incidences of world-wide terrorism counterfeited in the name of Islam. As long as the Palestinians continue to be denied of fundamental human rights and of their homeland, there can be no peace in the Middle East and beyond.
The United States pretends to be an honest-broker in the conflict, but in fact is now a hostage to the Israeli cause. Israel flouts American pressure, confident it can always rely on the Jewish lobby in the United States to keep American governments firmly tethered to Israeli apron-strings. The Americans give Israel sophisticated weapons which are tested and used on hapless Palestinians. How then can they faithfully broker peace?
In the context of this slaughter, Christians cannot continue to be silent. Christians must wake up from the slumber of knee-jerk support of Israel. Gone are the days when the enemies of the people of Israel were all expendable in the pages of the bible. Palestinians must not be confused for Amalekites or Jebusites that can be exterminated as a result of so-called divine ordinances. They deserve to have a place to call their own.
God is the God of all flesh; he is not just the God of Israel. We must stop subscribing to the Zionist Jewish propaganda that the Jews are God’s chosen people. God is not a respecter of persons and he is not a respecter of peoples. The God who created the heavens and the earth is also the God of the Palestinians. Therefore, Christians everywhere must all rise up and with one voice condemn the massacre of Palestinians that is going on even as we speak.
The world is in a drought. It is rich in money, but short of mercy. There are more dollars outside the United States than in the United States. It is nigh impossible to mop up the funds. But while the world is awash with money, it is short of goodness. It is lacking in righteousness, truth and compassion. Thus, Isaiah laments: “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street and equity cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14).
The Palestinians are in dire need of Christian compassion. The Israelis are in dire need of the righteousness of God. The people of this world need the truth. Since God birthed his children for his glory, it is our responsibility as those Christians who are truly children of God to provide what the world lacks. Our task is to salt the earth. We salt it with the riches of the kingdom of God. We are called to be merciful, compassionate, holy, righteous, truthful, honest, faithful, and just.
The Abrahamic covenant does not exclude the Palestinians. It includes them. Indeed, some Palestinians are Christians; but that is really irrelevant here. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not be seen simplistically as one between the Judeo-Christian tradition and Muslims. It must be seen properly as a conflict between the strong and the weak. It must be seen as conflict between the oppressor and the oppressed.
In biblical days, the Israelites were the oppressed in Egypt, and God sent Moses with a message to Pharaoh to “Let My People Go.” Today, the roles have been reversed. The Israelis are the new Pharaohs. The Palestinians are those that must be set free. Christians the world over must lend our heart and our voice to Palestinian freedom.