Stand with Israel

It is a curious phrase – “stand with Israel” that immediately makes one ask “does this mean I/you/we stand against Palestine?”

Just as curious a phrase is “Stand with Palestine” which obviously begs the same question in reverse.

Now of course there are all sorts of people with varieties of experience informing an opinion one way or another. There are Israeli’s who have lost loved ones in the conflict and there are Palestinians who have lost loved ones in the conflict. There are people like me who get their world view shaped primarily by the media I choose to watch/read/listen to.

Figures do not matter much anymore in the middle of this incredible conflict. History does not seem to matter either. Like so many things people have taken sides and lob rhetorical missiles at one-another faster than the actual missiles flying between Israel and Palestine.

There is no dialogue…there is only right and wrong…as in “I am right” and “You are wrong”.

So each of us is entitled to our own opinions however black & white they may be in this complex circumstance. But what about our representatives?

I have heard it asked “What choice does Israel have?” Faced with 1,000 rockets and counting that, albeit have struck head first into the nearly impenetrable Iron Dome missile defense network, Israel cannot simply sit there and take it…can it? It must strike back…right? There are no other options. Certainly children will die while playing soccer on the beach but their blood is on the hand of the Palestinian government…upon Hamas. Hamas’s decisions are Palestine’s and each person must pay for their government’s actions…each person must be a reflection of their government.

“Through fire and water our government will stand with Israel.”

So says the Canadian state.

I ask myself again…is this me? Do I stand with Israel by-proxy? What about Palestine? Can I not stand with both? Is there no middle way?

I am called naive and simplistic. I am called uninformed. This is too complex for you to understand, leave it to the state.

The very statement “stand with (FILL IN THE BLANK)” speaks of taking a side and removing from me the right to take another…after-all my government represents me on the world stage and they have already decided.

I find it ironic that people of a type of Christian faith hold very strongly to the “stand with Israel” perspective with the unspoken “and if we’re not with ya we’re against ya” humming loudly between the lines.

The logic is simplistic…Israel is God’s promised land and Israel is God’s promised people therefore their claims are superior to all others…after all we cannot go against God.

However when Israel is being pelted with missiles by Hamas there is a distinct lack of Biblical dialogue as we say “they must respond in kind…what choice do they have?” What choice indeed? Certainly there is a Biblical precedent for violence as a legitimate response to violence –

“You have heard that it was said ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth…”

One need only stop there to know that if my neighbour punches me in the face I should punch him back. Certainly the Bible does not say “punch your neighbour so hard they will never get up and hurt you again” but we hear it whispered in our ears nevertheless.

Of course one cannot stop there though can they? Can they?

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Surely the request of Christ is too much here isn’t it? It stands so strongly against human nature that we cannot be expected to actually do this can we?

I would much rather go on to the next line:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'”

Excellent. I can do this. I mean I hate so many things and so many people that I almost literally have no work to do to make this Bible verse happen – I simply need to exist and the hate will bleed from me as if from a gaping wound. Why should I read on? Why can’t I stop here and ignore the next few sentences?

I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Ridiculous! Stupidity! Impossible! None of what this Christ calls me to is remotely part of my human nature. It is so counter-intuitive, so counter-cultural that he must mean something else…right? Clearly Christ had no idea what he was talking about. Clearly Christ was unfamiliar with the complexities of the 21st century geopolitical situation. I mean sure if some ignorant 1st century thief took my cloak let him have it…but we’re talking about complicated and deadly missiles being aimed at human beings.

Am I really expected to take the advice of some backwoods, itinerant preaching carpenter who died practically alone having not made enough of an impact on his followers and the people around him to manage to have more than three people with him (and one of them was his mother)? Not exactly a success in comparison to the preachers and politicians of today.

And yet…

There is something compelling in his words. Something inside me feels as if what he asks, however high the price, however much faith is required, is somehow the better path. Even at risk of my security. Even at risk of my very life itself.

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