Gaza, Colonial Violence, and the Pursuit of a Just Peace
The fighting in Gaza that has shocked the world requires a clear and principled response. For FOSNA, as an organization that promotes the message of Palestinian Liberation Theology and the Christian perspective on which it is based, a number of statements need to be made:
The first thing we have to say, which is intrinsic to our theology, is that violence and war are never the answer. We need to realize, Palestinians and Israelis alike, that any solution must be based on justice and not the destruction of the other party. At the very least, there must exist a clear distinction between civilian and military targets, between fighters and noncombatants. This is a rule that applies to each side; whatever the justifications, those who choose war and violence in the pursuit of their goals must use every possible means to avoid killing noncombatants or targeting civilian infrastructure. We fear we will see thousands of civilian casualties in the coming few days, primarily among Palestinians who have no access to bomb shelters and no organized state structures to defend them. We are distressed that instead of calling for a quick end to the fighting, many are praising it while doubling down on their ability to inflict maximum damage upon their enemies.
Second, this war reveals the veracity of the message we have long been communicating: today’s violence was the inevitable outcome of Israel’s persistent and systematic violation of the rights of Palestinians. In the case of Gaza, two thirds of whose population are refugees from the 1948 Nakba and who have been suffering an inhumane siege since 2007, today’s outbreak is the most foreseeable outcome. Despite what pundits might think or how things might appear on the surface, an unjust status quo cannot go on forever. The biblical prophets, and all who would stand in the prophetic tradition, consistently proclaim a discordant message over and against the destructive powers that be and their ideological enablers. It is a message that God is sovereign and oppression cannot and will not prevail. The world usually measures things in terms of immediately observable surface elements, tending to be impressed by the power, wealth, and influence of those in command. It takes a prophet to see beyond that and to warn of uncomfortable truths that can be ignored by the powerful. This continues to be the role of those who believe in justice for the Palestinians. Despite the tremendous power imbalance, Palestinian rights need to be addressed and must be taken into account. The Abrahamic Accords, for instance, are arrangements based on shallow interests that deliberately failed to take Palestinians into account, precisely because they lack the political clout. The events in Gaza today show that such failure to take their interests into account will inevitably explode and force itself upon reality.
Finally, the current round of fighting must lead all parties to think in new terms and not be lulled again into doubling down on policies that have failed time and again. Palestinians and Israelis must seek ways to live together in peace and harmony. This requires that the demands of justice be met. This is not a conflict that can be resolved through the violent overpowering of one’s enemies. For this reason, it is essential that Hamas is no longer excluded from the conversation. They must be brought into a fruitful process leading towards peace with justice. For many years, Israel and its supporters thought they could neutralize, pacify, or ignore Gaza and the Palestinians there. Israel thought it could fragment the Palestinians and isolate both Gaza and Hamas. It is now abundantly clear that cannot be done.
As the fighting continues and the number of victims on both sides increase, we must raise our voice and call for peace: a just peace based on equality, human rights, and dignity, and not on supremacy and colonial domination.