This article originally appeared at Baptist News Global on October 10, 2023.
With war raging once again in Israel and Palestine, it seems far more people have opinions to proclaim about it than openness to listening.
After the horrific attacks carried out by Hamas in which more than 1,600 people were killed and many more injured, the understandable response has been to come to the defense of the people who were attacked. Many American Christians, including Republicans and Democrats, have publicly declared we should “stand with Israel.”
But the attacks on Israel over the past few days did not happen in a vacuum. They cannot be reduced to simplistic dichotomies or “both sides” arguments about good guys and bad guys between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, evangelicals and non-evangelicals, or Israelis and Palestinians.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory, during the time of 2008 through September 2023, there have been 6,407 Palestinians killed compared to 308 Israelis. Given the disparity in the numbers of deaths, it seems reasonable to wonder if there is some legitimacy to Palestinian anger even if one does not condone violence.
Failure to listen
One obstacle in the way of learning more about Palestinian perspectives is that Palestinians who speak up tend to be dismissed, silenced or grouped in with Hamas.
Palestinian activist and legislator Mustafa Barghoti told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria: “Any Palestinian who struggles for his right or for freedom is described as a terrorist. And the question here: Do we have the right to struggle for freedom? Do we have the right to struggle for real democracy? Do we have the right to have normal, democratic elections, which unfortunately Israel and the United States don’t support?”
“Any Palestinian who struggles for his right or for freedom is described as a terrorist.”
According to Barghoti, Palestinians are entitled to these freedoms. “But the unfortunate thing — if we struggle in a military form, we are terrorists. If we struggle in a non-violent way, we are described as violent. If we even resist with words, we are described as provocateurs,” he explains. “If you are a Jewish person, and there are many of those who support Palestinian causes, they call him ‘self-hating Jew.’ This should end. It doesn’t make sense. We should all have equal life. We should all have peace. We should all have justice. And we should all live in dignity. The main way to achieve that is to end occupation and the system of apartheid that I am sure no Jewish person can be proud of.”
Evangelical support for Israel and war
The United States suffered an unexpected attack on its soil on Sept. 11, 2001. And the same rhetoric we’re hearing today was present back then.