“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” — Matthew 26:52Â (KJV)
â€Ž”Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love… ” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism.” — Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.
I was originally going to write today about something to do with Liberation Theology. I am currently doing a research paper on the subject, and I figured that it would be worth writing about here. In fact, Thomas Muntzer is seen as both a founder of Anabaptism and a forerunner of Liberation Theology. So, it seemed like a good idea for something here for the Young Anabaptist Radicals. God, however, did not want me to write about that subject today.
When I woke up this morning, I did what I always do — I went onto my social networking sites to see if there was anything new. Well, there was, and it was not something that I am happy about. Israel reignited its military campaign against Gaza in its so-calledÂ “Operation Pillar of Defense”. Israel, backed by the United States government, has continued its senseless bombings of Palestinians.
As with any international issue, social networking and news sites blew up with this news of the latest military strikes in the region. There were many who say that the Israelis are justified in their actions. They say that they are more civilized than those terrorists in Gaza. On the other hand, there are those who say that Palestine is oppressed, that we should support groups like Hamas. I, however, find myself strangely in the middle.
I cannot deny the evils of the Israeli government. I cannot deny that they have instituted an apartheid state that has attacked and slaughtered so many innocent lives. However, I also cannot justify the so-called liberating violence of groups like Hamas. The one has a horrible imperialist terrorism, while the other has a horrible guerrilla terrorism. Both seek to have their people dominate over the other. Both would gladly oppress the other. The thing that keeps Hamas from doing so is Israel’s massive military.
We are stuck in a massive cycle of violence.
From Gaza to the streets of American inner cities, we are in a cycle of violence. The Israelis bomb the Palestinians, and the Palestinians bomb the Israelis. We bomb the Middle East, so they bomb us. It just goes in circles — over and over again. The previous attack is use to justify the one after it, and that one used to justify the next.
People were telling me all day that I have to pick a side. I have to either pick the violence of the Israelis or Hamas. This is not the first time. During the elections I was told to support the Democrats or Republicans. During the Libyan civil war I was told to support the US government or Gaddafi.
I cannot choose either side in any of these conflicts. All of them are on the side of violence, which I am not.
Thankfully, we do not live in a world of dualism. We live in a world of complexity. There are not just two sides choose from — there are many. Violence begets violence and hatred begets hatred. So I do not choose either of these two options. While all the different armies, governments, and rebel groups say vengeance is the answer. I think that we should seek something far more powerful, and far more effective — justice.
I cannot tell you what to feel about all the problems we face today, and I do not want to. I am tired of silly, fruitless online debates. But as for me, I can no longer choose war, and I do not think as Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, or any other faith group, that we can choose war anymore.
“And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” – Isaiah 2:4 (KJV)
I wonder if our pacifistic condemnation of Palestinian violence will be a better expression of love if we combine it not only with a condemnation of Israeli violence but with nonviolent action against Israeli apartheid. I’m planning to go to a activist training event at my university in a couple weeks put on by our Students for Justice in Palestine group that will focus on the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) movement against Israeli apartheid.
I agree Scott. We need to be critical of both sides, and have an activism to support the oppressed. This was the point I was making. I hope that I was clear enough.
Thanks for your blog post rejecting the false choice of supporting violence by Hamas or violence by Israel.
I’d be interested in hearing more about what you mean in this line:
In your comment in response to Scott you mention “activism to support the oppressed.” What does activism for justice look like in concrete terms given your commitment to nonviolence?
As is the Biblical way, I do not equate justice and vengeance. In modern law, they are seen as the same, but I do not buy into that. Rather, instead of supporting violence by either side, we should seek reconciliation. Not between the two horrible governments, but between the innocent people who are just trying to live their lives.
As for “activism to support the oppressed”, I mean that we should stand in solidarity with them. We should criticize the power structures that rain bombs down from the sky. I cannot be sure how such activism would look, but I do know that it needs to be organic. It needs to be something from the oppressed themselves. Consider the base communities of Latin American Liberation Theologians for example.
I agree with you, Kevin. As I read reports of the state level politics of Hamas, Israel and Fatah (this article lays it out pretty well), I was reminded of my conviction that grass-roots nonviolence movements are where we need to invest our energy. If these movements can grow and thrive, they can begin to subvert and move the state-level bodies. But we must reject the temptation to seize control of the state apparatus and the violence that inevitable comes with it.
This isn’t just the rhetoric or theory for me. My commitment, day in and day out, is to supporting and building the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams. It’s not just my job, its my vocation. Working alongside grassroots Palestinian partners committed to nonviolence does not offer any quick and easy fixes. But this organic, long term work can is our mutual liberation, both personally and communally. As the Buddhists would say, the path itself is the way.
This is the first good blog post on this site in, like, a year. *Applause*
Thanks Tim B.