George Santayana once said that “those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it.” It would seem that in the case of the current situation in the Middle East, both sides are doing just that.
Many lives have already been lost in the struggle between Israel and Hamas, and there is sure to be more to come as the two sides stubbornly fight in what has become an all too familiar drama played out over the last several decades. While some would place the start of this struggle at 1967, when Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank began, this part of the world has a much longer history of occupation, violence, and struggle.
In 63 BC, Jerusalem was conquered by Rome and Israel was made a client state of the Roman Empire. Each province of Israel was ruled by a governor appointed by Rome (Herod, Pontius Pilot). The ruler would then work with the local Jewish leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees) who oversaw the day-to-day affairs of the people. Under the rule of Rome, Israel’s citizens had relative freedom to go about there lives, however, political oppression and economical exploitation were the norm. With Rome exerting a heavy tax on Israel, its common citizens were forced to hard labor. Many lost their own land, yet still had to work it. Hunger, disease, and violence were widespread and common.
Whether in the top echelon or a common peasant, few people were happy about being under Roman rule. Rome not only imposed heavy taxes on Israel, but they were free to use its citizens for its own means (When Jesus mentions going two miles instead of one in Matt 5, he is referring to the common practice of Roman soldiers making peasants carry their packs). One such group that was particularly unhappy were the Zealots. The Zealots were a political sect that objected to Roman rule and sought to incite the people to rise up in rebellion against it, despite Rome’s reputation for its fast and furious response to any uprising against it’s empire.
Jesus spent his whole live under Roman occupation and seemed to have a keen insight into the social and political climate of his day. Jesus warned against the consequences of violence, seeking retribution, and repaying evil with evil. Despite all of his warnings, in 66 CE the Zealots led a revolt against Rome. Rome responded in force and the results were devastating. Thousands were killed, Jerusalem was burned, and the Temple was destroyed.
Fast forward to present day. Israel has become the new Rome. They hold control over Gaza and the West Bank. Gaza has become what is essentially the words largest open-air prison. Fences and barricades are continually placed in and around the West Bank, restricting all movement. Land is taken away, homes bulldozed, and residents forced to move to make way for Israeli settlements. Palestinians live in oppressive and in terrible conditions. Israel has broken numerous international laws (and its own) over the last several decades against Palestine, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Like the Zealots before them, some people have grown weary of being occupied and treated like prisoners. Tensions rise.
Three Israeli kids are kidnapped and killed.
Israel blames Hamas and launches airstrikes.
Hamas responds violently with rocket strikes.
With one of the largest and most advanced militaries in the word, Israel has pummeled Gaza with it’s large munitions. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, Hamas refuses to relent. In a viscous cycle of violence, both sides match each others moves with rockets and bombs.
Violence begets violence.
Like the Israel of ancient times, it is the whole who suffer because of the actions of a few. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in this conflict, most of them civilians, including children. Hamas believes that they are fighting for their people, but it is the people who suffer the most from their actions. Israel claims to be acting is self-defense, yet continues to kill innocent victims.
The violence needs to stop.
Hamas needs to lay down their arms for the good of the people they claim to be fighting for. Violence will not solve their problems.
Israel must heed to international laws and stop holding Gaza and the West Bank as prisoners, give them back their land, and treat them with the dignity that they deserve.
Conservatives need to stop with their indiscernible support of Israel and it’s unjust, unlawful, and inhumane actions. They need to stop blessing this war as if it is God’s will. Children dying is never God’s will. Supporting Israel in this time is akin to supporting Rome in Jesus’s time.
Liberals need to stop treating Hamas as innocent victims whose hand was forced. The bombs that fall don’t only fall on them, but on the innocent around them. Civilians should not be collateral damage for their political agenda.
My heart aches as I hear of children being killed in Gaza. My blood boils as I see Zionist propaganda being spread by ignorant Christians. My frustration ignites when I read journalists condoning Hamas’s actions.
My hope is that there will be some who will work towards seeing this situation ended for good. Not a simple cease fire that leaves nothing resolved and will erupt again in the near future, but a sustainable peace.
My fear is that this will never be a reality, and that Gaza, like Jerusalem before it, will be laid to waste by the empire that controls it.