War or Genocide? This Christian's Perspective
Updated: Nov 10
"Free Palestine" by alisdare1 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
The world was shocked on October 7th, 2023. Hamas, the military organization that governs Gaza, broke through Israel's famed high technology defenses, and killed some 1400 people, including IDF soldiers, Israeli civilians, and some foreign nationals. It was a massacre. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, who has been indicted on corruption charges and has built his reputation on Israel's security, was humiliated. He promised to destroy Hamas and completely change the Middle East political dynamic. Prior to the massacre, at the UN, he presented a map of "greater Israel" in which the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were absent. The implications are obvious. A leaked recent IDF document outlined a plan to push the 2.2. million Palestinians in Gaza into Egypt's Sinai peninsula and lock the gate behind them. In other words, to ethnically cleanse Gaza. After the Hamas attack, Netanyahu began a vicious campaign of killing: bombing hospitals, United Nations schools, places of worship, ambulances full of injured civilians, as well as Palestinians fleeing the north of Gaza, as ordered to by the Israeli government.
The response from the West, led by the USA was predictable. "We stand with Israel. We support Israel's right to self defense." This was the mantra in all the Western mainstream media. But as the body count in Gaza accumulated, citizens of Western countries began protesting and their governments began speaking of "humanitarian pauses" to "bring in needed aid." But the killing continues unabated. As of today, November 8, 2023, there are over 10,000 Palestinians dead. Forty percent are children. Almost all of them are civilians. What Hamas has done is abhorrent. But Israel's overwhelming and disproportionate response is much worse. It is genocide, according to Chris Hedges, the celebrated war correspondent, civil rights activist, and Presbyterian minister.
How should Christians, who follow the Prince of Peace, navigate this political and moral minefield? What should our response be?
According to Jesus, violence and killing is prohibited. "Turn the other cheek." "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." "Put down the sword." "Love your enemies." And so on. I have discussed this issue in detail here. Does this mean Christians should be neutral in this conflict? Not necessarily. Many Christians, throughout history, have taken the side of the oppressed against the oppressors. Think of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. The Bible itself teaches us to exercise justice for the poor and downtrodden (Psalm 82:3; Isaiah 1:17; 42:14). In this case, there are completely disproportionate combatants. Besides a navy, airforce, and standing army, Israel has the latest war technology from the USA: fighter jet bombers, tanks, missiles, drones, and nuclear weapons, and the full military, political, and financial support of the USA and the West in general. Hamas has little more than rifles, grenades, anti-tank weapons, and some low tech rockets. The killing is completely one sided: 1400 Israelis dead to 10,000 Palestinians and counting. And it should be noted that most of the Palestinian dead are civilians, which is a war crime, and 40% are children.
According to the Israeli Defense Minister, "We are fighting against human animals." The implication is that it is allowable to exterminate animals. Certainly no sincere Christian can possibly support such rhetoric let alone action. And since Hamas did the killing of Israelis, it is Hamas who should be the IDF's target, not civilians. But Israel wants bloody revenge, not justice. Netanyahu shows no sign of allowing a ceasefire or allowing humanitarian aid at sufficient levels into Gaza.
October 7th was a bloodbath. It was shocking and abhorrent. But it must be understood in its historical context. Britain had been pushing for a Jewish state for some decades in the late 1800's and early 1900's, buoyed by Christian Dispensationalism, which taught that the creation of the state of Israel was necessary in order for bible prophecy to be fulfilled and Jesus to return, and that Jews were still God's chosen people. It followed that it was God's will for Jews to get their homeland and Christian countries should be supportive. Dispensationalism has been thoroughly debunked by biblical scholars but its sentiments are still with us in American white evangelicalism. It is this voting bloc that gives Zionism--the ideological movement to create a Jewish state--its political power.
In 1947, the UN adopted resolution 181, a partition plan for Palestine, which was rejected by the Palestinians. Between 1947 and 1949, 80 percent of Palestinians in what became Israel were expelled, and 80 percent of the land was seized by Zionists. Instances of massacre and ethnic cleansing by armed Zionists occurred in Dayr Yassin, Qalqilya, Kufr Qassem, Khan Younis, and As-Samu. In 1967 Israel occupied the rest of historic Palestine, including the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai. In 1967 UN resolution 242 passed, calling for Israel to withdraw from all territories it occupied in 1967. It refused. In 1970, Israel attacked Palestinian fighters in Jordan, provoking war. In 1973, UN resolution 338 passed calling for a ceasefire and again, calling for Israel to withdraw from occupied territories. It again refused. In 2014 Israel launched the greatest assault on Gaza since 1967: Operation Protective Edge. According to Wikipedia, between 2125 and 2310 Gazans were killed during the conflict and between 10,626 and 10,895 were wounded (including 3,374 children, of whom over 1,000 were left permanently disabled). 67 Israeli soldiers, 5 Israeli citizens, and one Thai civilian were killed. 469 Israeli soldiers and 261 Israeli civilians were injured. As now as was then, the conflict was horribly one sided. And this brings us to today.
As should be obvious, the Palestinians have been brutalized, their land stolen, their family members murdered, and their homes and livelihoods destroyed. Israel has also suffered losses, but prior to October 7th, these were very small in comparison. When people are abused so heavily and for so long, they become desperate. When there is no hope, no chance for peace and security, they may resort to violence. And this is exactly what happened. Hamas, the military government of Gaza, used violence in an attempt to change the dynamic in the conflict. They exposed Israel as something less than the formidable military power it claims to be. Killing innocents for political purposes is despicable. But Israel's response unmasks it as a violent, abusive, racist thug and land thief. Its leadership seems to have a sadistic desire to punish and murder Palestinians for what Hamas did. This is known as collective punishment and is a war crime. So for Christians, we cannot condone what Hamas has done, but we can understand why they did it. But we cannot condone Israel's response either. Killing civilians in revenge for what their government's military did is a war crime. Hamas' massacre of Israelis is also a war crime.
It is well known that many American Christians support Israel over Palestine. Andrew Kohut, in a May 2002 article in the New York Times, wrote that, "among white evangelical Republicans--a sizeable voting bloc and a center of power within the party--62 percent favored Israel, compared with only 8 percent for the Palestinians." Furthermore, he noted that a Gallup poll had confirmed the fact that "Israel's biblical claim to the land is an important factor in explaining the support of many Americans." A recent poll by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist indicated support for Israel has increased: 77% of Republicans, 69% of Democrats, and 54% of Independents now think Israel's war on Gaza should be publicly supported. Many evangelicals and other Christians believe that the formation of the modern state of Israel was a fulfillment of bible prophecy, and that Jews are still the chosen people of God in some sense. And so Israel must be protected by the US government, which declares itself to be the promoter of "freedom", "democracy", and "values". But are these claims biblically sound?
No they are not. The promises to Israel were conditional. If they obeyed God, they would be blessed and would become a "kingdom of priests," a light to the world (Exodus 19:6). If they disobeyed and did not repent, they would be cast off and God would find others. When Israel's Messiah, Jesus Christ, came into the world, he was rejected by Israel's leadership, even though most of his disciples were Jewish. This corrupt religious leadership pressured Pilate into crucifying him, and for this the nation was cast off by God: "And now look, your house is abandoned and desolate" (Matthew 23:38). In the year 70 CE, fulfilling Jesus' prophecy in Matthew 24, the Roman General Titus surrounded Jerusalem, destroyed it, and burned its Temple to the ground. Since the Temple was the dwelling place of Yahweh, the God of Israel, its destruction demonstrated Yahweh's judgement upon them. He would no longer protect them from enemies. And He would not return. Since Jesus' resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, God's presence would no longer depend on geography. God would now dwell in the hearts of every believer in Christ, wherever they are found, and no matter their ethnic category (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
The Apostle Paul taught that we are all the same in Christ--whether male or female, Greek or Jew, slave or free person (Galatians 3:28-29). The book of Genesis teaches that all humans are created in God's image and are therefore precious in His eyes (Genesis 1:27). The sacrifice of Jesus has removed the wall between Jew and Gentile. Salvation is now held out to all who wish to follow Jesus Christ into eternal life--Jew or Gentile. There is no salvation in one's DNA or cultural heritage! It is only obtained through believing loyalty to Yahweh, the God of Israel, and his Son Jesus, our Messiah and King. "No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). The State of Israel is not a fulfillment of prophecy, and Israelis, if they wish to have God's approval, must first accept His Messiah. There is no other path to salvation. American Christians who support the Zionist State of Israel for religious reasons, are mistaken. They are also partly responsible for the vicious persecution of Palestinians by the Israeli government, because their political support makes it possible to carry out this abuse with impunity.
Why then, does the United States government support Israel in its genocidal war against the Palestinians? Surely it is not moved by theological arguments. Why has it supported all these previous massacres by the Israeli government? The answer is geopolitics and oil. After WWI, Britain, America's senior partner at the time, had divided up the Middle East according to known oil reserves and had secured control over much of the oil supply. Why? Oil runs a country's industry. Oil makes huge profits. Oil is power. Whoever controls oil supply and price controls the world. After WWII, Britain was in economic ruin and America emerged as the senior partner and so it decided it should be the controller of Middle East oil supply. According to The Intercept, November 6, 2014, the following countries have been bombed by the US military: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Yemen (2000, 2002-), and now Syria. This is America's real interest. Its government cares nothing for the suffering of innocents. America wants to rule the world, and it sees oil control as the key. It sees Israel as its fully armed colonial outpost in the Middle East that it can use to threaten oil-producing states.
Although Dispensationalism has been debunked, there are prophecies in the Bible that may be relevant here. In Daniel, chapter 11:40-45 we read:
40 “At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood.41 He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand.42 He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape.43 He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites in submission.44 But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many.45 He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him."
If we assume the King of the North is the Western alliance led by Anglo-America, it well describes the conquest of the Middle East post WWI, in order to "gain control of the treasures...of Egypt". "Reports from the east and north" likely mean China, Russia, and Iran--which are north and east of Israel. He feels "alarm" because they are in a pact now, the BRICS, which is resisting US domination, and is growing quickly as the Western alliance declines. He will "pitch his royal tents between the seas [Mediteranean and Dead Sea] and the beautiful mountain [Mount Zion]"--the very location of Jerusalem--may refer to the Trump administration moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018. An embassy is the modern equivalent of "royal tents". This event signifies that the Western alliance is near its end. "No one will help him," because he has been so abusive to other countries--friends and foes alike--as the following chart shows:
So what should sincere Christians do? We must obey Jesus and reject violence, killing, and war. We should not be cheering on violence by one side or the other in this crisis. But we are also called on to take a moral position if we are to be "salt and light" to the world, as Jesus commanded (Matthew 5:13-14). We are to be peacemakers, and this involves action (Matthew 5:9). The Jews in the above image are true Jews: standing for the oppressed, not for oppressive Zionism. We must stand with them. Clearly, the Palestinians have been abused for some 75 years by Israel. According to Noam Chomsky, the famous Jewish intellectual and activist, Israel has traded its security for land. I would add for stolen land. For justice to be served then, Israel must give back the land it took, grant the Palestinians the homeland they deserve, and stop the persecution and killing.
As Christians, we can make our voices heard in social media. We can go to protests and show solidarity with the Palestinians. We can pressure our political leaders to call for a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement. If we vote, vote for peacemakers, not warmongers. And we can pray. Pray for justice and a homeland for the Palestinians. Pray for Israel's security and reasonableness. Pray for God's Kingdom to come and His King Jesus Christ to rule this world. This is the government the world really needs. May it come soon.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Behold, the dwelling of God is with humanity, and he will take up residence with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them.
And he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any longer,
and mourning or wailing or pain will not exist any longer.
The former things have passed away.”