A friend sent me a copy of an October 14th. article by Dan Rather and Elliott Kirschner titled “Anger and Sadness.” The friend is a veteran of the Vietnam war, who saw his fair share of carnage, and who I expect experienced in a profound way, both anger and sadness as a result.
Anger and sadness! Anger and sadness! What else can one feel as the loss of innocent life, destruction of towns, cities, farms and fields proceeds, with devastating and far reaching consequences; in Ukraine, and now, Israel and Gaza. The grief grows into an inconceivable wail, as the bodies pile up and the armies rage.
Still, even in the book of Lamentations, there is a small voice of hope, in the midst of the destruction. But, even that voice ultimately asks for vengeance; “Pursue them in anger and exterminate them
from beneath thy heavens, O Lord.” In this closing passage the prophet Jeremiah sounds like Senator Lindsey Graham, as he spoke about Gaza after the Hamas raid on Israel; “level the place.”
Excuse me Senator! Do you know there are 2.3 million people who live in Gaza, the third most densely populated area in the world? What will you do about the children, at least half the population, who are not yet fighters in Hamas? What will you do with the aged and infirm? How will you identify those who have struggled for peace with Israel? How will your attitude moderate the violence and help prevent a wider war?
There are those who see this as a religious war, a struggle between Islam and Judaism; with Christians standing on the sidelines, cheering one or the other of the cousins along, offering moral support and in some instances, weapons.
There’s nothing “religious” about this violence! Both Israel and Hamas may well use religious reasons and arguments as their motivation for struggle, but at heart, the conflict is about “land.” Ever since the UN gave the Jewish people a land of their own after the trauma of the Holocaust, displacing Palestinians through no fault of their own, there has been violence. Palestinian lands have gradually disappeared, as Israeli territory has grown, until Gaza and the West Bank are virtual prisons. Check for yourself. Look at the map in 1946 and then again today.
Contrary to the claims of some, God does not “promise” land to anyone. Perhaps that’s the way the ancient Israelites understood their victory in taking land from those already settled there, but as inheritors of Manifest Destiny ourselves, we hopefully will recognize in the Palestinians our own imprisonment of the original peoples on this continent, imprisoned in what we call “reservations.”
There are always alternatives to violence. There is an organization called Nonviolence International in Washington, D.C., that promotes alternatives to violence, including in the Middle East. It was founded by Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian advocate for nonviolent resistance, who led nonviolent civil disobedience during the first intifada in Palestine and was arrested several times. He started the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in Jerusalem in 1983 and was eventually deported by Israel in 1988. He is presently an adjunct Professor at American University in the school of International Service, where he teaches classes in the theories and methods of nonviolence. Unfortunately, he was never supported or given the resources to continue teaching and demonstrating nonviolence in Palestine. It might have saved some anger and sadness today.
There is still a small sense of hope. Perhaps the anger and sadness in the human community will reach a fever pitch where we can turn a corner, recognize there are nonviolent alternatives in each and every situation, and send the weapons makers who have captured our 21st. century economies into a well deserved retirement. Maybe we can try a new thing, instead of repeating trauma after trauma! It’s lamentable that anger and sadness always have to be our teachers, when we know love and joy enhance and demonstrate our better selves.