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  • Reverend James Squire

The Ethics of Israel and Hamas at War

As I did often in ethics class, I want to walk around this political ethical dilemma and see the various perspectives.

Israel has the right to self-defense because of the Just War Clause. Since the war started, antisemitism has climbed to 75 percent more occurrences in the United States. Israel has indicated that this is their 9/11. They were blind-sided. The United States has indicated that Israel is an ally and that “we stand with Israel.” Jews are a people who have been in a constant state of survival. But how do Palestinian citizens feel when they hear that statement, “we stand with Israel? What about us?

Hamas is a terrorist organization. They practice a barbaric form of war where no one is safe. They butcher children, men, and women, and the elderly. They depend on fear! Hamas fights in an unconventional way which is against the Just War Clause. Again, they should be condemned for these actions. However, 31 organizations at Harvard and 32 groups at Yale have issued public statements in support of the Palestinians who are not Hamas. Yale’s Student Council which is Yale’s Undergraduate Student government has written that Israel has made Palestine an apartheid state. At Rutgers University students have issued statements similar to Yale and Harvard. All three of these universities hold Israel responsible for Hamas’ actions. Israel’s soldiers will fight in a conventional way which is in concert with the Just War Clause.

People refer to Palestine as an “open air prison” where half the population depends on humanitarian aid. The United Nations has repeatedly called Israel’s wrongful acts for breaking the law with annexation and building of Israeli settlements on Palestine land. They have done this repeatedly without consequence. They have now turned off all water and electric into Palestine as well as food and medical supplies. That is not a conventional way of a Just War as it involves the civilian populations.

The strongest argument that I have read on behalf of Israel is that Hamas, the governing body of Palestine, does not accept the two-state solution that was put forth by the British government in 1947 Palestine. There are other Arab states such as Iran which give support to terrorists.

Let’s look at context. Hamas, a terrorist group, with all that implies including killing and raping, is an opportunist. We condemn their actions. What better time than now to strike? Israel is divided politically. This is a cautionary tale for our divided nation particularly in the House of Representatives. People watch what we do or don’t do.

I was struck by several things yesterday. The news people were moved to tears about what was occurring as a result of the attack which was barbaric. There was a lot of footage of what was happening to Israeli citizens. There was seeming less concern for the Palestinian citizens who were dying as well including the very young and old.

This confirms what the pro Palestinians feel and believe that Israel and the United States believe that Palestinian lives are less valuable and that their pain was less than that of the Israelis.

My solution is not a solution as much as a change in perspective. Start talking first about how we care for the citizens of Israel and Palestine in equal fashion. That should be our focus. If that occurs because words matter, we would have a chance of having our Palestinian brothers and sisters (not Hamas) seen as different from the terrorists. It would also communicate a fairness to Palestinian citizens who have been oppressed for several generations. I have seen this first hand.

I was a student at St. George’s College which sits on the border in Jerusalem between the Jewish and Palestinian sections. When we arrived, we were informed that the college had overbooked the residence hall. We were asked to live in the Palestinian section outside of the protective walls, steel gates, and barbed wire that surround the college. I learned what it was like to be Jewish and Palestinian in this land. I received a letter yesterday from The Very Reverend Richard Sewell, Dean of the College, and will share the last paragraph and a prayer that follows from Archbishop Hosam.

Far more serious than that are the realities on the ground for Palestinians and Israelis, especially for all those living in Gaza and those living in the environs outside the Strip. The implications for all the peoples of the Holy Land could not be more serious. Death, injury, grief, loss of homes and livelihoods is on a scale not seen in these lands since 1967. Everyone is shocked by the extreme violence which has broken out. All killings of innocents and targeting of children and women must be condemned. But the trouble has been brewing for years. A system which subjects two million West Bank Palestinians to military occupation and also incarcerates two million Gazans in an open-air prison is unsustainable and will inevitably lead to extreme violence.

O God of all justice and peace we cry out to you in the midst of the pain and trauma of violence and fear which prevails in the Holy Land.

Be with those who need you in these days of suffering; we pray for people of all faiths - Jews, Muslims and Christians and for all people of the land.

While we pray to you, O Lord, for an end to violence and the establishment of peace, we also call for you to bring justice and equity to the peoples. Guide us into your kingdom where all people are treated with dignity and honour as your children for, to all of us, you are our Heavenly Father.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

This war is fundamentally an issue of justice, central to political ethics, defined as fairness and equal treatment. We should say the following as our voice:

We stand with you, CITIZENS OF ISRAEL AND PALESTINE. WE KNOW THE ANSWER IS EQUALITY WITHOUT OPPRESSION. WHAT WILL YOU DO TO GET INTO THE SHOES OF SOMEONE DIFFERENT FROM YOU? That will disarm Hamas and Netanyahu and give the PEOPLE a chance to represent their goals for their respective nations.

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