Peace with Justice? – 6 January 2024

by Douglas Buck, First Unitarian Congregation, Toronto

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” ― G.K. Chesterton 

“All forms of violence are quests for identity.   When you live out on the frontier, you have no identity.  You are a nobody.  Therefore, you get very tough.  You have to prove that you are a somebody… Ordinary people find the need for violence as they lose their identities.  They are determined to make it somehow, to get coverage, to get noticed.” -—Marshall McLuhan quoted by Tracy Follows, in “The Future of You.”  (p.75)

Is peace possible some day between Israel and Palestine?   Certainly, yes.  Will it be peace with justice, however?   That’s less certain.

I deplore the vicious October 7 attack on Israel and Israelis by Hamas and deplore hiding soldiers inside hospitals.  Killing people, particularly innocent civilians, including children, of any nation or culture, is never justifiable.

I also believe that an attack on Jewish people anywhere can activate fear in Jews everywhere.  Jews have endured thousands of years of hatred, but the shock of the Nazi Holocaust can leave anyone Jewish, including children and grandchildren, with PTSD.

A leftie Jewish friend, a person who actively works for justice for Palestinians, recently said that when she meets someone new, a question lurks in the back of her mind:  “If it was necessary, would this person hide me.”  Jews are fearful for good reasons.

Anyone who does not want to understand Jewish fears and pain will be incapable of grasping the roots of Middle-Eastern pain.   But some people, on both sides, believe that only their pain is real, or important.  Neither is willing to look at the cause of the other side’s pain.  Some Palestinians and supporters don’t want to hear about the Holocaust; they don’t want to hear that other nations didn’t want to admit tens of thousands of Jewish refugees prior to or following WW II.  Certainly, Canada didn’t.  Read “None is Too Many” for an accounting of how antisemitic our leaders were, like Mackenzie King and Vincent Massey.  To put it crudely, Israel is a fact, at least in part because no country wanted Jews.

On the other hand, is it possible for Israelis, or Jews of any nation, to have empathy for the Nakba and 75 years of dispossession and marginalization of Palestinians by Israel?

The long-term deliberate encroachment by Israel on Palestinians has unintentionally empowered Hamas, and I understand that Israel initially encouraged Hamas, which was seen as a way to weaken the PLO.  I read that many Israelis want to deport and resettle Gazans in other countries, which would be absolutely unworkable in a time when borders are closing against refugees.

Many Israelis believe that the current Israeli incursions into Gaza were solely caused by the October 7 Hamas attack.  These people can’t or don’t want to see their nation’s contributions to Palestinian grievances.

A peacemaker was killed in Israel.  In 1995, an angry Israeli assassinated former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had signed the Oslo Peace Accords with the Palestinians.

Peace seems not possible right now, but — with no empathy, there’s no peace, and peace at the end of a gun is not peace.  If peace is ever to be made real, hope must be found.  Someone has to reach out, and it is much better if the stronger combatant reaches out, in this case, Israel.  It needs to reach out, to find a way toward peace.

Realistically, however, opportunities for that may now be lost for a long time.   Two Abrahamic religious peoples at war with one another.

Netanyahu must think that this is “The war to end all wars.”  That was World War One.  Been there.  It didn’t work.

If Netanyahu and his allies think they can solve Israel’s problems by levelling Gaza and killing thousands, they are mistaken.  They cannot kill every Hamas militant.  They cannot kill every person angry because their wife, husband, or child was killed by Israelis.  The hatred will only deepen among Palestinians, and a new organization will arise.

Conflict also affects Israel internally.  As outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry said in December 2016:  “Here is a fundamental reality. If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic. It cannot be both. And it won’t ever really be at peace.”

Unscrupulous politicians increase their power by blaming other religions or nationalities, and generating fear in their citizens.  I submit that we have unscrupulous leaders now in Israel and in Gaza, and in the U.S., and in China, and in Russia, and, and, and……

It is a tragic war, and there is no light yet at the end of the tunnel.  I leave you with this:  “It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.”  —Sir Winston Churchill

“One of the endearing traits of our species is its capacity to learn from experience combined with the failure to do so.”  —Rick Salutin, “Choose Your Policy Dinosaur,” Toronto Star, 30/03/12, p. 23

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