A trifecta of faith

Rev. Dr. Sid Mohn
Wednesday 22 Nov 2023

Media and governmental reporting on the current war between Israel and Gaza predominantly focuses on an inaccurate narrative that constructs the conflict as one of Jews versus Muslims.

 

This narrative negates the more complex and more diverse context of both Palestinian and Israeli societies, which consequently lends itself to polarized perspectives of monolithic “evil others”.

This narrative ignores the historical and contemporary population of Christians in Gaza and the destruction of Christian institutions and churches as a result of the current Israeli bombings.

It also fails to present the reality of up to 1,000 Christians living in Gaza, a faith community that is the oldest Christian community in the world, dating to the first century according to a recent report by Al Jazeera, entitled “Gaza’s Christians Fear Threat of Extinction Amidst Israel War”.

There has been all too little focus in the global media on the bombing of the Christian Church of Saint Porphyrius, the oldest Christian church in Gaza on 19 October.

Meanwhile, an estimated 47,000 Christians live in the West Bank and 100,000 in Israel.

Of equal importance is the dearth of media coverage on the multiplicity of Jewish non-governmental organizations and Jewish/Palestinian NGOs working for peace and collaborating for Palestinian rights.

While there is a substantive number of Jewish organizations engaged in peacemaking and in advancing human rights for Palestinians, the following four are illustrative of the more widespread work that is taking place.

Founded in the aftermath of the 50-day Gaza War in 2014, Women Wage Peace has grown to 45,000 Israeli members, currently the largest grassroots peace movement in Israel. They believe that women have a holistic understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, integrating political sovereignty, economic security, education, and personal safety.

As a non-partisan organization, they do not support any one specific solution to the conflict but rather empower women from diverse communities to advance a unified demand for diplomatic negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last year, they developed a collaboration with Women of the Sun, a Palestinian women’s peace movement, and co-signed The Mothers Call statement, which declares a determination to stop the vicious cycle of bloodshed for the benefit of their children.

The two women’s organizations believe the majority of people on both sides share a mutual desire for peace and a political solution to end the conflict. Tens of thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women have signed the statement.

B’tselem: The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories was founded in 1989 by Israeli lawyers, members of parliament, and academics. B’tselem is Hebrew for “in the image of”, and refers to Genesis 1:27 “And God created humankind in God’s image”. The name expresses the universal and Jewish moral perspective to respect and uphold the human rights of all people.

Its goal is to build a future in which human rights, liberty, and equality are guaranteed for Palestinians and Israelis alike, with an understanding that such a reality will only be possible with the end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

B’tselem documents human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories and publishes statistics, testimonials, videos, and reports on human rights violations committed by Israel in the Occupied Territories.

Their documentation and publication efforts are designed to educate the Israeli public and Israeli officials to understand the rights violations experienced by Palestinians, thereby promoting a shift in Israeli policy.

Breaking the Silence, founded in 2004, is composed of former Israeli soldiers who served in the Israeli military since the Second Intifada.

Their purpose is to educate the Israeli public about the realities of everyday life in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, stimulating public debate about the abuses experienced by Palestinians and the looting and destruction of Palestinian property that has been a persistent norm.

Their eyewitness accounts paint a different reality than what Israeli officials claim; they observed first-hand violations against the dignity and rights of Palestinians.

They have collected testimonies from more than 1,400 soldiers, fully vetted, representing nearly all Israeli units that operate in the Territories.

By telling their stories, soldiers are also able to process their complicity in abuses against Palestinians. The ultimate goal of Breaking the Silence is to bring an end to Israeli occupation.

Within the United States, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a nationwide advocacy and educational group that is a multi-racial and inter-generational movement of US Jews committed to promoting peace for Palestinians.

While JVP opposed the killing and kidnapping of Israelis by Hamas, the group also opposed Israel’s bombing of Gaza. It closed New York City’s Grand Central Station in a peaceful protest, and occupied the Statue of Liberty with slogans declaring “not in our name”, “peace now”, and “let Gaza live”.

Our understanding of the longstanding tensions between Israel and Palestine must not devolve into a simplistic and erroneous conceptualization of Jews versus Muslims.

Palestinians are both Muslims and Christians. Israelis are Jews, Muslims, and Christians. The Holy Lands are shared holy sites for Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

Our narrative about the current Israel-Gaza war must necessarily include the important work of Jews, both separately and in alliance with Palestinians, in both historical and contemporary efforts to oppose war, foster peace, and develop a two-state solution.

Amidst the hatred, death, and destruction of the Israeli-Gaza war, there is a glimmer of hope through the work of individuals and NGOs made up of Jews, Muslims, and Christians who share a common vision for peace and universal human rights.

May we all find inspiration in this multi-faith vision.

*The writer is the Founding Director of Interfaith Action of SW Michigan (USA), an ordained clergy in the United Church of Christ, and is professed in the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans.

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