The Israeli-Palestinian thicket
Q: In a statement Monday, Vice President Biden said the U.S. is consulting with other nations "on new ways to address the humanitarian, economic, security, and political aspects of the situation in Gaza." What are the religious and moral considerations in determining those "new ways," especially in light of Israel's raid on an aid flotilla from Turkey bound for Gaza.
Every public policy problem involves consideration of interests, facts and values. Christian ethics has little to say that is unique about interests other than perhaps an especially pessimistic/realistic assessment of the myriad ways that self-interest distorts our perception of facts and our application of values. It can also be taken as a truism that the deeper the vicious cycles of conflict, the deeper the perceptual distortions of all types.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is perhaps the ultimate vicious cycle in world politics. And the United States is deeply entangled: in terms of our self-interest, in terms of our perhaps inadvertent perpetuation of the vicious cycle, and in terms of our periodic efforts to broker peace. Christian ethics can help name these entanglements truthfully and pierce certain national illusions here. But no one can fully rise above distorted perceptions, including Christians.
Absent a fair and comprehensive investigation, those who were not there cannot really say what happened when Israeli troops encountered the aid flotilla. Those who are not or have not been in Gaza cannot really say what the humanitarian situation is actually like there, nor can we speak intelligently about the effect of the Israeli blockade. Factual claims remain very much up for grabs at this moment.
At the values level one can say that both Israelis and Palestinians need economic and physical security, the basic conditions of a decent existence. Statesmanship is required to break through a vicious cycle that currently leads to such security for neither side. Such statesmanship has been in short supply.
Christian theology teaches the equal, immeasurable, and sacred worth of all human beings. This leads to the moral implication that neither "side" can be existentially or theologically favored in any conflict, as if one side matters to God and the other does not. Christian hatred of Jews for centuries violated this teaching. Residual Christian anti-Semitism can sometimes be spotted among us. But today, especially for many evangelicals, disregard for Palestinians seems the more frequent problem.
As an evangelical Christian, I am seeking to approach the Israeli-Palestinian thicket with a passion for each life's (and each "side's") sacredness, with a commitment to peacemaking as Jesus taught it, and with a vigilant awareness of perceptual distortions of all types, including my own.
I am praying that creativity and wisdom will soon prevail, and that statesmen will find a way to end this blockade crisis and then move on toward a comprehensive and just peace.
Posted by: whistling | June 14, 2010 3:05 PM
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Posted by: central1942 | June 14, 2010 3:04 PM
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