There is no justification for the slaughter of one thousand four hundred Israelis and the kidnapping of two hundred innocent people from Israel by Hamas fighters on October 7, 2023. Israel’s reaction based on the natural and international law of self-defense is warranted. However, the world community has a part to play in the reduction of excessive force being used in the Gaza Strip, whether it is done in the name of self-defense or in a fit of revenge. At present, the death toll is heading towards tens of thousands, including the death of 4,104 children in Gaza. That is where we are at this very moment, and that should be where this conflict should stop.
The idea that the solution to Israel’s national security problems is the total annihilation of the political, military, economic, and social fabric of the Palestine state is totally unwarranted and wrong.
The Black Church has to raise its voice and articulate its views for a cessation of fire and the immediate return of hostages and opening up of routes for the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid. It is important, however, that we be mindful that ideas associated with the historical Israel of the Old Testament influence our assessment of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For example, it is critical that we are aware of the probable bias that comes with holding the liberation motif associated with the Exodus story and Egyptian slavery as we consider the current Israeli-Hamas conflict.
It behooves us to recognize that the international community has as much to do with this longstanding conflict as Hamas fighters and the Israeli army. The British colonial foreign policy reflected in the Balfour Declaration and mandate of 1923 and the United Nations adoption of Resolution 181 in 1948, which called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, implicates the international community.
Both of these decisions changed forever the demographics of the population of the region and justified the British confiscation of Palestinian lands, which were then handed over to Jewish settlers fleeing European anti-Semitism and Nazism.
The fundamental principle held by the United Nations and all the signatories of the resolution was that the result would be a democratic constitution that would guarantee the human rights of all its citizens without distinction as to race, language, or religion. On this matter alone, the two-state solution has been an abysmal failure. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, displaced millions of people, and unleashed untold destruction of property.
The Black Church, through its leaders and political representation, has to urge the combatants to stop the killing now. We must call for a diplomatic solution to this persistent conflict that can easily escalate into a regional war.
As we pray for the soul of Palestine, Psalms chapter 122 and verse 6 urge us to ‘Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. Implicit in any prayers for righteousness, justice, love, and forgiveness in Jerusalem is peace for all those who call that land their home, whatever their ideology, leadership, or religion. Both states of Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their capital city; thus, there are conflicting claims to sovereignty over the city, its regions, and access to its holy sites.
Peace, however, is more than the absence of violence and the presence of security in the state of Israel. Peace is an ongoing experience of harmony between families, neighbors, and nations. A prayer for peace in Israel, therefore, is also a prayer for Palestinian well-being and prosperity.
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