I have stayed away from discussing Gaza but I cannot anymore. There are too many dead and others wounded. A school harboring moms and kids was attacked – a UN Safety Zone and it’s all too much. But I have no words. So here are the words of Reverend Naim Ateek – from the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem written on July 30, 2014. Please read them and as you can pass them on. 

For the sake of the burning children of Gaza

One of the most common refrains repeated by President Obama and other western leaders since the beginning of Israel’s massive military offensive against Gaza is, “Israel has the right to defend itself.”  This refrain is not new and has been declared so often, it has become a cliché.  Some leaders parrot it without even thinking.  Israel has used such clichés as a justification for its actions as well as an excuse to further its carnage.  As of July 29, the death toll in Gaza is over 1100 people, mostly civilians, and includes 243 children (http://www.ochaopt.org).  In addition, around 53 Israeli soldiers and 3 Israeli civilians have died.

Under these circumstances, is Israel able to justifiably claim this right to defend itself? 

First, we should consider that there is no clear “self” for Israel to defend.  Israel steadfastly refuses to define its borders.  Israel’s expansionist policies under the pretext of security have extended its “borders” deep into the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan Heights, in contravention of international law.  Furthermore, as a state that is occupying another state that includes Gaza for the last 47 years, Israel stands in violation of international law and humanitarian law.  In light of the fact that Israel has no defined borders and is occupying another state, it is not even possible to define the “self” that Israel has a right to defend.

Second, it is important to note that Israel does not have a moral or legal right to claim that it is “defending” itself so long as it is occupying another state. Let us take the Iraq-Kuwait war as an example.  Suppose after Iraq occupied Kuwait, some of the Kuwaitis started firing rockets at Iraqi cities as their way of forcing Iraq to end its illegal occupation.  In such a circumstance, would we consider Iraq as having a right to “defend” itself?  Or would we rather see Iraq as the instigator and aggressor?

Morally speaking, so long as international law and the United Nations consider Israel as occupying Palestine, Israel is not defending itself, it is defending its occupation and its Zionist project.  When the occupation ends, Israel possesses the legal and moral right to defend itself, and with that we can all stand.  But so long as it is defending its occupation through collective punishment and disproportionate military might, which is illegal under international law, its claims appear deviously deceitful and hollow. Furthermore, Israel can get away with impunity.

Finally, are Obama’s words about Israel’s security and her right to “defend itself” credible in the presence of the burning children of Gaza?   Is the war Israel is conducting credible in light of these children, held captive and unable to leave Gaza, killed for the crime of being born on the wrong side of an arbitrary border, killed while hiding in their homes, playing soccer on the beach, and taking refuge in UN safe spots?  Nothing can legally or morally legitimize the indiscriminate killing of a captive civilian population. No statements, no claims, no actions, no matter how profound, can hold up in the presence of the burning and torn up little bodies of innocent children.   They are utterly meaningless, reprehensible and blasphemous.

 Therefore, it is important to emphasize the following points:

  1. The international community needs to empower the UN to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  We have been caught in a destructive cycle.  Every few years the situation reaches its boiling point, warfare begins, and thousands of Palestinians are killed and injured, mainly civilians – women, children, elderly, and disabled.  The international community has been lethargic, impotent, and unwilling to implement its own resolutions on Palestine.  The international community has the responsibility to resolve this seemingly intractable conflict.  The UN needs to be empowered to do its work.
  2. International law unequivocally gives occupied people the right to shake off the yoke of the occupier through various means including the armed struggle. While this is true and needs to be remembered in considering this situation, Sabeel has always stood for the moral right of liberation through nonviolent means.
  3. The Palestinian rockets from Gaza have an important message that Israel refuses to understand and the western powers, especially the United States, are unwilling to comprehend.  The message of the rockets addresses the core issues and the root causes of the problem – STOP THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION AND FREE PALESTINE. If this does not happen, the war will occur again and again and again, and the casualties will be mainly women and children.  This conflict will continue to flare up, despite anyone’s best efforts to contain it, unless the systemic injustice of occupation is dismantled.  A recent statement from Israeli academics cuts straight to the point: “Israel must agree to an immediate cease-fire and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement”


  1. Our plea is to all people of conscience in Israel.  You need to become engaged.  The present political course is driving Israelis and Palestinians further apart and is leading us to an impending disaster worse than we are witnessing today.  We all must stop nurturing extremism.  Israelis and Palestinians have to live together in this land.  God has put us here, we need to share it.  The alternative is untenable.
  2. A stable peace can only be realized when justice, in accordance with international law, is achieved for both Israel and Palestine.

Let anyone with ears to hear, listen!

 The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem

July 30, 2014

22 thoughts on “#Gaza

  1. I appreciate all of the enlightening comments here. Thank you all for taking the time to share. It is all so heart wrenching….


  2. Thank you for taking the time to talk about Gaza.
    It is a bit difficult in the face of being labelled anti-semitic.
    But yes, the atrocities of Israel should weigh on every human’s mind that puts humanity first.
    Placing oneself in the shoes of Palestinians will make one realize it’s their right to defend themselves, it’s their right to ask for what is rightly theirs, it’s their right to condemn Israel.
    Thank you.


  3. I am a little confused about the concern expressed here. It is so horrific that words can’t express…and yet who is to responsible for these senseless deaths? Years ago Israel agreed to give over a portion of land with the agreement that there would be peace. Peace never happened, as they had been promised, instead, they have been continually fired upon with missiles ever since, by the thousands. Countless Israelis would be dead if it weren’t for their ability to intercept these missiles. There would have been no distinction between children or soldiers here. Hamas openly declares that it’s desire is to wipe Israel off the map and it celebrates the horrific deaths of any Israeli’s. Israel does not celebrate anyone’s death, but wants peace…and to be left allowed to exist.. Obama is not supportive of Israel. I’m amazed that there is a believe here that he is. He may say he is, in a sentence or two, but his actions have shown the opposite. What are your media sources? Do you know that Hamas is using their own civilians as human shields by placing their armory within civilian targets? They cleverly know that our eager media is all to willing to cover these inhumane horrors and make Israel look responsible. Our media is liberal controlled (anti Christian, anti Jewish), with a strong political agenda by the progressive engine that believes all means are acceptable to achieve their end. Am I missing something here? or are you?


    1. Hello Kathy – it is not possible to give you a full response that will cover everything. Everyday, an Encyclopedia-Britannica-amount of text is being written about this conflict, and the Library of Congress could barely hold a full history of the relations between Israel and the Palestinians since the end of World War 2. So, what to say? You are mis-informed. Your understanding of the history of relations between Israel and the Palestinians is incomplete, at least based on your comment here. Please read more, and read more from all sides. The militants among the Palestinian people – including Hamas – have done terrible things against the Israeli people, including targeting civilians – women and children – for terrorism and suicide bombings. And the Palestinians generally have opposed the legitimacy of the nation of Israel, because it occupies *their land* – land that they have occupied for centuries. Just like I would be angry if the French came to Minnesota and called it New France, and started kicking the Minnesotans out. So the Palestinians have done many things – including bad things and unjustifiable things. They have tried peaceful means, too. But the areas of *their own land* that they are allowed to visit keep shrinking. Please look at a map of the Jewish-Israeli-citizen-occupied parts of the country compared to the parts that are occupied by Palestinians. There are some excellent historical maps available on the Internet that show this progression over the years. So, the Palestinian people have a legitimate grievance, but many of the things that certain Palestinians have done to remedy the situation cannot be justified. They are not innocent.
      BUT Israel is not innocent either. Please read the history of agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, and you will see plenty of times that the Israeli government did not keep its word. And plenty of times where they have over-reacted. So, they are not innocent either. This isn’t a case of an innocent country righteously defending itself after being attacked for no reason, BOTH countries have done things to exacerbate the situation. They are both at fault.
      One problem that the Palestinians have is that they are not organized, they have factions that do not necessarily control each other. So, one faction can sue for peace, and can agree to a halt to the violence; but another can be continuing to attack. You can blame this on the general Palestinian populous or not, but it is the reality. On the other hand, the Israeli government pretty much controls their army. So, generally they do not make moves against Palestinians except in a policy-based coordinated way. This isn’t “better” or “worse” (in a moral sense) – it is just a fact. But, the Israeli government knows about the Palestinians’ disorganization, so they are able to use it to their advantage. If Israel is unhappy with a situation, or the terms of an agreement, they can wait until some Palestinian faction does something nutty; and then they can say “see, they shot first” and they can do what they want in retaliation.
      You probably think I am making that up, and I am anti-Israel. Actually, I have always considered myself pro-Israel, and I support their right to exist as a nation. I think that Palestinians are dreaming (or crazy) for thinking that things will ever just go back to the “good old days” of no Israel. But I recognize that in Israel – including the Palestinian parts (Gaza and the West Bank) – the Israeli government has the power, and they can almost do whatever they want. That is just the reality on the ground.
      SO, Israel is completely wrong in this case. They used the (very heinous) kidnapping and murder of some Israeli kids to round up a large number of Palestinian leaders. Imagine some Americans killing some people in Cancun, and the Mexican government decides to come round up the members of U.S. Congress. The Palestinians were provoked and they did what they always do – and what the Israeli government expected them to do – and they started shooting rockets into Israel. Israel is prepared, and they can now shoot down most of these rockets (okay, maybe they didn’t shoot down all of them, but I think very, very few Israelis have been injured or killed from the rocket fire). And now the Israeli military has gone into Gaza and they are massacring people left and right. Sorry, it pains me to say that, but it *is what is actually happening*. I sure wish it wasn’t.
      Please do not blame the general Palestinian people for the bombs and artillery shells that are falling on them and killing them. Those bombs are stamped IMI (Israel Military Industries) and they are being fired by the Israeli military. To shift the blame to someone else is just denial.
      I have really been distressed by this whole Gaza thing, because *I SUPPORT ISRAEL*. I have always supported them, and I will support them after this. But they are murdering innocent people by the truckload right now. And I don’t know what else to say.
      Sorry to have condensed things in a way that I initially said was impossible, and sorry if I over simplified anything in an infinitely complex situation. My next comment will contain a link to an article that explains the “behind the scenes” politics of this whole situation quite well. Reading it has been a comfort to me, because it is a refreshingly dispassionate analysis of the “big picture”; and I can’t bear to read more about the details of the suffering that is being inflicted on my fellow human beings right now.


      1. Oh.my.word – this is unbelievable. As mothers bury their dead kids someone writes this drivel. Thanks for passing on purely to show the insanity of all of it.


    2. hi Kathy – thanks for joining the conversation. It’s a hard conversation to have through blog format but i feel so strongly about this that i was compelled to post the piece from Naim Ateek, who is, incidentally, a man who wants peace. Might I suggest two books – One is called Blood Brothers and that book really healed my eyesight when it comes to Palestinians and my previously held views. The other is Who are God’s People in the Middle East by Gary Burge, a scholar from Wheaton College. They are both excellent and will provide real insight into the conflict. Thanks again for joining the discussion.


      1. I just spent a lot of time reading all through this, the various links and book titles, and it’s very hard to know the truth. One reviewer of Burge’s book on amazon.com gives credible reason not to believe what he says. The same with “Blood Brothers.” Truth is hard to find. Sources must not be trusted automatically. This will be an issue only known by insiders, I am afraid. People of every nation lie to promote their own persuasion. However, I am grateful to have read this account. Will keep searching for truth.


  4. Thanks for sharing this Marilyn. It’s hard to speak out but becoming impossible to keep quiet. Have you heard Andrea Grinberg on You tube? Really moving and brave appeal by an Orthodox Jewish woman.


  5. It seems like much is changing in the Middle East so that it is no longer the old Israel/Palestinian divide…Grievously you cannot fight terrrorism with diplomacy. From the article: “The Israel-Hamas conflict has laid bare the new divides of the Middle East,” says Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “It’s no longer the Muslims against the Jews. Now it’s the extremists — the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, and their backers Iran, Qatar and Turkey — against Israel and the more moderate Muslims including Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.”
    “It’s a proxy war for control or dominance in the Middle East,” says CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/07/31/world/meast/israel-gaza-region/


  6. May God especially bless the Jewish and non-Jewish people (there are many in both categories) who are living in Israel and have a particularly strong interest in the security of their homes; but who are willing to speak loudly and clearly against the government of Israel when it is in the wrong. My own government has, in the past, taken aggressive actions against other countries that were out of proportion to the threat that it faced from them; and I was never as brave as the people in Israel who are speaking against the massacre that is happening in Gaza. God bless them.


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