Gaza Before and After

Six Months after October 7


Dear friends,

On October 7, Hamas killed over 1,200 Israelis and others, and kidnapped over 200 people. This was an act of atrocious terrorism. Today marks six months since Israel started militarily devastating Gaza in reaction to Hamas’s violence.

I invite you to consider this very limited summary of the devastation.

Israel’s violence has killed over 33,000 Gazans or 1 out of every 70 image-bearers of God in Gaza. This includes more than 25,000 women and children. What Israel described as its 9/11, Israel has inflicted over 27 times on Gaza.

Israel’s violence has injured over 75,000 Gazans or 1 out every 30 image-bearers of God in Gaza.

Israel’s violence has inflicted “extreme food insecurity” on more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people. Some, including children, are starving to death.

Israel’s violence has destroyed or damaged over 50% of Gaza’s infrastructure. Over 60% of homes and 80% of schools have been damaged or destroyed.

Israel’s violence has displaced around 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people from their homes.

In short, Israel has unleashed catastrophic collective punishment and terror, if not also genocide, on the people of Gaza. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum defines genocide like this: “Genocide is an internationally recognized crime where acts are committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” Judge for yourself.

Gaze Before and After

In the last six months, this is some of what I’ve observed.

First, Joe Biden and the American government repeatedly vetoes calls for ceasefire in Israel’s hellish collective punishment of Gaza. They have given the green light to Israel again and again.

Second, Joe Biden and the American government continues to fund and provide tens of thousands of weapons for Israel’s hellish collective punishment of Gaza. The American tax-payer is being made to bankroll this abhorrent evil.

Third, influential evangelical leaders and platforms, including Christianity Today, have echoed Benjamin Netanyahu and used genocidal verses from the Hebrew Bible to justify the catastrophic violence Israel is perpetrating against Palestinians. We have weaponized ancient dehumanization and ignored Jesus’s teaching to love our neighbor. (I unpack this in greater detail here and here.) We must ask a hard question of ourselves: Is our “high” view of scripture really about scripture or a desire to protect our “right” to dehumanize and devastate others with violent verses that Jesus himself neutralized and reversed?

Fourth, our leaders give moralistic lip service to Israel about protecting Palestinian civilians and investigating atrocities, while Israel has proven for the last six months that it is more than willing to mercilessly slaughter and devastate Palestinians en masse. Would any of us trust the executioner to serve also as the investigator and arbiter if our lives were on the line?

Fifth, our leaders have repeatedly proven that they do not have the courage or character to condemn the atrocious violence of Israel. And thus they have proven again and again that they don’t mind murderous violence; what they mind is who commits it and who suffers it. And what we’ve seen again and again is that they’re enraged if Palestinians commit violence but don’t really care if Palestinians suffer violence. This is an example of explicit moral hypocrisy that indicates racism and dehumanization. It’s the blunt rejection of Jesus’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves. No American would tolerate being treated the way Israel is treating Palestinians.

Sixth, courageous peacemaking organizations like Telos and Jewish Voice for Peace have relentlessly organized and advocated for this hellish violence to end. They do so because they believe that both Israeli and Palestinian people are made in God’s image and are precious in value. To condemn the violence of one is to condemn the violence of the other. To defend the dignity of one is to defend the dignity of the other. (I unpack this unified moral vision here and here.) These organizations are among the few who have resisted grave moral hypocrisy and put their reputations on the line to stand for the mutual security and flourishing of all Israelis and Palestinians.

Lastly, Jesus said that our eternal destiny rests on how we respond to six kinds of people: the hungry, the thirsty, the unclothed, the outsider, the sick, and the imprisoned (Matthew 25:31-46). As I stop and think about the brief survey above of the devastation that Israel has inflicted on Gaza, it’s as if Jesus was describing almost all of the people of Gaza today. This should come as no surprise because Jesus himself was a victim of systematic violence, even as he actively taught and acted against violence with his command, “Love your enemy” (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:35).

Right now, much of the Christian world is demonstrating that we have little interest in what Jesus commanded. As long as it’s Israel that’s inflicting hunger, thirst, statelessness, homelessness, sickness, and oppression on Palestinians, we can look the other way or actively justify this injustice. From the very beginning, we have refused to face the politically incorrect fact that Israel not only escaped genocide, ancient (in Egypt) and modern (in Europe): Israel as a political entity was founded through genocide (if we take the Bible seriously) and it is shamelessly willing to perpetrate devastating violence still today. This violence cannot be reconciled with the Bible’s teaching that every person is made in God’s image and is our neighbor.

For followers of Jesus, it is long overdue to condemn Israel’s murderous violence for exactly the same reason that we must condemn Hamas’s murderous violence and holding of hostages: every life is made and loved by God. Every person is our neighbor. Perpetrating catastrophic violence in the name of ending violence is sheer madness and doomed to failure. It can only escalate violence and serve as the most effective recruitment and fundraising tool for Hamas and other extremist groups.

Six months into this reprehensible war, I invite you afresh to raise your voice for ceasefire and a political solution to this terrible evil. Over a hundred hostages’ lives are still in danger. Israel is systematically desecrating the image of God in the Palestinian people and risking war throughout the region. Six months is far too long.

For practical steps that you can take to advocate for ceasefire and peace today, kindly see the instructions provided by Telos here

Yours with grief and gratitude,

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