Where were my tears for the Middle-East victims?

Muslims, Christians, Jihad, Palestine, Peace, Death, Life, Forgiveness, Reconciliation

Since the last massive attack on Gaza by Israel in 2014, I have been very conflicted as an Israel-loving believer: I found that I was rationalizing a true massacre happening across the world from Canada, into an eschatological biblical frame that had been part of the Christian narrative for as long as I remember. Then I saw the images, I heard the cries, I stood in disbelief that I could have fragmented at this point.

brother and sisterI prayed that my eyes would be opened, and my heart to be softened toward the poor in this world, both those in our midst (look around) and those knocking on our doors (look abroad). I longed for the Spirit of Jesus to infuse me with His light and with His peace, so that I would not fear fear itself, but receive and give His peace, for He doesn’t give peace like the world does (through force, violence, bribe or compromise).

Compassion toward the Jewish people has never wavered in me. But something else had taken place with it, an uneasy blanket acceptance of any and all acts of violence committed toward the Palestinians for decades. Only recently have I started to understand the tragedy that was developing inside my heart and mind – I was seeing people as symbols, not as human beings. Tragically, that is something I had been priding myself of not doing, yet here I am…

So I started watching, listening, really trying to see things from the population’s perspective, rather than FOX, CNN, Al Jazeera, Hamas, Abou Mazen, etc. Certainly there has been much criticism toward Israel, but mainly in a right and wrong paradigm. However there is more to the situation than we could ever dream to partition correctly. I needed to plunge into the human experience, something impossible to do myself, but I could listen to others who had.

The media has been insisting on shaping our minds about the events happening in the Middle-East in a way that suggest every next Muslim is a suicide-bomber in waiting. We have been bombarded by revolting presentations pointing the finger at the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, etc. I have posted many of these on my Facebook wall over the years. It is true that these all committed atrocious acts, motivated by intense inner propaganda and inconceivable levels of mind-numbing determination in eradicating the state of Israel. And mind-numbed they are.

But it is also true that there are extremists in Israel who cause the majority of the grief to Palestinians who have nothing to do with the military groups inside Gaza or the West Bank. Many settlers, in particular, are forming the front horns of a push against the Palestinian population, bullying them, attacking their homes, expropriating them, destroying orchards and farmed lands, in order to level the place to build new habitations that will be occupied by settlers. With the help of their government, and under the protection of the IDF.

There are so many things shared right there online (YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, etc) for all to consult and make up our own minds, people really want their stories to be known. You should hear, and you should see and realize how much most Palestinians only want to live in peace with Israelis, Christians, Arabs, Muslims, etc. You should be aware of the reality of checkpoints within their own borders, let alone between the West Bank and the rest of Israel.You should see some of the maps that are now sold where the towns of Bethlehem and Ramallah are not even marked anymore, and where it is difficult to discern the border between the West Bank and the rest of Israel. Why? Young men are rounded up, abducted/arrested at night by the IDF, taken away blindfolded, and for reasons that may or may not have anything to do with them. And the list of aggressions goes on.

Is Israel hoping to deter terrorism by these methods (could be debated), or is Israel expressing their own sense of vulnerability, still, needing to be surrounded by such power against a neighbour so weak (Operation PROTECTIVE EDGE could be a clue)? As long as Israel’s government will continue to allow and support this systematic campaign of land grab and expulsions, Israel will continue being victimized by retaliatory actions, being vilified for good reasons. This does not absolve the Palestinian Authority of any crime they commit against their own people, inciting to murder, brain-washing their children, diverting billions of dollars in humanitarian aid to feed a killing machine that is preparing its next move, instead of rebuilding towns and cities and infra-structures.But what good would it do, one could ask – since Israel is also preparing to bomb the heck out of the Palestinians, while their leaders are living ‘la vida loca’ in Qatar, or elsewhere, away from the destruction? As Christians, we need to be able to speak to Israel with love, and with truth, and not cross the line of our consciences for hopes of future kingdoms, to end us desensitized.

Instead of trying to find who started the battle, can we just freeze-frame for a moment and not fall prey to shallow apocalyptic rhetoric coming from dominionist Christian teachers and preachers who would like for us to stand with Israel even when Israel commits war crimes – explaining these away as legitimate self-defence? I don’t know about you, but I see the same well-manicured campaigns of fear and hatred being trumpeted (forgive the pun) with regards to refugees.

There have been many dissenting voices from with the Israeli government and various NGOs and human rights organizations. Suddenly, extrapolating from a distance (what else can we do with the information that is fed to us via the main media, right?) the loudest voices from the Christian Evangelical community are blurring the line between Syrian refugees – Muslims or Christians – and ISIS. But upon even the most cursory analysis, one can see how we are being whipped by fear and hatred of our neighbour (whom Jesus commands us to love as ourselves).

My brain was about to explode! I have been on the verge of tears for two days now, as reality sets in more and more. And I will no longer identify myself as a Christian if it means that people will expect me to join them in hatred, vengeance, or worse: PRE-EMPTIVE war in countries anybody with fingers can Google, and discover it has little to do with ideology or religion, but with territories full of oil or other precious natural resources.

This does not make me anti-Semitic. I do not hate Jews. I have been learning a lot by having my own camouflaged bigotry exposed, my difficulty to forgive well, and finding in me a clenched fist and a clenched heart, rather than a generous and trusting openness toward those who ask.

Please take the time to listen to the voices coming from Syria, Palestine, Israel – seek them – who advocate love and reconciliation, forgiveness and charity, whether they are Muslim, agnostic, Jewish, Christian or other. NGOs are actively bridging the gap, lending a hand, giving support and resources, engaged in bringing some measure of healing and recovery to children already scarred for life, mothers who have lost too many sons and daughters, and men rendered homeless, with a mixture of maiming of the bodies and the souls.

Lately, I feel like my whole being is transitioning into a new spiritual reality as a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, and I don’t possess any moral high ground giving me the right to judge anyone harshly. It is a journey we all must take individually, and I do hope I will stay the course, as I hope and pray you will feel compelled to explore these issues in light of Jesus commandments to us.

When I remember the martyrs who already died for their faith at the hand of ISIS, I seem to find new light getting closer to the simplicity of the Gospel, and it is moving the anguish I was carrying, from my mind into my heart, where it suddenly weighs less, and where the light and hope of the Spirit of God seems to act as kryptonite to the darkness that was squeezing my soul.

Lord Jesus-Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Grace and peace,

Andre Lefebvre