What Would Jesus Do in Palestine?
It was 3 a.m. when they came barreling into town -- Israeli jeeps and tanks preempting the dawn and hollering menacing messages over their loudspeakers. 'Wake up you Arab dogs,' they would exclaim as our team gathered to prepare our nonviolent direct response to the impending threat of violence. What do we do? Planning a course of action as a member of the International Solidarity Movement entails its own process, one that doesn't always dovetail with the ethos of being a member of the body of Christ. For those of us who have been led to Palestine by our love for Jesus, for God, and for humanity, we inexorably find ourselves asking, like Christoper Dickey in his article in Newsweek, what would Jesus do in Palestine? As followers of Jesus, our answer is crafted from the loving words and actions of the Good Shepherd who is both Jewish and Palestinian.
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Side by side with self-proclaimed atheist anarchists, I found myself at times unnerved by the cavalier attitude of tank-chasers and the hostility of those who sought to provoke violence for the sake of their own aggrandizement. This is not to devalue or dismiss the legitimacy of others' motivations for being there but to honestly convey my own perception of existing ranks within the organization. In fact, it was on this day that despite the disparity in our spiritual and political motivations, we were able to act in concert for the betterment of the Palestinian people. Why? Because we let love be our guide. We assessed the situation and determined that our highest priorities were the humanitarian concerns of those Palestinians who were unable to access food and essential provisions because of the curfew. The team member in charge of facilitating communication was an Israeli-Jew fluent in Hebrew and English. In all humility, he put himself in harm's way on behalf of people he never met because he believed that those who shared his religion and ethnicity were perpetuating a grave injustice. To me, this is what Jesus did during His time, and this is what Jesus would do today.
A nonviolent revolution is well underway in Palestine -- one in which native Palestinians protest, boycott, and divest alongside Israeli and international partners. We strive for the end of military occupation, an end to the appropriation and destruction of Palestinian land, an end to the bloodshed, and we strive for adherence to international law. Yet for all this to happen one very important thing must happen. Israeli Jews and Arab Palestinians must come to love and respect each other. I heard Palestinians tell me that the conflict will only end when the Jews were pushed into the sea and obliterated. I saw firsthand how ruthless Israeli Jews and settlers could be towards Palestinians. This is why I believe that recent efforts like those of B'Tselem are on target to address the conflict at its roots; such efforts are aimed at creating understanding, respect, and tolerance among those at war with each other. The conflict must be transformed by building bridges that showcase culture, through dialogue, by sharing hopes, dreams, tears, and aspirations.
In short, Jews and Arabs must fall in love with each other. Barriers and walls, rockets, and arbitrary detentions only dash the hopes of a lasting peace built on a foundation of respect for mutual security. Palestinians must continue to tell their stories, for the very right to tell their own history is under threat. In the midst of such an asymmetrical conflict, we must stand in solidarity with those who are in jeopardy of losing it all. And like Jesus, one who perfectly embodies a Jewish-Palestinian identity, we must call into unity and awareness all who are blinded by hate, power, and greed. We can and will do this with the simplicity of our impartial loving concern.
Stephen Flohr is a peace activist and member of the International Solidarity Movement. He is a contributor to the Waging Nonviolence blog, where this post first ran, and currently serves as a missionary with LAMP Ministries in New York City.