The Lamentable and Inevitable Israeli-Hamas War

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Mark Wingfield of Baptist News Global has written an analysis of the current war between Israel and Hamas. I am quoted in it along with others who hold shared and different perspectives.

The analogy Ashlee Wiest-Laird shared in Wingfield’s piece is appropriate. Nobody should expect people whose land has been stolen, who’ve been locked in a room of their house, denied basic protections and civil rights, attacked at will by a stronger, US-financed, stocked, and cheered military that is the fourth largest in the world, and whose 75-year plea for justice has been belittled, to decide that fighting their way out of the hellish place they have been forced into is unreasonable.

I wrote a long piece for Baptist News Global in May of this year to mark the 75th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (meaning “catastrophe”) that provides the historical context for the war now being fought by Israeli forces against Hamas militants. Mind you, Israel is a nation-state. Hamas is one militant faction in the Palestinian liberation effort.

Deplore war all we may, eventually people who’ve suffered oppression without satisfactory recourse through peaceful means will embrace violent means to determine their own destiny rather than continue suffering oppression. As President John F. Kennedy said in 1962, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

As someone who has visited the region, who studied political science, served in the US military, and who knows that the US defense and intelligence establishment provides a security guarantee for Israeli land theft, mineral theft, human rights and international law violations, apartheid, and genocide against Palestinians, I know that the Israeli-Hamas war was inevitable. Palestinians have the moral, legal, and political right to not be invaded and terrorized by Israeli settlers. They have the right to conduct their affairs free from Israeli military occupation. And they have the right to defend themselves against US-subsidized and Israeli-perpetrated apartheid and genocide. Only moral, ethical, cultural, and political incompetence prevents people from saying so.

The Hamas offensive also shows that the US-Israeli intelligence and defense community can be out-smarted in 2023 much as the US intelligence and defense establishment was outsmarted and out-maneuvered in 2001. Instead of 19 deadly combatants armed with box cutters, US and Israeli defense and intelligence experts are now clamoring to play catch up to Hamas militants who used paragliders to initiate coordinated air (missile), ground, and naval operations with striking effectiveness against the fourth largest military in the world.

We should deplore the casualties that have occurred and will continue in Gaza, Israel, and across Palestine. Nevertheless, we should also acknowledge that Hamas exposed the folly and moral lunacy of the 75-year US-European-led diplomatic, military, intelligence, and cultural strategy concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rational people understand that when oppression cannot be stopped by non-violent means, people with the ability to fight it violently will eventually decide to do so.

However, the prerogative of moral violence has always been considered the exclusive right of white people. Israel followed the lead of other white imperialists and colonizers since the Western Christian Church established the idolatrous and blasphemous fifteenth-century Doctrine of Discovery. The key difference is that Zionist zealotry, rather than Christian missionary zealotry, is the excuse given for Israeli imperialism and colonialism in Palestine. Israeli Zionist imperialism and colonialism and Euro-American imperialism and colonialism are merely different sides of the same white supremacist hateful faith coin.

Mark Wingfield is correct. Most US media outlets will not cover the Israeli-Hamas war with this historical, ideological, and theological context if they even mention it at all. The Biden administration, like every other US administration since the Truman administration, is following US policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian dispute that has been skewed in favor of Israel and against Palestinians for 75 years. The bitter truth is that we lack the discernment to realize this historical, ideological, and theological foundation for the Israeli-Hamas war.

We also lack the moral and ethical courage to admit these factors. Consequently, we are unable to summon the political will to change our ways. Until these things change, there will be no peace in Israel, Palestine, and Gaza.

Remember: No justice, no peace.

Wendell Griffen is an Arkansas circuit judge and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark.