G is for genocide in Gaza

We should never be OK with children dying from starvation, not because of drought or famine, but because of a man-made catastrophe! Because of the Empire.

Apr 26, 2024

By Anil Netto
At what point does the Israeli assault in Gaza become a genocide? After the first 1,000 deaths? 10,000? 100,000? A million? Is it a game of numbers?

Do we have to wait until the death toll climbs higher before the world acts to stop the genocide?

The Iranian retaliation against Israel on the night of April 13 for the latter’s strike on the Iranian Embassy in Damascus on April 1 was a worrying development. But it diverted global attention from the killing fields of Gaza and the repression in the West Bank.

No one was killed in Israel during the Iranian drone-and-missile retaliation. But the ongoing Israeli onslaught killed even more people in Gaza on that same weekend of April 13-14.

We don’t have to wait for even more deaths to call it a genocide. The International Court of Justice ruled on January 26 that there was already a case of plausible genocide in Gaza. The decision by a 15-2 majority was not even close. Even the president of the court, a judge from the US (a close ally of Israel), was one of the 15.

But the ICJ ruling and global protests have not stopped Israel, backed by the US and its Western allies, from pursuing the genocide.

After World War Two, many looked critically at the Church to see what position it took when the Holocaust was ongoing, when millions of Jews were killed.

Similarly, history will again scrutinise the position of the Church and how it is responding to the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Several modern-day prophetic voices have already spoken up to say enough is enough.

These voices come from the periphery, just as Jesus spoke on the periphery of the Roman Empire or when Francis emerged from the periphery (Argentina) to try and reform the global Church.

Today, one of the loudest voices from the periphery is Munther Isaac, a pastor from the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem. The town of Jesus’ birth lies in Palestinian territory, which is now under suffocating Israeli occupation.

The pastor has highlighted the plight of Palestinian Christians, who are forgotten by the Christian Zionists who unquestioningly support Israel.

At the Easter Vigil for Gaza in Bethlehem, the Munther railed against the genocide in Gaza: “Friends, a genocide has been normalised. As people of faith, if we truly claim to follow a crucified saviour, we can never be OK with this. We should never accept the normalisation of a genocide," he said.

“We should never be OK with children dying from starvation, not because of drought or famine, but because of a man-made catastrophe! Because of the Empire.”

Munther said the genocide has been “normalised” just as apartheid was normalised in Palestine and, before that, in South Africa — just as slavery and the caste system were normalised.

“It has been firmly established to us that the leaders of the superpowers, and those who benefit from this modern colonialism, do not look at us as equals. They created a narrative to normalise genocide. They have a theology for it.

“This is racism at its worst,” he added.

Munther also took issue with many Church leaders who turned silent, like Peter, who watched from a distance as Jesus was arrested.

He said many in the Church today lack courage: “They know the truth. But they are not speaking the truth, because they fear the consequences. They fear the backlash! Many in the Church want to avoid controversy. Can you imagine if Jesus walked on earth avoiding controversy?

“All of this while claiming to follow a crucified saviour, who sacrificed everything, endured pain and rejection for the sake of those He loved!”

Sadly, during this time, another prophetic voice in the Church breathed his last. The auxiliary bishop emeritus of Detroit, Thomas Gumbleton, passed away on 4 April. He was 94.

Gumbleton was yet another modernday prophetic voice on the periphery of the Church who spoke out strongly against the wars of the Empire.

In 2003, he was even arrested along with other protesters for violating a ban on large demonstrations against the illegal US invasion of Iraq that year. The war had been launched on the pretext that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction — which turned out to be a blatant lie.

Steeped in the thinking of the Second Vatican Council, Gumbleton strongly believed in the preferential option of the poor.

Or in the words of the Beatitudes, that the meek would inherit the Earth.

Sometimes we sanitise or neglect Christian teachings to remove the inherent power of the Scriptures.

So, we regard Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a model of Christian piety and obedience. But then, we somehow overlook the power of her words in the Magnificat:

He has used the power of His arm, He has routed the arrogant of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly.
He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty.

One key reason for the reticence in speaking out against the genocide Gaza is that Christians are usually raised thinking that the people of Israel are the “chosen ones”. So, “we should support Israel”.

But we forget that the chosen people in Scriptures were called to live up to a higher standard of ethical and moral conduct. God’s covenant with Israel was not a one-way street.

Being chosen was not about “race” or ethnicity. Rather, it was a calling to live up to God’s standard of justice, compassion, mercy and tender love, even for the strangers in the land. These are the same hallmarks of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed.

The land belongs to God. And the people are called to justice and compassion. Indeed, the word shalom (peace) may be regarded as the experience of (God’s) justice and love.

What the modern state of Israel is doing today has strayed so far from what God expects. Oppression, occupation, genocide are not His way. In the days of old, the Lord would send prophets to remind the people to return to His path of Truth and Justice.

Today, let’s discern the modern-day prophetic voices on the periphery calling for an end to the ongoing violence.

So let’s loudly and unequivocally shout: “Stop the genocide!”

(Anil Netto is a freelance writer and activist based in Penang. He believes we are all called to build the kingdom of God in this world.)

Total Comments:0