Jesus once said that if we are faithful in little things, He would make us the ruler over great things (Matthew 25:21). To that end, I want to offer a proposal of one small step towards resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the Holy Land. It’s a little thing that could have great consequences.
This small step toward peace which I am suggesting has to do with a way of overcoming the dire effects of the blockade of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli government and its army. I suggest it is a way people of good will on all sides of this conflict might see as something they can do together.
Presently, we know that any attempts to break the blockade have been stopped by the Israelis because they fear that shipments going into the Gaza Strip from the outside, which they could not control, might provide a means for militant Palestinians and those who sympathize with them to carry war materials into the Gaza Strip. The Israelis are afraid that rockets from countries such as Egypt and Iran could easily be smuggled into the Gaza Strip and lobbed over the wall that separates Gaza from Israel. An end of the blockade might well mean a greater propensity for guns to end up in the hands of terrorists.
There is little question in anyone’s mind that there have been concerted efforts by the pro-Palestinian nations that surround Israel to make weapons available to such terrorist organizations as Hamas. This would encourage and support attacks on the Israelis, whom they have sworn to drive out of the Holy Land.
The blockade, however, has prevented essential medicines, food, and fuel for motor vehicles from getting to the Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government argues that it is not devoid of humanitarian impulses and would be more than willing to sell such essentials and use Israeli vehicles to carry them in to the people in the Gaza Strip. The problem is that the Palestinians living there are extremely poor, and the cost of buying these essentials is so high that they cannot afford to purchase what they need from the State of Israel.
The proposal I am offering here is that Christians, Jews, and Muslims here in the United States raise funds to purchase the food, medicines, and other essentials that those who live in the Gaza Strip require for survival. This joint organization would then buy the desperately needed things from the Israelis and have the Israeli government utilize its own trucks to ship them into the blockaded area. This proposal would create a win-win situation for almost all parties involved in this difficult impasse.
First of all, the Israeli government would be free from the accusation that it is inhumane in keeping essential food and medicine out of the hands of needy Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. The blockade of Gaza has earned the Israelis a very negative image among the rest of the peoples of the world, most of whom view the blockade as an instrument of the Israeli government that makes the Palestinians suffer. This bad image would be somewhat overcome if Israel cooperated in the implementation of this proposal.
Secondly, Christians, Jews, and Muslims working together in such a humanitarian cause would do much to improve the image that many secularists have of religion. With all the evil that has been done in the name of God, a joint effort by the three major world religions could do the reputation of religion in general a lot of good.
Recently, hostility has been growing between Jewish and Christian Zionists and certain Protestant denominations that have condemned the blockade and have called for an embargo on any goods produced by Israeli companies based in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. There even has been a call for divestiture of investments in all Israeli companies as long as the blockade continues.
The Pope, speaking for the Roman Catholic Church, has made pronouncements condemning both the blockade and the illegal settlements in the West Bank. Too often such condemnation ends up being defined as being anti-Semitic. This has harmed interfaith relations. Christian critics of Israel, working along with other Christians, and joined by Jews and Muslims, working to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, would send a strong message about the altruism inherent in each of these groups. Working together, they would actualize the spirit of reconciliation. Zionist groups, both Jewish and Christian, that have been unfairly vilified as being opposed to humanitarian efforts that would benefit the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip would, with these efforts, do much to overcome the negative image they have in some quarters.
Muslims here in the United States would have an opportunity to reach out to their Islamic brothers and sisters who are suffering because of the blockade. Such an effort might even be joined by Muslims of good will in the Arab countries that surround Israel, and contribute to the wellbeing of those presently being victimized by the blockade.
Finally, the people in the Gaza Strip would be blessed by this effort, which might have a very positive effect on the ways in which they relate to all the groups cited above. The most important thing is that these desperately needy people would experience some deliverance from their present suffering.
We all know that the privation suffered by the Palestinians as a result of the Israeli blockade has encouraged terrorists to respond with violence, and made it easy for them to recruit young people for their radical organizations. This proposal might help counteract all of that. Here’s a chance, in the words of Jesus, “To overcome evil with good!”
For those of us who want peace, I suggest that this is one way to put our money where our mouths are.