It’s Friday: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter have passed; Passover approaches; in the distance Ramadan beckons.
In such a world sacred and secular struggle in tension to find balance, to reconcile visions of the Beginning and of the End, visions of the created and the uncreated.
The struggle to serve the Beloved — to live generously through love in service and forgiveness, in dialogue with each other — and with The Other — to gain traction in a world where there’re more questions than answers sometimes seems insurmountable.
Yet, we struggle still, because it matters.
It’s what we’re called upon to do.
This spring it’s been too easy to ignore the beauty of crocuses and daffodils struggling to turn toward the light through new fissures in dark thawing earth. Too easy to be deaf to the Beloved cautioning us: listen, be attentive, act.
Too easy to be deaf to cries for dignity, justice, freedom.
And most Americans, during this season of holiness, overlaid as it’s been with the vulgarities of demagogues appealing to our lowest common denominator, have been ignoring the outside world — perhaps to our peril.
Since October, after 49 years of Israel’s continued illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza that’s often been marked by violence and terror, a new violent cycle has erupted: the “knife intifada” — the attempted stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians who know with great certainty that to attack an Israeli is to die. Yet, after years of continued subjugation and humiliation, after having Palestinian land seized for illegal colonies, home demolitions, administrative detentions, roadblocks, land seizures and the Wall, another uprising was inevitable and this may be it.
Since October, more than 200 Palestinians have been shot dead by the Israeli Defense Forces, by police, or by colonists illegally occupying Palestinian land. Most of the deaths came after the Palestinians had attacked, attempted to attack or were accused of attacking Israelis, usually with knives. During the same period, about 30 Israelis have been killed.
Neither side has learned might can’t make right.
While no one argues that Israeli government forces shouldn’t do whatever’s necessary to protect its civilian population from terrorist attacks, many international human rights organization, including B’Tselem, an Israeli NGO, have condemned Israeli forces for indiscriminately opening fire on Palestinians who appeared to pose no imminent danger, including those already disarmed.
The most recent, and provocative of “extrajudicial executions” happened in Hebron on Maundy Thursday, when two 21-year-old Palestinians, Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif and Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, stabbed an Israeli soldier, wounding him.
Al-Qasrawi was killed immediately. Al-Sharif was wounded badly and, after laying on the ground for several minutes without receiving any medical attention, was coldly executed. IDF soldier Elor Azraya, even as he was being filmed, walked up to the barely-moving figure, cocked his gun, and shot al-Sharif in the head.
All in a land called holy.
“How come he cannot recognize his own cruelty now turned against him,” Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in his introduction to Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth”? “How come he can’t see his own savagery as a colonist in the savagery of these oppressed peasants who have absorbed it through every pore and for which they can find no cure? … he is convinced that the domestication of the ‘inferior races’ is obtained by governing their reflexes. He disregards the human memory, the indelible reminders; and then, above all, there is this that perhaps he never know: we only become what we are by radically negating deep down what others have done to us.”
For Israel the occupation and subjugation of another people denies the dream and promises of its founders.
At the recent gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a right-wing pro-Israel lobbying group, candidates Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Hillary Clinton fell over themselves trying to outdo each other with their militaristic, chauvinistic support for Israel. If any one of them is elected president, we can be assured that the path of peace in the Middle East, which passes through Jerusalem, will continue to be stained with blood.
Throughout the Middle East wars, revolts and terrorism continue to challenge our security and comfort. Unless we’re prepared to accept the intersectionality of all these upheavals, from Pakistan and Brussels to Hebron, Raqqa, San Bernardino, Ferguson and Baltimore — and demand those running for office articulate a sophisticated vision for confronting these crises — we’ll neither be comfortable nor secure.
“Peace has to mean security for every Israeli from violence and terrorism. But peace also means security for every Palestinian,” Bernie Sanders courageously said in a statement he sent to AIPAC. “It means achieving self-determination, civil rights and economic well-being for the Palestinian people.”
That’s what we’re called to do.
Those are the truths we must recognize: self-determination, civil rights and economic well-being are inalienable rights for all peoples that cannot be suppressed by dictators or demagogues.
“For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete,” wrote Fanon, “is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.”
The Beloved’s message of love, mercy and forgiveness isn’t an allegorical spoil for victors to claim. It’s what protects the dignity and shields the weak, the oppressed and the vulnerable — those who have lost their way, those who struggle to return.
This column was published in the Keene Sentinel