Holy terror

*Note: this post reflects my own evaluation of the recent violence in the Middle East. I have no intention to offend either side of the fight, nor pledge support to one or the other. The only movement I stand by is nonviolent negotiation.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the recent cease-fire established in Gaza. Thanks to our wonderfully clever and intelligent Secretary of State, the violence has come to a halt. But I know that this isn’t the end. It is only a temporary lull in the ongoing war between Israel and Palestine.

This whole debacle deeply upsets me and has challenged my thinking about religion and conflict. It disturbs me how easily people can take sides in a situation where the arguments of both sides are clear and arguably valid. The violence and destruction affecting both sides is also evident – yet somehow the lives of one group are more valuable than the other. The reality is that many innocent civilians are being killed on both sides of the fight and this is murder no matter how you toss it.

As a born and raised Jew, I regret to say that I am embarrassed and ashamed by the reaction of the Jewish community in response to the current violence that has been taking place. I understand the determination to stand by Israel no matter what, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right to demonize and marginalize your “enemies,” many of whom are actually Jewish as well. Palestinians are dehumanized to the point that violence against them is not only justified but encouraged. This is usually how it goes in war, of course. But it is particularly disturbing that the Jewish population would support this “mini-genocide”, considering the past persecution Jews have endured. It is yet another example of history repeating itself due to our apparent inability to learn from our past mistakes.

The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is deeply rooted, and for good reason. Both sides have valid reasons for being upset. Palestinians were displaced from their homeland by the creation of the Jewish state. Israelis and  many Jews across the world feel strongly about the need  for this Jewish state – a place of refuge for the Jewish people. The problem is the way by which the land was split and the state of Israel established. Without respect to ethnic boundaries, native people are bound to be upset.

But eventually it becomes absurd to keep fighting over a tiny parcel of land. We need to ask ourselves if this is really worth it. Is the violence, the pain, and the destruction worth claiming a piece of land?

While some people will say yes, the obvious answer in my mind is no. While I understand the desire for a Jewish homeland, I don’t believe that this violence is what God intended. Not any God that I want to believe in, at least. Jews can be Jewish with or without Israel – faith does not rely upon ownership of a specific location.

It truly pains me to witness this terrible conflict and realize that it is deeply rooted in religion. Or more accurately, difference in religion. Religion is supposed to be about instilling moral values, not about never-ending war and destruction. The intense disconnect between Jews, Christians, and Muslims is highly toxic and has dangerous implications, as we have already seen. The basic ideologies of these three religions are not that different – so why is it that the divide between them must be so concrete?

This leads me to my main issue with religion. Every religious movement believes that their way is the only way – the only right way. But this means that either only one of them is correct or that all of them are false. While there is no solid evidence against the existence of God, there are certainly few clues to determine which religion is “true” and which are not. This is explained by faith, the instilled belief/hope that there does exist a higher power. Unfortunately, this is not good enough for me. No faith is great enough to allow me to justify the terror in the Middle East, whether or not I’m Jewish.

It is clear that this conflict is not going away anytime soon. It is escalating rather than subsiding. As long as both sides refuse to compromise the violence will continue. So I must pose the question: When will it stop? When will we realize what we’ve done? Will it take the complete extermination of Palestinians, or will we come to our senses before the worst?

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