Monday, January 20, 2014

"Balance" and the Israeli Occupation of Palestine

I wrote the following as part of my ELCA Peace Not Walls leadership training trip to Jordan and the Holy Land after coming back from occupied Hebron and the South Hebron hills a few days ago. The intention of the trip is to prepare for leading future groups of young adults to the Holy Land while working for a just end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. You can find the writings of my fellow pilgrims on our trip blog here. I hope you enjoy the post, and please provide feedback if you're able! - Dustin

Whenever I engage folks back home in the states in discussion about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the word 'balance' always seems to come into the conversation. "The conflict is complicated," folks say, "we're not experts so we should be balanced in our approach." Today as I experienced the abandoned central streets and massive military presence in Hebron that Israeli settlers have termed 'liberation," today as I heard the story of Palestinian villagers in the South Hebron hills having their bread oven, their main source food being destroyed by settlers again and again despite multiple Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, today as I heard a former IDF soldier breaking the silence about how military strategy is regularly break into random homes and detain Palestinians for up to 90 days without giving them access to a lawyer in order to "make their presence felt," I can't but cry out in anguish about what "balance" could possibly look like in such a dire situation.

Can one achieve balance in the collection of information, engaging all sides and narratives in assessing a situation? Yes, absolutely. A balanced assessment is the only way to credibly engage in advocacy. Yet at some point, balance becomes at best a hindrance and at worst an excuse for inaction. In the face of such a starkly clear situation of overwhelming oppression of the Palestinian people, to be "balanced" in one's prophetic proclamation and to neglect radical non-violent action simply proves unethical. I am not Pro-Palestinian. I am not pro-Israeli. But as a person of faith, as a Christian, I am pro-peace, I am pro-justice and I am pro-recognizing the face of Christ in all those crushed by overwhelming oppression. Perhaps there is a type of balance in that. But to be balanced or moderate in proclaiming that God's heart is breaking under this brutal occupation as my heart breaks as well? No, that is not possible.

Dustin is currently in his final year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, having recently completed a year as Vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in New York City. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

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