Image sourced via social media
When David the Bethlehemite went out to meet Goliath of Gath, neither of them could have possibly imagined that 3000 years later the same scenario would still be playing out on the very ground where they fought their famous battle.
It is not my intention to take sides in this human tragedy, there are plenty willing to do that. To be honest there is fault and virtue in both camps. I do realise that by not taking sides I remain open to attack on both flanks. I would, however, rather put more energy into observation than judgement.
Although amongst the youngest of the Baby Boomers, I still grew up in the shadow of WWII and therefore the Holocaust. Western guilt and the justifiable sympathies that it brings are part of my psycho-emotional framework and also the filter through which I strain any and all information on this crisis. However I do note that our children do not experience the same kind of emotional tensions as those of my generation. For me to even think of criticising Israel provokes the significant personal question: Am I being anti-Semitic?
Over many years now I have had both the privilege and pain of listening to the stories of First Nations peoples and one abiding theme continues to deeply affect me. The wounding that is inflicted by being displaced from traditional lands never ever heals. In the creation of the state of Israel, more than 700,000 Palestinian people were displaced. This action inflicted a wound, which to this day continues to be open and raw in the occupied territories. Sadly this kind of displacement can easily lead to the deepest levels of anger and bitterness, making the ground fertile for radicalisation of young men who can be recruited into terrorist activities.
Hamas is a terrorist organisation and if history has taught us anything, it will never achieve its goal. Tragically the realisation of this only comes after much human devastation and an acceptance of the reality that if the objective is to be reached it must be by peaceful means, patiently, over an extended period of time.
Israel now sees itself as ‘David’ surrounded by a great many ‘Goliaths’ and not unlike the original story, is confident in its eventual triumph in the face of overwhelming odds.
When King Saul questions David regarding his credentials to fight the Philistine, he claims to have triumphed over both a lion and a bear. This part of the story is pure propaganda. Written in hindsight, as all political mythologies inevitably are, it is designed to portray the by then King David as a leader who has the strength to overcome neighbouring nations represented by those beasts of prey: probably Babylon and Assyria. They could just as easily be equated with modern day Iran, Egypt and Russian-backed Syria. The requirements for political power in today’s Israel are no different to those in the era of its ancient founder.
Interestingly David and Goliath are ‘champions’ — they are the surrogates of war. If wars have to be fought it’s not a bad system. Two warriors fight to the death, winner takes all, only one casualty, hundreds perhaps thousands of lives saved. The only trouble is that the loser will rarely accept the verdict. Vicarious wars do not seem to produce a lasting outcome, but perhaps it’s distractions rather than outcomes that they are designed to produce.
Just as David and Goliath were surrogates vicariously fighting a war for their masters, so also are Israel and Hamas. The five smooth stones that David chose for his encounter with Goliath are now taken from the stream of the American war machine. Goliath’s staff is supplied by Iran and other Arab states. This is a war fought vicariously between the United States and the Oil States. There is no prospect of peace until this reality is dealt with.
Most wars are, quite erroneously, blamed on religion; wars are always about real estate and the power that comes from possessing it. Israel cannot be entirely equated with Judaism nor is Hamas synonymous with Islam, however the religious origins and implications of this conflict cannot be denied. Israel’s motivation, at least originally, came from a belief that the land is a God given right. That belief is perhaps no longer central to the Israeli mindset, but nonetheless still provides a mythological foundation for a national identity.
Some ultra-conservative Christians in America believe that the second coming of Jesus is dependent on the existence of Israel, and are prepared to invest an extraordinary amount of money in its survival. One of Islam’s holiest sites is on the Temple Mount sharing space with Judaism’s most sacred place. For reasons that are far too complex for exploration here, militant Islam sees, at least in part, its raison d’être in the crushing of Israel. This is a volatile mix, easily manipulated by those who have no regard for the human beings involved.
In less than a dozen years America will have a Generation X president who has not grown up in the shadow of the Holocaust. How this will affect American policies with regard to Israel remains to be seen, but the West’s need to protect Israel at all cost is beginning to recede. This will, in the fullness of time require a rethinking for Israel of how it responds to the very real threats that the nation is presented with.
Israel is in danger of losing the support of the West. The day will come, and sooner than we may think, when we no longer need to fight symbolic wars over fossil fuels. The constant supply of smooth stones will become unjustifiably expensive. Perhaps by then, Goliath’s backers will be too busy working out how to live in a new paradigm to notice that David stands alone and undefended.
Then and only then will Jacob and Ishmael be able to pray together on the Temple Mount. Perhaps then there will be a holy peace in the Holy Land.