The people of Gaza are not our enemies

Dear coworkers,

We ended last week’s letter with a call for prayer, that Israel and Israel’s friends would turn from the temptation to see all Gazans as the people of Amalek, Israel’s perpetual enemy which according to the Torah should be entirely blotted out. We held up side-by-side the faces of Israeli Avigail and Gazan Naim, who have both lost their homes and families, and asked for redemption for both children, and both peoples:

avigail and naimThere’s been considerable discussion among the Jewish people during this war about the identity of Amalek, for example this article in Mosaic magazine which concludes: No, the Palestinians are not Amalek. Yes, Hamas is. And we shall not forget.

Friends, this is the vital distinction which goes right to the heart of what can keep this war just. And even though there still mixed voices on this point among Israel’s politicians, it was such a relief this week to hear the nation’s most trusted institution, the army, speaking with a clear voice to the people of Gaza as intense fighting resumed:

“The IDF is operating strongly against terror organizations, while making great efforts to differentiate between civilians and terrorists,” the military said in a message to Gazans.

“The people of Gaza are not our enemies. For this reason, as of this morning the IDF is leading controlled and specific evacuations of Gaza residents in order to remove them as much as possible from areas of combat.”

It’s become clear that it was gross deception within Israel’s intelligence community which allowed the October 7 attack to succeed. But Hamas and its sponsors and sympathizers were also deceived into a fundamental mistake.

Their attack against Israel succeeded far beyond their expections, and laid bare the evil in their hearts before all who have eyes to see, even some of their own people in Gaza: ‘They Can Go to Hell and Hide There’–What Gazans really think of Hamas.

Take the example of this wounded elderly man at Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital. When he complained to Al Jazeera last week that Hamas fighters were hiding among the patients—“They can go to hell and hide there,” he said—the reporter immediately turned his back on the man. 

memri

Why not let him talk?

Western media largely goes along with this program. Judging from most reportage out of Gaza, two million Palestinian victims of Hamas tyranny and corruption can name only one oppressor: Israel.

In 2019, brave Gazan youth tried to change all this by waging anti-Hamas street demonstrations under the banner “We Want to Live”—their way of showing that when Hamas dubs all Palestinians “lovers of death,” they lie. But as one protest veteran told us, “The movement was brutally suppressed.” He went on, “We found neither receptivity nor expressions of support from the outside world.”

In Arab lands where terror militias rule, the world should be listening not just to the few who hold a megaphone but also to the many who can only whisper. That is why earlier this year my organization, the Center for Peace Communications, released Whispered in Gaza, a series of testimony from inside the Gaza Strip—and, after October 7, joined hands with The Free Press to launch Voices from Gaza, a video series of perspectives on the current war from the many Gazans who do not support Hamas…

In Episode Six, a resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

A day after scores of civilians died in an Israeli air strike on a market in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, we spoke with an eyewitness to the tragedy. While Hamas and its allies persist in charging that Israel targets innocents, our interviewee explains that Gazans pin their own survival strategy on the understanding that innocents serve Hamas as human shields. 

“To stop Hamas members from walking in our narrow streets,” he explains, “[my neighbors] blocked the streets off with sheet metal, so no one could get in at night.” He goes on, “We know it’s Hamas that makes the problems. They’re the ones who hide among us. . . though it still doesn’t justify killing civilians.”

Which is why even people of faith, with good will toward all, can and must support the eradication of those commited to the murderous Hamas idealogy, which is not the same as the eradication of the people of Gaza. Here’s an outstanding call for moral clarity on this point, from longtime Middle East peacemaker Brian Cox:

brian cox

As one who has been involved in reconciliation for over thirty years in some of the roughest neighborhoods in the world I have come to understand that you cannot reconcile with evil. It must be exposed and defeated.

So how does one determine who or what is evil ? As the old saying goes “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter”. From a faith-based perspective in the Abrahamic tradition evil is clearly defined as a settled opposition to God’s plan and purposes. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament; from Genesis to Revelation there is a consistent revelation that Israel is at the heart of God’s plan and purposes to reconcile the world with God and with one another. This is the meaning of being a light to the nations. This is the meaning of tikkun olam bemalchut shaddai (to heal and repair the world under the dominion of God).  To stand against Israel is to stand in opposition to God’s purposes. This does not mean romanticizing Israelis or agreeing with every policy of the Israeli government. It doesn’t mean loving Israelis and hating the Palestinians. It means aligning oneself and one’s nation in a posture of blessing Israel rather than cursing Israel. In Genesis Chapter 12 verse 3 God says to Abraham in forming the Abrahamic Covenant “He who blesses you I will bless and he who curses you I will curse”. This would mean that to set one’s heart on the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people would be to oppose God’s purposes which is the embodiment of evil.

Hamas in its founding charter made the destruction of Israel its reason de etre.  Its goal is not advocacy for the legitimate needs or rights of the Palestinian people. Its goal is not seeking a two state solution. It is the eradication of Israel. Full stop. This is not a mere talking point or a negotiating position. Sometimes when people tell you who they are you should believe them. This is the case with Hamas. This conflict has exposed them for who they truly are at the core of their being. Hence, seeking coexistence with Hamas should not be the goal but rather visible defeat and destruction.

I say this as one who spent thirteen years working with the senior leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan seeking to persuade them to embrace a different global role as peacemakers, reconcilers and problem solvers. I told them that this would show the world the noble side of Islam. In the course of this time I met and got to know three of the founders of Hamas. We had numerous conversations about how they could make a real difference in the region by loving their enemies..the Israelis. But they were not convinced because they had already given their hearts over to evil.

The concept of Radical Islam is meant to distinguish the global Islamist and Jihadi network from the millions of faithful Muslims who seek to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and embrace God’s culture of love/care/mercy described in Surah 1 of the Quran. The worldview of Radical Islam envisions Islamic supremacy not coexistence. For them Israel doesn’t exist. It is part of Dar-Al-Islam and must be restored to Islamic rule.

Normally reconciliation efforts focus on finding the methods by which people can agree and live together in coexistence. This conflict has revealed clearly that this is not possible. Hamas cannot be managed. It must be defeated and it must be seen to be defeated by the Arab and Muslim world. In the Arab and Muslim world strength is respected and weakness is despised. Visible defeat will finally get the attention of the Muslim world and it will bring about a moral reckoning. And what is that moral reckoning?

The truth is that the Islamist worldview is the most influential worldview in the Muslim world in shaping how people understand and relate to reality. At the swordpoint of the Islamist worldview is hatred of the Jews and Israel. In my experience in most Muslim circles when the subject of Israel comes up it elicits an immediate hostile response…

Ironically, it will be the defeat of Radical Islam that will open the doors in the Muslim world to strategic friendship with Israel. It will reveal the moral bankruptcy of the Islamist worldview that it is steeped in hatred for “the other.” Many in the West speak about a desire to see reformation of Islam and their template is the reformation of Christianity in Europe. For most Muslims this vision of secularization is a nonstarter. Rather for Muslims it will be aligning themselves with Israel and the Jewish people that will be the key to reformation and a reattachment to their Abrahamic roots. Ironically, the defeat of Radical Islam will open the door to this process of reformation…

This moment of moral clarity is the key to the door in the Middle East that has been shut for centuries and is now opening. It is the key to healing the broken family of Abraham and healing the broken family of Abraham is the key to world peace.

This is a unique moment in history in which God is presenting the nations, the church and the Islamic community with the opportunity for moral clarity…to either stand with Israel and God’s purposes or to stand against them. This is the Valley of Decision.

Friends, can we catch hold of the vision that the complete defeat of Hamas could lead to freedom, not destruction, for many of the people of Gaza? If it is to happen, many in Israel, and we Gentile believers who are attached to Israel, must have open hearts and outstretched hands to our neighbors in Gaza and also the wider region (keep in mind this war was launched to block the blooming rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia).

There’s evidence this week it can truly happen, in a video from a leading messianic ministry in Israel:

asher video

Here’s the one hope for peace: the love between Arabs and Jews who have been touched by faith in Yeshua…

We were together this week with almost 90 Arab Christians from all different nations around the Middle East, including Egypt and Jordan and Lebanon and of course here from Israel, Palestinians. And we met together, and we already have peace, we have peace in our hearts, we could make peace in a moment. The peace that we have between Arabs and Jews born again through the love of Yeshua, that’s the solution of peace.

We already have it, we’re not even hoping that can come, it’s already there among us, as we love one another, are willing to give one another, it’s that hope, and that love, and that experience of any racial group–but particularly Arabs and Jew–loving one another through faith in Yeshua. That is the light that is going to come into the world, and spread all over the world, and give people hope.

So let’s remember we are believing for military victory and right political deicisons for our leaders, but let’s remember there’s no ultimate hope in it. The only hope is in the good news. And through the death and rsurrection of Yeshua, Jews and Arabs and blacks and whites and every other racial group can learn to love one another and live in peace, and that is great hope of the coming of the messianic kingdom.

And finally, we had a sweet foretaste of that kingdom right in our own Ashdod community this week. A Jewish believing family heard about Naim, the boy at the start of this letter who lost all his siblings in Gaza, and came to embrace him and his mother with the love of Messiah:

We had a wonderful time yesterday meeting everyone. Our eldest daughter (6.5 years old) especially connected with Naim and they had lots of fun together. Our youngest daughter also wouldn’t stop hugging Naim and he kept giving her kisses on the cheek. What a unique and special boy he is, and his mother as well.

naim mother and girl

Thank you, Jonathan, for your faithfulness in all the Lord has called you to do. It was very meaningful for us to come and share the dinner table with all of those precious mothers (and eat the delicious food they prepared). A small taste of a different story in contrast to the noise of all the other stories being shouted all around us.

Friends, it is real and it can happen. God is at work in and through this war, bringing his kingdom, just as Messiah taught us to pray.

Jonathan for Shevet Achim

“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133).