Tuesday, August 12, 2014

No Comparison in Gaza

The real bullet?
The on and off battles between the Palestinians and the Israelis in Gaza has unleashed far more than a deadly rockets.  There has been a torrent of propaganda from both sides.  In one example, a distraught Palestinian shows off a bullet he says killed his son.  The Israelis release a video tape that shows the gun involved only contained rubber bullets and noted that even if a bullet hit the boy, it would have been mashed by the impact and could not look perfect.  

Who’s right?  Probably no one.

To complicate matters even more, commentators representing both sides have opted for absurd comparisons, demeaning both history and themselves in the process.

A Palestinian group insisted that the death of their countrymen somehow equated with the “blood libel” that has been a favorite canard against Jews for centuries.  Someone else compared the battles in Gaza to the events in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising; another claimed that the Israelis are creating another holocaust.

All of that is plain nonsense.

No blood in matzoh
For starters, Jewish law forbids eating blood.  Jews invented humane killing of animals – essentially draining of blood – to avoid transgressing against that biblical injunction.  Miftah, a Palestinian organization founded by a Palestinian politician and funded by European and Western governments, published an article in its newsletter that used the noxious and ridiculous claim that Jews need blood for their ritualistic spring meal.

The reference to a “blood libel” comes from the Middle Ages when Christians accused Jews of needing the blood of children to make matzoh for Passover.  Such a claim was horrific and created simply as an excuse to kill Jews.

Eating Jesus
Ironically, during Communion, Catholics claim to be eating the blood and body of Jesus.  Somehow, Jews were accused of doing something Catholics freely choose to do at every Mass.

The Warsaw Ghetto comparison refers to the four-month uprising that ended in April 1943.  Thousands of Jews had been forced into a ghetto in Warsaw and faced liquidation.  As a result, they used whatever weapons they could find or make and stymied the Nazis for a while.

There’s no comparison to Gaza in any way.  The Palestinians are free to leave. The Egyptian border is open to residents with valid passports.  Palestinians study abroad.  I met one at Embry-Riddle when I taught there.  Some were definitely forced out of the new state of Israel in 1948, but they could have gone anywhere.  They were not required to live in Gaza because of their religion.  There are Muslims in Israel.  There are Christians in Gaza.

Tunnels in Warsaw and in Gaza were cited as a key element of that comparison.

Fighters in Warsaw used sewers
Polish Jews more than70 years ago didn’t build tunnels.  They crawled through existing sewers in a desperate effort to attack the Nazi army.  The Palestinians created dozens of tunnels for only one reason – to infiltrate and to murder.  Hamas could have devoted the manpower and money used to construct tunnels to help residents there to enjoy better lives.  Instead, they have followed a Nazi-like approach – try to kill everyone they hate.

Using the Holocaust in a comparison is even more insidious.  Nazis butchered around 6 million Jews for only one reason – their religion.  They killed everyone who might have one relative who was Jewish, relying on a discredited science called eugenics.  Nothing remotely close has happened in Gaza.  Israel has used blockades to try to stop militants, not poison gas pellets.  

Even the latest bloodshed, Israel distributed flyers in hopes of warning civilians away from targets.
Moreover, despite off-claimed comments to the contrary, Israel doesn’t control Gaza.  Its army pulled out in 2005.  Israeli citizens who had built homes in Gaza were evicted then.  Hamas joined with another political group, Fatah, to set up political control.  Their solution was to build more tunnels and fire more rockets.  As a result, Israel closed the border, an understandable solution practiced by nations worldwide and a proposed answer to the influx of Latin American refugees into this country.

Neither the blockade nor constant rocket attacks are going to end the bloodshed.  Israel and the Palestinians have to reach a political solution, one that involves the rights of all residents to live freely without fear of surprise attacks. 

At a recent Unitarian presentation, I was asked if I thought such a solution was possible.  I said no until both sides have to come to the conclusion that further bloodshed is futile.  Both sides have to look beyond the atrocities of the past to focus on making better lives for everyone in the future.
The end of the war in Northern Ireland

That has happened before in recent memory.  Northern Ireland was convulsed by religion-fueled wars for decades before finally resolving to stop in 2005.  The same accords were reached in the past when warring European countries gave up their battles over Catholic or Protestant faiths.  

Those are comparisons that the warring Israelis and Palestinians should consider and not the outdated arguments that continue to keep them at each others' throats.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1

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