The latest Israeli Defence Force assault on Gaza, in addition to its targeted assassinations against political as well as military opponents, is horrifying and disturbing. It threatens to escalate into yet another cycle of violence and war-making that does nothing for the security of Jews or Arabs, Israelis or Palestinians. It merely reaps death, destruction, hatred and mistrust.
Critical Religion coordinator and Ekklesia associate Dr Michael Marten, from the University of Stirling, has been interviewed by Caitlin Smith for a BBC documentary, picking up on his research on Scottish missions in Palestine. The presenter is Angus Roxburgh.
“How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire,” wrote James two thousand years ago, in a letter read in many churches last Sunday. He warned that “every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.”
Missionaries in Palestine during the period from the First World War until the Israeli declaration of the state and the connected Palestinian Nakba of 1948 were determined, they continually argued, to stay out of the controversy and not take sides, Dr Michael Marten reminds us. But what do concepts of 'neutrality', 'fairness' and 'respect' mean in the midst of conflict, in complex lesions of history and in its writing? Tidiness may be convenient but damaging to both truthfulness and the search for justice.