History impacts the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza

By Esther Fultz

The Israel-Hamas war is everywhere – in the news, on social media, in conversations with coworkers and friends. The devastating impact included more than 1,400 Israelis being killed in the initial attack at the beginning of October, and more than 10,000 Palestinians being killed in Israel’s counterattacks. As Americans watching from the safety of our homes, it is easy to point fingers and assume the blame lies completely on one side. In reality, the complex conflict has a long history, impacting the war in Gaza today.

“Relatively speaking this [initial attack] came from nowhere with very little backdrop compared to previous conflicts,” said Dr. Glenn Duerr, Professor of International Studies. “Having said that, there’s a long, long history of conflicts. Israel occupied Gaza from 1967 to 2005. Then Hamas won the election of 2006, and has been the government since that time, although they refuse to hold another election. Hamas and Israel have been at war in the past in 2008, 2014, and 2021, but there’s usually been some provocation, [such as] some Israeli policy.”

Duerr noted that Israelis and Palestinians get along much better than typically portrayed in the media. Despite what Americans may hear, civilian Israelis and Palestinians have effectively navigated the dynamics of intergroup relations for years. Every day, Palestinians from the West Bank crossed into Israel to work and feed their families. 

However, Hamas is a completely different case. In 2020, leaders across the Middle East signed the Abraham Accords, a peace treaty between Israel and neighboring countries, and recently Saudi Arabia has inched closer to signing the agreement. Hamas attacked while an ongoing summit for the Abraham Accords was held in Jerusalem, aiming to derail Saudi Arabia from signing the treaty.

“Hamas, as the government, provides social services but they are a terrorist organization too,” Duerr said. “Their central goal is to rid Jews from the area.”

The conflict comes down to the question of who has the rights to the desired land, which makes interpreting the situation difficult. While Israel proposed in the past, giving Palestine up to 98% of the land they asked for, Palestinians rejected these treaties, leaving them with no land of their own. 

“Hamas attacked Israel, which is against international law, so Hamas is very wrong,” said Dr. Kim, Assistant Professor of International Studies. “But [Israel’s] revenge will cause greater harm. The UN has recommended that Israel stop attacking Hamas in the Gaza strip so ideally, Israel and Hamas come to negotiation tables putting an end to this senseless war.”

The nature of the densely populated area Israel and Palestine are fighting over exacerbates the consequences of Israel’s attacks.

“Looking at the death tolls is really painful,” Duerr said. “Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, and Hamas hides its headquarters in civilian areas. If Israel does anything, civilians are killed, and that’s the tragedy of it all.”

As believers, it is important to recognize the situation is multifaceted. Viewing one group as simply right or wrong is neither beneficial nor accurate.

“We need to pray for those who are victims on both sides,” Kim said. “If we say Israel is a victim, we should say Palestine is a victim as well. They both are victims of human depravity, victims of not trusting the Lord, victims of human arrogance and trusting human wisdom to solve problems.”

Moving forward is difficult, considering the intricacies of this conflict and the barriers to peace. While the options may be limited, Christians can always pray for Israelis and Palestinians impacted by this conflict, trust the Lord, and consider wise and helpful ways to get involved.

“We trust the Lord,” Kim said. “You believe that God will do his will, even through decisions, and we as Christians should pray for both. The United States still has a role to play. International organizations like the UN, the EU, they could encourage Israel to put an end to this cyclical tragedy.”

The United States can also help create peace by evaluating the ways they interact with both Israel and Palestine.

“There is anti-American sentiment especially from the Arabs perspective,” Kim said. “The United States has been so pro-Israel, and has not used the same standard or criteria to deal with Israel. For instance, North Korea has developed nuclear weapons and the US is a leader in pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Israel [also] has nuclear weapons and at the UN Security Council meetings, it is the United States who keeps supporting Israel at the expense of Palestine.”

Kim also noted that the United States does not officially recognize Palestine as a state, despite the fact that 140 other countries do. If a sufficient number of countries recognize an entity as a state, that entity then becomes eligible for membership in international organizations, such as the United Nations. Currently, Palestine is not an official member of the UN, primarily because the United States does not recognize it as a state or support the idea of it becoming a member of the UN.

Biblically, some specific areas for prayer relevant to the Israel-Hamas war exist.

“We should pray for Matthew 5:9 peacemakers,” Duerr said.  “I think it’s good to have healthy solidarity with Israel given that it’s surrounded by so many historically enemy countries, although there are some Arab governments that have worked really hard and should be given credit for taking brave stances. Psalm 122:6-7 we are called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for security within its towers.

Esther Fultz is a senior Social Work major and the Off Campus Editor for Cedars. When she’s not writing or editing for Cedars she enjoys thrifting, making coffee, exploring new places, and spending time with friends.

4 Replies to "History impacts the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza"

  • comment-avatar
    Tom November 13, 2023 (3:53 pm)

    First, I don’t know if you noticed the article is printed twice. Second, I think this is a very niave and dangerous take on the situation. Creating a moral equivalency between a legitimate state and terrorists who butchered 1,400 Jews is completely wrong. Hamas exists to kill Jews. And many “palestinian” civilians support them. After all, they did vote for them as their government. Hamas took 242 hostages, burned, beheaded and raped Jews, while Israel notifies Gazans ahead of time regarding attacks. And Hamas actually blocks the escape routes for its own people so more will die and they can have “better” death stats. Speaking of which, it’s outrageous to take Hamas’ death claims at face value. There’s zero evidence of significant death figures. Remember the “500 dead from Israel attacking a hospital?” Meanwhile, the top 5 Hamas leaders live in luxury hotel suites in Qatar and are worth between $3-6 billion. There is no way they are a legitimate peace partner. They have said repeatedly that they want to eliminate Israel entirely. There’s no negotiating with that mindset. And to call Israels actions revenge? That is utterly outrageous. Lastly, for some Bible references. The Abrahamic Covenant says God will bless those that bless Israel and curse those that curse it. God would frequently tell the Jews to wipe out a wicked city by killing every single living thing, even animals. The people that Israel is having disputes with today, are descendants of groups that Joshua did not eliminate as God told him. And any reference to the UN is almost comical. They despise Isreal. They issue one resolution after another against Israel, meanwhile nothing against China or the numerous repressive socialist and communist nations. Gazans have had their own autonomous land for 18 years and what have they done with the multi billions in aid they’ve received? Developed their beautiful sea shore? Built schools, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, infrastructure? No, most of it has been stolen by the leadership they elected, and the rest is used for building terror tunnels, rockets and acquiring rifles and RPGs. So while we shouldn’t blindly approve of everything Israel does, there is a clear difference between good and evil playing out here. I think that for westerners to sit back and critique Israel from thousands of miles away, it shows they don’t understand what it’s like to live in country the size of New Jersey surrounded by enemies. I think we may be experiencing the start of the Psalm 83 war which will then lead to Ezekiel 38/39. So again, my overall point is, there is no way we should be creating a moral equivalency between Israel and Hamas.

    • comment-avatar
      Noah December 25, 2023 (5:25 pm)

      Tom, I appreciate what you bring up, and we must keep a few matters in mind. First, neither the author nor the interviewees are saying that Hamas has moral equivalence with Israel. We all agree that Hamas is in the wrong. Second, the Old Testament concept of holy war is no longer valid in the church age. Under the New Covenant, God does not delegate civil government with the authority to wage religious wars. But He does permit governments to wage just wars, in which the population under the enemy’s rule is not to be exterminated. Augustine and Luther would attest to this. This is an important point to remember. If we are not careful, taking this Old Covenant command out of its context can lead to mass murder or ethnic cleansing. Third, Jesus came to save both Jews and Arabs. God loves the Israeli people and the Palestinian people equally. He does not want to see either side killing the other. And His plan for both groups—and all people groups—is to save them from their sin and incorporate them into His kingdom.

  • comment-avatar
    Çift Bileklikleri November 28, 2023 (7:02 pm)

    Thanks for sharing about what God is doing at Cedarville and CUE.


  • comment-avatar
    Noah December 25, 2023 (5:41 pm)

    Another thing–the Palestinians are not descended from groups that God commanded Israel to wipe out. They are of mostly Arab descent. And even if they were descended from the Canaanites or some other condemned group, the command to destroy them has been rescinded. Christ’s death and resurrection have fulfilled the Old Covenant and established the New Covenant in its place.

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