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.