Gaza and the Power of Hate

There is a lull in the fighting in Gaza, apparently. Let’s hope it turns into a long-term peace.   But every shell that exploded, every building that crumbled, every person who died on both sides fuels the hatred that powers the next round of attacks.   The desire for revenge must be increasing exponentially all through the Muslim world with every bloody report from Gaza. Maybe that’s what Hamas really wanted.

The image that comes to mind is of two antagonists on the edge of a cliff, their hands gripping each others’ throats, jockeying for advantage as they inch toward the precipice where they will both plunge to their deaths still locked in each others’ arms. To complete the image though, as they fall they’re going to grab at the crowd of bystanders who have been watching the struggle, and pull them down into the abyss with them.   Those bystanders are the countries of the Western world.

Christians have seen where this culture of hate takes us. Martin Luther was not just a reformer, he was a hatemonger. He railed against the Pope and against everyone else who didn’t agree with him, consigning them all to the fires of hell.   He even raged against Reason, calling it “the Devil’s greatest whore.” Calvin and other reformers of the period were likewise filled with hate, and did not hesitate to shed blood to rid themselves of those they saw as heretics.  In one of the most famous cases, Servetus was burned at the stake in Calvin’s Geneva for, among other things, criticizing the practice of infant baptism. The Catholic Church stoked the fires of hate in return and the ensuing religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries destroyed much of Central Europe. This is where we’re heading in Iraq, Syria, and everywhere else where there is a religious fault line. In Gaza it’s already happened.

For Palestinians the hate does not arise from religious doctrine, it’s a question of justice: who has the right to the land? But hate is hate.   How do we get beyond it and bring this conflict to an end?  That would involve one of three things:

1) Hamas wins and wipes out the state of Israel as its charter proclaims it wants to do

2) Israel gets rid of all the Muslims in the Middle East

3) Each side compromises and gives the other something of what it wants

There can be no doubt that the extremists among the Palestinians and the extremists among the Israelis will not agree to any compromises. If there were a compromise of any kind, there are those on both sides who would start setting off bombs to undermine the deal. That’s a given unfortunately because so much hate has been sown in the region.   But the middle has to take over. Despite what Luther said, Reason has to come into play and the extremists have to be taken on by each side’s moderates.

Perhaps one way to do this is to concentrate on children. If they could figure out a way to come together to nurture children on both sides of all the fault lines in healthy ways, then this would be taking a big step forward. This would mean among other things, that teaching children to hate would be taboo. A tall order. But at least could both sides agree to censor any state-sponsored hatemongering to children? There are TV shows being broadcast to Palestinian children extolling martyrdom and a hatred of Israelis. On Aug. 1 Hamas TV proclaimed that every Muslim mother “must nurse her children on hatred of the sons of Zion”   (Palestinian Media Watch).   In the Israeli settlements the dehumanizing of Palestinians is common practice (

Children are sacred.   If we don’t start with the children, it will only end in more death.  And that, alas, is another way for people to bridge their differences. Here’s a link to a site where the two sides have come together. Not to hate, but to grieve.

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