We unequivocally condemn the horrific attack by Hamas militants against Israeli civilians on Saturday, October 7. There is no excuse for such barbaric violence. It is indefensible. That said, this violence didn’t come out of nowhere. It was a response to the grievous history of Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people that has gone on for 75 years. This is not to justify it, but to understand it. And to realize that if we want the guns to fall silent, and the bombs to stop; if we want every Israeli and Palestinian life to be safe, we must address the root of the violence.
We also unequivocally condemn Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and total siege of the Gaza Strip, cutting off all electricity, food, water, and medical supplies. It is a crime against humanity, and there is no excuse for such barbaric violence. The United States’ greenlighting of Israel’s genocidal violence is indefensible. It is opening the gates of hell, and must be stopped immediately. Every human life is precious, and we mourn the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians caused by these tragic cycles of violence and retaliation, and call for an immediate ceasefire.
What is needed now more than ever is not more bloodshed and destruction, but a shared determination to pursue a different direction: address the root causes of the violence, and seek pathways to a just peace based on freedom, security, and equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians. War is not the answer.
- The Palestinian people have endured a century-long war against their humanity and dignity. A settler-colonial project originating from Europe has systematically denied their basic human rights to live peacefully in their homeland with dignity and self-determination. Israel engages in ongoing ethnic cleansing, dispossesses them of their lands, demolishes their homes, deprives them of their livelihoods, occupies and annexes them, imprisons and tortures those who resist occupation, denies them access to their holy places, beats Ramadan worshipers in Al Aqsa Mosque, imposes a brutal 16-yr. siege on Gaza, confines 2 million people in an open-air prison in impossible living conditions, and unleashes periodic bombardments slaughtering over 5,000 Palestinians, including 1,206 children. These longstanding conditions create a tinderbox ready to explode. These abuses are entrenched by the $4 billion/yr. in military aid the United States sends to Israel. Our taxes underwrite these systematic violations of human rights, in violation of American law. We are complicit in this injustice.
- International law guarantees the right of occupied people to resist their occupation, including armed resistance. There are countless historical examples: Jews utilized armed resistance in the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucids, Native Americans used it against European invaders, American colonists used it against the British Empire, Algerians used it against French colonizers, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was violent. Each of these situations is unique, but we contend the Hamas attack, horrible and shocking as it was to many, must be understood in this broader context – Palestinian freedom fighters using armed resistance to attempt to throw off their Israeli colonizers.
- The demonizing of Palestinian freedom fighters as “terrorists” delegitimizes their struggle for freedom, dignity, and equal rights. It makes us blind to the underlying context and their motivations. Hamas’ attack was gruesome and indefensible, but it was not nihilistic violence, destruction for destruction’s sake. Hamas’ attack was calculated to send a message to Israel: stop your cruel aggression toward our people, free the 5000+ Palestinian resisters in your prisons, restrain rampaging settlers in the West Bank, lift the savage siege of Gaza. It also sent Israel the message that we will fight back, and you cannot crush our desire to live free in our own land, or erase us; we will not accept the normalization of our suffering.
We recognize that it is not our place to lecture the Palestinian people on how to wage their struggle for liberation. We have no idea what it is like to live under military occupation for 56 years, or under siege in an open-air prison for 16 years, to be bombed repeatedly, to witness your family members maimed or murdered, to have no job or prospects, to subsist in misery with no end in sight. If these were the conditions of our existence, what could that rage and despair lead us to do?
That said, it is tragic to see both Hamas and Israel doubling down on a delusional strategy. Trying to stop terrible violence by inflicting terrible violence does not work. Violence begets violence. The spiral of violence only hardens hearts and leaves a legacy of trauma, hatred, and a thirst for vengeance. Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us that “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Nonviolence is the only way to fight for justice without destroying the other.
To repeat, there is a win-win option: seek pathways to a just peace based on freedom, security, and equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians in complete and equal measure.
Rev. J. Mark Davidson, Exec. Director, (919) 265-4203
Dr. Burhan Ghanayem, Chair, Board of Directors (919) 618-2865