One year ago this week, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) began their attack on the tiny and overcrowded territory of Gaza, with a massive artillery bombardment and airstrikes, supposedly in response to Hamas rocket attacks.
The picture [left] was taken by me in Gaza earlier this year and shows a Palestinian child standing in front of the ruins of the al-Wafa Geriatric Hospital, destroyed by Israeli bombing on 23 July 2014. The social and physical infrastructure of the territory was shattered.
Gaza has become a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, and yet the world – and many evangelical Christians in particular – seem strangely indifferent to its suffering and ignorant of the underlying causes. Why is this?
Martin Saunders put his finger on the problem in his piece 'The awkward truth about Evangelicals and Gaza'. A simplistic and often knee-jerk view that the Israelis are the 'good guys' and the Palestinians the 'bad guys', together with a visceral fear of what Saunders called 'accidental antisemitism' when embarking on any criticism of Israel's actions, has meant that many evangelicals have 'consciously looked away' when confronted by the suffering and injustice in Gaza.
I think the problem is worse. Some evangelicals, especially in the United States, have been positively callous in their response. Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a fundamentalist Christian and former Baptist minister, told apro-Israel gathering in New York in December 2014 that the US should stop funding the reconstruction of Gaza and spend the money instead on concrete for more Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. This despite the fact that the entire international community, including the current US administration, regards such settlements as illegal under the Geneva Convention.
Another area of potential confusion for Christians, touched on by Saunders, is what the Bible has to say about the situation in Gaza. Many Christians seem to feel that Israel's military interventions in Gaza have a divine sanction, as the land belongs to the Jewish people anyway. This seems to overlook the fact that the land promise is now fulfilled in the person of Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). I am always struck by the fact that Gaza appears only once in the New Testament, in Acts 8:26, where the Angel of the Lord sends Philip the Evangelist to Gaza, presumably to preach the Gospel. Some of the earliest believers were in Gaza, and around 1,300 Palestinian Christians still live there today.
The fact is that the Holy Land, including Gaza, belongs to God not man (Leviticus 25:23). I believe that He is grieving at the daily suffering which is occurring in the Palestinian territories, and the world's inability to address the underlying problem, which is how Israel's 48-year occupation can be brought to an end and Jews and Palestinians can share the land in peace and justice. Slowly but surely, more Christians are coming to understand this reality. Whether this will be in time to save the people of Gaza remains to be seen.
Jeremy Moodey is Chief Executive of the Christian development charity Embrace the Middle East, which supports Christian-led development projects in Gaza. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter@JeremyMoodey.