During these infamous days in Israel, the eagerness to make sense of things by rushing to conclusions and judgements must be tempered with some fundamentals that do not change regardless of events. First, even as the world witnesses the terror and pain in Israel inflicted by Hamas, we must remember God loves the Palestinians. Second, we must resist the temptation to call all Palestinians terrorists. And third, we cannot give up on providing charity to Palestinians.
Understanding Gaza begins with a closer look at life in Gaza, which is unlike anything for those reading this experience. Surrounded by walls on three sides and the Mediterranean on the fourth, residents of Gaza do not come and go freely. Gaza has been described as an open-air prison. With a GDP of $28 billion, Gaza’s economy generates roughly one third as much as the $77 billion the U.S. has already provided in aid to Ukraine.
At roughly one tenth the land area of America’s smallest state, Rhode Island, but with twice that state’s population, Gaza Strip has an unemployment rate of 40%, median age of just 18, and GDP per capita of $5,600. Neighboring Israel is roughly the same size as New Jersey in both land area and population. Israel has unemployment of five percent, median age of 30, and GDP per capita of $42,100 — seven and a half times that of Gaza. Just outside its walls, Gaza Strip is surrounded by lands and people with extravagant abundance when compared to its own resources.
We must remember that God loves the Palestinians just as much as He loves other ethnic and national groups of people. God sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for all of us and He commanded that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Does this mean we ignore the crimes committed by Hamas, that Israel should not defend itself, or Hamas should not be pursued and justice delivered? Not on all accounts. But God would have the Palestinians to know of His love for them. Further, He would want the Palestinians to know that Christians know God loves Palestinians.
The reprehensible actions of Hamas cannot be justified, but we must resist the temptation to paint all Palestinians with the terrorist brush. What we are seeing in Gaza Strip is analogous to the National Socialist German Worker’s Party who hijacked Germany and orchestrated a spiraling set of events and atrocities. Known better as the Nazis, a relatively small group of fanatics co-opted others who were suffering in the desperation of post-World War One Germany. They gave Germans something in which to believe, a nationalist cause. For some in Gaza Strip, Hamas provides a similar role while others remain silent — no one can simply choose to leave. The ability of a Palestinian to resist Hamas is lesser than the average German’s ability to resist the Nazis in the 1930s. And we do not help the situation if we call all Palestinians terrorists, further pushing them toward Hamas.
The economic, social, and political plight of Palestinians calls out for our sympathy and charity. Yes, the stories of so much aid in Gaza being taken for use by Hamas terrorists are true, but aid also flows to the 40% of Gaza residents who are under the age of 15. Much is said about on what side one is found in this conflict. There are decisions to be made, but deciding to be a Samaritan to the Palestinians is an action any side should embrace. The work of bringing Hamas terrorists to justice should be matched by the work to aid the desperate conditions of the Palestinian people.
The situation in Israel, Gaza, and The West Bank involves the most complex issues on the planet. We should fully incorporate God’s teaching and direction in how we react, supporting Israel and the Palestinian people. Seeking His guidance in prayer is the place to start. Applying His teaching with action quickly follows. When you pray for Israel, also pray for Palestinians.