The two-year old child in his mothers arms sees his grandfather abused, insulted and beaten by a young man. Does he understand the uniform, the helmet, the weapon? What does he think? He’s too young surely to think! He sees – he sees each day his father too tired, too dejected, defeated, old before his time. He goes with his mother to a gate in a wall and she argues and pleads but is turned away. How can he know that she only wanted to attend her grandmothers funeral: five miles away in her own land.
The child is six years old – following his older brother and friends. They are throwing stones at a wall: he doesn’t understand. The wall he knows, he sees it when he looks from the window of his bedroom. He has never been beyond the wall but he has seen hills and houses, and he’s heard his grandfather speak of “my old olives, just over there”, as if they were a lost, first love.
His brother is shouting and he comes back from his dreaming to see a hole appearing in the wall. A large steel door slides back and through it advance young men armed with what he has learned are guns; they are marching each side of a large truck with very small windows. There is another shout, and clouds of white smoke appear just in front of him. He begins to cough, to choke – he can hardly breathe and his eyes are stinging.
An older boy grabs him, wraps a scarf round his face hefts him onto his shoulder and carries him away down a side street. What does he think?
He is twelve. He is a stone-throwing youth. Does he think, or does he remember. His grandfather’s olive trees that he has never seen, his father’s tired look and bruised face, his mother who looks so old, and his brother, missing now for months.
They came for him in the midde of the night. Smashed the door and dragged everyone, women, children and men, out of bed. And his brother, Adam, they took, no-one will say where or why. His mother has been asking – and is told “it’s ‘administrative detention'”; and when she asks “why” is told, “there doesn’t have to be a ‘why'”.
Two-years old become twelve-years old doesn’t need to think. He remembers: has been taught and has learned well. If those you love, your family, your friends, are oppressed, insulted, beaten, imprisoned without justice, abused, persecuted, assaulted, can it be a surprise that you hate the perpetrator? And, if you are told that this is all in the name of God, who loves and supports your oppressor and persecutor, will you not likely seek another God? Yet the real surprise is that there is less hate and more understanding from the oppressed than we might suppose. It is the oppressors who sustain themselves by hate and fear.
This is Palestine: this is Israel: this is Zionism: this is blasphemy! And the Christian response should not be collusion with the lies of Zionism, as did the people of Judah in the time of Jeremiah. The Church was in error in persecuting Jews in the past. We do not redeem that error in the present by being complicit in Zionist persecution of Palestinians in the name of Judaism.