Wednesday, 14 January 2009

holy land reflections (4) - collective punishment

One of the issues at the heart of the present situation in Gaza is the question of collective punishment. The Israeli government justifies its attack on Gaza as a defensive reaction to the continual shelling of Israeli communities by Hamas. However, Israel’s action in Gaza has been criticised because it seems to be disproportionate and indiscriminate, with a high level of deaths and casualties amongst the general population including many children. Some have argued that Israel’s actions have amounted to war crimes for which she should be held accountable. There is a perpetual cycle of accusation and counter accusation, justification and counter justification from those supporting both sides in the conflict.

I was reading Genesis 18 yesterday, which describes the appearance of the Lord to Abraham at Mamre. There is a well known icon by Rublev (left) depicting the incident which always comes to mind as I read this passage. But yesterday the focus of my attention was not on this incident but on what follows in vs. 16-33. The three angels having visited with Abraham set out for Sodom and the Lord reveals to Abraham what he is about to do; destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because ‘their sin is very grave’. Abraham pleads with the Lord asking whether he will destroy the righteous with the wicked in the city and eventually the Lord promises that he will not destroy it for the sake of ten righteous. In the end the city is destroyed but not before Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and his family have escaped. As I read and reflected on this passage the image that kept coming into my thoughts was of Gaza under a cloud of smoke.

I also watched a brief interview of Richard Dreyfuss and Kevin Spacey conducted by Andrew Marr for the BBC. The interview was about a new play at The Old Vic called Complicit. At the end of the interview Marr asked Dreyfuss about his thoughts on the situation in Gaza:

ANDREW MARR: You have spoken in the past about being so proud of your Jewish-ness and you've taken a very nuanced view of what's happened in Israel in the past. And we're going through this great crisis at the moment, people on the streets of every major city including this one, on both sides, and I just wonder the good citizen - your answer is educate yourself.

RICHARD DREYFUSS: Yes. And also the good citizen has to have commonsense. It's a problem that is so complex that there is only one word that works, it's God's test, and that is "forgive". You must forgive them and you must forgive yourself because there is no original sin there. Neither of the parties involved committed an original sin. I forgive.

KEVIN SPACEY: I think you know forgiveness is a fantastic place to begin.

ANDREW MARR: And it's a good place to end.

KEVIN SPACEY: And thank you as well for making your debut on the Old Vic stage. We're very delighted to have you.

RICHARD DREYFUSS: Thank you very much. (laughter).

No comments: