Guest columnist Rev. Peter Kakos: ‘All occupations are immoral’

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By the REV. PETER KAKOS

Published: 11-08-2023 6:25 PM

Forty years ago, an Israeli journalist, David Grossman, spent months interviewing Palestinians of the West Bank in order to understand their point of view of existence under Israeli rule. Publishing the results of his findings in a book, “The Yellow Wind” (1988), he particularly recalls speaking to an 80-year-old villager who related his various struggles under six different nations’ control.

Grossman’s conclusion? “All occupations are immoral.” What we are painfully witnessing 35 years later brings his sobering observation into greater focus.

Along with my Jewish sisters and brothers (of the one human family), I share their outrage over the slaughter of 1,400 innocent Israelis. However, not being Jewish I can only imagine how utterly terrorized each must feel, even worldwide, given the millennia-old savagery inflicted upon them, including the U.S. refusal to welcome them during the Nazi campaign of genocide.

Nevertheless, their prayer to make Jerusalem once again their home became a dream come true, this time under British occupation. Their long-suffering history of virtually relentless persecution is one they would dread to yet again endure, nor wish upon others similarly crushed under merciless subjugation.

With this wretched backdrop in mind, one would hope that they would be the first to find the blessed way to a reconciliatory coexistence of a genuine two-state solution, seventy-odd years overdue. Yet their ongoing, decades-long seizures throughout the West Bank to build walled cities linked by “bypass” highways for Israelis alone also gradually serves to shred what geographically remains of ancient Palestine, shattering hopes for their efforts toward a beloved land under no one’s iron fist.

Given this, friends, what can we expect? Nothing but resistance-motivated madness, horribly evidenced on Oct. 7 in southern Israel. The message of Hamas’ malice clearly was the symbolic annihilation of Israel, all of which has been met with Israel’s torrential bombing to attempt the same: leveling Gaza into a heap of concrete rubble. Their refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist is being met with the same sentiment exactly.

My fervent prayer is that each side realizes the need, not only for one’s own integral homeland, but also for lives lived out in a peace that is born of reconciliation — however kicking and screaming — recognizing the legitimate rights of all to know a homeland unthreatened.

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In ancient Greek, this kind of peace was defined as “Ireenay ” (see “irenic”) the very first word spoken by Jesus in the Gospel story of his resurrection, not coincidentally found today in the very same sense as the first word of greeting today for Jews, Shalom, and Muslims, Salaam, alike!

The Rev. Peter Kakos is a member of the Peace and Justice Committee at First Churches in Northampton.