A war without winners

Seventeen days ago, I began a fast for peace when Israeli troops entered the Gaza Strip. Today, I am ending the fast, as fighting has stopped and most if not all the troops have left Gaza.

This is a fragile ceasefire at best — and perhaps one of the strangest in the history of human conflict. Each side has declared a unilateral ceasefire on its own terms, while refusing to talk to the other or acknowledge the other’s terms.

Both Israel and Hamas have also declared victory.

But any security Israel may have gained by diminishing Hamas’ military capacity and by receiving new U.S. assurances of assistance, has been more than offset by its loss of international standing. And by the political drubbing that Israel has taken among Arab and Muslim nations, whose anger is palpable.

And any prestige that Hamas may have gained by surviving one of the world’s most formidable military powers, has been more than offset by the crushing loss of civilian lives, homes and infrastructure in Gaza. Today, Gazans are sifting numbly through the rubble, counting and mourning their losses.

This war has no winners, save those who manufacture weapons.

I have few illusions that the ceasefire will last long – and even fewer illusions that any root causes of this conflict have been addressed.

Still, for today, no bombs and rockets is preferable to the carnage of the past three weeks.

This week has held an interesting confluence of events. A war has ended in Gaza (at least for now). We have celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the legacy of his dream. And the United States is inaugurating its first African American president.

The Common Lectionary readings for this coming Sunday speak of cosmic changes in human history. Paul writes that “the present form of this world is passing away” (I Cor. 7:31). In the Gospel reading, Jesus promises, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news” (Mk. 1:15).

The events of this week are perhaps not cosmic. But they are significant. And they hold for us hopeful and important lessons.

Dr. King taught us to dream, and dream we must. With time, things do change as we witnessed today with the inauguration of a new U.S. president, whom the electorate has judged by the content of his character, rather than by the color of his skin.

Even so, occupation and economic siege will not last forever. They cannot, for they cannot withstand the piercing light of God’s justice. Some day the Palestinian people will be free to determine their own future. Some day, Palestinians and Israelis will share this land in peace and security.

That day may be years away, but it will come.

Some day, Israel and Hamas will talk face-to-face and commit to a common future built on justice and peace. I pray that day is soon.

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