The voyage of Hope: Blessed Are the Merciful Who Confront the State without Mercy

William A. Cook

“Now the opposite of Beatitude is misery … to be afflicted unwillingly with painful sufferings.”

(St. Gregory of Nyssa, 380 AD)

“Hope” was scheduled to sail to Gaza on Thursday, September 25th, but could not because negotiations to buy a boat fell through repeatedly “due to outside pressure.” Regardless, whatever day “Hope” sails, and it will sail, is a day every Christian and every humane person, regardless of religion, should mark on his or her calendar as the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount live in our day as true believers in the Beatitudes give meaning and life to “Blessed are the merciful for they shall see God and Blessed are the peacemakers for they are the children of God.” Five physicians from 4 countries, Human Rights lawyers and monitors, a member of the Israeli Knesset, the General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, a veritable Ship of Mercy, will confront the Goliath of Mercilessness that has besieged 1.5 million people in Gaza for almost  two years now making their lives not a state of beatitude, but rather a state of misery – “afflicted unwillingly with painful sufferings.”

How reprehensible that the nations of the world sit mute in General Assembly at the United Nations, made silent by the coercive veto of the United States prodded by the Satanic voice of Israel; how pathetic the obsequious behavior of our Congress that protects its wallet rather than respond to the starved and humiliated Palestinians suffering behind steel walls and locked gates; how repulsive to witness silk suited ministers of the cloth raise their collective voices in prophetic proclamations condemning those already condemned to misery for disagreeing with their interpretation of the beatitudes as words of war not peace, of arrogance not humility, of mercilessness not justice, of hate not love; how sad to live these past sixty years and watch the dissembling of Judaism as it abandons its thousands of years of moral, ethical and religious substance to the drive of Zionist fanatics bound by a “secular nationalistic concept completely devoid of ethics and morals” (Rabbi Aharon Cohen of Neturei Karta, 2006).

The voyage of “Hope” to Gaza, like that of the “Free Gaza” and “Liberty” in August, symbolizes for the people of the world, as it does for the people of Gaza that people care even if their governments do not. Governments can be and more often than not are bought and sold, victims of abusive power from within and without; but the conscience of a people churns inside recognizing, indeed feeling passionately what others suffer, what they themselves would not tolerate should it be inflicted on them, and they know in their hearts, ay in their very souls, that all people have a right to life with dignity and no nation has a right to manufacture a pretense that denies “life with dignity.”

Those who inflict such pain claiming they are the victims lie, and in their actions destroy not just sources of energy that make possible tolerable living conditions, jobs, businesses and homes, but the substance of meaning, the purpose of existing, the state of beatitude where nothing is absent that a good desire may want, in the words of St. Gregory, who knew what real Christian civilized people had as rights in 380 AD. Happily he didn’t live in this barbaric age of uncivilized humanity that can encircle its enemy with barbed wire and steel and electric surveillance and bulldozers and F-16 fighter jets and missile carrying helicopters and thousands of highly trained obedient troops made conscienceless by Pavlovian modification. How advanced we’ve become in removing empathy from the heart that the desires of our rulers be met.

“The stranglehold on Gaza’s borders has made … the work of the UN and the other humanitarian agencies … virtually impossible. Only a trickle of medicine, food, fuel and other goods is being allowed in … making people highly dependent on food and aid and it has brought the health system and basic services, such as water and sanitation near to collapse” (Medecins du Monde UK). These are the conditions that Israel inflicts on the hapless people of Gaza. How can a nation be reduced to such barbaric behavior? How can a nation listed as the 16th wealthiest nation on the planet inflict such heinous acts on a neighbor? How can the United States support such cruelty? “40% of Gaza residents have been deprived of clean water. Children are living in the cold and dark. Gaza pumps 40 million litres of untreated sewage into the sea each day, because of a lack of electricity to run the treatment plant, and lack of pipes to replace old ones … where 80% are unemployed and 20% work for the UN and NGO’s, therefore 100% of Gazans rely on the benevolence of the outside world” (Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize winner).

Where are those who would comfort the afflicted, where are those who hunger and thirst for justice, where are the merciful, the peacemakers? They are not in Israel’s government or in the Congress of the United States or in the mega-churches of the Christian Zionists; these are the perpetrators of evil who seek to destroy people they do not know nor care to know. These are people driven by ideologies of hate constructed on pillars of racism, superiority and mythologies interpreted by fools.

How can such conditions exist in a country controlled in every way by the “advanced” state of Israel? Why is it that the Palestinian people are allowed to suffer such physical, emotional, and psychological torture, such absolute humiliation, at the hands of the occupiers while the world looks on oblivious to those who inflict such torment on their victims? How ironic that the victims of Nazi cruelty, the Jews of Israel, those who were brought to the land of Palestine out of sympathy for their suffering, should become in their turn the militaristic state that creates victims to further their own political ends. This horrific irony cuts two ways like a knife blade severing the heart, it destroys the victim even as it makes a murderer of the assailant, for the Jew is no longer the victim but the perpetrator of known evil. That act unveils the myth of the beleaguered Jew that wanders the face of the earth in constant torment and suffering, a constant victim of those who would impose their will on him. It strips naked the lie that fosters the innocence of the Jews that created the state in 1947-48, as Dr. Ilan Pappe attests in his penetrating book on The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, when in fact they, the Jews, orchestrated a systematic erasure of the indigenous people even as they cried to the outside world that they were the victims.

It is that lie, the massacre at Deir Yassin and all the subsequent massacres that killed thousands and forced 700,000 into exile that cannot be admitted, anymore than the slow, calculated massacre taking place in Gaza can be admitted that is destroying Judaism turning it into a cold, secular, fanatical religion devoid of ethics and morals, driven by greed and power as the good Rabbi Cohen states.

The voyage of the “Hope” may be more than a voyage of the merciful to a bleeding land that receives no mercy; it may be a voyage of virtue that teaches, in the words of St. Augustine, “Hope is the greatest of all virtues, even greater than love. For love only teaches what should be, while Hope teaches us what will be.” Should Augustine’s sage remark become prophetic, a day will come in Israel when it will confront its past, indeed, as Professor Pappe so cogently states, “… unless Israel acknowledges the cardinal role it has played, and continues to play, in the dispossession of the Palestinian nation, and accepts the consequences this recognition of the ethnic cleansing implies, all attempts to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict are bound to fail.”

Beneath that statement festers an infectious disease that sucks out the marrow of Judaic morals cleansing it of its life sustaining force as it has cleansed the natives of Palestine from the land that gave them life. “… the Jewish religious  propensity to seek atonement has been replaced by the arrogant disregard for world public opinion and the self-righteousness with which Israel routinely fends off criticism” (Pappe).

How psychologically terrifying to know that the power that provides for the “Jewish State” is the power that destroys the Jewish soul. How spiritually appalling to sense the dissembling of the Jewish moral and ethical cohesiveness that spans the centuries in favor of a nation determined by exclusivity and apartheid separateness. How physically disturbing to contemplate the reality of day to day existence where the Jews walk through opulence indifferent to the suffering, deprivation, and destitution of their neighbors. When will the state of Israel demand of itself what it demanded of those that caused the holocaust in Europe? When will it recognize and acknowledge that in their teaching as in the teaching of the Beatitudes, mercy and justice, reconciliation and retribution pave the road to peace, not checkpoints and barriers and walls and unjust laws that protect the oppressor at the expense of the oppressed? When will the governments of the world rise against the injustice done to the Palestinians and join the ordinary people of their nations as they set sail on the voyage of Hope to Gaza?