Violence Is Never the Answer

A Statement by the Board of Trustees of Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA)

As Palestinians and Israelis mourn the tragic deaths of their loved ones, worry for those missing or taken captive, and attempt to treat the wounded, even as violence and bloodshed continue to rage, we believe that it is necessary to assert a basic tenet of Palestinian Liberation Theology; namely, violence is never the answer.

While insisting on the essential need for justice, Palestinian Christians from all denominations have asserted the fundamental truth that war and violence are never options for the followers of Jesus Christ. He is, after all, the Prince of Peace who in the Beatitudes proclaims, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Jesus also introduces us to the radical idea that those who would follow him are called upon to love their enemies, not to hate them.

Throughout history, Christians (often on both sides of any conflict) have developed a variety of theories to justify war and the killing of others. Three prominent justifications for the use of violence include: 

  • “Just War Theory,”
  • “duty or deference to the authorities,” and 
  • “defense of one’s country or people.”

The vast majority of Palestinian Christians, by contrast, have followed the example of Jesus and the early church, rejecting violence totally. Such a radical stance is sorely needed as it concerns the present crisis. This is not just a theological and spiritual orientation. It is a realistic assessment that, for Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, violence will never be able to provide each community with what they ultimately need. Exertions of military power to force (or “deter”) the other side into submission have proven futile. 

Given the asymmetry of power in the region, it has always been clear that violence and paramilitary force will never achieve the liberation that Palestinians seek, a reality and a truth we see confirmed in recent events.

Similarly, events on October 7 have also made clear that even the most sophisticated security technology, maintained by one of the world’s most powerful militaries, with the backing of a global superpower, cannot insulate a colonialist regime or subdue a determined people desperate for freedom, a people who are willing to tolerate extraordinary suffering at the hands of vastly superior forces, rather than accept defeat and submission.

The world may not always agree with or understand the path or logic of nonviolence. The natural, even biological, response in situations of conflict is to “fight or flight,” to double down on violence, seeking retribution and revenge. There exists, therefore, a great need for us to model an alternative response to situations of conflict and injustice. In doing so, we declare that it is indeed possible to achieve our goals and fulfill our desires through mutual agreement and understanding. Following the example of Jesus Christ, such empathy and understanding may in fact transform enemies into friends. As the Apostle Paul declares:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, [they will burn with shame at their misdeeds].” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

–Romans 12:17-21

As the Board of Trustees at Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), we reiterate our commitment to this truth and say with conviction that there is no military solution to this problem. Both Palestinians and Israelis are children of God worthy of freedom, dignity, and security. We must pursue these aims, but we cannot use violence as a tool to pursue them. Whatever fresh horrors our opponents are committing, our response should not be violence. We must reject the tired refrain that “our enemies only understand the language of force.” Only in this way can we proclaim good news in this broken world.

Gaza: Reflections on Brutality, Retribution, and Redemption


In Palestine today, brutality seems to be the main theme. It will be my main theme as well, but in in somewhat different way. 

The Hamas attacks in southern Israel were certainly brutal, abhorrent, and atrocious. The media has covered that aspect in excruciating, graphic, and almost non-stop detail. I see no point in elaborating on the physical violence. Instead, I want to state some brutal truths about the current state of affairs. Many people decry the form that Palestinian resistance (at least the now prominent Hamas version) has taken. They often plead that it should be non-violent. In this regard, it is highly relevant to refer to an expert on non-violence—Mahama Gandhi. 

Gandhi rarely spoke about Ahimsa (non-violence) without mentioning his concept of Satyagraha (truth telling). To paraphrase one writer’s* take on this: ‘Truth is the most fundamental aspect in Gandhi's Philosophy of nonviolence. Ahimsa is the basis of the search for truth. Satyagraha literally means devotion to truth, remaining firm on the truth and resisting untruth actively but nonviolently.’ 

While he promoted non-violence, Gandhi had little tolerance for mere cowardice. He felt that a failure to fight back could do more harm than physical violence. He also made a clear distinction between passive and physical violence. He argued that passive violence is a daily affair, consciously and unconsciously. It is the fuel for physical violence. I think this notion of “passive violence” would include ignoring the truth, deception, self-deception, remaining willfully ignorant, or repeating the oft discredited so-called “common wisdom” (mostly often repeated lies) about the struggle in Palestine. 

The lie that does the greatest brutality to the truth is the claim that the recent Hamas attack was “unprovoked.” That is absurd. The provocation began with Zionist settlement in 1895 and continues today. 

Read more: Gaza: Reflections on Brutality, Retribution, and Redemption

Public Statement: Scholars Warn of Potential Genocide in Gaza

Public Statement: Scholars Warn of Potential Genocide in Gaza

On 15 October 2023, over 800 scholars and practitioners of international law, conflict studies and genocide studies signed a public statement warning of the possibility of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Signatories include prominent Holocaust and genocide studies scholars, as well as many international law and TWAIL scholars. The text of the statement and list of signatures is below, and a pdf version can be accessed here.

Public Statement: Scholars Warn of Potential Genocide in Gaza

15 October 2023

As scholars and practitioners of international law, conflict studies and genocide studies, we are compelled to sound the alarm about the possibility of the crime of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. We do not do so lightly, recognising the weight of this crime, but the gravity of the current situation demands it. 

The pre-existing conditions in the Gaza Strip had already prompted discussions of genocide prior to the current escalation – such as by the National Lawyers Guild in 2014, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in 2014, and the Center for Constitutional Rights in 2016. Scholars have warned over the years that the siege of Gaza may amount to a “prelude to genocide” or a “slow-motion genocide”. The prevalence of racist and dehumanising language and hate speech in social media was also noted in a warning issued in July 2014 by the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, in response to Israel’s conduct against the protected Palestinian population. The Special Advisers noted that individual Israelis had disseminated messages that could be dehumanising to the Palestinians and that had called for the killing of members of this group, and reiterated that incitement to commit atrocity crimes is prohibited under international law. 

Israel’s current military offensive on the Gaza Strip since 7 October 2023, however, is unprecedented in scale and severity, and consequently in its ramifications for the population of Gaza. Following the incursion by Palestinian armed groups on 7 October 2023, including criminal attacks against Israeli civilians, the Gaza Strip has been subjected to incessant and indiscriminate bombardment by Israeli forces. Between 7 October and 9:00 a.m. on 15 October, there have been 2,329 Palestinians killed and 9,042 Palestinians injured in Israeli attacks on Gaza, including over 724 children, huge swathes of neighbourhoods and entire families across Gaza have been obliterated. Israel’s Defence Minister ordered a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip prohibiting the supply of fuel, electricity, water and other essential necessities. This terminology itself indicates an intensification of an already illegal, potentially genocidal siege to an outright destructive assault. 

Read more: Public Statement: Scholars Warn of Potential Genocide in Gaza

Jewish Voice for Peace calls on all people of conscience to stop imminent genocide

The Israeli government has declared a genocidal war on the people of Gaza. As an organization that works for a future where Palestinians and Israelis and all people live in equality and freedom, we call on all people of conscience to stop imminent genocide of Palestinians. 

Jewish Voice for Peace mourns deeply for the over 1,200 Israelis killed, the families destroyed, including many of our own, and fears for the lives of Israelis taken hostage. Many are still counting the dead, looking for missing loved ones, devastated by the losses. 

We wholeheartedly agree with leading Palestinian rights groups: the massacres committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians are horrific war crimes. There is no justification in international law for the indiscriminate killing of civilians or the holding of civilian hostages. 

And now, horrifyingly, the Israeli and American governments are weaponizing these deaths to fuel a genocidal war against Palestinians in Gaza, pledging to “open the gates of hell.” This war is a continuation of the Nakba, when in 1948, tens of thousands of Palestinians fleeing violence sought refuge in Gaza. It’s a continuation of 75 years of Israeli occupation and apartheid

Already this week, over 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed.  The Israeli government has wrought complete and total devastation on Palestinians across Gaza, attacking hospitals, schools, mosques, marketplaces, and apartment buildings.  

As we write, the Israeli government has shut off all electricity to Gaza. Hospitals cannot save lives, the internet will collapse, people will have no phones to communicate with the outside world, and drinking water for two million people will run out. Gaza will be plunged into darkness as Israel turns its neighborhoods to rubble.  Still worse, Israel has openly stated an intention to commit mass atrocities and even genocide, with Prime Minister Netanyahu saying the Israeli response will “reverberate for generations.”  

And right now, the U.S. government is enabling the Israeli government’s atrocities, sending weapons, moving U.S. warships into proximity and sending U.S.-made munitions, and pledging blanket support and international cover for any actions taken by the Israeli government. Furthermore, the U.S. government officials are spreading racist, hateful, and incendiary rhetoric that will fuel mass atrocities and genocide. 

The loss of Israeli lives is being used by our government to justify the rush to genocide, to provide moral cover for the immoral push for more weapons and more death. Palestinians are being dehumanized by our own government, by the media, by far too many U.S. Jewish institutions. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel is “fighting human animals” and should “act accordingly,” As Jews, we know what happens when people are called animals.

We can and we must stop this. Never again means never again — for anyone. 

We call on all people of conscience to stop the imminent genocide of Palestinians. We demand our government work towards de-escalation, that it immediately stop sending weapons to the Israeli military. A future of peace and safety for all, grounded in justice, freedom and equality for all, is still the only option.

Local Jewish Organization Releases Statements by Breaking the Silence, IfNotNow, The Ha'aretz Editorial Board and Jewish Voice for Peace on the Violence that has engulfed Israel and Gaza.

Some Members of the Jewish Community of Portland Oregon

For Immediate Release
October 8, 2023

Local Jewish Organization Releases Statements by Breaking the Silence,
IfNotNow, The Ha'aretz Editorial Board and Jewish Voice for Peace on the
Violence that has engulfed Israel and Gaza.

As members of the Jewish Community of Portland, Oregon, we are sharing with
the local news media statements that reflect urgently needed critical
perspectives on the explosion of violence and massive loss of live that we
have witnessed in Israel and Gaza since Saturday morning.  We urge local
reporters and editors to include these perspective in their coverage as the
full scope of this terrible violence and aftermath unfolds.

Breaking the Silence (

Hamas's attack and the events unfolding since yesterday are unspeakable. We
are heartbroken to watch terrified civilians besieged in their homes,
innocent people murdered in cold blood on the streets, at parties, and at
home. Dozens taken hostage and dragged into the Gaza Strip. Every one of us
knows someone who has been tragically affected. We could go on and on about
their cruel and criminal actions, or focus on how our Jewish-supremacist
government brought us to this point. But as hard as it is, our job as former
Israeli soldiers is to talk about what we were sent to do.

Israel's security policy, for decades now, has been to "manage the
conflict". Successive Israeli governments insist on round after round of
violence as if any of it will make a difference. They talk about "security",
"deterrence", "changing the equation".

All of these are code words for bombing the Gaza Strip to a pulp, always
justified as targeting terrorists, yet always with heavy civilian
casualties. In between these rounds of violence we make life impossible for
Gazans, and then act surprised when it all boils over.

We talk about "normalization" with the UAE and now Saudi Arabia, while
hoping the world will turn a blind eye to the open-air prison we built in
our backyard. Apart from the unfathomable violation of human rights, we've
created a massive security liability for our own citizens.

The question Israelis are all asking is - where were the soldiers yesterday?
Why was the IDF seemingly absent while hundreds of Israelis were slaughtered
in their homes and on the streets? The unfortunate truth is that they were
"preoccupied". In the West Bank.

We send soldiers to secure settler incursions into the Palestinian city of
Nablus, to chase Palestinian children in Hebron, to protect settlers as they
carry out pogroms. Settlers demand that Palestinian flags are removed from
the streets of Huwara; soldiers are sent to do it.

Our country decided - decades ago - that it's willing to forfeit the
security of its citizens in our towns and cities, in favor of maintaining
control over an occupied civilian population of millions, all for the sake
of a settler-messianic agenda.

The idea that we can "manage the conflict" without ever having to solve it
is once again collapsing before our eyes. It held up until now because only
few dared to challenge it. These heartbreaking events could change that.
They must. For all of us between the river and the sea.

IfNotNow (

We're watching the unfolding horrors with heartbreak and dread for our loved
ones - Israelis and Palestinians alike.

We cannot and will not say today's actions by Palestinian militants are
unprovoked. Every day under Israel's system of apartheid is a provocation.
The strangling siege on Gaza is a provocation. Settlers terrorizing entire
Palestinian villages, soldiers raiding and demolishing Palestinian homes,
murdering Palestinians in the streets, Israeli ministers calling for
genocide and expulsion. These are the provocations of the most extremist
right wing government in Israel's history and an emboldened fascist movement
escalating this crisis across the land.  

We absolutely condemn the killing of innocent civilians and mourn the loss
of Palestinian and Israeli life, with numbers rising by the minute. Their
blood is on the hands of the Israeli government, the US government which
funds and excuses their recklessness, and every international leader who
continues to turn a blind eye to decades of Palestinian oppression,
endangering both Palestinians and Israelis. Anyone who minimizes or ignores
this context will only continue to be surprised as more blood is shed.  

We call on our communities to reconsider the knee-jerk militarism that has
led us into this unfolding catastrophe. There is no path to a future of
safety and freedom for all Israelis and Palestinians without accountability
for this fascist government and an end to the ongoing, untenable status quo
of Israel's apartheid system.

Haaretz Editorial Team (excerpts)

The disaster that befell Israel on the holiday of Simchat Torah is the clear
responsibility of one person: Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister, who
has prided himself on his vast political experience and irreplaceable wisdom
in security matters, completely failed to identify the dangers he was
consciously leading Israel into when establishing a government of annexation
and dispossession, when appointing Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir to
key positions, while embracing a foreign policy that openly ignored the
existence and rights of Palestinians.
In the past, Netanyahu marketed himself as a cautious leader who eschewed
wars and multiple casualties on Israel's side. After his victory in the last
election, he replaced this caution with the policy of a "fully-right
government," with overt steps taken to annex the West Bank [], to
carry out ethnic cleansing in parts of the Oslo-defined Area C, including
the Hebron Hills and the Jordan Valley.

This also included a massive expansion of settlements and bolstering of the
Jewish presence on Temple Mount, near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as boasts
of an impending peace deal with the Saudis in which the Palestinians would
get nothing, with open talk of a "second Nakba" in his governing coalition.
As expected, signs of an outbreak of hostilities began in the West Bank,
where Palestinians started feeling the heavier hand of the Israeli occupier.
Hamas exploited the opportunity in order to launch its surprise attack on

Jewish Voice for Peace (

The Root of Violence Is Oppression.

Right now, Palestinians, Israelis and all of us with family on the ground
are terrified for loved ones. We grieve the lives of those already lost and
remain committed to a future where every life is precious, and all people
live in freedom and safety.  

Following 16 years of Israeli military blockade, Palestinian fighters from
Gaza launched an unprecedented assault, in which hundreds of Israelis were
killed and wounded, and civilians kidnapped. The Israeli government declared
war, launching airstrikes, killing hundreds of Palestinians and wounding
thousands, bombing residential buildings and threatening to commit war
crimes against besieged Palestinians in Gaza.

The Israeli government may have just declared war, but its war on
Palestinians started over 75 years ago. Israeli apartheid and occupation -
and United States complicity in that oppression - are the source of all this
violence. Reality is shaped by when you start the clock.

For the past year, the most racist, fundamentalist, far-right government in
Israeli history has ruthlessly escalated its military occupation over
Palestinians in the name of Jewish supremacy with violent expulsions and
home demolitions, mass killings, military raids on refugee camps,
unrelenting siege and daily humiliation. In recent weeks, Israeli forces
repeatedly stormed the holiest Muslim sites in Jerusalem.

For 16 years, the Israeli government has suffocated Palestinians in Gaza
under a draconian air, sea and land military blockade, imprisoning and
starving two million people and denying them medical aid. The Israeli
government routinely massacres Palestinians in Gaza; ten-year-olds who live
in Gaza have already been traumatized by seven major bombing campaigns in
their short lives.

For 75 years, the Israeli government has maintained a military occupation
over Palestinians, operating an apartheid regime. Palestinian children are
dragged from their beds in pre-dawn raids by Israeli soldiers and held
without charge in Israeli military prisons. Palestinians homes are torched
by mobs of Israeli settlers, or destroyed by the Israeli army. Entire
Palestinian villages are forced to flee, abandoning the homes and orchards
and land that were in their family for generations.

The bloodshed of today and the past 75 years traces back directly to U.S.
complicity in the oppression and horror caused by Israel's military
occupation. The U.S. government consistently enables Israeli violence and
bears blame for this moment. The unchecked military funding, diplomatic
cover, and billions of dollars of private money flowing from the U.S.
enables and empowers Israel's apartheid regime. Those who continue calling
for "ironclad" U.S. support for the Israeli military are only paving the
path to more violence.

From the U.S., there are no sidelines.  We will uproot complicity where we
are: we demand that the U.S. government immediately take steps to withdraw
military funding to Israel and to hold the Israeli government accountable
for its gross violations of human rights and war crimes against
Palestinians. We commit to escalating our campaigns for boycott, divestment
and sanctions to end the billions pouring into the Israeli war machine from
corporations and private foundations.

Inevitably, oppressed people everywhere will seek - and gain - their
freedom. We all deserve liberation, safety, and equality. The only way to
get there is by uprooting the sources of the violence, beginning with our
own government's complicity.




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