As violence in Israel and Gaza escalates, including the bombing of a hospital which killed hundreds of Palestinians this week, U. S. State Department officials are censoring how their employees describe what is happening. According to a report in the Huffington Post on October 13, high-level officials are discouraging the use of the words ‘de-escalation,’ ‘cease-fire,’ ‘end to violence/bloodshed,’ and ‘restoring calm’ in press releases.
After the vicious attack on the US on 9/11, Americans were swift to react with vengeance. We invaded Iraq and created black box sites to torture suspected terrorists, jailing many who remain in Guantánamo to this day. We spent trillions of dollars on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands of lives were lost over the course of 20 years. Most of the dead were civilians. At that time to speak of peace, of the dignity of Muslims, of freedom from surveillance was unthinkable.
Both the people of Israel and the people of Palestine are suffering. Collective suffering has been imposed by Hamas and the Israeli government. As Christians we are compelled by our Lord to respect the dignity of every human being, to seek peace and pursue it.
Anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim rhetoric and behavior is against our baptismal covenant. In this country, our words and our behavior matter. Our practice impacts our families and neighborhoods. Our witness must be one which eschews vengeance and seeks justice and peace. We are able in this democracy to insist that our leaders do the same.
One of the chants in the Black Lives Matter protests was, “Say his/her name.” It was a call to humanize the people who were killed at the hands of the police. Saying the words, ‘de-escalation,” ‘cease-fire,’ ‘end to violence/bloodshed,’ ‘restoring calm,’ speaks into reality the world we want to see. Say its name. Peace.
-The Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector