(RNS) — Pope Francis said it well: “War does not solve any problem, it only sows death and destruction, increases hatred, multiplies revenge. War erases the future.”
The future for Palestinians and Israelis is being erased each passing day. Before it is too late, the United States and Congress should side with peace, not more war, in the Middle East.
Hamas’ horrific attacks that killed more than 1,400 Israelis and their abduction of more than 200 civilians should be strongly condemned. The U.S. and international community should work fervently to hold those responsible accountable while securing the release of hostages. I stand for the safety and dignity of all Israelis.
I also stand for the safety and dignity of all Palestinians. The indiscriminate, inhumane Israeli response that has already claimed as many as 8,000 lives in Gaza, including many children, must also be clearly condemned. The U.S. and international community should insist international law be respected with all civilians protected.
As a person of faith, I mourn the tragic loss of all lives and pray for those who have lost loved ones in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. I also mourn the response of my government, which seems unable to value the human rights and lives of Palestinians. In stark contrast to the Pope’s message, President Biden has made clear which “team” the U.S. is on by asking Congress for billions more in weapons for Israel. This not only makes the U.S. complicit in unfolding war crimes; it also fuels anti-American sentiment, undermining national and global security.
Having lived through the 9/11 attacks, I understand the fear and outrage that terrorism inflicts on a community. But two decades of endless war, military quagmires, trillions of dollars spent and more than 432,000 civilians killed from our global war on terror should have taught us that war is not the answer. Instead of pouring more weapons into the conflict with one hand while supporting humanitarian aid with the other, President Biden and Congress should be fervently working to help halt the killing while addressing the root causes, so the cycle of war and violence does not repeat itself.
Some media coverage is not helping. My middle-schooler, after a discussion about cable news with classmates, believed once an attack is labeled “terrorism,” there are no limits to the violence used in response. This is not the way international law works.
International humanitarian law does not allow the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. Hospitals, churches, schools and residential neighborhoods are not legitimate military targets, especially when they are providing refuge for thousands fleeing for their lives. Killing and abducting civilians can never be tolerated. But waging war against an entire population in response only deepens suffering, inviting more attacks.
My Quaker faith calls me to reject all forms of violence and to continually work to prevent war, break cycles of violence and rebuild relationships. But people of all faiths — or those not religious at all — can see the horrors of this war and what may come next.
More than 70 Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other organizations, including my own, recently signed this interfaith and civil society letter calling on Congress and the president to press for an immediate ceasefire and provide some measure of peace, security and humanitarian assistance to the civilians of both Israel and Gaza.
We agree all violence against civilians by Hamas and the Israeli military is to be condemned and must stop at once. A ceasefire should be declared, respected and enforced on both sides. Protecting civilians, securing the release of all hostages and ensuring humanitarian aid can flow freely requires a halt to the fighting. And rather than sending billions more in weapons, the president and Congress should work to de-escalate the conflict and insist Hamas and Israel fully respect international humanitarian law.
I cannot begin to understand the trauma and suffering people are now experiencing in Gaza and Israel, but I can choose to stand on the side of peace and of ending the killing, the side where human dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians still resides together.
(Bridget Moix is general secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation and its associated Quaker hospitality center, Friends Place on Capitol Hill. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)