Via. Jurusalem Praxis
Living, Teaching, and Thinking in the Holy City
One BBC commentator suggested this morning that what happened in Paris was “Beirut-level” violence. That is an essential insight. Global and regional powers — many from “the West” — have for decades been inflicting massive violence and causing huge scales of human suffering throughout parts of the Middle East. But westerners assume that such violence should be contained there. Far over there. This racist presumption of qualitative difference is now being proven false.
President Obama has called the Paris onslaught an “attack on all of humanity.” While perhaps true, we in the western world cannot accept that humanity is affected only when Europeans are murdered or, as on 9/11, symbols of western military and economic power are made to crumble.
The suffering of a Parisian concert-goer is unacceptable and condemnable. Such suffering is neither more scandalous nor more unacceptable than the suffering of a child in Aleppo, in Karachi, in Gaza. The primary difference is that the child in those places is likely poor, without the benefits of being insulated from the violence engulfing her context.
King Abdullah II of Jordan has called the present moment a Third World War. The number of countries involved and the massive suffering being inflicted in many contexts appears to qualify for this appellation. Those communities being newly forced to confront the violences of the present world will be tempted to reactivity. The fog of war clouds analysis and judgment. At this stage of conflict, we may be entering a period of dangerous confusion. As we express concern for “all of humanity,” we must resist seeking the good for only some humans alone.
Rev. Robert O. Smith, PhD, is Academic Director for the Jerusalem Global Gateway of the University of Notre Dame and co-moderator, with Dr. Muna Mushahwar, of the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum of the World Council of Churches. He is the author of More Desired than Our Owne Salvation: The Roots of Christian Zionism(Oxford, 2013), and editor, with Göran Gunner, of Comprehending Christian Zionism: Perspectives in Comparison (Fortress, 2014). He sometimes thinks about things other than Israel and Palestine.