Egypt, Islam, and Nonviolence: A brief clarification and a comment

This morning’s USAToday has brought some more information regarding the ongoing issues facing the Egyptian people in light of the stepping down of their government and subsequent movement toward a more free and democratic state.  One story this morning included an interview with the group who sort of spearheaded the protests, “April 6,” who is going today to speak with the military about some demands, one of which is the cutting off of oil shipments to Israel.  If they don’t get these demands, they will be calling on people to take to the streets again.

In light this I want to clarify something and then make a lesser-related comment.

When i said I was proud of the Egyptian people, I never said things were certain.  Far from it.  A democratic Egypt very well may be vastly different from the Egypt we know today, and may even cease to be an ally in any real sense.  The impacts of this are huge and deserving of consideration, but more on that in a moment.  My point is, even though the Egyptian people have shown the power of nonviolent resistance to overthrow totalitarian regimes, they have not necessarily secured our version of freedom. With the entire Middle East in upheaval for one reason or another, things are far from certain and no praise for the Egyptians and discussion of nonviolence can change that.

Now my lesser-related comment.

April 6 is demanding the stopping of oil shipments to Israel.  I can see where the conservative commentators are going to go with this, and I am going to respectfully disagree with them.  The reason they want these shipments stopped is because of how the Israelis are treating the Palestinians.  I know, I shouldn’t go there, but I am going to anyway.  Just because Israel is God’s chosen people (although I don’t agree that nation-state Israel is what God meant) does not mean that their every action is sanctioned by God.  Oppression is, I think, something God is not too thrilled with. In fact, if Israel is God’s nation-state, then we have even more reason to take them to task on these sorts of issues rather than simply baptizing everything they do under the misguided notion that they are God’s people.  After all, we don’t shrug off priests molesting children because they are “chosen by God,” do we?

The Egyptian movement has a point.  Israel should not be “persecuting” the Palestinians.  It does not matter who started it.  Oppression that begets oppression will only beget more oppression.  Or, as Derek Webb so eloquently sings, “An I for an I will never satisfy until there’s nothing left to see.”

At that, though, I have to say that I don’t think punishing the innocent, which is what a sanction like that does, is an answer either.  It is not necessarily your average Israeli citizen who is running down family shacks with a tank.  Every average person has a similar agenda: to protect and provide for their family.  Before sanctions, there should be talks.  Things should be made clear.  Agreements should be sought.

Things are changing in the Middle East, and this means that our relationship with Middle Eastern countries, including Israel, is going to need to change as well.  I am not suggesting we throw those relationships out, just that we let the relationships evolve, as all relationships must do in times of strife.  Otherwise, the end of those relationship,s or the risk of those relationships ending, becomes more and more eminent.

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