Lebanese and Israeli Bloggers Empathize Online reveals a slightly hopeful trend that is going on under the radar. On both sides of an active conflict, there are people who respond to one another as human beings. I’m not sure that governments, or even leaders of political movements, will ever get the “love your enemy” thing, but people on the ground may provide another narrative than that given by either side.
More generally speaking, what comes out of these conversations—through blogs or interspersed commentaries between Israelis and Lebanese—is a feeling of powerlessness and sadness regarding this conflict over the civilian losses it has caused, and over the policymakers of their respective countries and their international allies who have subjected them to this fait accompli. Hope is also present in these conversations, for while many Lebanese bloggers today feel hate toward Israel and will now refuse any contact with Israelis, most of those who communicate online do not consider themselves as “enemies” but as “neighbours”.
Perhaps the will toward reconciliation will outlast the will toward annihilation, as life trumps death. All that the purveyors of death can do is kill, themselves or others, or (more often) both. But creative striving toward peace does not have death as its endpoint, but new life, a hope and a future.
Unfortunately, each side in a conflict can also envision peace — what is now being called, by some, a “sustainable” cease-fire; sustainable if and only if by the time it is proclaimed one side has clearly won, and the other clearly lost. Every empire and every dictatorship imposes such a peace upon the territory it has subdued: a peace built on terror, not on opposition to terror. But this kind of false peace is actually what is not sustainable. It is of this kind of peace that the seeds of new conflict are sown, as could be shown by many historical examples.
For my own part, I would say that any nation which for any reason belittles, discounts, repudiates, eschews or diminishes talk of forgiveness or reconciliation and all that goes with it, has forfeited, indeed explicitly repudiated, any meaningful association with the values that would truly be necessary for it to be called — as some would like to do — a “Christian” nation. In the New Testament, reconciliation, forgiveness and restoration are the means by which God is made known in the world, by which it proclaims that the Kingdom of God has already arrived: that peaceable kingdom in which every man is free to invite his neighbor to sit with him under his own vine and under his own fig tree. If Israelis and Lebanese are still seeking, while missiles and bombs are falling, to call each other neighbor, not enemy, we can yet pray with hope: “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on Earth…”