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  • Writer's pictureDavid OMalley

Courage is what it takes to sit and listen.

The Winston Churchill quote above came to my mind when I was able to join the recent march in London demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. I was just one of 300,000 concerned people who believe that continuing the military action is storing up decades of future conflict and playing into the hands of terrorist organisations.

I spoke with Mariam near the main stage and she explained why she had travelled to London with her whole family. Aged 18 she was angry and tearful that her Palestinian relations were now lost in Gaza and perhaps dead.

"No one cares about us, its all about politics when it should be about listening to the people who are suffering."

I spoke to a number of police officers around the stage area and they spoke about the importance of the rule of law. They were calm and competent in managing a huge crowd and did so with truly British restraint and humor. They represented for me true British values unlike the English Defence League who disgraced themselves with their violent behaviour near to the cenotaph. It is only when we dehumanise another person that we can use violence against them. That is why the English Defence League were able to attack police in a drunken frenzy devoid of their God - given humanity.

The same angry frenzy seems to have found a home in many Israeli hearts otherwise they could not have attacked so many innocent civilians in order to clear out the terrorist from Gaza. Dehumanising people removes all morality in favour of the need to win and to punish. It also ensures that the vicious cycle of hate will roll into future decades. At some stage people need to sit and listen instead of getting their retaliation in first. That takes a different kind of bravery and a faith in humanity that is often jeered at as soft and naive. But there is no other way.

The situation in Palestine is complex with a long history of overreaction and retaliation driven by fear. It is a powerful engine for violence on both sides of the conflict based on an ability to polarise people into opposites with a primitive and visceral tribalism that only perpetuates the conflict. The only way forward is not the "either or mentality" of some politics but the "both and" mentality that marks us as truly human.

That is why I was pleased to see the posters above on the march. They point out that not all Israelis are Jews, and Jews in Palestine are not all anti Palestinian. Neither do all Palestinians support Hamas that has turned Gaza into a battlefield. It is not a black and white battle line between two groups and that is what gives hope for the future. Perhaps we should finish this refection with the words of one Palestinian Jew whose words you know well:

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. ( Gospel of Luke 6. 27 - 28)

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