Rudd, Bonhoeffer and the War on Gaza

By Vacy Vlazna

For Christians, Christmas and New Year revivify reflection on core values – good will to all and peace for humankind. Between these two dates, on the 27th December, falls the third anniversary of Israel’s infamous war crime – Operation Cast Lead which has left a legacy of enduring grief, trauma and disabilities for Gazan families.

When reflecting on values that fortify and secure peace and goodwill, the religious values purported by political leaders, who hold life and death in their power, can comfort us and inspire a greatness of soul embracing love, compassion and justice.

The year before he was elected Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, Australia’s present Foreign Minister, wrote a powerful tome Faith in Politics exploring the relevancy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s religious principles on modern politics: 

"I argue that a core, continuing principle shaping this engagement [between a Christian and the state] should be that Christianity, consistent with Bonhoeffer’s critique in the ’30s, must always take the side of the marginalised, the vulnerable and the oppressed."

Bonhoeffer, Rudd’s spiritual hero, was a Lutheran pastor who was hanged by the Gestapo for an assassination attempt on Hitler.

Perhaps the road to Damascus is symbolic of the inner journey to absolute spiritual integrity or, put another way, to the place of the soul wherein Bonheoffer transformed from a theologian to a Christian. 

Perhaps becoming profoundly, integrally ethical wherein a person MUST as Bonheoffer exhorts –  "dem Rad in die Speichen fallen" ……throwing oneself into the wheel of injustice to clog it and stop it, even at the cost of one’s life." is not one moment of epiphany but a journey and for some an erratic one at that.

It is interesting to watch Rudd’s struggle to be a Christian in the truest Bonhoeffer sense.

And it appears that Jerusalem is his Devil’s temptation.

Would Rudd choose mundane power with Israel’s backing or love  i.e. responsibility for "the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed and reviled, in short [act] from the perspective of the suffering" and indubitably the Palestinians are, in modern politics, the most long suffering, defenceless and betrayed people.

Rudd’s recent criticism of the expansion of 1100 illegal houses in the East Jerusalem Gilo settlement and criticism of the inhumane and illegal treatment of Palestinian child prisoners by Israel are commendable and ethical steps.

But his drinking from the bitter cup of Max Brenner hot chocolate, an Israeli company that proudly supports the Golani brigade which Miko Peled states is "at the cutting edge of brutality" was contemptible and an undignified stooping to the Australian Zionist lobby.

A cup Bonhoeffer surely would have refused.

His intent to merely abstain on the vote for Palestinian entry to UNESCO suggests that he lacks the ‘muscular Christianity’ to boldly endorse Palestine’s RIGHT to full membership to the UN.

The real test whether his principles were hypocritical or whether they genuinely adhered to Bonheoffer’s urging that Christians "must always take the side of the marginalised, the vulnerable and the oppressed ‘ was challenged by his stand on Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against defenceless ‘imprisoned ‘ Gazan families.

To the massive bombardment of Israel’s arsenal of Depleted Uranium, Dense Inert Metal Explosives, White Phosphorous, Anti-Personnel/Anti-Materiel Tank Rounds, Fuel Air Explosives, Anti-Door Short-Range Anti-Armor Weapon, Spike Multi-Purpose Anti-Armor Missile, GBU-28s bunker buster bombs, GBU-39s GPS guided  munitions, "M433 40mmhigh explosive, dual-purpose (HEDP) cartridges and M889A1 81 mm high explosive cartridges, but U.S. provisions have also included M107 155 mm high explosive artillery rounds, M141 83 mm bunker defeat munitions, and M930 120 mm illuminating cartridges. The HEDP, M889A1, and M107 have armour-piercing capability effective against vehicles or buildings, but all are specifically designed or (in the case of the HEDP) modified to be antipersonnel fragmentation devices as well. The M107 is designed to spray some 2,000 pieces of shrapnel. The M141 is designed to breach walls. " All fired  by F16s, Helicopters, UAVs or Drones, Armoured tanks, Caterpillar Armored D9 Bulldozers, Naval war ships and  IOF forces including Max Brenner’s proud Golani and Givati brigades ..

Rudd and his government were as silent as the professed-Christian incumbent President Bush and the professed-Christian President-elect, Obama.

1400 marginalised, vulnerable, oppressed Palestinian individuals including 300 children were murdered in 22 days of Israeli war crimes and horror and not a word from the arch-political elite of Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. 

Bonhoeffer’s light on the hill went black.

Rudd and his government then abstained on the UN vote on the Goldstone Report condemning Israel’s war crimes.

Perhaps, on the road to Damascus, Rudd stumbled over Gaza. Nevertheless, the wheels of Israeli injustice roll on and Rudd still can, as a Christian politician, this very day and every day, "assume a prophetic role in speaking out in defence of the defenceless in the face of a hostile state."

– Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters www.palestinematters,com . She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 and was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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