Saturday, April 5, 2014

Beware of Taking Pity on the Enemy!

Beware of Taking Pity on the Enemy!

Israelis have experienced a new Exodus in the 20th century. Palestinians are still seeking their Moses for the 21st century.

There are many ways to frame an Exodus from oppression to freedom. Reading the lectionary for today (April 4, 2014) brought to my mind one way of seeing how Moses emerged as a leader for the Israelites of old. (Will it happen for today’s Palestinians?)

Pharaoh’s Empire dictated the elimination of alien Hebrews from the land. (Besides, the Hebrews were a demographic bomb waiting to go off – Ex.1:8-10) Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you [midwives] shall throw into the Nile (Ex. 1:22).

Turns out Pharaoh’s daughter acts against Empire rules! She is bathing in the Nile, spies a basket in the bulrushes, hears the cries of what is surely a Hebrew baby, and tragedy of tragedies, takes pity on him. A crying, vulnerable, abandoned baby boy, obviously in peril, comes right “in her face”.

She immediately knew it “must be one of the Hebrews’ children” (Ex. 2:6b). Was there a crisis of conscience for her? Did she agonize over what she should do? Did she know the official position of the Empire?

She subverts Dad’s stated policy. Instead of destroying the threat, she takes the enemy into her own home! An enemy with access to the levers of power. Bad mistake!

Compassion is the beginning of the End of Empire domination! Compassion overturns oppression. (Is there a Palestinian insider, now outsider, poised to confront Empire? Israelis are keeping someone like Marwan Barghouti in prison for a reason. Why did the Afrikaners ever let Nelson Mandela out of prison? Like Barghouti, Moses was guilty of killing someone in the oppressor class. He was surely a persona non grata if and when operating in Egypt. Yet Moses was a “freedom-fighter”. Although he was not invited back, he went back to where his violent past haunted him, seeking a different, nonviolent way, just as Mr. Barghouti, Fatah and the younger leadership has renounced violence and want to return to help their people).

There is much debate over acts of compassion vs. judicial acts to overturn systemic injustice. I maintain both are needed. This episode shows that the beginning of the journey from oppression to freedom begins in an act of compassion. Pharaoh’s daughter, disobeying Empire’s edict by giving in to mercy, begins Empire’s downfall. Moses matures from seeking violent overthrow of injustice to nonviolent resistance to his people’s oppression. But it all started when he was brought into the heart of Empire by Pharaoh’s daughter’s act of rebellion. She disobeyed the sign that read: “Don’t go there. Let them rot in a watery grave. This is our land. There is no room for aliens, strangers, undesirables who will eventually overwhelm us”.

She should have known better. Foolish girl! She should have known there is no room in the Empire for compassion. When you show any mercy, it is the beginning of the End. Shame on you, daughter!