Regarding the Violence in Israel & Gaza

November 16, 2012

 Dear Kehilla folks,

 Just a note to share with you my thoughts in this moment of the hostilities in Israel and Gaza.

 I find myself immensely sad for several reasons. I am distressed because the idea of killing, especially civilian non-combatants and children whether Israeli or Palestinian, is abhorrent to me, whether they are intentionally targeted or are the victims of collateral damage.

 I also find myself at each juncture of the conflict begging that those who have the power to act do so wisely and make choices that advance us all toward peace and justice, and I do not see that the options have been chosen wisely. People on each side are fueling the worst fears of the other side and thus reinforcing the extremes while discrediting those who are willing to find common ground with the other and who are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Advocating Israel’s destruction and lobbing rockets at Israeli civilians will not help Palestinian self-determination, moreover and more importantly, it will kill innocent people. Releasing a barrage of fire into Gaza will not bring us closer to Israeli security in the long run and it too will cause the deaths of innocents.

 I was particularly saddened to hear that the Hamas official, Ahmed Jabari – admittedly a man responsible for terror – was targeted for assassination even as he was serving as a negotiating partner on a ceasefire truce between Hamas and Israel. Gershon Baskin founder of Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a friend of mine and a speaker at Kehilla a few years back, acted as a go between Israel and Hamas and helped in the release of Gilad Shalit and the truce negotiation. Gershon, who helped draft that truce, says these current hostilities were avoidable.

 Israel certainly has a right to defend itself. My distress is that self-defense is not just an activity of violent retribution or preemptive violence. In my opinion, for what it may be worth, defense of Israeli peace would have been far more secure had the last four years not been frittered away with the expansion of settlements in the West Bank thus discrediting Mahmoud Abbas as well as cutting off the necessary negotiations that could bring about a final settlement. I believe that Israeli security would have been more likely had the withdrawal from Gaza been the result of a negotiation with Abbas, and not by Ariel Sharon’s unilateral action.

 I’ve been reading my emails and twitter feeds calling on folks to rally around the flag: to join together in opposing Israeli aggression; to join together in supporting Israel as its civilians are under attack. Both sides assert that there is no moral equivalence between the violence of the both sides. I don’t care who is right on this and I won’t claim an insight to moral equivalence. Firing rockets on Israeli civilian targets cannot be defended morally or strategically. Besieging and bombarding Gaza and restructuring the West Bank infrastructure so that its independence from Israel becomes impossible, is not going to make Israel more secure or more democratic.

 My heart goes out to the innocents of all sides, but I can’t rally around anyone’s flag, at least not right now, when I contemplate and despair over all the roads not taken.

 I cannot speak on behalf of anyone other than myself. I can only ask. I ask that each of consider how she or he can alleviate the suffering or contribute to its cessation. Each of us has our own take on what has gone wrong and what needs to be done. I have no formula for anyone beyond myself. I will look for ways to contribute to the Magen David Adom and to the Red Crescent. I won’t demonize those who choose to rally around whatever flag but rather listen to their aspirations and despair whether I agree or not. I do ask that Kehilla congregants embrace the reality of the suffering of people on all sides of this conflict and act as best they are able in the interests of peace, security, justice, and co-existence.

 Shabbat Shalom.

– Rabbi David

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