The NSP joins with the Committee to End House Demolitions in calling for an immediate cease fire in Gaza and a return to negotiations with Palestinians, this time including Hamas, toward the goal of ending the Occupation. There is much truth in both Gideon Levy’s article attacking Israel’s actions in Gaza and in Bradley Burston’s critique of the critics of that attack. We at Tikkun have responded to our readers request to not deluge them with daily reports on the daily assaults by Israel on Palestinians suspected of being "militants" or Hamas activists that have been going on all through the past years, or on the cutting off of food and supplies to Gazans that has led to starvation for some, malnutrition for most-and all this while Israeli proclaims how it "left Gaza" (instead of acknowledging that it turned Gaza into a large prison camp). But because we didn’t give you that daily information, it can now seem as if the refusal of Hamas to return to a cease-fire, and its charges that Israel consistently broke the cease fire, seem extreme, and its return to minor shelling in the past few days (killing no one-because its rocket supplies are pathetic and incapable to reaching most Israeli cities, thank God!) seems to supply Israel with its justification for a renewed war (in which it killed over 250 men, women and children in one day of indiscriminate bombing raids of Gazan civilians). Yet the fundamental context of Occupation and massive Israeli power lends plausibility to Gideon Levy’s account of Israel as "the Neighborhood Bully." Yet on the other hand, Hamas’ reliance on violence, not only against Israel but against the more peace-seeking Palestinian Authority associated Palesitnians, must also be unequivocally condemned, even while saying, as Burston does, that it does n ot follow from such a condemnation that a new war is the appropriate response. Indeed, this is another voluntary war by Israel, and seems to be motivated more by dishonored Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Barak’s desire to not leave office without somehow erasing the memory of their failed Lebanon invasion two years ago-and since Gazans have none of the military capacities of Hezbollah, the Israeli politicians who chose to do this war two months before the election are likely to get higher esteem in Israel for this shooting fish in a barrel type war than they did when they faced enemies who had some way of defending themselves. From the standpoint of Tikkun, war is the wrong response. If Israel wants peace with Palestinians, it can achieve it by negotiations based on the Saudi peace initiative; it cannot achieve it by killing more Palestinian civilians or even by wiping out the current generation of Hamas activists. There is no path to peace-peace is the path. Ånd if Israel wants to destroy Hamas, it has one clear way: rebuild Gaza and the West Bank with a massive Marshall Plan type enterprise-adopt our Strategy of Generosity and renounce the strategy of domination. Trust in God,, trust in love, trust in kindness, trust in generosity-and give those strategies a ten year chance to work and Israel will get far more security than it will achieve by this latest violation of international law, Torah ethics, and common sense. I invite our readers to respond to this and to the statements below. I’m particularly interested in inviting the Reform, Conservative, Reconstrucitonist and Renewal rabbis on this list to see how many believe that trusting in God is a ridiculous strategy, that loving the stranger or the Other is irrelevant, and that all those good Torah values really have no relevance to "the real world." It remains the case that we who trust in the power of love and generosity, and hence in the message of Torah and the tradition of the Jewish people that "not by might, and not by power, but by my spirit , says the Lord of poiwer the Lord of hosts" are largely vilified by many of those who claim to be the current representatives of the Jewish tradition. And our response: stop being "realistic," because the realism of military force and power has not brought you peace-so how about trying a different strategy, a strategy of love and generosity and caring for others, and start by applying that to the Palestinian people.
-Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun.org
The neighborhood bully strikes again
By Gideon Levy
Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I wrote: "Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn’t be provoked into anger… Not that the bully’s not right – someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction!"
Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror, with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation "Cast Lead" is only in its infancy.
Once again, Israel’s violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality and international law.
What began yesterday in Gaza is a war crime and the foolishness of a country. History’s bitter irony: A government that went to a futile war two months after its establishment – today nearly everyone acknowledges as much – embarks on another doomed war two months before the end of its term.
In the interim, the loftiness of peace was on the tip of the tongue of Ehud Olmert, a man who uttered some of the most courageous words ever said by a prime minister. The loftiness of peace on the tip of his tongue, and two fruitless wars in his sheath. Joining him is his defense minister, Ehud Barak, the leader of the so-called left-wing party, who plays the role of senior accomplice to the crime.
Israel did not exhaust the diplomatic processes before embarking yesterday on another dreadful campaign of killing and ruin. The Qassams that rained down on the communities near Gaza turned intolerable, even though they did not sow death. But the response to them needs to be fundamentally different: diplomatic efforts to restore the cease-fire – the same one that was initially breached, one should remember, by Israel when it unnecessarily bombed a tunnel – and then, if those efforts fail, a measured, gradual military response.
But no. It’s all or nothing. The IDF launched a war yesterday whose end, as usual, is hoping someone watches over us.
Blood will now flow like water. Besieged and impoverished Gaza, the city of refugees, will pay the main price. But blood will also be unnecessarily spilled on our side. In its foolishness, Hamas brought this on itself and on its people, but this does not excuse Israel’s overreaction.
The history of the Middle East is repeating itself with despairing precision. Just the frequency is increasing. If we enjoyed nine years of quiet between the Yom Kippur War and the First Lebanon War, now we launch wars every two years. As such, Israel proves that there is no connection between its public relations talking points that speak of peace, and its belligerent conduct.
Israel also proves that it has not internalized the lessons of the previous war. Once again, this war was preceded by a frighteningly uniform public dialogue in which only one voice was heard – that which called for striking, destroying, starving and killing, that which incited and prodded for the commission of war crimes.
Once again the commentators sat in television studios yesterday and hailed the combat jets that bombed police stations, where officers responsible for maintaining order on the streets work. Once again, they urged against letting up and in favor of continuing the assault. Once again, the journalists described the pictures of the damaged house in Netivot as "a difficult scene." Once again, we had the nerve to complain about how the world was transmitting images from Gaza. And once again we need to wait a few more days until an alternative voice finally rises from the darkness, the voice of wisdom and morality.
In another week or two, those same pundits who called for blows and more blows will compete among themselves in leveling criticism at this war. And once again this will be gravely late.
The pictures that flooded television screens around the world yesterday showed a parade of corpses and wounded being loaded into and unloaded from the trunks of private cars that transported them to the only hospital in Gaza worthy of being called a hospital. Perhaps we once again need to remember that we are dealing with a wretched, battered strip of land, most of whose population consists of the children of refugees who have endured inhumane tribulations.
For two and a half years, they have been caged and ostracized by the whole world. The line of thinking that states that through war we will gain new allies in the Strip; that abusing the population and killing its sons will sear this into their consciousness; and that a military operation would suffice in toppling an entrenched regime and thus replace it with another one friendlier to us is no more than lunacy.
Hezbollah was not weakened as a result of the Second Lebanon War; to the contrary. Hamas will not be weakened due to the Gaza war; to the contrary. In a short time, after the parade of corpses and wounded ends, we will arrive at a fresh cease-fire, as occurred after Lebanon, exactly like the one that could have been forged without this superfluous war.
In the meantime, let us now let the IDF win, as they say. A hero against the weak, it bombed dozens of targets from the air yesterday, and the pictures of blood and fire are designed to show Israelis, Arabs and the entire world that the neighborhood bully’s strength has yet to wane. When the bully is on a rampage, nobody can stop him.
Falacies of their Left
by Bradley Burston
The first five are arguments of the anti-Israel left, claims which are, curiously, as tired as they are unflagging.
Leftist 1: Israel’s true motive in bombing Gaza, is genocide against the Palestinian people and extermination of their right to statehood.
Israel’s genuine interest in this campaign is strikingly similar to Hamas’ interest in firing scores of rockets into Israeli population centers:
Forcing a cease-fire on better terms than the one just ended.
For Hamas, this largely means easing Israeli economic sanctions against Gazans. For Israel, this centers on ending shelling by Qassam and Grad missiles and mortar shells. For both sides, this means a prisoner exchange, centering on Gilad Shalit and hundreds of jailed Hamas members.
Leftist 2: The Palestinians have no recourse but to defend themselves, and the makeshift rockets they fire are nothing compared to the world’s most advanced warplanes and munitions, which the IDF is using against them.
The Human Rights Watch organization has been unequivocal in condemning the use of Qassam rockets as a direct violation of international humanitarian law and the laws of war. The firing of Qassams and mortars against civilian populations also
constitutes collective punishment against hundreds of thousands of innocent Israeli men, women and children.
Moreover, the firing of Qassams began not as a response to the siege against Gaza, but as a marathon celebration by armed Islamic fundamentalist groups following Israel’s withdrawal of its troops and settlers from the Strip. To purposely add insult to injury, Islamic Jihad and other organizations used the ruins of settlements as launch platforms.
Leftist 3: All that Hamas is asking, is recognition as the democratically elected government of Gaza, and an end to the Israeli economic embargo. Were they to attain these goals, there would be calm on both sides of the border.
It is both unrealistic and dangerous to believe that Hamas has abandoned its clearly stated and often reiterated goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in all of the Holy Land, including all land claimed, annexed by, or in any way occupied by Israel.
Beyond that, Hamas has strong alliances with the Egyptian opposition Muslim brotherhood, as well as working partnerships with the Iran-dominated Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.
Israeli restraint, when practiced, has been met with contempt and additional Hamas and Hamas-tolerated strikes against civilian populations.
Leftist 4: The Israeli blockade against Hamas is state terrorism and any means to fight it are legitimate.
There is every reason to believe that Israel’s economic siege against Gaza is misguided, but not for an essential cruelty, rather because Hamas taxes collected on the influx of goods imported through tunnels from Egyptian territory have subsidized and cemented Hamas rule.
Leftist 5: The world overwhelmingly sympathizes with the Palestinians against Israel, and unreservedly backs their struggle for independence.
In an era of global revulsion against radical Islamic terror, Hamas’ protracted program of suicide bombings, drive-by murders and shelling of civilian populations, coupled with its refusal to renounce violence, recognize Israel, or accept past peace agreements, coupled with its ideology of militant jihad, have drained the Palestinians of international sympathy and have, in fact, legitimized Israeli arguments of military self-defense.
Nothing has been more instrumental in harming the cause of Palestinian independence than Hamas, with its brutal take-over of Gaza in a war with brother Palestinians, and its frank efforts to build a large-scale regular army force in the Strip.
SUBSCRIBE to Tikkun Magazine