Israel: Stop the Invasion of Gaza, Stop the Bombing of Gaza, Free the Palestinian Prisoners
by Rabbi Michael Lerner
According to Ha’aretz correspondent Amira Hass, the IDF has been conducting mass arrests in the West Bank, between 10 and 30 every day. Twenty-four of the arrested are members of the Palestinian parliament from Hamas’ Change and Reform party. The number of those arrested since the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens has already exceeded 1,000. The Palestinians are convinced that most of those detained have nothing to do with the kidnapping and that these are mainly political arrests for purposes of intimidation and revenge.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Tens of thousands of young Palestinian men have experienced arrest, torture, loss of employment, and have been unable to protect their parents, partners and friends from arbitrary and repressive treatment from IDF Occupation forces. The surprising thing is that despite this inhumane and emasculating treatment, few Palestinians have engaged in acts of violence or desperation.
I’ve argued that acts of desperation can be self-destructive. Many Palestinians will suffer for the acts of the few Palestinian Hamas extremists. But since Hamas activists have come to believe that even if they do nothing they will still be targeted, some are saying that acting out violently against the Occupation is the only thing that can restore their dignity since nothing will restore their land. I think that this is a mistake for Gaza and the West Bank. Sometimes I think that Hamas doesn’t really even care for its own citizens in Gaza—they care more about showing that non-violence will never work to challenge Israel’s occupation, and they are willing to let the people of Gaza pay the price, namely the invasion of Gaza by the Israeli army with the inevitable consequence of many more than the 220 Palestinians already killed in the past two weeks.
And yet, it is hard to deny that the Israeli Occupation is so repressive and dishonoring of Palestinians that some young men have taken to violence, while others see those acts as the only thing that can momentarily give people a relief from the emotional depression of years under Occupation generates. Yet the violence against Israeli civilian targets has pushed the politics of Israel even further to the Right.
For those of us like myself who care about the well-being of all people on the planet, not only my own Jewish people, but all peoples, the high toll of Palestinian civilians is horrifying—more than 1,000 civilians already wounded according to Palestinian sources, and 250 Palestinian civilians and two Israelis dead. This will likely lead to more Hamas terrorists.
But not only is the war stupid from the standpoint of Jewish self-interest, it is also immoral in the extreme. None of this would have happened if Israel had been serious about negotiating an end to the Occupation. But as Prime Minister Netanyahu made clear in his press conference last week, he never intends to give the Palestinian people an independent state of their own.
Israel must end the invasion, stop its bombing of Gaza, free the Palestinians it has arrested in the past years, and abandon its insane policy of seeking security through domination. This approach may work in a dictatorial regime for a little while, but even in those circumstances, the repression only works for a limited period (ask the former leaders of the Soviet Community party).
Instead, Israel needs a generosity strategy, not only agreeing to a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the release of all Occupation-related prisoners, getting the US and its Western allies to provide a massive reparation fund to support the new Palestinian state until it achieves economic and political parity with Israel, share Jerusalem as the capital of both an Israeli and Palestinian state, an end to teaching hatred and racism in its schools and media in exchange for Palestine doing the same, but also agreeing to allow 20,000 Palestinian refugees a year to move to Israel each year for the next 40 years in exchange for Palestine allowing Israelis living in the West Bank to stay in their settlements as law-abiding citizens of the new Palestinian state and subject to Palestinian law and court system (just as Palestinians living inside the pro-67 borders of Israel are subject to Israeli law and Israeli courts).
If Israel could apologize for its part (partial, not total) in creating the Palestinian refugee population, create jointly with Palestinians a Truth and Reconciliation process similar to that done in South Africa, and accept an international force to police the borders and protect both Israel and the Palestinians from the inevitable extremist attacks by Hamas and Israeli settlement fanatics, and—most importantly—if as the more powerful party in the struggle Israel can act with a genuine spirit of open-heartedness to the Palestinian people in seeking to help rebuild all that it had destroyed in Gaza and the West Bank, its spirit of generosity would within less than 10 years undermine the hold of Hamas on a large section of that fundamentalist group’s political base in both the West Bank and Gaza.
The fundamentalist hold on populations of the Middle East is based in large part on the widespread perception that Arabs and Muslims have been systematically disrespected and humiliated by the Western colonial powers and an Israel that is perceived as the cutting edge of this humiliation. In the Middle East, particularly among Arab communities, there is no stronger “weapon” to dislodge that sense of humiliation than for the US and Israel to shift from a strategy of domination to a strategy of generosity and genuine caring for the well-being of “the Other.”
And, doing so would bring Israel back in alignment with the unequivocal demand of Torah: “when you come into your land, do not oppress the stranger/Other—remember that you were the Other in the land of Egypt.” So, yes, Hamas would start to lose a major part of its constituency within a generation if Israel became famous not for the power of its army but for the power of its compassion, empathy, generosity of spirit and open-hearted repentance for its part in having hurt the Palestinian people.
Otherwise, stuck in its own fearfulness, unable to acknowledge its power and still seeing itself as the victim, and hence relying on bombings, assassinations, jailings without trials, and periodic invasions of Gaza, Israel will not only help Hamas to grow into a permanent majority in the Palestinian world, but also will put in danger Jews around the world whose knee-jerk support for our own people (understandably, since this is our own extended family) is increasingly perceived as an endorsement of repressive policies.
This focus on the psycho-spiritual dimension of the struggle and the need for a strategy of generosity is precisely what Tikkun brings to the table through our Network of Spiritual Progressives and which you’ll find sorely missing in most of the analyses whether from Israeli, Palestinian, European or American political analysts, editorialists, politicians, and media reporters and even leftie protesters.
Yet it is this dimension, which is ignored to their peril by all who care about the well-being of both peoples. So, yes, we demand an end to the bombing of Gaza and the invasion of Gaza, just as we have demanded of Hamas that it stop its attempted bombings of Israel. It’s time for a brand new direction, but only you, the reader of this point can make it happen.