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Israel, Palestine, and a Personal Conflict

I come from a varied background which has taken me on a winding and somewhat tortuous trail throughout my life. There are a series of threads that tie me to Judaism and hence Israel, and to the Palestinians.

I come from what is sometimes referred to as "humble" beginnings. In my case I was the only child (as far as I know) of mixed race parents who lived in poverty in the inner city of Kansas City. At the age of 7 (after my father was imprisoned, and my mother "remarried") I was removed from my mother's custody and put within the "tender care" of the Jackson County Juvenile Justice department. After almost a year in confinement at the downtown facility I was sent out into foster homes.

Throughout my early life I was steeped in a variety of Christian denominations, and dutifully baptized in each along the way - Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist.

I was also a child from the inner city of Kansas City dumped into a generally middle class world which glaringly contrasted and conflicted with my beginnings. I was deeply aware of the inequalities evident between these worlds, and the prejudice of the middle class towards the poor. I bore the insults and assaults from foster parents, other children, and other children's parents. That disgust that often bordered on hatred that was directed at me marked me deeply. It was a clear and conscious choice on my part to fight for social justice. It started early - by the time I was 10 - and continues to this day.

One might wonder how this ties to the issue at hand. Throughout my life in a variety of social justice and civil rights movements and actions I have worked side-by-side with Jews. Whether in the Womens' Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Farm Workers Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, the anti-poverty movement, and even the environmental and alternative media organizations, there were Jews.

Some of the Jews were "practicing" and some were not, but they shared a deep (and cultural commitment) to justice and equality. To a person, the hundreds of Jews I worked with were dedicated to the depths of their souls to a world of justice and peace. The religious Jews sometimes framed this as a burden placed in their hands (and the hands of all Jews) by God. Their unswerving dedication to do good was a "mitvah." In this context, a mitvah commonly means an act of kindness and consideration that is done without thought or expectation of recompense or recognition. In fact, most mitvahs are done or given secretly, and these are the most smiled upon by God. Hence, many of the Jews I worked with were not in leadership positions giving news conferences or getting paid for the work in the movement. They worked, often tirelessly and often at great personal risk, out of the limelight. More "tightly" mitvah means following the 613 commandments in the Torah.

Not surprisingly perhaps, my path of social justice also became part of my spiritual path. Also not surprisingly that spiritual path led me to Judaism.

Being a foster child, I came to adulthood without this society's "natural" support network of a family. Being a lesbian and childless, I did not plug into the extended support network of family-by-marriage. Being a social justice activist in Reno, Nevada (where I lived at the time) was a small circle indeed.

I found myself in a spiritual crisis that overlapped with my social and political crisis. Long since I had disconnected myself from Christianity and institutionalized religion. By accident, or perhaps divine guidance, I found my thoughts and heart drawn to Judaism. I started studying and ultimately ended up at the doors of Temple Sinai - a reform congregation in Reno, NV. A co-worker who became a friend was a member of Temple Sinai and I went to temple weekly with her and (and sometimes her husband). What I found at Temple Sinai was not just a community, but a community that shared what the activist Jews throughout my life had shared - a deep sensitivity and commitment to justice.

Ultimately, I took the classes - including classes in Hebrew - to follow the steps for conversion to Judaism. I converted and became a formal member of Temple Sinai. I had found both a spiritual home and the warm embrace of a community, something that I had never experienced in my life to that point. One of the hardest things I did in moving from Reno to Portland, Oregon was leaving Temple Sinai and the home I had found there.

On arriving in Portland, I visited a number of synagogues a number of times but never found the community I had found at Temple Sinai. One of the Portland congregations (for example) was reaching out to gays and lesbians and wanted to start a separate support group within the congregation. This was so far from the inclusiveness of my Reno congregation that I walked away in sadness. Acceptance is not a group within a group and an effort at integration. It was the hug of the grandmothers (and fathers) of Temple Sinai who saw me and my sexual orientation was just not an issue. This does not mean that they just "overlooked" it, but it was not an issue in that they acknowledged that it was part of who I am - and it didn't matter.

Since moving to Portland, I have also been privileged to have the opportunity to work and talk with many Muslims, and most of them have also been people of good heart who hope and work for justice and peace. More than a few of them have been dramatically impacted by events in the Middle East, in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Kuwait, Sudan, Palestine, and the "counterterrorism" activities in the United States.

Slowly, I creep up on the heart of this story.

Why? Because of all of the above. because of my understanding of Judaism, and the history and culture of Jews with whom I have worked and worshiped; and because of my friendships and interactions with Muslims. I have long struggled with the issue of Israel and the Palestinians. For a long time, I supported the idea of a Jewish state, but also felt that the Palestinians were not being dealt with in either fairness or justice. Over the last ten years or so I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the very concept of a "Jewish" state. Repeatedly, we are seeing that religiously controlled governments are not particularly "just." This is true whether looking at Afghanistan under the Taliban, the United States growing marriage of "Christianity" and government, or Judaism and Israel.

The atrocity of ongoing political and military actions between Palestinians and Israel flies in the face (and soul) of everything I connect to in relationship to Judaism. The leadership of Israel has apparently become what they hate, and embrace it with religious vigor and (self)righteous victimhood.

Yesterday, I received a body-blow to my soul watching DemocracyNow. A reporter (Max Blumenthal) was covering a pro-Israel rally in New York (see clip at end of article). Below are some of the quotes from folks at the rally:

MAX BLUMENTHAL: So how many civilian casualties would it take before you questioned the attack?

ISRAEL SUPPORTER 3: There is not a number involved.

ISRAEL SUPPORTER 4: Nothing good is going to come out of it, unless they keep fighting all the way with this 'til they wipe them all out.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Wipe them all out?

ISRAEL SUPPORTER 4: Yeah, they got to go strong with this.

ISRAEL SUPPORTER 5: There's only one way to deal with a cancer. You burn it out or you remove it. And when people don't want to talk and just want to destroy you and not allow you to live, there's only one thing you can do.

ISRAEL SUPPORTER 2: They are forcing us to kill their children to defend our children.


ISRAEL SUPPORTER 14: The reason why more Israelis haven't been killed or wounded is sheerly by the grace of God, because God has been performing just miracle after miracle. Those who are dying are suffering God's wrath, but--but we also believe that when the Angel of Death comes out, he takes everyone in his path.

So for these supporters of Israel's continued attacks on Gaza, the total elimination of the people in Gaza is not only OK, it is "God's" wrath (on the wings of Israel's - largely U.S. supplied - missiles and munitions).

When does a holocaust justify another holocaust? What does "Never Again" mean? When is genocide ever acceptable? And when do holocausts and genocide ever lead to "peace?"

How does the creation of Palestinian ghettos with Israeli military on the walls become disconnected from Jewish ghettos with Nazi military on the walls? How does shooting and bombing of Palestinians inside these ghettos distinguish itself from the "rat hunts" of the Nazi's? How does the destruction and confiscation of Palestinian lands and property distinguish itself from what happened to Jews across Europe? How does the passports and checkpoints and endless lines to move from one place to another that is experienced by Palestinians vary from the atrocity of control and cruelty that was enacted on the Jews?

The similarities are so striking that the comparison becomes deja vu. The heart of mitvah is lost in the self-righteous rationalizations and legitimations that are put forward. It is a double assault on one's spirit and conscience that the U.S. government continues to support (covertly and overtly) the most egregious actions of Israel. This as recent as the votes of support this week in both the House and the Senate of the United States.

On Wednesday (1/14/09) I heard on the evening news that Israel likely had hundreds of missiles left to continue the bombing of Gaza. It implicitly raised the issue of how much of a munitions (and missile) stockpile lies within the Israeli arsenal. It was an interesting point to make even in passing - though as usual incomplete.

Reuters reported on January 9th that the "U.S. seeks ship to move arms to Israel." According to that report, the U.S. Military Sealift Command was seeking private contract charters in Greece to move 3,000 tons of munitions to Israel. It was also reported that such charters are rare. Why the private charter? Surely the U.S. has gotten the munitions (3,000 tons of them) as far as Greece. Why not just deliver them to an Israeli port? Regardless, clearly such a shipment is meant to refill Israel's arsenal. Currently there is a hitch in transporting the shipments through Greece, but I have little doubt that they will eventually make their destination.

One has to wonder how much of the ongoing Israeli policies is a mirror of U.S. interests, and how much is actually Israel's.

But here I am with a history and experience of Judaism that screams out at the wrongness - on every level - of what is happening in Gaza ... and what is happening between Israel and Palestinians.

I firmly believe that Israel, or any nation, has the right to provide for the security of its population. However, that right does not extend to the level of the actions taken by Israel in Gaza (or other Palestinian territories). It does not extend to the United States preemptive invasion of either Afghanistan or Iraq either. Such an overwhelming show of force and delivery of destruction does not bring peace - it fans the flames of hatred and reaction. Peace does not come from the total suppression of the opposition - or of a people. Peace is not simply the cessation of war. Peace ultimately comes through the creation of social and political justice where all sit down at the table - if not in friendship at least respect and dialog.

Israel will not achieve security by its activities in Gaza- even if it achieves some of its supporters' wishes of total genocide of all those within Gaza or all Palestinians. It will spawn a reaction from others in the region. Israel will be more of a target. Jews across the globe will be targets. And Muslims across the world will be targets.

The invasion of Gaza must stop, but my hopes for it doing so before George Bush leaves office are low. The timing of this activity was clearly a "make hay while the sun shines" plan. I am not even sure that it will end with Obama taking office as the first shipment of U.S. munitions through Greece was slated to arrive no later than January 25th (five days after the inauguration). The "fix" seems to be in, and Israel has been given far more than tacit U.S. approval for its "shock and awe" campaign in Gaza.

Meanwhile a civilian population is under attack with the bloody consequences of that, and the necessities of daily life (food, water. heat, sewage treatment, medical care ...) continues to become increasingly scarce. Security and peace does not lie in this direction.

One of the most profound (for me) things that I learned in studying Hebrew at Temple Sinai was that Shalom (the common Hebrew greeting and parting meaning "peace") comes from the root word "shalam" which means wholeness (or making whole as with restitution for injury). For me this came to encapsulate a truth I believe in - there is no peace without wholeness and there is no wholeness without peace. My understanding is that the Arabic "salaam" is virtually an equivalent word and concept.

So in both Hebrew and Arabic we have embedded the necessary relationship between peace and wholeness. It is only in English that we quibble over the meaning of, and requirements for, "peace." We would all do well to embrace peace and wholeness.

Shalom ... Salaam.

Video Clip from DemocracyNow report Pro-Israel Supporters Praise Gaza Assault as Justified Despite Mounting Civilian Death Toll

Posted by Rowan Wolf at January 15, 2009 8:25 AM
Comment #273609

Wow that was the saddest video I have seen in some time. I truly hope that the views expressed in the video are not the primary views of Jews. I have Jewish family and this is not how they believe. The atrocities in Gaza are shameful and you would think that after being the target of Nazi hatred and persecution, that Israel would know better.

Posted by: NapaJohn at January 15, 2009 8:51 AM
Comment #273610


I think the ‘cancer’ spoken of was about Hammas, not necessarily of all Palestinians.

I don’t know how to reverse history. Harry Truman had more to do with the creation of Israel than most of the dislocated Jews of the day…so, in effect, the United States is responsible for that state. I’m not saying the president was wrong to intrude in the affairs of the Middle East, because there were a set of unique problems at the time, and they all needed some sort of positive action.

Now that Israel is a fact of life, how can it be dismantled without creating more problems than even now exist?

But, all of that is moot, as nothing we (USA) could do would change things now, except quit supplying Israel with arms. Can you even imagine an Israel, helpless in the face of all her enemies?

But, boiled down to the basics of the current situation…I look at it this way…if a Mexican drug cartel were to send missiles from Cancun into Port Arthur, and other points in Texas, what would our response be? How many Texans were killed in those rocket attacks would not be part of the equation…only the fear of our citizens and the inherent dangers involved would be considered. Hammas left Israel with little choice.

As for the magnitude of the assault…how many times has Israel sat on its hands, tried diplomacy, attempted surgical covert operations, etc., before it decided to squash the worms with full force?

Posted by: Marysdude at January 15, 2009 9:00 AM
Comment #273611

they are not worms they are humans…

Posted by: NapaJohn at January 15, 2009 9:05 AM
Comment #273612

Humans that have been attacking Isreal without letup. That said, I wonder if there can ever be a peace in the area, no matter who you support. This to me is one of the strongest indications that ideology is not a way to peace, in the middle east or in the US. Lets do the right thing, not the ideological.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 15, 2009 9:22 AM
Comment #273613


Perhaps my nomenclature is a little harsh…Hammas is a violence oriented organization that does not recognize Irsrael’s right to exist…I should have said, “As for the magnitude of the assault…how many times has Israel sat on its hands, tried diplomacy, attempted surgical covert operations, etc., before it decided to squash the worms terrorists with full force?

Mea Culpa…

Posted by: Marysdude at January 15, 2009 9:22 AM
Comment #273614

I believe Dude was talking about hammas terrorists, not Palestinians in general.

Posted by: kctim at January 15, 2009 9:25 AM
Comment #273617

The cancer is not Hamas or the Palestinians or anything else we can see.

The cancer is a situation that constantly invites aggression from both sides, and the attitude on both sides that there is no other choice but mutually defeating violence.

I think we liberals have to be harsh on both sides conduct, yet willing to leave the door open on redemption. There are very reasonable reasons for wanting to protect your own, and very understandable reasons for wanting to strike back at those who terrorize and oppress you.

We can get stuck in that thinking, though, at the expense of rational decision making.

As a Christian, one of the things that attracted me to the religion was the discovery of just how great a part of the religious text was devoted to forgiveness and redemption. Jesus wasn’t a prophet hammering people for what disgusting lowlifes they were. He hung out, instead, with the folks who were rejects in society.

Jesus didn’t preach “do unto others before they do unto you”, or “smack the sucker down who just hit you.”, or “love your friends, hate your enemies.” He preached a lifestyle aimed at breaking the cycles of escalating wrongs. Some people have interpreted this as naive, not worldly enough, but I think the real naivete is in the sentiment that if we don’t forgive, if we seek our revenge, if our self-worth depends on our striking back, that we can have any peace in this world or the next.

There is a reason that the Gospels blesses the Peacemakers with the Kingdom of God. If anybody makes life easier in this world, it is those who have a strength to overcome the hatred and the temptations of revenge in their heart, to overrule the natural inclinations of our emotional and instinctive reactions, in order to end the wars and violence that plague us all.

It’s difficult, but the people of Israel and Palestine need that kind of strength, now more than ever, not more people cheering the fights on both sidelines.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 15, 2009 10:38 AM
Comment #273619


You have read something into this that may not exist…no one here is celebrating…we all wish things in that region were different, and peace is on the minds of everyone. The issues are much too complex to just wish peace would come…IMHO, if Israel were to disolve today, there would still be enough violence there to last us all a lifetime. It has been thus for several millennium.

Cheering on our favorites is not only juvenile, but accomplishes NOTHING. My point is that we (USA) being as responsible for the forulation of Israel as the Israelites, must then assume a reasonable amount of responsibility for its future. We cannot, in good conscience, allow those around them to take Israel down.

I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that until its neighbors, like Egypt and Jordan before them have accepted the nation of Israel as a neighboring nation, that has a right to exist, there can be no peace. Israel, then, whether right in every instance or not, must have our support. We have broken enough treaties in our inglorious history, that to desert Israel would just about finish us.

What good is a man or a nation, if their word is false, and their deeds lack honor?

Posted by: Marysdude at January 15, 2009 11:15 AM
Comment #273622

I thought Israel came about by United Nations mandate?

Posted by: womanmarine at January 15, 2009 11:47 AM
Comment #273628

I fully understand the pain people feel on both sides of this conflict, but we live in a new world in which people use news sources to wage war. Hammas is brilliant at it. They hide attacks behind women and children then trumpet the carnage THEY invite from self-defense.

People who wish to remain free have to understand the people who wish to enslave them are willing to spend people like cordwood for power. That is what Hammas will do.

How many hostages will you see die before you let their captors go free? If the captors find out you, and the pool of possible hostages, have lost everything.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 15, 2009 12:34 PM
Comment #273631

Wow. I think I need a frontal lobotomy or something. I disagree with Marysdude, and on the Geithner is Better than You thread I agree with Lee. :)
It’s all fine and dandy to say Israel, or anyone else for that matter, has the right to protect themselves. But when a hand full of people attack you it’s counter productive to lash out at thousands of people that look like them.

This is where Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah are playing us like a bass fiddle. They build schools and hospitals, then lob a few mortars at us and we kill innocent people and in the process destroy the schools and hospitals. With little investment and even less liabilities, Iran is turning all the Arab world and Persian world against us.

Does Israel have a right to exist? Do they have a right to defend themselves? Wrong Questions! As long as Israel is lashing out against poor hungry people they will lose the PR war, regardless what the facts are.

It’s too easy for a leader to slam his fist on a lectern and insist he will not sleep until all the people who attacked us are dead. Look at Bush after 9/11.

After Oklahoma City, it was easy for the FBI to find McVeigh and Nickels, because every man, woman, and child wanted to help. But to go through houses in Bagdad or in Gaza to find the (bad people) is counter productive. The collateral damage will always make matters worse.

Like I asked Jack once, After a half a century of the war on terror is Israel winning the war on terror, losing the war on terror, or is it maybe, just stuck in a war that will last forever. Using the military to wipe out the terrorists never works!

As usual I don’t have any answers myself.

Maybe if we took a page out of our New Testament. “Love your enemy” Maybe if Israel sent in a giant pile of food, water, and medicine, it would help. But then that wouldn’t be good for the leaders career. I still say five years ago when Pakistan had that really bad earth wake, we should have sent in any help we could. I’m sure while we were pulling people out of the rubble there would be other people shooting at us. But in the end we would have enough friends in Pakistan that Bin Laden wouldn’t have any place to hide. Now the poor people living around Ben Laden think he’s protecting them from us.

We need a new solution to terrorism!

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at January 15, 2009 1:05 PM
Comment #273636

Mike the Cynic,

It is easier to disagree than to present a solution. I say again, it matters not whether Hammas’ rockets hit a target or kill Israelis or not. The people would rise up and smite their leaders down, if those leaders did not take steps to protect them from those rockets, and rightly so. And, it matters not if Israel is pure or tainted…as long as terrorists threaten the sanctity of Israeli homes, and as long as negotiations do no good, and as long as neighboring nations refuse to recognize the right of Israel to exist…Israel has no option, but to do what it is doing, and PR be damned. What good is good PR, if your people continue to be attacked, your buses and buildings bombed and destroyed?

Posted by: Marysdude at January 15, 2009 2:51 PM
Comment #273639

No one has any answers to this continuing problem. The Israelis have tried numerous times to affect peace by giving up conquered land to no avail. They have made concessions that most countries would never dream of making. That they continue to protect their vital interest is expected and until there is a change of heart there will be no peace.

Peace can only come when both sides of an issue wish peace. I see have seen evidence of peace-seeking by Israel many times in the past and not much from the other side. When the Israelis become so provoked that they attack a semi-peaceful period ensues during which time their adversaries rearm to provoke again.

There is no government or policy imaginable fostered by the U.S. or anyone else that will resolve this continuing conflict.

On another subject often batted about on this blog namely; Does God exist here is a great read with some extremely believable scientific folk making comments that I find reasonable by any measure.

“Dr. Jastrow, despite his agnosticism, told us where the evidence leads. He ended his book this way: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”


Posted by: Jim M at January 15, 2009 3:55 PM
Comment #273642

Having watched all this unfold through the media here, Al-Jazeera, Turkish, Greek and Egyptian reporters, while it’s easy to see Israel on the right attacking Hamas, they’re the ones on the wrong in the long term.

You win more battles with food and medicine than you ever will with guns. Once Hamas loses the support of the people, since they don’t do a bit of work trying to make Gaza better, Israel will win.

That’s not what Israel’s doing though, or will do, because this whole operation is a political stunt from Olmert and his party to shore up support from nationalists, and we, their apparent lapdogs, will shake our finger at Israel, them knowing the U.S. wouldn’t do diddly against them.

The best thing for the U.S.A. to do, in the last 50 years, is to drop Israel like a bad habit. They obviously have the means to protect themselves, without our funding, so let them. They’re currently digging a hole that, by their self-defense measures, can protect them, but buries us in the long term.

Israel can drop millions of pounds of ordinance, missiles, rockets, mortars into Gaza for decades, and once they let up or stop, Hamas will still be there, put-put rocketing across the border. This isn’t how you fight a nationalist vs. nationalist war, and the talking heads in Israel *should* know this, but realistically, are avoiding it.

In closing, Israel is dropping leaflet’s on homes saying “Leave your homes.” As in, we’re about to bomb/raid the neighborhood. Yet they’ve sealed the borders, so Palestinians cannot get out, what are they supposed to do? Find a palm tree outside the action and toss some couscous?

Posted by: Jon at January 15, 2009 4:24 PM
Comment #273648

A number of Jewish human rights activist organizations are condemning the military attacks in Gaza as human rights violations.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 15, 2009 4:49 PM
Comment #273653

Marysdude said
“The people would rise up and smite their leaders down, if those leaders did not take steps to protect them from those rockets”

I agree, My worry is that what they’re doing isn’t going to help. They destroyed Lebanon to get rid of Hezbollah. Now Hezbollah is stronger than ever.

No you can’t negotiate with terrorists. It’s the other 98% of the population you want to influence. If the Palestinians didn’t back Hamas, then Hamas would be impotent. But when the dust settles, whatever Palestinians are left, will be backing Hamas. I don’t see an answer. I just know what we’re doing now isn’t working.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at January 15, 2009 5:18 PM
Comment #273657

Again, there is no workable solution. This mess will continue until the end of life as we know it. For those who think Israel can influence the average Gaza citizen against Hammas, think again…Hammas, is either a benevolent protector or a constant threat to local inhabitants, and Israel cannot be that benefactor or protector as long as Hammas exists. Catch 22…

Posted by: Marysdude at January 15, 2009 6:23 PM
Comment #273665

What we are witnessing is the creation of another generation of children who will grow up hating and becoming foder for Jihadists.

A catch 22 until the antichrist shows up.

Posted by: jlw at January 15, 2009 10:53 PM
Comment #273671


The UN mandate came because of pressures put on England (occupiers of the land called Palestine), and the UN, by the US. Truman had a midnight meeting with ben Gurion and several other Jewish leaders, who convinced him that trying to settle the war homeless Jews anywhere else would never work. They were likely right and he was likely right, but you see the result…my memory is rather used up, but I believe there to have been about three million refugees encamping in Europe by 1947. Obviously, something had to be done.

England was war weary, Palestine was a no-nation (no representative government, merely a number of Jewish and Arab nomads), so it seemed an ideal area, especially because of its religious, historical significance, to settle them there. Problems started almost immediately, because as soon as the first Jewish refugees landed England pulled its occupying force out. The 1947/48 war for nationhood began without arms or supplies or a war plan, because Great Britain, who had been the protectorate, left too soon. Israel began as a bloody mess, and that remains, through the surrounding nation war of ‘67, and many other conflicts, pretty much today…

Posted by: Marysdude at January 16, 2009 4:41 AM
Comment #273686

Regarding the plight of Gaza, remember this: Between 1948, when Israel was created, and 1967, when Israel captured Gaza in a defensive war, the Gaza Strip was administered by Egypt. During those 19 years, the Egyptians never offered citizenship to the Palestinians living in Gaza, nor did they permit them free transit from the Strip into Egypt proper. They did nothing to encourage the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. In fact, in 1958, Egypt’s President Nasser formally annulled the so-called “All Palestine Government” — a remnant of the Palestinian state the Arabs rejected in 1948. Egypt, like all of the other Arab states and, importantly, the U.N., chose to keep the Palestinians bereft and stateless — a permanent and growing dagger aimed at Israel.

Even more instructive is this: When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Gaza’s residents had a golden opportunity to begin to build the sort of state they have claimed to desire. The Israelis even left behind the infrastructure to give the Palestinians a start: roads, houses, swimming pools, fish farms, nurseries, orchards, and factories. The Palestinians chose to kill each other (see Jonathan Schanzer’s new book, “Hamas vs. Fatah”) and to fire missiles across the border at Israel instead. Apologists like Columbia’s Rashid Khalidi protest that Israel continued to control sea lanes, borders, and air space around Gaza and cut off aid after the Palestinians elected Hamas. Well, Hamas didn’t seem to have any trouble importing longer and longer-range Iranian missiles despite Israel’s blockade. And in any case, despite the advice of some hardliners in Israel, the Israeli government continued to permit humanitarian supplies through.

Posted by: Jim M at January 16, 2009 12:42 PM
Comment #273690

Rowan Wolf,

After being cast out of their homeland, and surviving the inquisition; several millions died…

Came the Russian Pogroms; several millions died…

Then a German Holocaust; several millions died…

Then a war to settle as a nation; several thousands died…

Then a war with neighbors to settle boundary; they had learned well, and only a handful died…

Then attacks from Lebanon, attacks from the Golan Heights, attacks from Gaza and terrorists from the West Bank; mostly women and children died…

Olympic athletes; several died…

Scuds from Iraq…

Rockets from Syria…

Threats from Iran…

All this time the civilians in Gaza we worry about so much today were housing those who would send rockets into Israel…same with Golan…same with Lebanon…same with the West Bank…

How much pressure are a people supposed to take before the cracks start to show?

Is Israel innocent? Of course not, but tell me how many times Israel has attacked outside its borders without provocation…

Posted by: Marysdude at January 16, 2009 2:47 PM
Comment #273691


Don’t forget that it was the Gazans who elected a terrorist group (Hammas) to formulate and run their government. The children are, of course, innocent, but the people of Gaza are not

Posted by: Marysdude at January 16, 2009 2:53 PM
Comment #273693


This is a beautiful piece into which you have poured so much of yourself. Thank you for your courage in doing so. We can be heartsick in hearing such comments of hatred as captured in the Democracy Now! report, but can also be uplifted by the work of others, Jewish, Muslim, of otherwise, who in spite of seemingly impossible odds remain committed to reconciliation and mutual understanding.

I recently heard Leah Green of the Compassionate Listening Project speak of their work in bring together groups of Israelis and Palestinians to hear and listen to each other’s stories, and hence to understand the humanity of the other. As Congressman Kucinich summarized their mission: “If we can change ourselves, we can change the world. We’re not the victims of the world we see, we’re the victims of the way we see the world. This is the essence of Compassionate Listening: seeing the person next to you as a part of yourself.”

It will take many compassionate listening delegations to counter the impact of the awful violence we are seeing now, and lives lost can never be recovered, but neither should we underestimate the power of human transformation which comes from efforts such as these to bring healing to those who are still alive, whether they were perpetrators or victims or both.

Thank you again Rowan for your insightful and touching article.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at January 16, 2009 3:13 PM
Comment #273694

I’m not cheering anybody on in particular. I felt inspired by Rowan’s Judaism-born perspective to give my own Christian perspective on the matter.

I know many of my fellow Christians push Israel’s likudnik/far right side, and in my view, it’s an appalling act of presumption on their part. As a Christian I do believe that one day the Lord will return, and the world as we know it will cease to exist. But I also believe that Jesus wasn’t merely being coy when he said that nobody, not even him, knew when the final curtain would be brought down. Assuming that the time can be established at all is bad enough. Actively trying to force the events to happen is much, much worse, in my opinion Do you think the maker of the vast universe, which has more suns than a beach has grains of sand, which is over a hundred million times more ancient than any of us will ever be will be hurried into doing things on our schedule? And do we have any business rushing his will, even if we could? For all we know, God’s plan is to let this current iteration of Israel fall (as he has before), and make the next one the one in which he works his will. And if that were the case, his foolishness in our human eyes would be than our wisdom. But we cannot know God’s plan. We can know, though what he wants of our conduct.

Both Judaism and Christianity have strong moral codes that can be availed of by those looking to lead upright lives. But the thing to keep in mind is that we probably don’t get points for doing bad things in God’s good cause. I believe God wants his will reflected in the methods as well as the motivation of our actions. Not every means to an end is justified, no matter how righteous that end is.

We got to have greater humility about our place in the world, whether it’s secular philosophy or religious doctrine that guides us. The hawks in Israel and in Hezbollah, Hamas, and Fatah don’t see things in terms of such humility, and millions suffer for that. The ends justify the means, and the fact that the other side does horrible, despicable things doesn’t help calm things down, only gives more reason to believe that the moral imperatives justify immoral behavior.

On Kos, when this issue came up, I didn’t choose one side or the other, I published an entry basically saying each side’s approach was mutually defeating. The smart, moral folks have got to figure this out: If your strategic aim is peace and prosperity, and the high regard of the world, then violence and endless strife are not going to get you where you need to be.

Jim M.-
I believe science is about the search for worldly, material, natural truth. I believe Religion is the truth for spiritual, transcendant, supernatural truth. With different goals in mind, both involving a world far greater than ourselves, I doubt anybody’s going to reach a summit, much less find somebody there waiting.

I believe a perfect God creates a universe that is seamless from our point of view, but accessible from his higher metaphysical plane of existence. I think we’re building the tower of Babel, if we try to put science to the task of reaching to God’s realm and make ourselves seem worthy of discerning what was his plan and what was not. First, since God created everything, I doubt you could tell the difference. Second, God’s ability to design far exceeds our comprehension. Science has a hard enough time puzzling out the mundane, natural world, puzzling out the metaphysical design of a God, working out his decisions and how he did everything from his perspective is just out of the question for such limited creatures like ourselves.

It gets worse when people justify their own violence, their own sin by their religious belief. No religion’s credibility goes unchallenged by the problem of religious violence. We have to have high regard for the divine, but that does not mean we should ascribe that high regard automatically to things we do intending to serve the divine, because the true worst enemies of any faith are those who betray its principles in the name of defeating the faith’s rivals and doubters.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 16, 2009 3:23 PM
Comment #273695


So is any adult Gazan then a legitimate target? That is utterly illogical.

First the election was not unanimous. Second there were a limited number of choices for those who did vote for Hamas.

I was horrified by the interrogation techniques sanctioned by my elected government, but by your logic you and I are complicit in violating the Geneva accord because we belong to an electorate that should have known better. For that matter should everyone who voted for Bush be brought up before a tribunal for violating Geneva? Of course not!

We live in our context, the Gazans live in their very different context - one which we certainly cannot envy. Israel’s response of the last three weeks in my view is unambiguously disproportionate and immoral. At the moment that response may be very popular in Israel, but there is certainly some dissent even within Israel and certainly in the global Jewish community.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at January 16, 2009 3:36 PM
Comment #273698

“mitvah”???, Did you mean mitzvah or mitzvoth? Here is a link to the 613 mitzvot , or commandments, better pay attention if your last name is Cohen.

Hamas lobs bombs into Israel, accidentally killing some of the locals in the process. Then when the Israelis retaliate, there are “ceasefire” cries from many quarters. The Israelis are acting with much more restraint than we would expect from our own government in similar circumstances. If bombs were repeatedly being lobbed on us from Windsor, Canada, I would expect our government to completely destroy Windsor, Canada, and then occupy it, to prevent anyone from doing the same thing again.

The genocide accusations are complete nonsense. Most “palestinians” live peacefully in “Jordan”, Israel, and other countries, including the U.S. Some individuals who resent the existence of Israel keep up the terrorism. In Gaza, the people should get rid of Hamas themselves in order to save their own lives. Other states are behind all this. They are trying to provoke the Israelis into attacking Iran.

Posted by: ohrealy at January 16, 2009 4:25 PM
Comment #273700

>So is any adult Gazan then a legitimate target? That is utterly illogical.

First the election was not unanimous. Second there were a limited number of choices for those who did vote for Hamas.
Posted by: Walker Willingham at January 16, 2009 03:36 PM


Everything you say is true…however, those who did not vote Hammas are still complicit in sheltering, hiding and housing those who would shoot rockets into Israel.

Are they all guilty enough to warrant an attack? Of course not, but surgical strikes, commando strikes, and talk had failed. Innocents die in conflicts…we rarely hear anyone wailing for the innocent Iraqis who have been killed, maimed or exiled, yet there are far more of them than there are Gazans in the same situation.

You speak as if you believe some here are applauding Israel’s actions…nothing can be farther from the truth. I, for one, abhor all this crap, but to try and equalize the blame, seems an exercise in…???

Posted by: Marysdude at January 16, 2009 4:45 PM
Comment #273702

Equal, less, greater, whatever set you throw the blame into, it takes two to tango, and Hamas and Hezbollah have been notoriously eager to dance the dance of death with Israel.

The unfortunate thing is that Israel has gone out of the way to provoke and dance right back. The real problem, if you ask me, is that you have bloodthirsty idiots in charge on both sides, people who believe they MUST respond talonically, violence for violence, an eye for an eye. Thus, both Israel and Palestine end up blind.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 16, 2009 5:32 PM
Comment #273704

>The unfortunate thing is that Israel has gone out of the way to provoke and dance right back.
Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 16, 2009 05:32 PM


That there are idiots on both sides who wish ill of the other is a given…that being said, this supposition of yours that Israel has ‘gone out of its way’ to provoke is one huge stretch…Israel has shown uncommon resilience and patience to hold off this long. How many rockets, and how many days of rockets before the first retaliatory move, and then mostly surgical type air strikes. Rockets from Hammas did not stop. How many more days and rocket strikes before an escalation? Would we, here in the US have held off as well as the Israeli? I DON’T THINK SOOO…

Posted by: Marysdude at January 16, 2009 7:15 PM
Comment #273716

The strategic point of tactics like Hamas is to provoke large, collateral casualty filled, interminable campaigns like this which end impotently for the more powerful party on the the other side of the conflict. It doesn’t serve Israel’s interests. It serve Hamas’s.

The settlers are a major provocative element here, as is Israel’s overbearing style of fighting this engagement. I know people think that’s sending a message to people to think twice about supporting Hamas, but people don’t support Hamas because they’re naive about the consequences, but because they are pissed off at Israel, and Hamas let’s them organize that pissed off feeling. You’re only intensifying the commitment of many of them.

The only real way to get pass Hamas is to make it obsolete and/or obnoxious in the eyes of a critical mass of its supporters. That, or bring Hamas around. Unlikely, yes. so the first option, or something like it is more likely.

Will that get done as the civilian body count piles up? Will that get done while Israel once again turns the area into a war zone? So far, the intimidation tactics have only lead to an escalation over the past few years that’s served nobody well.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 16, 2009 10:49 PM
Comment #273719


Who’s civilian body count are we talking about here…Gazan or Israeli? I’m not fool enough to think Israel will win this thing, or any conflict in the Middle East. At best they can only postpone the inevitable, but to do nothing would also be the height of folly.

You keep saying the equivalent of Israel can only win if it ‘turns the other cheek’. The middle East is a pack of wolves surrounding one dirty little sheep. One cheek turn, and it is the end of Israel. Can you even imagine showing weakness with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria et al, as neighbors? Pahleeeze!

Posted by: Marysdude at January 17, 2009 6:54 AM
Comment #273739


Israel has kicked their collective asses before and they will probably kick their collective asses again. The Israelis are organized, the same cannot be said of the “others” they fight.
I have to say that their timing was/is impeccable with all else that is going on right now around the world.
Another problem is that they are making no friends with their meat axe response to Hamas’ mosquito like harassment.
Yes Hamas, like Hezbollah before them, have killed a few people with their campaign to piss off the Israelis, and Israel typically responds by killing hundreds if not thousands, for revenge.

Yep, it makes perfect sense.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at January 17, 2009 5:37 PM
Comment #274010 The neverending Story.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at January 21, 2009 6:18 PM
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