Moving Again So Peace Will Come

This morning I was listening to Safam's song Yamit--describing the gut-wrenching personal impact of the pullout from Sinai settlements in April of 1982. Their song tells the story of the evacuation from the point of view of one family. In doing so, it does a great job of personalizing events that most of us consider mere news items.

I have been thinking about this song a lot over the last few weeks during the countdown to Israel's pullout of the Gaza strip. Settlements that were built through the support and encouragement of successive Israeli governments from Likud and Labor will be evacuated. Some people have lived in Gaza now for more than twenty years. That means that (like in Yamit), there are children who know no other home other than Gaza.

While I am a firm believer in peace and agree that untenable settlement blocs (read Gaza) must be uprooted to achieve peace, the process is disturbing. In doing a Google search for this post, I came across the above article. It seems that one Gaza settlement was created by settlers uprooted from Yamit in the Sinai at the suggestion of then-Defence Minister Ariel Sharon! A number of families will be uprooted twice in their livetimes! Peace requires difficult choices. If it was only their choice to live in Gaza, I am more than willing to sacrifice the personal choices of a few individuals in the sake of peace. Considering the financial benefits of living in a settlement (cheap houses, tax subsidies, reduced utilities, subsidized mortgages, etc.) and the personal benefits (mostly large homes with lawns in a country where that is expensive and uncommon) that have been bestowed on settlers by the Israeli government over more than two decades, I find some of the arguements against the pullout valid. There are truely real costs for individuals--some of which may not be repaid with money. Israel--and the entire Jewish people--are now faced with a number of difficult moral questions:

  • How does a government safely remove people that don't want to leave?
  • How does a democratic, Western state deal with paralyzing demonstrations?
  • How can we destroy people's homes (sometimes for the second time) with no concessions?
  • How do we create a just system of compensation?

If it were not a unilateral pullout, but one that was part of a wider settlement, I would expect there to be incentives (economic and/or political) coming from the international community. Since much of the world has long held one-sided views on the creation of Israel and the existence of refugees, I doubt that individual Jewish families would receive compensation from outside of Israel without ties to compensation for Palestinian refugees.

As the summer continues and the pullout unfolds, I offer deepfelt wishes for a peaceful conclusion to Israel's sojourn in Gaza. This includes a pullout with minimal casualties and arrests and an orderly transition to complete rule by the Palestinian authority without creating a power vacuum to be filled by Hamas.

May the far-thinking moderates on each side overcome their obstructionist brethren as we move one step closer to peace.

With wishes of Shalom and Saalam to all those effected by this summers pullout,
Rabbi Bruce

No comments: