Peace to Those Near & Far - The More Things Change, the More Things Stay the Same

For the past week and a half, I have watched the footage, read editorials and emails, and participated in conference calls with Israeli diplomats and Jewish leaders. I just started to write, 'Once again, Israel is at war with its neighbors.' That is not quite true. Once again, the world is noticing that Israel is at war with its neighbors and that the bloodshed--and therefore the news reports--are much higher than before.

During the summer of 2006, I visited Israel during its war with Lebanon. While most of the media focused on the fighting between Hezballah and Israel, the missiles raining down on the North, we also visited Sderot -- the town filled with poor and immigrant Israelis that abuts Gaza. For the last few years, there have been almost constant missile attacks on Southern Israel with limited Israel military response. Until it expired on December 19th, their were many fewer missile attacks. Still, a generation of Israeli children in the South have lived under the threat of constant, deliberate missile attack. I do not believe that Israel is without fault but international law and government responsibility to its citizens demands that it protect its citizens. Hamas' desired aim is to kill civilizians in terrorist attacks, it refuses to negotiate with or even recognize Israel. It takes no responsibility for controlling the arms in its terroritory (other than to take them away from rival Palestinian factions.

None of this means I do not care of the loss of Palestinian lives. But a few questions need to be asked: Israel has spent billions building shelters to protect its citizens. Why are Palestinian women in children dying and the Hamas leaders surviving? It is because the only shelters to have been built are for Hamas. I know it is a poor area under economic sanctions by much of the world. But Palestinian aid has disappeared to the tune of billions. What is a responsible government supposed to do when a declared enemy launches missiles at civilians populations, from dense populated areas?

Professor Alan Dershowitz--one of the foremost civil libertarians in the US wrote an editorial about the issues of proportionality and international law in the Wall Street Journal. I leave these issues to the experts but note that until the ground war, Egypt and Saudi Arabia joined many local, national, and international leaders in supporting Israel against Hamas.

One final note about Israel sovreign neighbors. While Israel has peace agreements with Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian authority, there are many inbalances in the long history of Arab-Israeli conflicts. Most of the residents of Sderot were expelled from the Arab lands they lived in for hundreds of years. They have been full citizens of Israel since arriving, were resettled, given homes, educations, job training, etc. Why haven't the Palestinians been treated the same by the Arab countries that have housed them since 1948 and 1967? Egypt has only half-heartedly stopped smuggling of weapons into Gaza from Sinai. Israel has destroyed more than fifty tunnels--including large, sophisticated tunnels reaching far into Egyptian territory. While they are quite happy keeping Palestians out of Egypt, can't they keep large, military missiles out a neighboring country? Now, Egypt is working with the EU, the US, and the UN to achieve a cease-fire. Where were they when bombs were falling for years?

I pray for a peaceful resolution to this conflict. I spent my first year after college studying in Jerusalem. It was 1993-1994, the year Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords. It saddens me that far from being better, the conditions for Palestinians and Israelis is worse than before. I still hope that I will see a democratic, Palestinian state living peacefully with Israel but despair that it won't be until my young children study in Israel in ten or more years!

Shalom, shalom to those near and far,
Rabbi Bruce

Here are some resources that will provide a variety of viewpoints. I have previously blogged about organizations that I support personally.
I suggest the excellent Israeli papers: Ha-Aretz (the New York Times of Israel--politically moderate) and Jeruslaem Post (an Engish daily that is more Conservative). The Israel on Campus Coalition represents a broad coalition of organizations that represent Israel on campus, and (since they are not part of ICC, groups such as Rabbis for Human Rights or Peace Now.

1 comment:

Hannah said...

Thank you for your post. I look forward to talking to you about Gaza when I return to Smith in a week. I am currently studying at the Arava Institute. This is the only place today where Jews and Arabs are studying together and engaging in peace-building. I look forward to sharing with you some stories about my experiences here during this terrible war. I pray that the ceasefire will come before I see you at Smith. I also pray that that the blockade will be ended forever so that those Palestinians who have managed to survive this war can have their basic human needs and basic human rights met in order to one day build a viable state. Things only seem to get worse around here.