Two Tikkun perspectives on Gaza, Israel and Palestine - 2
Mourning for Gaza, Israel, and Palestine
by Rabbi Michael Lerner
On May 14, 2018 Israel raised the number of Gazan mostly unarmed civilians it had killed to close to 100, and the number wounded to several thousand. Its actions will go down in Jewish history as the height of the Netanyahu government’s ethical blindness and arrogance. All people of conscience should make May 14th an annual day of mourning for the Gazans and for the fate of all Palestinians living under occupation (whether in the form of military occupation in the West Bank or in the form of blockade and cutting off of electricity, food and medical supplies, and much more).
The excuses given by Israeli hasbara (explanation/propaganda) are pathetic:
1. “Israel has a right to defend itself.” Of course it does. But it does not have the right to occupy another people for 50 years and subject them to deprivation of freedom and self-determination. Moreover, there is no threat to Israel from the Palestinian people–Israel has one of the most powerful military forces in the entire world, and the Palestinians do not have an air force, a navy, tanks, or anything else that could over-run Israel.
2. “The army (IDF) was endangered by a few of the demonstrators who were armed with Molotov cocktails and were creating a smokescreen by burning tires” The IDF could have withdrawn a few hundred feet and would not have faced any danger. They were not facing missiles, but only what a few individuals could throw in their direction.
3. “The Gazans were intent on cutting through the border fence and would have then been a terrorist threat.” If Israel had warned Gazans that anyone crossing into Israel would have been shot, that would have prevented most of the deaths and injuries. Most of the Gazans were at the fence to demonstrate their desire to return to their homes taken by Israel in the aftermath of the 1948 war. It was not their intent to do that immediately. Most of those who would have crossed over the border would have been apprehended and imprisoned. The Israeli Army has a huge number of fighters at any given time and they could easily have stopped anyone crossing the border without shooting indiscriminately into crowds of thousands of almost all unarmed civilians, injuring and killing journalists, medics, women, and children.
In short, there was no security (bitachon) reason for the slaughter of innocent people.
There were provocative statements made by Hamas and by some of those at the demonstrations. We in the U.S. peace movement know about this. We’ve been at demonstrations in which some people call for the overthrow of the government or engage in acts of violence against people or property. It was these elements that made it possible for right-wing media to portray the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations several years ago as a group of violence-prone extremists and allowed police to disrupt the tent camps that demonstrators had set up. We would not accept killing and wounding random demonstrators as a legitimate response in these situations in the U.S. and they were not legitimate on the Gaza border either.
This is not to say that Israelis have no reason to be angry at Hamas and its followers. Hamas continues to insist that it wants to eliminate the State of Israel. In so doing, it provides a perfect partner to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli ultra-right-wing, providing the ostensible reason for why ordinary citizens should be afraid. And over the past decades individual terrorists have killed some Israelis and Hamas managed to send missiles toward Israel in the summer of 2014, though happily most of them were destroyed before landing. Yet the Israeli people spent hours each day in bomb shelters, and that intensified their fears in a very concrete way. Just imagine if North Korea or Cuba had been able to do the same to the U.S. and tens of millions of Americans had spent hours each day for two months in air raid shelters–can you imagine what a boost that would have given to the militarists in any Western country the way 9/11 also did.
I do not raise this point to legitimate the Israeli army violence that is taking place on the border with Gaza. It is, let me repeat, ethically outrageous. There is no moral equivalency between the struggle of Palestinians for their own liberation and the policies of Israel to prevent that liberation. Israel has the power to create a solution that ensures its security and has the economic, political, and military power to do so. The Palestinians have no such power; what they do have is the growing support of people around the world, including many younger Jews in the West who genuinely care about the suffering of all people who have not yet achieved liberation, economic well-being, and security. In their arrogance, the Israeli and U.S. governments think that this moment of power will last forever, it will not. And sadly, both the American people and the Jewish people will pay dearly in the future for the immoral behavior of their governments and their silent complicity.
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