Monday, January 5, 2009

Reflections on Gaza

This is my contribution to a conversation via email about the current situation in Gaza. I have requested permission from the other participants in the conversation to post their contributions. If I receive permission, I will also post their thoughts. For the meantime, here are some of my thoughts:

I deeply appreciate the conversations taking place in this email thread. Firstly, as a Jew trying to understand what is happening in Israel/ Gaza while living in Bangladesh (and currently traveling in China)- I feel that at most I get little snippets of information, selected views from various media outlets- It’s like looking at the world through a straw. Secondly, it reminds me of our wonderful ability to communicate respectfully and articulately as we struggle to understand an imperfect world and how to interact with it while maintaining our own safety and integrity.

I must say that my love for Israel is still young- a green, impassioned love- full of hope and optimism. It has not been tempered by time, allowed to grow cynical with hurt and betrayal. Maybe I still wear the proverbial rose-tinted glasses-

SRG. wrote of her friend’s uncle in Gaza who recently became injured in the current escalation of violence, “He's just a guy trying to make a life for himself and his family in one of the most difficult places in the world. And merely for existing in the place that he exists, which was his only crime, he became a casualty.”

I must echo the chorus of voices that are appalled by violence and deplore the harm done to people who are not actively fighting against us- but I will not use the term ‘innocent bystander’. The reason is thus: Were Americans in the South who did not own slaves but did not speak up against slavery, innocent of that crime to humanity? Were Whites in Apartheid South Africa who did not actively oppress Blacks but nevertheless benefited from the segregation and didn’t speak out, innocent of their country’s crimes? Were German’s who did not actively kill Jews and others in Hitler’s Germany but remained silent innocent of the crimes of their co-patriots? I know nothing of your (SRG) friend’s uncle other that what you yourself have told us, and I pray that he recover quickly and completely. I also pray that Hamas does not limit his access to medical care in order to play to international media sensationalism and further neglect the wellbeing of the people with which they’ve been charged to protect and care for. I also know that not being active in a crime that one sees taking place and nevertheless, chooses to remains silent, does convey approval of that crime.

There are so many pieces of this conflict. We’ve gone beyond the never real black and white and the umpteen shades of grey. These shades of grey in Israel and around are tinged, or sometimes doused with color- the red blood of loved ones that can transform itself into blind hate, the blue of possibilities trying to break through the bloodstained grey, the burnt orange of tarnished love, of betrayals, misunderstandings- As many people that have lived in the Promised Land and surrounding lands since the keeping of history- that is how many perspectives, stories, emotions and colors exist.

I’m saddened that when these stories and colors clash- and the ever long existing conflict escalates- that some people are blinded by the colors- their emotions. SRG. wrote, “And the right wing protesters who gathered to oppose us carried Israeli flags and shouted that we should die.” I cringe that any self-respecting Israeli would wish death upon those who are shouting for peace.

SRG., I applaud you and your friends’ efforts to show, to shout, that our peoples need not continue to hate. It adds a drop of sunshine yellow hope to the dreary plethora of grays.

I also know that qassam rockets continue to fall on Israel and are launched from Hamas-controlled Gaza. This is unacceptable, period. From reading respected authors, such as Alan Dershowitz, and the media and listening to people when I visit Israel, it seems that the only language Hamas speaks is that of guns and bombs. Diplomatic ceasefires are not a step towards peace and stability, but rather a chance to train and gather weapons for the next offensive, completely unhampered.

The question seems to be: How can people outside Gaza stop the qassam rockets from falling on Israel? I think the answer is, we can’t. The IDF can go in, and take out the people deploying qassams and the rockets themselves- but there will be enough hate and knowhow to find more people willing to shell Israel and means to obtain more rockets.

It is the responsibility of precisely those people inside Gaza who do not agree with Hamas and their escalating cycle of violence to not remain silent. Just as it is our duty to seek dialogue among our fellow Israelis and Jews, to create a platform that could one day open up to the possibility of peace based on understanding that both sides have suffered. We- Gazans, Israelis, Palestinians, and Jews- must understand that the only true end to this heinous cycle is coexistence, not the annihilation, occupation or submission of one group of people. But just as there are voices that shout in Israeli- as you and your friends have- there is a need for voices inside Gaza to be shouting as well. Although it is a necessary start, the voices and actions of Palestinians and Jews inside Israel is not enough.

I thank JD. for reminding us of Golda Meir’s poignant and ever true statement, “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” I would like to add, that we will have peace, when people on both sides are willing to actively pursue peace and not remain silent.


Hi SRG and everyone:

I appreciate people sharing their feelings and experiences with the current situation and I believe discussing it is the best thing that we can do at the moment. Please allow me to share some of my thoughts. To begin, the term carpet bombing is very misleading, and I must say that I've never heard of massacres being preceded by phone calls being made by someone's enemy telling them to get out of the house because it's about to be destroyed or leaflets being dropped telling people of the upcoming bombing. These types of humanitarian efforts are being done in Gaza. It is true that the matter at hand is sad and that it is a terrible thing when innocent people are killed, but blaming Israel as solely responsible for these circumstances is just plain wrong.

Israel is not carpet bombing. They have been attacking with high precision bombs where the civilians who are getting hurt or killed are in positions which are very close to places where Hamas is hiding. It is a known fact that Hamas keeps weapons in the bottom floors of apartment buildings or schools. In addition, most of the children killed in the bombings so far, though not all, are related to Hamas operatives, and though I don't want to condemn these children for having bad relatives, I will and do put the blame of their death on Hamas. Hamas and the Palestinian people need to understand that Israel will not accept Terror and bombings of its cities and people and when they understand this, Gazans and Israelis both will live much better lives. I just heard from my from friends in Beersheva. When the rockets fell there, their only warning was the sirens. My friend who is on the left-leaning side of politics said she didn't really feel the reality of this whole thing until she first heard sirens and then the explosions. Life for them is hard as well where stores and schools are also closed. The fact remains that the rocket attacks and kidnappings against Israel need to stop and when a group is in power that is completely against negotiation, against compromise, and against the well-being of her own people; force may be the only solution. I pray that it is quick and just.




Any innocent life lost to violence is a tragedy. It is a shame that Hamas has no reservation to put their people in harms way (in the name of martyrdom) and use civilians as human shields, by using public facilities (such as Mosques, Schools, Apts ect) for weapons stockpiles and launch sites. As in a bank robbery, any hostages killed by the police puts the blood on the hands of the robber.

In any war, (and launching hundreds/thousands of rockets over a boarder is a declarative act of war), the innocent always suffer.

We all wish/hope/pray for peace, but we do have a right to protect ourselves, preemptively or otherwise.

It is a vicious cycle of violence, and it is up to the heads of all parties involved to lead us to peace.

As Golda Meir said

'We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us'


p.s. feel free to check out this link and sign it if so inclined.

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