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Gaza (and the West Bank too)

I recently wrote about having watched CNN interview leaders of Hamas and Israel.  I made the observation that it was patently obvious that the Hamas man was very uncomfortable with the line of questioning that had to do primarily with whether Hamas was responsible for the abduction and killing of the three Israeli students that led to this latest eruption of fighting.  He obviously didn’t want to take credit for the killings, which would surely have inspired the disgust of the (supposedly) civilized world.  Yet, at the same time he clearly didn’t want to disavow responsibility for the killings, perhaps believing that it would be a sign of weakness to those in his world that viewed the killing as a sign of Palestinian strength and a justified response to the years of being humiliated by Israel.  I felt that this spoke volumes about the mindset of Hamas, and their followers.

It seems, as is the case with this seemingly endless conflict, that my words may have been mistaken to be biased towards Israel and thus unsympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people.

I want to be 100% clear on this matter.  I am pained deeply at the loss of life, whether Israeli or Palestinian, or any other.  I know that the killing of 3 young Palestinians and the injuring of a fourth on the beach by the IDF using weapons from the sea were galling to most everyone.  It galled me too.  The boys seemed to have been playing soccer alone on the beach when they were attacked, not once but twice.  This is no less disgusting than the killings of the three Israeli students, and the perpretrators should not be allowed to hide behind military anonymity and need to be brought to justice.

I have had conversations with people I know well and admire who tell me that they are embarrassed to be Jewish given the stupidity and senselessness of the current incursion into Gaza and the lives that are being lost by innocent civilians at the hands of the IDF.  I am not embarrassed to be Jewish, because Judaism represents a value system that I believe is very beautiful.   Most people are not too familiar with Judaism, mistaking it for many things including having a victim mentality about the Holocaust, or being blindly patriotic towards Israel, or following the many rules such as not eating pig or shellfish or using cars or electricity on the Sabbath.  For me, being Jewish means being aware and sensitive to others and to the world.  This is well illustrated by a section I recall learning in my youth from the Talmud, which are the volumes of chronicles of the debates from long ago by Jewish scholars seeking to define what it meant to be Jewish and to lead a Jewish life.  The one I’m referring to was one where the scholars deemed it impermissible to cut one’s toe or finger nails carelessly, for fear that if a pregnant woman were to step on a wayward nail she might be alarmed enough to have her pregnancy jeopardized.  It is this level of awareness and sensitivity that being Jewish calls for, and why in my mind Judaism is truly valuable.  Of course, there are surely many people who are Jewish by birth but who aren’t remotely aware of the teachings of their faith, and who don’t practice a life that is consistent with those teachings.

And, I am certainly no different than my Arab and Muslim friends who are not at all embarrassed by there heritage, but instead repulsed by anyone of any religion or heritage who would pursue strategies that inevitably would lead to the loss of life.

Like many, I am disappointed in Israel, and in the western world, and the U.N.  Of course, I do believe that any nation has a right to defend itself, and Israel is no exception.  However, no one with a brain can imagine that inflicting more suffering on a people will do anything other than engender more ill will and create more enmity, thus sewing the seeds for the cycle of violence to go on in perpetuity.  As my brother said to me recently, the only smart answer here is for Israel, and the remainder of the world, to raise and then administer massive amounts of financial aid to construct all that is required for the Palestinian people to live a dignified life.  Of course, turning these funds over to Hamas is a non-starter, and probably turning them over to any other leaders there is similarly not likely to happen or to bear fruit given past experiences.  But why not a version of what happened in Japan after WWII, whereby the Japanese society was rebuilt under American supervision with American and western money?  It would be very difficult for Hamas or any other Palestinian leadership to stand in the way of a genuine offer of rebuilding.  And, of course, I’m not suggesting a colonization of Palestine, but for a transitional period during this building process it will be necessary for a foreign contingent to govern the area to insure both the safety of foreign workers and aid providers as well as to oversee the execution of the rebuilding to insure that 100% of the funds go to their targeted investments.  And, as distasteful as this might be to the Palestinians at first, Israel would need to play an important role in this process, which would inevitably set the stage for these two peoples to reconcile their differences and learn to trust and live in peace.

The cycle of violence is a losing game.  It’s high time to give up on it and move on with a real plan.

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