jueves, 8 de enero de 2009

Why Israel's arrogance is breaking my heart

Publicado en Maán News (http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php)

Why Israel's arrogance is breaking my heart,
6 January 2009
Rabbi Michael Lerner

Israel's attempt to wipe out Hamas is understandable, but stupid. Sure, no country in the world is going to ignore the provocation of rockets being launched from neighboring territory day after day. If Mexico had a group of anti-imperialists bombing Texas, imagine how long it would take for America to mobilize a counterattack. Israel has every right to respond.But the kind of response matters. Killing 500 Palestinians and wounding 2,500 others (at the time of writing) is disproportionate. And just as Hamas's indiscriminate bombing of population centers is a crime against humanity, so too is Israel's killing of civilians (at least 130 so far, not to mention the thousands in the years of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza).Before Israel’s massive bombing, the Hamas bombings that began when the previous ceasefire ran out had not (thank God) killed anyone. The reason is obvious: Hamas has no airplanes, no tanks, nothing more than the weapons of the powerless—limited range mortars with limited accuracy. Hamas can harass, but it cannot pose any threat to the existence of Israel. On the other hand, any understanding of the situation must also include acknowledgment of the stress faced by Israelis living under the constant threat of terrorism, to which the katyusha bombings, however ineffective militarily, contribute massively. Living under constant threat of attack, plus hearing the leader of Iran talk about wiping Israel off the map, is a background condition that shapes Israelis' ability to be so insensitive to the human damage they have caused through their occupation. Conversely, the ongoing trauma of expulsion and the occupation has contributed to the ongoing ethical insensitivity of many Palestinians to the suffering that they cause Israelis by engaging in attacks against civilians. In short, compassion on both sides is a desperate necessity.Hamas had respected the previously negotiated ceasefire except when Israel used it as cover to make assassination raids. Hamas argued that these raids were hardly a manifestation of a ceasefire, and so as symbolic protest would allow the release of rocket fire (usually hitting no targets). But when the issue of continuing the ceasefire came up, Hamas wanted a guarantee that these assassination raids would stop. And it asked for more. With hundreds of thousands of Palestinians facing acute malnutrition bordering on starvation, Hamas insisted that the borders be opened to counter Israeli attempts to starve the Gazans into submission. And in return for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, it asks for the release of a thousand Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. Hamas has made it clear that it would accept the terms of the Saudi Arabian peace initiative, though it would never formally recognize Israel. It would live peacefully in a two-state arrangement, but it would never acknowledge Israel’s “right to exist.” This position is unnecessarily provocative and represents deep self-destructiveness on the part of some Palestinians, who believe that this failure to acknowledge Israel’s rights is the only symbolic weapon they have left.Similarly, there are members of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, who say that they will never accept anything less than the total expulsion ("transfer") of all Palestinians to neighboring Arab states. So what does Israel really seek? Probably it hopes to make Hamas so powerless that it loses the election against Fatah, and then the Palestinian Authority. It hopes the PA, itself deeply weakened by Israel's ongoing occupation, might negotiate a peace treaty that creates a "Palestinian state" that is actually a series of cantons or little separated city-states that are themselves cut off from each other by Israeli roads and military—in short a Palestinian state that will be neither economically nor politically viable. Then Israel can claim to have "given" the Palestinians "what they want," and meanwhile Israel will retain its settlements throughout the West Bank and continue de facto control. Yet this will not generate long-term peace, but only a temporary rest in the fighting. Only a fully just settlement that allows Palestinians a real state that incorporates all of the West Bank and Gaza (with minor border modifications) and that provides real compensation for Palestinian refugees, and a state created in a spirit of generosity and genuine caring on the part of Israel, will end the violence and provide Israel with lasting safety. Let me be clear. I hate Hamas and everything it stands for. I want to see it defeated. But that defeat can only happen politically through isolation, not militarily through slaughter. The way to defeat Hamas is through meeting the legitimate needs of the Palestinian people and doing so in a spirit of genuine caring, in which the Jews of the world and the Israeli people show that they recognize Palestinians as our brothers and sisters, made in God's image and as equally precious to God as the Jewish people. It is Jews taking seriously our reliance on God and God's message that the world should be based on love, generosity, caring, kindness, and compassion. And it is a reversal of the reliance on power that has not brought Israel safety or security, and a trust in the fundamental decency of the majority of Palestinians. This is what it would mean for Jews to take seriously our own Judaism and manifest it in a Jewish state. Israel still seeks to wipe out Hamas. But even if it killed every one of Hamas' 20,000 fighters in Gaza, it would not extinguish the impulse toward Islamic fundamentalism that Hamas represents. Surely Israelis by now know that killing only creates new generations of angry people who will be the next wave of terrorists. How do we get out of this destructive spiral? The first step is for the world to demand an immediate ceasefire. That ceasefire should be imposed by the United Nations and backed unequivocally by America. Its terms must include the following:
— Hamas stops all firing of missiles, bombs or any other violent action originating from the West Bank or Gaza, and cooperates in actively jailing anyone from any faction that breaks this ceasefire.— Israel stops all bombing, targeted assassinations or any other violent actions aimed at activists, militants or suspected terrorists in the West Bank or Gaza, and uses the full force of its army to prevent any further attacks on Palestinians.— Israel opens the border with Gaza and allows free access to and from Israel, subject only to full search and seizure of any weapons. Israel allows free travel of food, gas, electricity, water and consumer goods and materials including from land, air and sea, subject only to full search and seizure of any weapons or materials typically used for weapons.— Israel releases all Palestinians in detention and returns them to the West Bank or Gaza according to the choice of the detainees or prisoners. Hamas releases Gilad Shalit and anyone else being held by Palestinian forces.— Both sides invite an international force to implement these agreements.— Both sides agree to end teaching and/or advocacy of violence against the other side in and outside mosques, educational institutions and the media.— This ceasefire would last for 20 years. NATO, the UN and the US all agree to enforce this agreement and impose severe sanctions in the event of any violations.These steps would make a huge difference, isolate the most radical members of each side from the mainstream and make it possible to then begin negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on a broader and deeper set of issues.The basic condition for creating peace is to help each side feel "safe." A first and critical step is to speak in a language that is empathic toward the suffering of each people in a climate of discourse in which both sides' stories are heard and understood.Yet Israel, as the militarily superior power, ought to take the first steps: Implementing a massive Marshall Plan in Gaza and in the West Bank to end poverty and unemployment, rebuilding infrastructure and encouraging investment, dismantling the settlements or making settlers become citizens of a Palestinian state, accepting 30,000 Palestinian refugees annually back into Israel for the next 30 years, apologizing for its role in the 1948 expulsions and offering to coordinate a worldwide compensation effort for all that Palestinians lost during the occupation and, finally, by recognizing a Palestinian state within borders already defined by the Geneva Accord of 2003.This is the only way Israel will ever achieve security. It is the only way to permanently defeat Hamas and all extremists who wish to see endless war against Israel.The most significant contribution the new Obama administration could make to Middle East peace would be to embrace a strategy that homeland security is best achieved not by military or economic domination but by generosity and caring for others. If this new way of thinking could become a serious part of US policy, it would have an immense impact on undermining the fearful consciousness of Israelis who still see the world more through the frame of the Holocaust and previous persecutions than through the frame of their actual present power in the world.It breaks my heart to see the terrible suffering in Gaza and in Israel. As a religious Jew I find it all the worse, because under the guise of serving God, both Jews and Arabs are actually acting out their accumulated pain in ways that will generate future suffering. And because it confirms to me how easy it is to pervert the loving message of Judaism into a message of hatred and domination. This is why I remain in mourning for the Jewish people, for Israel and for the world.***Rabbi Michael Lerner is chief editor of Tikkun Magazine, a prominent Jewish critique of politics, culture and society in North America. Rabbi Lerner has published 11 books, most recently New York Times bestseller "The Left Hand of God," which was lauded by the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and numerous others