By Rabbi Michael Lerner
(Editorial note: While a cease fire has been called in this aggression as of Wed., Nov. 21, 2012, the words of Rabbi Lerner remain words for contemplation on creating a cessation of deadly violence/undeclared war. G-d Willing, the cease fire remains in effect at least until you get this Muslim Journal.)
All the usual suspects have been cheering on their respective sides in the latest struggle between Israel and Palestine being fought out at the expense of some Israeli and more Palestinian civilian lives.
I’ve been overwhelmed with sadness at the tragic loss of lives and harm to the bodies of Israelis and Palestinians and outraged at all those who continue to justify their side and demean the other, implicitly cheering on the violence, even as they officially deplore it!
Enough is enough. Stop the violence immediately!
First step: The international community, led by the U.S., should impose an immediate cease-fire on all sides of the struggle and should introduce an international peace force to restrain and if necessary arrest anyone involved in any side of this struggle who is acting to continue the violence.
That force should be equally charged with arresting any military figures on the Israeli side or guerrilla forces on the Palestinian side that are attempting to engage in hostilities.
Second step: Hold an international conference to create a politically and economically viable Palestinian state living in peace with Israel (details on what that would look like are in my book “Embracing Israel/Palestine”; for more information, go to www.tikkun.org/eip).
Third step: Begin a truth and reconciliation process to coincide with implementing the creation of a politically and economically viable Palestinian state.
So how do we get there, given the apparent willingness of everyone from Obama to the most liberal Dems in the Congress to want to be seen as giving Israel carte blanche to do what it will to punish Hamas, and even the normally predictable peace voices are keeping a very low profile?
We have to move the focus from who did what to whom and how badly should we feel to the more significant question: How do we use this moment to push beyond the usual cacophony of righteous believers in the goodness of their side’s cause so that we can realize that the issue for all humanity is how to put love, kindness and caring for each other and for the earth on our collective agenda, realizing that the human race simply cannot allow itself to be distracted by outrageous and endless vicious nationalist struggles.
There are steps that could be taken to guarantee a lasting cease-fire. Israel could offer to end the blockade of Gaza (which in any event has been ineffective in keeping Hamas from gaining long-range missile capabilities) and end all drone over flights in both the West Bank and Gaza and all targeted assassinations.
This will be in exchange for Hamas agreeing to allow international monitors search all forms of entry to Gaza to prevent that military hardware from being imported and simultaneously agreeing to prevent all future bombardment of S’derot and any other Israeli targets and to punish those engaged in rogue actions of that sort (e.g. Islamic Jihad or whoever else tries to provoke war by shooting at Israel from Gaza).
This same force should be policing West Bank settlers (Jews/Israelis), some of whom are committed to disrupting any peace process that might lead to a reduction in the West Bank settlements.
But no such moves are likely to work without a fundamental change of attitude: A new approach of compassion for each side by the other, the adoption of a zero tolerance of war as a solution to anyone’s problems, and the replacing of the strategy of “we’ll show them how tough we are” attitude that I call a strategy of domination.
Change this to a new strategy of generosity (“we’ll show them how much we can care for them beyond all reasonable expectations”). Cancel the endless attempts in the media for each side to try to prove that their side is the righteous victim and the other side the “evil other.”
Most important: Develop a societal wide therapy to help Israelis overcome their greatest fear – the fear of being seen as a “fryar,” someone who is too optimistic about the decency of other human beings and the potential for turning enemies into friends. Until this Israeli pathology is overcome, no amount of rationality is likely to emerge in Israeli discourse or politics.
The first steps in this process: It is time the Israelis acknowledge the cost of their Occupation and denial of fundamental democratic and human rights on the Palestinian people. Much of the Israeli media gives little attention to the ongoing violence directed at Palestinians, such as outright stealing of land from Palestinian farmers, IDF suppression of non-violent demonstrations against the Occupation, and holding Palestinians without charges.
Targeted assassinations now carried out by drones whose daily presence in the skies over Gaza make that tiny area the world’s largest outdoor prison. Ironically, except for the tiny percentage of Israelis who read Ha’aretz, most Israelis don’t even have a clue about what the daily oppressive reality is like for people in the West Bank, much less for the million plus human beings living in Gaza.
The majority of Israelis go about daily life oblivious to the suffering that the status quo generates until Palestinians launch their (thankfully mostly ineffective) missiles against hapless citizens in S’derot and other southern Israeli towns.
When Israelis flex their overwhelming military muscles, the leaders of the organized Jewish community in the U.S. jump into line, screaming that Israel’s existence is in danger (a complete fantasy) and that the U.S. must support its “ally” (which meanwhile is scheming how to drag the U.S. into a war with Iran).
While it is true, as Palestinians and their global supporters purport, that Israel can (and does) murder far more Palestinians than Hamas murders Israeli civilians, nonetheless, the murder of civilians on either side only builds resentment and entrenches both sides in their self-righteous indignation.
As civilians on both sides hide in terror (one in their bomb shelters, the other hiding wherever they can), their political leaders play a game of chess to promote their position and prolong the fighting. When in actuality, neither Hamas nor the Netanyahu government wants peace.
To be continued….