Once again the violence of the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza and the violence of Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza have combined to create a spiraling violence that serves the extremists on both sides who can point to the intended violence on the other side to justify their own.
In my book “Embracing Israel/Palestine”, I show how both sides have co-created this mess, and why it is futile, stupid, intellectually lacking in credibility, and ethically perverse to try to pin the blame on one side or the other, because both sides have been incredibly tone deaf to the suffering of the other side and the most negative possible interpretation of the other side’s intentions increasingly prevails in the public perceptions on each side of the intentions of the other. Of course at the moment there is no equivalence in power or violence. Israel has already killed over 150 Palestinians, and wounder hundreds; Gazans have not inflicted any deaths and few injuries on Israelis (which I’m glad about–I don’t want Israeli blood to flow any more than I want Palesitnian blood to flow! My fervent prayer: STOP ALL THE VIOLENCE, END THE OCCUPATION AND CREATE A LASTING PEACE AND A RECONCILIATION OF THE HEART. This reconciliation does not deny the vast inequality of power between Israel and Palestinins, and the corresponding responsiblity of the more powerful force to take the first major steps toward a real peace, NOT a “peace process” which goes nowhere, but a true resolution of the conflict.
Please order “Embracing Israel/Palestine” and create a study group around it in your neighborhood, friendship circles, synagogue, church, mosque, ashram, political party, civic organization, labor union or professional organization. Order the book atwww.tikkun.org/eip or on Kindle at Amazon.com.
Nothing is going to change in the Middle East until we can change the way the struggles are understood both in the media and in the larger publics that have increasingly moved toward extremist perceptions of one side or the other. The extremists who killed three Israeli teens must be celebrating at the moment–because Netanyahu rewarded them by giving them precisely what they wanted, the kind of violent repression in the West Bank of Hamas sympathizers that would push Hamas into feeling the need to retaliate with a resurgence of missile strikes on Israel, thereby precipitating the predictable scenario: the ultra-nationalist Netanyahu has to show his toughness by escalating attacks on Gaza while Hamas in Gaza has to show its toughness by escalating attacks on Israel.
Of course, at any point either side could have broken this cycle. Israelis could have refused to allow Netanyahu to use the tragic murder of those teens as excuse to arrest dozens of West Bank Hamas supporters and refused to let the IDF break into hundreds of homes. Hamas could have refused to allow their even more extreme opponents in the Islamic fundamentalist world to use the situation to resume bombings of Israeli towns. (The bombs have no impact except to provide justification of Netanyahu’s militarist approach).
Netanyahu could have told Israelis the truth: that the bombs from Gaza are militarily so unlikely to cause significant loss of life that it could be seen as politically and militarily irrelevant, given Israel’s missile shield.
But instead, the ridiculous and yet dangerous and murderous leadership
on both sides choose their insane path: Hamas chooses to continue the shelling of Israel, refusing to acknowledge that none of its missiles are going to do any damage but only supply the Israeli militarists with the excuse they need to enter and decimate Gaza; Netanyahu, faced with even more extremist pressure from his political right, uses this opportunity to create a hysteria in Israel and the global Jewish community so that they will resist future pressures to push Israel to end the Occupation, and will insist that the Palestinian Authority stop its reconciliation with Hamas.
And the resulting anti-Arab riots scare Israeli Palestinians into feeling that they can’t trust their Jewish neighbors, and gives “proof” to Arabs and Muslims around the world that Israel is indeed a hate-dominated society. And all this will only increase the likelihood of the Occupation continuing, the oppression of Palestinians continuing, and the recruitment of more Palestinians to extremist groups and suicidal attacks on Israel and Jews around the world.
So yes, a first and critical step is to change the discourse, and only you and hundreds of thousands of others can do that by refusing the dominant discourse, challenging the media and the politicians who side blindly with Israel no matter how horrible its escalating violence becomes, and challenging the leftists who rightly criticize Israel’s occupation as the central cause of the present violence but wrongly refuse to challenge Hamas’ violence or to see how that violence is a gift to the Israeli settlers who insist that it is they who will provide the first line of protection against Palestinian extremists.
What can you do?
Challenge the public discourse everywhere you can.
Form a local chapter of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (need help–emailCat). Go to media and picket their buildings until they give a fairer and more nuanced account of what has caused the current mess. Meet with your elected officials and insist that they publicly endorse the Tikkun plan for peace (outlined in “Embracing Israel/Palestine”). Form a study group to read” “”Embracing Israel/Palestine” and to read articles in Ha’aretz newspaper–so that you and fellow participants can feel adequately knowledgeable to challenge the distortions that exist on both sides. Challenge the dehumanizing of each side by the other, of Israel by the Left in Western countries and of Palestine and Palestinians by the Right.
Stop saying, “I don’t know enough about it to actively participate in discussions,” and instead LEARN ABOUT IT in all its complexities. Above all, refuse every act that seems to dehumanize the other side. YOU, YES YOU, can be the vehicle for spreading a new way of thinking. And to do that you need to prepare yourself for a tough and long-lasting process of consciousness changing. And that is precisely what the Network of Spiritual Progressives is all about–It’s about changing consciousness locally, nationally and globally to achieve a New Bottom Line of love, kindness, generosity, environmental sanity, social and economic justice, and awe/wonder/radical amazement the grandeur and mystery of the universe. Help make this happen: join the Network of Spiritual
Progressives and help build a new consciousness in your area.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, July 15, in a one-day Fast for Peace, called by some a Hunger Strike Against Violence. TIKKUN’s ally Rabbi Arthur Waskow and the Shalom Center point out: * This day is in both Muslim and Jewish traditions a time of Fasting from sunrise to sunset, arousing inner spiritual reflection and shared effort to turn from violence to compassion, from idolatry to celebration of the One. This year it is specially intended as a response to the worsening spiral of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. *” “*”Tuesday, July 15″*”, in the Jewish calendar is the 17th of Tammuz. It commemorates the day in 586 BCE when the Babylonian Army broke through the walls of Jerusalem. Three weeks later, on Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) the invaders destroyed the First Temple. The Fast therefore recalls the suffering of people subjected to war and conquest by more powerful armies, and renews our sacred calling for compassion rather than hatred.”
” “This year, the Jewish lunar month of Tammuz coincides with the Muslim lunar month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast on every day from sunrise to sunset. During that month Mohammed the Prophet, peace be upon him, first received the early revelations that came to make up the Quran.
This day of fasting is NOT JUST FOR JEWS AND MUSLIMS–IT’S FOR EVERYONE (SECULAR HUMANISTS, CHRISTIANS, BUDDHISTS, HINDUS, JAIN, WICCA, AND EVERYONE ELSE WHO WANTS TO SAY “NO” TO NETANYAHU AND THE ISRAELI FORCES OF VIOLENCE AND “NO” TO HAMAS AND THE PALESTINIAN FORCES OF VIOLENCE. INSTEAD, WE MUST SAY “YES” TO PEACE, RECONCILIATION OF THE HEART, NON-VIOLENCE AND DEDICATION TO THE STRUGGLE FOR THE PEACE, ENVIRONMENTL SANTIY FOR ALL PEOPLE ON THE PLANET.
But of course, fasting is not enough. Neither are demonstrations against the violence on both sides. These are valuable things to do. But a more serious effort will begin when you and others you know are ready to articulate what a world of love and kindness could look like, in the Middle East but also here in the U.S., how it could work, and what you and your neighbors are going to do to make it all happen! And the NSP will help you do that.
Join us. Join the (interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives. at www.spiritualprogressives.org[ http://www.spiritualprogressives.org ]. (with membership comes a free sub to Tikkun Magazine).
Rabbi Michael Lerner