I was driving in Williamstown, NJ today and saw a billboard stating that “We Stand with Israel.” I said to myself I’m glad we stand together. Then I thought about it for a long time. I’m still thinking about it.
I’ve been a student of the conflict since I took over as Social Action Chair of my synagogue in 1998. I’ve read books, about thirty or so and at least 30,000 articles, been to Israel-Palestine multiple times, including one with a Mid-East Citizen Diplomacy delegation in 2001 and an Interfaith delegation I put together in 2008 to do Compassionate Listening with Palestinians and Israelis from peacemakers to government reps and even the Prime Minister of the PA.
I’ve been working to promote understanding and peace a long time. Brought lots of peacemakers to my synagogue. We brought Rabbi Froman and Sheikh Manassra to the State Department to meet George Mitchell and brought Gershon Baskin to Philadelphia to speak at the Gershman Y, interview with the Jewish Exponent and do an hour on Marti Moss-Coane’s Radio Times.
I moved back to the Garden State a couple years ago and am now on the Board of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern NJ. That means I went to the March in Washington on November 14th and am involved in a variety of activities supporting Israel and the return of the hostages in the aftermath of the massacre on October 7th.
But that is not good enough. The whole thing is an abomination with Hamas carefully planning a slaughter that was large enough to require Israel to respond by invading Gaza with the goal of eliminating Hamas and finally protecting the Israeli population in the Negev. For years it’s been back and forth with a right wing government in Israel trying to buy off Hamas to keep them quiet enough to allow the Occupation of the West Bank to continue unabated. Hamas figured out exactly how to get just about the whole world angry at Israel for an assault organized to actually find and destroy Hamas as it utilizes schools, hospitals, homes and businesses as bases of operation that make the residents of Gaza the necessary target of countless attacks. The numbers are horrendous. Maybe a third are members of Hamas. Maybe another couple thousand are sympathizers. When it’s all over there will be a World of angry people demonstrating against Israel although they are actually engaged in the right battle for once.
I have little faith in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and less in the extremists he’s put in charge of Security and Finance. The War Cabinet is good enough to fight the War. But what comes next, if it is to be a blessing for two peoples requires new leadership in Israel and Palestine and the room for America to work a not so minor miracle in the Middle East.
We all seem to be on edge from too much badness. We’re pretty far beyond the beyond from COVID and our domestic insanity, let alone a slew of international threats that could easily deteriorate into another truly ugly War or just detonate an existing one into regional or multinational combat. We don’t have a lot of esprit de corps holding us together despite the efforts of President Biden and others.
It seems after 75 years of Independence and 75 years of Nakba that it is time to build something workable from the ground up, starting in war-torn Gaza with an Arab led program to rebuild and administer the strip while Israel and the Palestinian Authority produce new and better governments each focused on facilitating a joint future with two States, two economies, security, equality and peace. That’s a mouthful and both a short term and long term goal that can only occur as two peoples spend time listening to each other in facilitated dialogues that enable Palestinians to acknowledge Jewish history and Israelis to acknowledge Palestinian history. The two governments must begin the future by formally supporting a Multi-year Dialogue Program to enhance understanding and cooperation. There’s much to do, but to make room for the stranger will be more than enough to enable us to look up and finally see light.