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O My America: Gaza. Here’s What I Think.

August 12, 2014
by Lawrence Bush Israel imageAS EDITOR OF OUR UNDERSTAFFED MAGAZINE for more than a dozen years, I’ve learned to preserve my sanity by not feeling that we have to respond to every bit of horrible news that breaks across the globe, even within the little vinkl (corner) known as the Jewish community. But with Israel at war once again with Hamas in Gaza, I find that everything else we do, every posting at our website, every mailing through the U.S. mails, every article we publish, is somehow rendered less-than-relevant, because everyone’s freaking out about Gaza. So here, reluctantly, is what I think about Gaza. Please note that it does not reflect any editorial consensus on the part of the magazine or its board. • I think it no coincidence at all that Benjamin Netanyahu saw fit to go to war with Hamas immediately after allowing the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to break down. I think Netanyahu has no intention of permitting there to be an independent Palestinian state, even a demilitarized one, on the West Bank or in Gaza or in both places, and he has used the militarism and bloodthirstiness of Hamas as his excuse to declare such a state to be a security risk. I think he intends to maintain the status quo of occupation as well he can while permitting the Israeli settler movement to continue to spread, unchallenged. And I think this will be disastrous for Israel’s future as a democracy and as a land with a soul. • I think Hamas is a hateful, anti-Semitic, misguided, ideologically fanatical movement that is happy to sacrifice thousands of innocent lives in order to display its “bravery” and its macho in opposition to the Zionist Entity. I think it is grotesque that they’ve expended their energies and resources building tunnels for purposes of kidnapping and killing rather than building an economic infrastructure in Gaza. I can relate to them in human terms only by analogizing to certain warrior tribes among Native Americans in their resistance to white settlers — the Comanches, for instead, and the Lakota — who were utterly fierce in their warfare, inspired by certain religious beliefs (the Comanches, for instance, would torture and mutilate their enemies because of the belief that people carried such mutilations into the afterlife). But I don’t at all believe that Israel is analogous to the white settlers and cavalry who conquered the Indians and met with fierce Comanche and Lakota resistance, so my capacity to relate to Hamas in human terms goes only so far. • I think that while it is morally abhorrent for Hamas to embed its military operations among the population and therefore maximize civilian casualties (although where else is Hamas going to go in Gaza, which is said to be the most densely population region in the world?) — it is morally MORE abhorrent for Israel to take the bait and kill hundreds, even thousands, of civilians. • I think it is tragic for the Jewish people, worldwide, that they are rallying behind the war rather than demanding that the Jewish value of rakhmones, mercy, be honored. Jewish identity is being rapidly, painfully stripped of its humanism by Israel’s decisions and tactics. • How could the Israel government show rakhmones? By refusing to take Hamas’ bait. By increasing its military and technological presence outside of Gaza so that incursions through those tunnels can be beaten back. By demanding United Nations action against Hamas’ tunnels and rockets, and against the countries supplying them. If not the United Nations, NATO. If not NATO, at least you’ve tried and then you can go do it yourself. By orienting towards peace in its verbiage and its actions. By dropping supplies and goodies from the air on the population of Gaza. By ending their collective punishment. By acknowledging their suffering and their grievances. By being willing to take a couple of Jewish casualties instead of lashing out preemptively and killing thousands. ABOVE ALL, by establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and giving the Palestinian people a reason to live in peace. WHY IS THERE NO PALESTINIAN STATE IN THE WEST BANK? • I think it’s legitimate, now, for progressive Jews to support the boycott movement against Israel. I’m still pissed off about the BDS movement’s lack of up-front support for the two-state solution (that is, for Israel’s right to exist), and I would never go to BDS rallies or meetings or the like, but I think using economic leverage to protest Israel’s heedless destructiveness and its refusal to allow the Palestinian state to be born is a legitimate way to try to influence the situation — and I won’t let the bad politics of the BDS movement stand in my way. • I think it’s almost criminal for people to look backwards, backwards to the founding of Israel, the Nakba, who did what first to whom, and to base their moral judgments about what’s going on now on their evaluation of what happened then. Israelis and Palestinians, and their mutual advocates, will never agree on what happened historically — and playing the game of moral one upmanship is immoral. We can only look forward to whatever shared goals — peace and prosperity — we can find. Those should be our beacons. We will be able to be generous in our evaluations of the past once there is peace and prosperity. • I still think a two-state solution could work if Israel would take on its settler movement. The power of peacemaking to change perspectives and shape the future is greatly underestimated. • I think progressive Jews who use Israeli cruelty as an excuse to kiss off their Jewish identities or their participation in Jewish communal life should be ashamed of themselves. This is the time to mobilize and hold up the banner of Jewish ethical and countercultural identity, not to let it droop or drop. • Finally, I think that everything I’ve said is impressionistic, shaped by my own biases, my own ignorance, my own wishfulness, my own moral compass. I am not confident when making proclamations about Israel and the Palestinians. So: Now can I go back to my editing chores, and cultivating other corners of our Jewish garden? Lawrence Bush edits Jewish Currents and Jewdayo.