[RFP] Gaza & Beyond; What's the alternative? (fwd)

Arlene Plevin plevin at u.washington.edu
Mon Dec 29 09:21:50 PST 2008


I forward this from Rabbi Waskow, founder of the Shalom Center in Philly, 
long time worker for peace, member of Rabbis for Human Rights.

I have been one of those who've not posted any kind of message because it 
felt like any support for Israel was not read in any sort of nuanced 
fashion.  It has felt like if one felt Hamas was wrong, Israel's 
blockage/etc. of Gaza was wrong, and that Israel had the right to defend 
itself (a broad statement, not meant to be construed as the right to 
injure civilians, imprision Gaza, etc.) one was a fascist. Yes, strong 
word indeed, but that's how I've read the tone and content of so-called 

So, for me, Rabbi Waskow is an intelligent voice.  Share/read/dispute, 

A. Plevin

---------- Forwarded message ----------

The Shalom Center: A prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and 
American life.

Gaza & Beyond:  What's the Alternative?

Late Saturday night, I asked us to live with the vertigo of choosing 
between two versions of the Jewish future: the vision of Zechariah, which 
we read every year on Shabbat Hanukkah -- "Not by might and not by power 
but by My breathing-spirit, says YHWH Infinite" and the vision of 
permanently using --as right now in Gaza -- -- superior power to impose 
superior violence.

I received many brickbats, many thank-yous and blessings, and one calm 
question: What's the alternative?

So after simply living with the despair of what seem like impossible 
choices, we might begin to ask ourselves the necessary question:  What's 
the alternative?

Right away, the UN Security Council (with no US veto interposed) has 
called for an immediate end to all violence into and from Gaza. So have J 
Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace Jewish lobby, and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. 
This call makes sense, and should be applied with equal and immediate 
insistence and enforcement to the Hamas rockets against Israel, the 
Israeli bombing of Gaza, Israeli interference with shipments of food and 
medicine and fuel to Gaza, and Egyptian violence against Palestinians 
trying to flee the bombs of Gaza.

But this is a palliative, not an alternative.

The alternative for Hamas would have been to multiply the approach of the 
nonviolent boatloads of people who were in the last month bringing 
supplies to Gaza, ignoring or violating the Israeli blockade. This 
approach was building support in much of the world. Of course it was not 
enough to feed the whole people or heal them of disease, but it was 
pointing out the injustice and violence of the blockade. Instead of 
canceling the cease-fire and aiming rockets once again, they could have 
turned those boats into a multitude.

(A message to those who blindly support whatever Hamas does because they 
are the underdog: The teaching of the Prophet Zechariah is not just for 
Jews.  It is about self-restraint when you have greater power, and it is 
about nonviolence -- also a form of self-restraint -- when you have lesser 
power.  It is God's word for everybody.)

The alternative for the Israeli government would be to say: --- Instead of 
scornfully rejecting the Saudi/ Arab League proposal for a region-wide 
peace settlement among Israel, all Arab states, and a viable Palestinian 
state, we encourage it, and encourage its proponents to press Hamas to 
join in, while making clear that for us the deal must include only very 
small symbolic numbers of Palestinian refugees returning to Israel itself, 
and control of the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall in the Old City of 
Jerusalem.  And we encourage, instead of blocking, a Palestinian 
government of national unity, including Hamas as well as Fatah.  We will 
attend that peace conference tomorrow ? tonight!

And meanwhile, we seek as much peace as possible with Hamas -- if not full 
recognition, then a 50-year truce (as one Hamas leader had proposed.) . 
We negotiate openly with Hamas toward ending the blockade, encouraging 
economic development inside Gaza, welcoming European and Egyptian aid and 
investment, releasing the members of their parliament we are holding in 
jail, and in exchange, get an end to the rocket attacks by Hamas and their 
acceptance of governmental responsibility to control other groups that may 
try to continue.  We use the checkpoints to prevent terrorist incursions 
into Israel, rather than preventing delivery of food and medicine to Gaza.

(Perhaps even now an Israeli government could take that road ---- arguing, 
Now that we have proved we can be bloody, we are not negotiating from 
weakness, we are not rewarding terrorism, we can walk this path!)

And the alternative for the US government would be to use the disaster of 
this attack to call for all the above: To insist on a regional Middle East 
peace conference, to insist that even a Netanyahu government of Israel and 
even a Hamas leadership of Gaza or Palestine take part and accept a decent 

And that's where the long-range intentions of The Shalom Center come into 
focus --- Working for a peaceful and peace-making US policy in the broader 
Middle East and the even broader Muslim world, and intertwined with that, 
a new US pursuit of sustainable energy sources to heal our planet and make 
the conquest of Middle East Oil unecessary.  That long-range intention is 
where we need your help!

Shalom, salaam, peace --   Arthur
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