Obligations to Palestinians: Part III – The Outraged Prophet
This morning I was going to write my analysis of the laws of just war applied to the Gaza conflict, but since my first blog on the subject, three readers have forwarded Rabbi Michael Lerner’s outrage at Israel’s conduct of the current Gaza war so I thought I’s comment on his essay first right after I dealt with the saintly critic and the ideological anti-Israel campaigner.
Michael Lerner’s essay is entitled, “I’m a Rabbi Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel”. (http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/mourning-for-a-judaism-being-murdered-by-israel) Lerner sure knows how to compose a provocative title. The article tries to meld moral righteousness with situational analysis and is full of righteous rage. It is also very verbose and repetitive. I will deal with the moral outrage briefly and then focus on the situational analysis.
The moral indignation arises from the claim that he is suffering both for the Palestinian people and the seeming indifference of Israelis to that suffering. Given the title and the amount of energy space devoted to the topic, it would appear that is suffering for what he claims is the lost compassion of Judaism and love orientation for the other that has been murdered by Israel cuts much deeper. Since he has never reached this stage of denunciation of Israel in such harsh terms, and thugh he has evinced compassion for the Palestinian people before, it would seem that what bothers him most currently is the alleged indifference to Palestinian suffering that is apparently of a new and unprecedented dimension that began eight years ago.
The claim for a loss of compassionate Judaism is based on the situational analysis, so that is why I must spend my time analyzing that rather than his emotional tirade. The charges he levels are as follows:
1. Palestinians have been left without adequate medical supplies because of Israel’s continuing blockade;
2. Prime Minister Netanyahu has refused to negotiate a cease fire.
3. Re the latter, he declines to negotiate lifting the blockade and releasing Palestinian prisoners “kidnapped” and held in Israeli jails lest he be viewed as weak.
4. This behavior and the cheerleading by the American Jewish leadership is responsible the new anti-Semitism and a new kind of hatred for the Jewish people.
5. His moral outrage began eight years ago because of three factors:
• the continuing expansion of the settlements
• the economically crushing blockade of Gaza
• the rejection of the hand of partnership to a Palestinian leader (Abbas) who has adopted the path of non-violence and cooperated with Israeli security forces
6. the failure of Israel to respond to the Saudi Arabian peace initiative characterized as afresh first step
7. Hamas’ decision to accept the reality of Israel’s existence while denying ts “right” to exist
8. The willingness of the Israeli government and Israelis indifferently to allow the Palestinians to be reduced to penury
9. Israel completely broke off negotiating peace with the PA when it reconciled with Hamas
10. Israel used the pretext of the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers by a rogue Hamas element
11. Israel hid the fact that they had been killed as t Israela cover to round up Hamas militants and political leaders in the West Bank
12. Hamas responded to the last three provocations by launching missiles into Israel.
13. The latter provided the pretext for Netanyahu to launch his brutal military assault on Gaza.
14. The latter was the last straw that broke him into tears and heart break even though the beginning of that heart break went back eight years,
15. Israel claimed to be destroying tunnels but engaged in criminal behavior by targeting civilians.
16. The UN Human Rights Commission after the last Gaza War found the claim that justified targeting non-military targets of using those facilities to hide weapons and protect civilians – the human shield charge leveled at Hamas – was groundless.
17. From eyewitness accounts, hundreds of children have been killed by Israel’s indiscriminate destructiveness.
18. Israel deliberately targeted UN schools and Gaza’s water and electricity facilities that will bring untold hunger and diseases to Gazans.
19. Destroying tunnels is acceptable but destroying houses, schools and hospitals is a crime against humanity.
20. Israel rivals some of the most oppressive and brutal regimes in the world.
If Israel’s sins are egregious, Jews around he world are equally complicit for turning Israel into an idol as evidenced by the following:
1 Branding Jews who do not support the state of Israel as a self-hating Jews.
2. Jews believing that the IDF is the most moral army in the world as they remain blind to the IDF’s senseless murder of civilians.
3. Judaism has been turned into an auxiliary of ultra-nationalist blindness.
4. In synagogues around the world Jews pray for the well-being of Israel but not for their Arab cousins, especially the welfare of Palestinians.
5. If they would choose to pray for Palestinians, they would be labelled a self-hating Jew.
6. The prevailing worship of power which Judaism came into existence to challenge.
7. In contrast to Hobbesian realists or many evolutionary psychologists who believe that humans are driven by either fear that results in responses of either flight or fight, Lerner contends that humans have a choice where their behavior can be dictated by compassion and love for the other or fear and hatred and demeaning of the other, Judaism has chosen the former as its fundamental premise.
8. Hitler has won a posthumous victory in instilling in most Jews a belief that we cannot trust our fellow humans and must rely on power and military might instead of embracing a worldview premised on hope and possibility.
9. The young generation of Jews is growing up indifferent to Israel.
10. In the age of the internet, Lerner is reduced to using “non-Jewish” sources to promulgate his message.
Michael Lerner by this point became very repetitive and began to sound like a carnival barker or a shil hustling the wares and messages of the magazine he edits, Tikkun, so let me return to an analysis of the situation he claims to exist that justifies his outraged righteous anger. But before I do, once comment on that moral outrage and anger. It is such an irony that a man so full of rage at most of his fellow Jews instead of being filled with compassion for them, even if they are bereft, should so strongly denounce anger and hate.
1. The inadequate availability of medical supplies for the Palestinians in Gaza
While ICRC (the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, like many other humanitarian organizations, has denounced Israel’s targeting of schools, hospitals, ambulances and humanitarian aid workers in the current crisis and the unavailability of crucial materials for rebuilding infrastructure since the last war, ICRC has stated that:
• It has been able to donate nine war-surgery kits (one kit being enough for 50 seriously wounded patients or 1,500 patients with minor injuries), medicines, surgical equipment, 300 body bags, 20 stretchers, 120 hospital beds, wheelchairs, four sets of surgical dressings kits and 200 first-aid kits;
• It has been able to provide and deliver fuel for ambulances and hospital generators• working to facilitate the entry into Gaza of medical supplies from the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Red Crescent in Ramallah, as well as from other organizations;
• facilitated the entry into Gaza of medical supplies from NGOs and the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Red Crescent in Ramallah;
• has been able to arrange for the delivery of 76 pallets of medical supplies from Ministry of Health in Ramallah to the central medical storage facility in Gaza.
During a violent conflict, the provision and delivery of medical supplies is always fraught with difficulty, but this has not been a significant problem in Gaza.
2. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s alleged refusal to negotiate a cease fire;
John Kerry came in for a storm of criticism for veering away from the Egyptian initiative in sponsoring a cease fire to the one proposed by Turkey and Qatar, not only because the terms were absolutely unacceptable to Israel and would have rewarded Hamas with a victory, but because this shift alienated not only the Egyptians but Fatah as well. Netanyahu always expressed a willingness to negotiate a cease fire but not on the terms proposed by Hamas, Qatar and Turkey.
3. Netanyahu’s alleged unwillingness to negotiate lifting the blockade and releasing Palestinian prisoners
In the current unilateral cease-fire, Israel agreed to end its offensive, lift its blockade, grant fishing rights and release prisoners directly belying Lerner’s assertion, but Israel also rejected Hamas’ demands to rejected the Palestinian demands to re-open the Gaza airport, establish a seaport, guarantee the existence of a connection between the West Bank and the war-torn enclave, lift the Israeli-imposed no-go zone near the Gaza border fence, re-open institutions and restore confiscated public and private properties, end aggression against Palestinians by Israeli settlers and reconstruct the strip
4. In Cheering on Israel, American Jewish leadership’s Responsibility for the new anti-Semitism
There is no question that there has been a rise in anti-Semitism across Europe in the form of threats, hate speech and even violent attacks that can be correlated with the outbreak of violent conflict in the Middle East, but there has ben no demonstrable correlation with the American Jewish leadership’s support for Israel and the current Israeli government. If anything, given the absence of any significant increase in anti-Semitism in America and the relatively muted defence of Israel by the Jewish leadership in Israel, an argument could be made that the absence of strong and vocal cheerleading for Israel in Europe can be pointed to as one possible cause allowing the increase in anti-Semitism. Though I would not buy into such a claim without a great deal of evidence, it is a far more plausible claim than Lerner’s assertion about the role of the Jewish American Jewish leadership in stirring up the new anti-Semitism in Europe.
5. The Causes of Michael Lerner’s Outrage
I would not profess to know or even attempt to speculate on the causes of Lerner’s rage, but note it is totally inconsistent with his message of love and compassion. Further, most psychologists in advising people about their rages suggest they look at what is going on inside their own heads and hearts rather than blaming their outrage on external factors.
6. Israel’s Failure to Respond to the Saudi Arabian Peace Initiative
While I applauded the initiative, given its stand on refugees and on Jerusalem, I did not anticipate that it would move the Israeli government to act and was uncertain whether it would have been better if Israel engaged with the Arab states on the issue or continued to negotiate only with the Palestinians. Adopting the former posture might have undercut its increasing underground cooperation with those states while multiplying the pressures on the refugee issue and on the Old City
7. Lerner’s Claim that Hamas has accepted the Reality of Israel’s Existence but Denied Its Right to Exist
Hamas always accepted the reality of Israel – that is NOT new. Hamas simply denied the possibility that it could have any future. Further, Israel has a long record of negotiating with Hamas in spite of its determination to destroy Israel. Lerner is either naïve or confused on this issue.
8. The Israeli Government and Israeli Indifference to Palestinians Penury
Many commentators have suggested that the decline in the economic status of has lost support among Gazans for Hamas. Further, it appears that Israel welcomed the political weakening of Hamas. But declining economic standards does not equate to penury. But the major cause of that poverty was the break between Hamas and Iran over the former’s criticism of Syria and support for the opposition in that civil war which meant that Hamas was unable to pay salaries to public employees which in turn lead to a breakdown in government and further loss of support for hamas. But this does not translate into Israel being indifferent to Palestinian penury since Israel held out the promise of significant economic improvement if Hamas lost power. Israel might have had a short term interest in the economic decline of Gaza but its long term interest was the opposite.
9. Critique of Israel’s Breaking Off Negotiations with the PA after its Reconciliation with Hamas
I share this criticism but lack the absolute certainty and sense of self righteousness of Lerner that I am correct
10. Israel’ Use of the Pretext of the Murder of Three Israeli Teenagers by a Rogue Hamas Unit to Round up Hamas Supporters and Leaders in the West Bank
Politics are dirty and this may have been simply the implementation of a deal made with Abbas whenever an opportunity presented itself. But that is at odds with the explanation that the goal was to break up the new Palestinian Unity government. Whatever the motive or reason, I personally find it to be counter-productive in the long run as well as morally repugnant.
11. Israel Hiding the fact that the Three Israeli Teenagers Had Been Killed
12. Hamas Was Provoked to Launching Missiles into Israel by the Above Three Israeli Actions
13. The Launching of Rockets by Hamas Provided a Pretext for Netanyahu to Launch the Ground Assault on Gaza
14. The Ground Attack by Israel was the Epiphany that finally Broke Lerner’s Heart
15. Though Israel claimed to be Destroying Tunnels, It was Deliberately Targeting Civilians
16. Lerner Endorsed the Findings of the UN Human Rights Commission That Hamas Did Not Use Civilians as Human Shields
17. Hundreds of children have been killed by Israel’s Indiscriminate Destructiveness
18. Israel Deliberately Targeted UN Schools, Gaza’s Water and Electricity Facilities that will bring untold hunger and diseases to Gazans.
19. Destroying Tunnels is Acceptable but Destroying Houses, Schools and Hospitals is a Crime Against Humanity
20. Israel Rivals Some of the Most Oppressive and Brutal Regimes in the World