Saturday, May 5, 2007

Will They Sign This Ad Next Time?


An op-ed piece in the New York Times on June 26, 1982, by Roger Hurwitz and Gordon Fellman commented on the Invastion of Lebanon: “Under present international conditions, there is little likelihood that Prime Minister Menachem Begin will get the strong Lebanese government – that is, one dominated by Phalangists – that he seeks. His further pursuit of it would entail a prolonged Israeli occupation and strain his country’s resources and morale.….. West Bank Palestinians were moved to protests by expropriation of lands they worked, suppression of their cultural institutions and denial of political rights. … for three decades, Israeli officials boasted that their armed forces respected the lives of innocents … Such claims can no longer be believed, not even by the Israeli public. Until now fear of disunity has muffled public criticism by American Jews of Israel’s approach to the Palestinian issue. This fear must be overcome, for at stake are Israel’s moral future and the identity of Jews everywhere as moral agents.”

During July, 2006, many of us distributed this petition
On July 6, in a full-page ad in The Times of London, 300 British Jews cried out against the collective punishment of the people of Gaza with the anguished question, "What Is Israel Doing?" Several weeks later, as the Middle East sinks deeper into chaos, that question is ever more urgent.
Hezbollah's attack on an IDF outpost was a violation of international law. And after Israel attacked Lebanon, Hezbollah fired missiles at Israeli cities, killing and injuring civilians.This is not morally acceptable, whatever the provocation.
But Israel's response-- an explosion of violence and collective punishment directed against airports, bridges and populated neighborhoods of Lebanon--is an even greater crime. And now Lebanon, like Gaza, is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.
In the face of so much violence and suffering, the United States' vetoes of UN Security Council resolutions calling for a cease fire are immoral and irresponsible.
We call upon U.S. Jews and others to join us in support of Israeli peace groups who write: "The only way to guarantee a different future of peace and security is by ending the occupation and establishing a relationship of equality and respect between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israelis and the neighboring nations."
We call upon the U.S. government to use its influence with Israel to stop the collective punishment of the people of Gaza and Lebanon; to work with the international community to impose a cease-fire and prevent any further loss of civilian life; and to work for the immediate start of direct, good-faith negotiations.
Israel's ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and massive human rights abuses against the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples are opposed by many Jews in Israel, the U.S., and throughout the world.
Attacks on civilians will not bring peace, security or justice to Palestinians, Israelis, or Jews anywhere.

Olmert criticized for 'serious failure' in Lebanon
Defense chief, ex-army leader are also faulted 
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post May 1, 2007
JERUSALEM -- An official Israeli investigative committee yesterday accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of "a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility, and prudence" in taking the country to war in Lebanon last summer. The interim findings of the Winograd Committee also sharply criticized Defense Minister Amir Peretz for not grasping "the basic principles of using military force to achieve political goals" and accused Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, the army chief of staff at the time, of acting "impulsively" in advocating an "immediate, intensive military strike" to secure the release of two captured Israeli soldiers. The findings amount to a harsh indictment of some of Israel's most respected institutions and the people who lead them, portraying the Jewish state's military commanders as complacent and its political leadership as rash and inexperienced. The committee concluded that Israel's army "was not ready for this war," and blamed Halutz for failing to devise an effective strategy or to make Olmert aware of sharp disagreements within the military over how to achieve Israel's goals against Hezbollah's guerrilla force. "After 25 years without a war, Israel experienced a war of a different kind," said Eliyahu Winograd, a retired judge, presenting conclusions that focused on the decision to go to war and the first days of fighting. "The war thus brought back to center stage some critical questions that parts of Israeli society would prefer to avoid." The committee is due to issue its final report this summer. But its preliminary findings describe an Israeli government that lacked a plan to achieve goals characterized as "too ambitious," suffered from a lack of military experience among civilian leaders and was undermined by a general staff that failed to adapt on the battlefield after its strategy showed early signs of failure. The report used the word "failure" dozens of times in connection with the prime minister and said Olmert bore "supreme and comprehensive responsibility for the decisions of his government and the operations of the army."

It is difficult for me to understand how anyone who has followed the actions of the Israeli government over the past number of years could not have serious, serious, reservations about signing an ad in support of its Invasion of Lebanon 2.0 Time and again the Israeli governments have acted in a way that would give many who have read the history or and studied the Israel Palestine conflict reason to believe that the primary goal of the government of Israel is the total control of the entire West Bank with either pacified Palestinians or no Palestinians. The actions of the government of Israel in relying on military action while avoiding serious negotiation over the 40 years of the illegal and immoral occupation of the West Bank and Gaza would have to serve as evidence to many that the government of Israel has no genuine desire for peace with justice.

How did that ad appear? It is interesting to note that there is nothing to indicate who is responsible for it although I think I read a quote from someone at the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Boston that it came about because people were asking her what they could do to support Israel and something else that said that the language in the ad was similar to wording that had previously appeared on the JCRC and the American Jewish Committee’s website.

And yet here is the copy of the ad and a partial list of the signatories.(practically the entire political establishment in Massachusetts, Democrats and Republicans)

“We Stand With Israel”

“As concerned citizens, we stand with the Jewish community and proudly raise our voices in solidarity with the people of Israel, a brave democracy that has yearned so long to live in peace.

“We firmly support Israel’s right to defend her population against unprovoked acts of terror, including the missile attacks launched against Boston’s sister city, Haifa, which have killed and maimed innocent civilians.

“We express our heartfelt concern for the safety of innocent people, Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese, who have been hurt most by the brutality of those terrorists who have brought a new level of violence to the area.

“We call upon terrorist organizations and the regimes that support them to put an end to the terror. We call upon all who care about peace to join us in our support for Israel as she defends herself against the enemies of peace.”

(a partial list of the signers)
“Salvatore R. DiMasi
Michael Dukakis
Barney Frank
Chrisopher Gabrieli
John Garvey
Chad Gifford
Deborah Goldberg
Scott Harshbarger
Kerry Healey
Philip W. Johnson
Jay R. Kaufman
Edward M. Kennedy
John F. Kerry
Gloria C. Larson
Peter Lynch
Edward J. Markey
Thomas M. McGee
James McGovern
Peter Meade
Francis X. Meaney
Martin T. Meehan
Thomas M. Merino
Christy Mihos
Richard E. Neal
John W. Olver
Thomas R. O’Neill III
Deval L. Patrick
Douglas W. Petersen
R. Robert Popeo
Thomas F. Reilly
Mitt Romney
Frank Smizik
John F. Tierney
Stephen P. Tocco
Robert E.Travaglini
Kevin White
Michael J. Whouley
Dianne Wilkerson
Alice K Wolf”

Other headlines that day in the Boston Globe : Israel hits Hezbollah stronghold – Militants say Beirut bombing missed leaders; Humanitarian crisis feared as Lebanese flee bombing – Half a million called refugees; Raids kill 13 Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank; US broadens its evacuation of citizens from Lebanon strife

Since the occupation, especially since 1980, we have seen the rise of the Jewish tribalism – not the concept of universal care and concern but a very narrow perspective -We are the chosen people – we have to rely on ourselves – we can’t trust “others’ – These are the voices of fear and distrust of anyone, non-Jews and Jews who criticize the actions of the government of Israel.

After an incident at a local temple in 1989 where an individual’s criticism of the Israel government was met by derogatory vocal language, a member of the audience who continues to be a strong supporter of Israel, approached me and suggested we form a group which would serve as a place where all views of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians would be tolerated and listened to respectfully. That group continues to meet 17 years later.

In those years despite all that has taken place in Israel and the occupied territories, and the heated debates and variety of opinions expressed in Israel, I am not aware of ONE open public meeting sponsored by a local temple, JCC or Jewish Federation which has as its goal anything other than presenting the views of the government of Israel.

In fact, two years ago, according to the May 6, 2005, issue of The Salem News, a church in Salem was planning a conference on “Peace-making in Israel/Palestine: Is it Possible/”; a group organizing it described itself as one that supports the existence of the state of Israel, but it opposes Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

The response from the head of the local Jewish Federation was not to request to participate in the conference but to charge “My concerns are that an anti-Israeli – by extension, potentially anti-Semitic – conference is going to be taking place in our community, one that will potentially inaccurately reflect both the position of the government of Israel and , more importantly, the Jewish community.” He e-mailed 250 Federation members warning them of the event and asking them to call organizers to protest. The minister of the church responded that the conference was neither anti-Israel nor anti-Semitic. “Some people honestly believe that just to be critical of the government of Israel is anti-Semitic. I personally find that untenable and I say that as a supporter of Israel.”

Fortunately, the conference went smoothly without incident.

What has impressed me over the years is how monolithic the Christian community believes the Jewish community to be. The reaction to Bishop Shaw’s actions outside the Israeli consulate a few years ago confirmed that. The result is, as one clergyman said to me, the reluctance of Christian clergy to criticize the government of Israel and speak about the plight of the Palestinians out of concern about being labeled as anti-semites. From my conversations with elected officials, I believe that that concern is shared by many of them especially since it involves the possibility of the end of a career in public office.

TWO SUGGESTIONSFirst, we should not be intimidated by these tactics, the possibility of being labeled an “anti-semite or “self-hating Jew.” We need to show our support for the core values of Judaism - social justice, love and respect for human dignity to speak out. We need to talk to other Jewish people and our elected officials and let them know that the primary obstacle to peace in Israel Palestine is the occupation and the settlements.

Second, we could try to make a reality of the hope expressed by Brad Brooks-Rubin who wrote in “A Winograd of Our Own” on April 30, 2007",
“Should I bring (my sons) to the anti-Olmert protests that will likely be ongoing after we arrive, or fear that, if they ever explained to friends here that they went to such an event – with hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israelis — that they would still be deemed traitors to their people and community? So let me just ask this, for my sake as a father, and for my sons’ sake as very young American Jews: will the mainstream American Jewish leadership form its own Winograd commission? Will they look at their own actions, their own decisions during that time? Will they examine their overall approach to the strategic issues of how to connect American Jews with Israel, of demanding that that connection always equal full support of the Government of Israel? Will they question whether, in some cases, and especially now that we can see that the system in Israel is “deeply flawed,” Israel’s future depends on our being allowed to have our own opinions on Israel’s actions, being allowed to have a real debate in the American Jewish community?”

And what about those in politics who signed the ad, Jewish and non-Jewish!! In the near future, perhaps tomorrow, when the government of Israel undertakes a military action and sends Apache helicopters into the West Bank, Gaza or Lebanon and they are asked to sign another ad starting with the words “We Stand with Israel” that does not include a commitment to end the occupation and dismantle the settlements in the West Bank will THEY do some soul-searching self-criticism? Will they reexamine their overall approach to the strategic issues of how to connect with Israel? Will they accede to the demand that the connection always equals full support of the Government of Israel?

1 comment:

npro said...

But why does this blog limit its questions to the morality of the occupation? Does a country lose enough good will where its existence is questionable - if the founding came after a massive expulsion?

What would those signers think if they saw this blog? Would they ever see the blog?