[This article was written during the first days of the 2012 Gaza Massacre, but it is just as relevant today. It was sent to Huffington Post and then politely declined without comment. I was invited to be a blogger for Huffington Post and have posted articles about every six months for several years. I naively thought that the Huffington Post was a forum for ideas. Given what has happened since, this article seems very mild.]
What would a moral Israel look like? Could there be an Israel that would gain the love and respect of the world? Could Israel, for instance, redeem itself as South Africa has? Yes, it could. The answer will seem naïve to some. What has been described as a complex and intractable situation, really, is not.
A moral Israel could ask the forgiveness of the Palestinians for nearly 70 years of injustice and oppression. It could turn over the settlements in the West Bank and return to pre-1967 borders as hundreds of UN resolutions require. It could grant political autonomy to Palestine. It could offer reparations for the bombing of civilian infrastructure of recent years. It could recognize Jerusalem as an international, sacred city, a sanctuary for the three major traditions that love it. It could begin a process of restorative justice, much as South Africa has done, that would reconcile Palestinians and Israeli Jews. In other words, Israel could demonstrate generosity, compassion, forgiveness, and moral vision
Until now, we have unfortunately seen only evidence of the opposite, and the whole situation is stuck in a never-ending cycle of violence. Israel is a country founded upon religion, and religion, whatever people may say, is fundamentally about morality. Israel’s morality is, unfortunately, self-evident. No religion advocates killing, especially the killing of innocent people.
It is fair to say that the people of Gaza are living in an open-air concentration camp, being denied the most basic economic freedoms and human rights, suffering every day from brutal and humiliating oppression. Their agricultural lands have been appropriated, their water resources have been curtailed. All of this information and history is easily available. See, for instance, a website like http://www.ifamericansknew.org which attempts to inform Americans about the conditions in the occupied territories. This site also offers the best history of this problem that I know of: http://www.ifamericansknew.org/history/origin.html which was written by Jews for Justice in Palestine.
What allows injustices of this type to be perpetuated is the distortion of information and the telling of outright lies. The worst crimes against humanity are typically justified by focusing on a few links in the chain of events. The current and recent attacks on Gaza are excellent examples of a justifying narrative that goes something like this: Israel must defend itself against rockets launched by militants in Gaza. These rockets are being launched by people who wish to destroy Israel itself. As President Obama says, any country has the right to defend itself from attack.
But what is left out of that selective version of the story is the long history that began with the creation of the Zionist state of Israel, the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian towns, the millions of refugees, and the cruel Palestinian occupation.
As Juan Cole wrote recently in “Is Rula Jebreal Right About U.S. Media Bias Against Palestinians?” Posted on Jul 22, 2014: From most American media you would assume that the Israelis were minding their own business and the Palestinians of Gaza just irrationally started firing rockets at them. With rare exceptions, we aren’t told that most truces have been broken by Israel, not Hamas. We aren’t told that over 70% of Gaza’s population used to live in Israel and was ethnically cleansed and left penniless. We aren’t told that Israel has a blockade on Gaza that does not allow it to export most of what it produces, that this blockade has thrown 40% of the working population into unemployment and left 56% of families food insecurity (just on the verge of going to bed hungry). We aren’t told that Israeli occupation has left 90% of people in Gaza without potable water. We aren’t told that Gaza’s Palestinians demand an end to being kept in a big concentration camp. If Israelis were being treated as the Palestinians are, what do you think they would do about it?
And every few years, Israel flexes its military muscle with a new bombing campaign killing thousands of defenseless civilians under the pretext of eliminating militants, while our leaders lament these unfortunate deaths and yet remain complicit by supplying Israel with weapons and money.
What is also left out is the recent events following the murder of three Israeli teenagers, when, according to Electronic Intifada, “Israel’s armed forces rampaged throughout the occupied West Bank and bombarded the Gaza Strip in a campaign of collective punishment.” Also not mentioned is “the abduction of more than 560 Palestinians, including at least 200 still held without charges; after the raiding of Palestinian universities and ransacking of countless homes; after six Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli forces; after American-trained Palestinian authority police assisted Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinian youths in the center of Ramallah; after the alleged theft by Israeli troops of $3 million in US dollars…”
It was after this that some militants began to launch rockets into Israel.
And while Israel continues its hugely disproportionate attack on Gaza, other events which could be major stories are not even noticed by most of the media, such as this from Saturday, July 19, 2014 02:20 by Celine Hagbard – IMEMC News: 110 Palestinians, including a number of elderly men and women, were treated for injuries after Israeli troops attacked worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The wounded include two Directors of the Board for Islamic Endowments, several journalists, and paramedics who arrived on the scene to treat the wounded.
America, especially, is routinely fed misinformation about Israel and Palestine. This week, former Rep. Jane Harmon (D. CA) said on Real Time with Bill Maher that the Hamas Charter calls for the death of every Israeli, including women and children. I decided to check this out for myself and read the Hamas charter for the first time. I could not, however, find any such proposal. Hamas, admittedly the most extreme Palestinian party, does take the position that the state of Israel must be replaced with an Islamic state. Hamas is basically advocating an Islamic equivalent of Zionism.
Here is what the Hamas Charter says about its relations with non-Muslims:
Hamas is a humane movement, which cares for human rights and is committed to the tolerance inherent in Islam as regards attitudes towards other religions. It is only hostile to those who are hostile towards it, or stand in its way in order to disturb its moves or to frustrate its efforts. Under the shadow of Islam it is possible for the members of the three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism to coexist in safety and security.
If any of the above seems extreme, these are the words of people who are suffering extreme deprivation, who have lost most of their original homeland, and who feel they are in danger of losing everything.
Yes, there may be a militant minority on both sides that call for the destruction of the other, but if the population of Palestine as a whole were not being provoked, the vast majority of Palestinians would embrace an opportunity to live in peace, and these militant minorities would dwindle into insignificance. The Jewish people could then begin to live by the morals of the Torah and use their exceptional intelligence for the benefit of humanity.
I would suggest that our brothers and sisters in Israel awaken a little bit of courage and a lot of generosity. I would argue that Israel’s survival is not enhanced by the strategies it now uses—quite the contrary. The world abhors these measures. Our planet is in crisis. Make peace with the Palestinians and with humanity so that we can begin to face our common problems together.