This post will consist of at least one further dialog elicited by my initial post which compared the Sandy Hook school shooting of late 2012 with the continuing Israeli assaults on the Gaza Strip. I encourage others to join the dialog.
From Thomas Laxar
First of all, the title [“The Slaughter of the Innocents: the Sandy Hook school shooting & the Gaza Strip”] of your article equates Israel with an individual who intentionally targeted and murdered children. Your defense of that title on your blog quotes a document that states, “the Israeli assault on Gaza of 2008-09 which killed more than 300 children, established Israeli’s deliberate policy of striking non-combatants.” So it is hard to understand why you would assert now, “I do not intend to “demonize” or “delegitimize” Israel or supporters of Israel..” What could be more demonic than a deliberate policy of killing children? The inescapable impression is that you very clearly intended to demonize Israel.
Second, the subject of neutrality has nothing to do with my message to you. Neutrality is a word that connotes a detached and aloof position. Being aware of the suffering and having compassion for both sides is not neutrality. It is the starting point for waging peace. It is part of a passionate advocacy for kindness for all the victims and on the part of all the combatants.
Third, you correlate the plight of the Palestinians to the American civil rights movement, and the struggles in South Africa and India. All of those other situations involved a conflict between a clearly identifiable oppressor and a victim. These are very weak correlations that substantially miss the core issues of this conflict. In Palestine we have mutually aggrieved parties that have visited misery on one another for 64 years. There is an abundance of victims on both sides. It is impossible to say who is the greater victim because there is no meter or metric for the pain, suffering, and fear that everyone there experiences. That emotionality and spiritual poverty are the core issues.
Also, since your advocacy is so strongly for justice, you should be aware that the idea of justice is inextricably entwined with the spirit of vengeance and retribution. In fact, they are often used as synonyms. For example, the primary argument used by those who favor the death penalty is that the victim’s families deserve justice. I stopped going to peace marches some years ago because the media ignored our witness. The cameras were all focused on the advocates of justice. They were the ones wearing masks and throwing rocks at the police.
I know you have another idea of the term justice, but the common meaning of the word more often than not poisons any advocacy for justice. Anyway, there is nothing that approaches a consensus of what a just solution would be in this conflict. Hamas would probably define justice as the realization of their charter’s vision and God’s will for the establishment an Islamic caliphate that rules all of Palestine. Certain Israelis would define justice as the fulfillment of G-d’s promise to Moses by incorporating all of “Judea” and “Samaria” into Greater Israel and the “transfer” of the non-Jewish residents out of the region. Of course, there is endless variation of opinion on what justice would be between these extremes. From a pragmatic point of view, making justice the central issue is a prescription for constant argument and continued conflict. We need to remember that justice is not about reconciliation. In its best sense, it is about litigation, assigning blame, and judgment.
On the other hand, everyone knows what peace is. We are called by Jesus Christ to bring love to others, not judgment upon others.
The only real solution for this region’s agony is a spiritual transformation. One way we can help make that happen by bringing as many people as possible from both parties together in mutual efforts to build better living conditions for everyone. There is no end of possibilities for this. It could be planning better use of the precious aquifers, joint fire departments, youth activities, etc. Some of this is happening. It’s about engaging in actions that build trust, cooperation, a sense of common purpose, and companionship. This is the news we need to hear. These are the kinds of efforts we need to support.
Lastly, I believe your assertion that the plight of the Palestinians is under reported is simply factually incorrect. The media is mesmerized by their suffering. The truth is that the violence is over reported and peace efforts are virtually ignored by mainstream media.
By the way, you can feel free to post this dialogue on your blog. It is not necessary to hide my name.
However, please do not include my email address, especially as for some reason, my work email was unintentionally attached to my message.
May we travel by Christ’s light
I believe the crux of our discussion—and my work in the region—is precisely as you state: “Being aware of the suffering and having compassion for both sides is … the starting point for waging peace. It is part of a passionate advocacy for kindness for all the victims and on the part of all the combatants.” I would merely add the concept of justice: compassion as the starting point for waging peace and seeking justice. What’s the scriptural quote: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, English Standard Version)
“Non-combatants” doesn’t necessarily imply children. I do not claim Israel deliberately targets children, I do claim that at least in the case of Operation Cast Lead, they deliberately targeted civilians, which would include children. (See the UN report on this, incorrectly titled the “Goldstone Report.”)
I’m not sure I follow your logic that this claim necessarily implies I intend to “demonize” Israel (Whatever “demonize” now means, used so often by supporters of Israel to attack those who criticize the state’s policies, as is “delegitimize,” equivalent in frequency of use to “anti-Semitic” and “self hating Jew,” two other overused and perhaps largely meaningless terms). I intend to hold the Israeli government and its leaders responsible for reprehensible behavior, possibly war crimes and crimes against humanity. One may respect the murder’s humanity while holding the person accountable.
I stand by my references to the struggles in the United States against racism and in South Africa against apartheid and India against colonialism, 3 monumental freedom struggles. Israel is clearly the aggressor, Palestine the victim in a struggle for its basic human rights. That to me is key and incontestable.
One point of comparison is proportionality. Certainly, Israelis suffer from the Israel-Palestine conflict, as do Palestinians, and finding a metric for suffering may be impossible, but quantity is a rough measure. Approximately 1 Israeli Jew dead for every 4 Palestinians since 2000, the beginning of the Second Intifada. Another is economic condition. Clearly the Palestinians—especially those in Gaza—are in a much worse position due to the conflict than are the Israelis. And the all important ideal of freedom. When did you last hear of an Israeli unable to leave the region because of Palestinian restrictions, or Gazans able to freely leave and reenter their homeland?
Some may seek vengeance and retribution when they advocate for justice, but I do not and from my experiences with Palestinians most also do not. They simply seek their human rights, justice for their condition—in a word: freedom!
Furthermore, I do seek judgment and the placing of blame on those parties that act inhumanely, injure and kill others, exploit economic power, and generally act against the rules and laws of civilized people. Thru the application of international law to this conflict, a point I stress repeatedly, and a possible truth and reconciliation process like that of South Africa, I believe we can rectify the wrongs, set the course toward justice, peace, security, and reconciliation for most parties in this conflict. Some, like Hamas and the extremist Israeli Jews who tend to populate some settlements, and the Knesset in recent years, may not be satisfied with outcomes. I hope they are patient and understand the benefits of a resolution based on compromise.
I agree that spiritual transformation is crucial for a solution, I’m not convinced it is the only element. Simply put: honor the humanity in all, we are all connected, and all are divine and from the divine. Radical religious Jews and radical religious Muslims may understand this.
As for under and distorted reporting of Palestinian experience, over the past half decade or so the proportion of information about Palestinians has modestly increased. I do not have figures but clearly over the past 3 or so decades the proportion favors Israeli Jews. The New York Times, New Yorker, Boston Globe, and mainstream television, 60 Minutes in particular, buttressed considerably by web-based media, have done a much better job of reportage. I hope to be part of that new wave.
Thanks again for your willingness to engage the issues and me, and for allowing your name and affiliation to be public. I encourage others to join us.