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No Easy Answers in Gaza

Before posting I took a few minutes to survey the numerous reader responses to Rabbi Grossman’s analysis of the horrific situation in Gaza. I am struck by how diverse and deeply passionate they are–from those who blame Israel and America for everything that has gone wrong to those who fling hatred and vitriol at the Palestinians. In that sense, Gaza is a good Rorschach blot for Israeli-Palestinian relations–everyone agrees that the current situation is intolerable but, depending on your own leanings and preferences, you’ll find vastly different causes and solutions.
I think it’s important to start by acknowledging, along with the lead editorial in this week’s New Republic, that “the primary responsibility for Palestinian actions falls on Palestinians.” Making excuses for those who chose to elect Hamas and bring it into the Palestinian government or for the armed factions competing for their own narrow ideologies and self-interests is absurd and despicable. However, taking a “you break it, you bought it approach” and washing hands of any responsibility for the current situation in Gaza by writing it off as “Hamas-stan” and trying to have dealings only with Abbas and the West Bank is, while tempting, not a realistic policy for either Israel or America. For one thing, having chaos on Israel’s doorstep is only going to lead to more violence against Israelis in range of Hamas’ and Islamic Jihad’s Qassams. But beyond that, failure in Gaza would represent yet another place where secular and more moderate Muslim voices are defeated by Islamist forces of fundamentalism and hatred. There are too many places in the world where these same forces hang in the balance–from Egypt to Lebanon to Pakistan to Indonesia to Iraq–to allow Gaza to become yet another victory for extremism and to have moderates demoralized by the world’s failure to act.
So like all Rorschach blots there is no right or easy answer, no facile analysis of the crisis in Gaza, be it pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. Instead of easy answers we will need difficult engagement, even if the current debacle is not a situation of our own choosing or making. Gaza differs from a Rorschach only in that Rorschach blots are black and white, and there is little that is black and white about how to respond to the current crisis. Tragically, the main color in Gaza for the foreseeable future appears to be red.



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Esther

posted June 28, 2007 at 3:01 pm


Abbas is NOT a moderate – and articles such as this one who pretend that he is are downright harmful. The Palestinian children’s textbooks (which Abbas is in charge of) still teach Palestinian children that they should be suicide bombers and kill Jews and Americans. The Fatah charter still calls for the end of Israel’s existence and espouses violence. Any material aid given to shore up Abbas will end up being used to kill more Israelis.



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Cardozo

posted June 28, 2007 at 5:48 pm


Esther,
“extreme” and “moderate” are relative terms, wouldn’t you agree? If the ultimate goal is the establishment of a long-term peace, don’t you have to take incremental steps, thereby gradually changing what’s considered moderate?
In other words, what are the great benefits of painting Abbas as an extremist?



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Donald

posted June 28, 2007 at 7:49 pm


Um, some recognition of the facts outlined in the article below would be helpful, if you really want to be fair to all sides–
LINK
I think peace would be very close if people on both sides (and in America) would fully acknowledge the atrocities and crimes committed by their own sides. Maybe that’s asking too much, but even some acknowledgement would help.



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Donald

posted June 28, 2007 at 7:55 pm


Oh, in the event that anyone is interested in reading something non-propagandistic about the Palestinian textbook issue, they can read this



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Anonymous

posted June 28, 2007 at 8:05 pm


I believe, at this point, the problem is solely on the head of Palstinian leadership. Israel gave in, forced thousands of their own off their land in hopes that this concession might lead to peace. In my mind, it just goes to show that until moderates, on all sides come to the forefront, death and destruction will follow religious extremisim,



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PA reader

posted June 29, 2007 at 12:00 am


Talking with Abbas is a waste of time. The truth is, as stated recently on Hannity and Colmes by academic Fouad Ajami and a former Fatah terrorist, that Abbas is a terrorist. His university thesis was a work of Holocaust denial. And if Abbas isn’t a terrorist, then he’s powerless anyway, so what’s the point of talking with him?
I for one am glad in a way that Hamas took over Gaza. It shows how stupid Israel was to retreat from Gaza and how stupid it would be to give Abbas or anyone like him more power in the West Bank.



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Dave

posted June 29, 2007 at 2:15 pm


1/ Why do we have to be fair to both sides on this forum?
2/ The coastal enclave of Hong Kong had all the occupation/oppression/imperialism/war/yadayadayada that Hamasistan has had-its not a mess.
When the people of Hamasistan decide on going the HK way they will improve their lives



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Yechiel

posted June 29, 2007 at 11:03 pm


There is actually a straightforword answer to Gaza, but it is not an answer that has been considered here. The State of Israel could leave the Occupied Territories, which it occupies illegally, and thereby reduce its problems with Gaza considerably.
Meanwhile, Israel could take down the Apartheid Wall that is designed to create “facts on the ground” in contravention of numerous UN Resolutions. The World Court has ruled unanimously that all sections of the Wall designed to protect only Jewish colonizers — euphemistically known as “settlers” — are in violation of international law and should be torn down.
Israel could accept the responsibilities of international law and accept, rather than reject, Palestinian peace offers that follow the international consensus for the region. The Israeli government can do quite alot, then, to make the region more peaceful. But it will have to reject its own propaganda and the “pro-Israel” propaganda of groups like AIPAC to do so.



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Dave

posted July 1, 2007 at 12:52 pm


1/ A withdrawal from the West Bank would hardly affect the situation in Gaza.
2/ The settlers the wall protects live on the West Bank of the Jordan- and on the East Bank of the Mediterranean.
2/ Before the wall-lots of terrorist attacks on all parts of Israel. After the wall-very few terrorists attacks. If the world court or anyone else wants the wall taken down that’s fine.
When it comes to the safety of its citizens a country doesn’t have to be fair to both sides.



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Yechiel

posted July 1, 2007 at 8:20 pm


Hey Dave,
Thanks for numbering your responses. It makes it easier, I think to keep track of the lines of discussion or argument.
1) I agree — the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are two different areas. One thing they have in common is that they are illegally held by the State of Israel. What the governement of Israel would do with regard to both, if it cared about international law, would be to withdraw from all occupied territories. If it cared about democracy, it would grant citizenship to everyone within its borders.
2) If the government of Israel cared about international law regarding the Wall, it would take it down – or, at least take down 80% of it, according to the World Court’s 14-1 decision on the matter. As the colonizers — the people euphemistically called “settlers” — are taking up residence on land that does not belong to them, they should remove themselves immediately. That is the best way for them to protect themselves.
3) Israel’s present policy does not protect the safety of its citizens; by continuing to imprison, torture — see B’Tselem’s reports on the Ansar detention centers — and otherwise disrespect the rights of the Palestinians, the State virtually assures that its citizens will be subject to terrorist attacks.
“Killing people who are in your custody and under your control, no matter what the circumstances, constitutes an extremely grave offense – in fact, a war crime,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch recently pointed out. Stork was talking in this instance about Palestinian factions, but his words apply as well to the government of Israel.



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Dave

posted July 2, 2007 at 8:16 pm


1/ Gaza is not held, legally or illegally by Israel. Its held by Hamas which I don’t believe is a surrogate for Israel.
Israel has annexed only Jerusalem including the Old City which being a ‘future rabinnic student’ I suppose you support. As to giving everyone in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel the vote, with current demographics that could mean Hamasistan in a few years.
2/ You mean it was 14-1. wow. I’m now one bit more optimistic about the world court. Anyways taking down 80% of a wall ceases to make ita wall. this means effectively taking down 100% of the wall which means laying all of Israel to the suicide and other bombers. Again no nation need pay any attention to any group that wants to make all its citizens targets.
Interestingly enough the authorities in many other countries with separating walls have been studying the great effectiveness of the Israeli wall.
The world court alos seemed to miss all the other separating wall in the world, and UNESCO still seems to consider the Great Wall to be an international heritage site.
3/ The Jews in mandatory Palestine were subject to terrorist attacks well before 1948. Well before all the things you and others complain about.
4/ Under this Stork fellows definition all capital punishment, all police killings period, all people killed in prison fires, all prison suicides. all are ‘war crimes’.



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Yechiel

posted July 3, 2007 at 2:05 am


Hi Dave,
1) Israel has been holding Gaza for many years. You’re right that the area is now pretty much under Hamas control. By interfering with the Palestinians’ right to elect their own representatives some months ago, the Israeli government helped ensure that the people of Gaza would become even more hostile than they had been previously.
I don’t believe that I said, as you seem to imply, that Israel has annexed territories that it occupies illegally.
You may know that Security Council Resolutionn 478 ruled in 1980 that Israeli actions to change the status of Jerusalem were invalid. Based on this ruling, I don’t see why a future rabbinic student or anybody else should support Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem.
2) You express repeatedly your contempt for such legal bodies as the International Court of Justice and you ask repeatedly why persons posting their views on the present blog attempt repeatedly to be even-handed in their assessments of the political situation in Israel and Palestine.
You say that no nation need pay any attention to any group that wants to make all its citizens targets. I assume you are asserting Saddam Hussein’s right to gas the Kurds who opposed him, and you are welcome to this opinion. It is not a popular one, however.
As you seem to object to the use of legal standards and the application of basic standards of moral action, I don’t know why you participate in the present discussion. Perhaps you are simply curious to find what others believe?
3)I’d like you to quote a place where I have “complained,” so that I know what you are referencing.
You are correct that Jewish people in Palestine were subject to terrorist attacks before 1948. However, I am not sure why you mention it in this particular context. I believe you raise this in order to justify the torture of more than 22,000 people in Israeli prisons in recent years. Am I correct, or do you have another reason for bringing this up?
4) “This fellow” Stork’s words reflect standard international law such as the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a signatory. You might wish to peruse one or two of these documents some time, simply to get an idea of the international consensus on these matters.
Your interpretation of Stork’s words seems to me inconsistent with their clear meaning. For example,the quote I provided has Stork saying that
“killing people who are in your custody or under your control” constitutes a grave offense. It does not say that “the suicide of someone under your control or their death in an unpreventable fire” is a war crime. I am not sure what led you to adopt this interpretation.



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Lori

posted July 3, 2007 at 1:31 pm


I have read all of your comments and even the “links” used as reference. However, what Dave and Yechiel show as eveidence links are also opinionated.
It’s very particular to see…. one more time, again and again…. how everyone sees the solution of the Middle East purely in the hands of Israel. IF you blame United Stated to be allied to Israel… where are the arab countries in regards to Palestinians????? Where is their financial and economical alliance and support??? I don’t think that if Egypt, Jordan Iran… would help their fellows arabs with economical trading, educational training in the different business and agricultural areas… palestinians would be in the situation they’ve always been: uneducated, and without any skills (I’m referring it as a majority, please) . Now the little middle education that was left had fled.



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Esther

posted July 3, 2007 at 1:38 pm


Dear Cardozo,
It is not a matter of “painting” Abbas as a terrorist. He IS a terrorist, and encourages terrorism and terrorist teachings in every Palestinian school. There is a great danger in pretending that Abbas is a moderate & closing our eyes to reality. When Neville Chamberlain told the world in 1938 that Hitler and Mussolini really wanted peace in our time, it did not make it so – and the accompanying concessions of territory made WW II much tougher for the Allies to win. But at least Chamberlain had the good sense one year later – in 1939 – to admit that he was wrong about Hitler’s intentions, in his declaration of war against Germany. The problem Israel’s leaders and many misguided Jews have is that they still believe that terrorists are men of peace despite YEARS of evidence to the contrary. I hope we wake up on time and start calling a terrorist a terrorist, stop the life-threatening concessions to terrorists, and start standing as strong as we must in order to survive.



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Dave

posted July 3, 2007 at 8:19 pm


1/ Hamas began in Gaza. The people of Gaza have supported Hamas even when Arafat was in Tunis. Like people around the world, the voted in a group they support.
2/ What does the rulling of the World Court have to do with any rabbinic interperetation? They are not a heavenly tribunal. If the Wold Court ordered Jews to eat shellfish what should a Jew do?
3/ The Kurds who were Iraqis were not attacking other Iraqis.
4/ You were complaining about this Israeli agency and that Israeli agency being the cause of Arabs’ attacks. None of these agencies exitsted pre-1948 when Arabs were attacking Jews.
5/ There was an international consensus at one time that Jews shouldn’t have civil rights. So?
6/ This Stork fellow seems to believe that many internal actions of Governments, criminal or not, are all ‘war crimes’. It is an interesting rhetorical device.



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Yechiel

posted July 3, 2007 at 10:44 pm


Dave,
I now see where you are coming from. I wish you had pointed our earlier that you only accept rabbinic interpretations — and rulings from heavenly tribunals.
I see now that you derive your views from magical interpretations unavailable to regular people.



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Dave

posted July 4, 2007 at 4:04 pm


I simply don’t take as authorities:
1/ People who’s main credential is employment with a group with the word ‘watch’ in it
2/ UN-ocrats, whether they wear black robes or not.
3/ People who describe any act they don’t like as a ‘war crime’ (even if the act is a crime)
4/ For Jews ‘basic standards of moral action’ = Torah.



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Yechiel

posted July 4, 2007 at 7:26 pm


Dave, I understand.
You take the revelation from Sinai, and not the Talmud Jewish writings subsequent to it, as your standard of belief and action.



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Dave

posted July 5, 2007 at 9:00 pm


Does the Talmud mention the UN/world court? Is some George Soros group like the Sanhedrin?
BTW The Oral law was given at Sinai.



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Joe

posted July 8, 2007 at 11:23 pm


Yechiel: I have an easier solution. WHy don’t all the Jews just march into the Mediterranean and drown (G-d forbid) that what the “world court” and UN want anyway, and it would once and for all resolve the “Jewish question.”
Jews elsewhere? They could rebuild Auschwitz and ship the rest of us there. That would satisfy the World Court, the UN, and Christian and Muslims who don’t want to share their oxygen with us.
Wake up! Abbas, the UN, the US State Department, Europe and the Muslims want us DEAD! Nothing else will satisfy them. Read their literature, read between their their lies. (lies, not lines).
If you want to survive, you’d better change your ideas, because the only way the Jews will survive is if we are strong, stand up against the Muslim and Christian bullies, and commit ourselves back to Torah and G-d. And that includes “moderates” who are in reality Jew-haters of the most viscious kind.
Regards…Joe



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