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Virtual Talmud

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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