Thursday, January 15, 2009

Join American Jews in Condemning Gaza War

Richard Silverstein and I, along with Verso Books, the publishers of A Time to Speak Out, have prepared the following statement from American Jews condemning the Gaza assault and Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. We hope that you will sign it and encourage others you know to do so as well. Roane Carey of The Nation has expressed some interest in publishing it there, if we succeed in getting a significant number of signatories. We hope you will help start a viral campaign by promoting this statement as widely as you can via e mail, websites and general word of mouth.

To sign, please send your full name, title (if you wish), & affiliation (if you wish) to this address. It is only for signatures and not for regular correspondence. For that, please e mail Richard directly. Of course, you can leave comments on this blog.

"We Shall Not Be a Party to Their Counsel!"

As human beings, we are shocked and appalled at the mass destruction unleashed by the State of Israel against the people of Gaza in its current military operation, following years of Israeli occupation, siege, and deprivation.

As Americans, we protest the carte blanche given Israel by the US government to pursue a war of "national honor," "restoring deterrence," "destroying Hamas," and "searing Israel's military might into the consciousness of the Gazans."

As progressives, we reject the same justifications for the carnage that we heard ad nauseum from the supporters of the Second Iraq War: the so-called "war on terror," the "clash of civilizations," the "need to re-establish deterrence" – all of which served to justify a misguided and unnecessary war, with disastrous consequences for America and Iraq.

But as Jews of different religious persuasions, from Orthodox to secular atheist, we are especially horrified that a state that purports to speak in our name wages a military campaign that has killed over 1,000 people, a large percentage of them civilians, children, and non-combatants, with little or no consideration for human rights or the laws of war.

While the moral and legal issue concerning Israel's right to respond militarily in these circumstance can be debated, there is near-universal agreement that its conduct of the military operation has been unjust and even criminal – with only the usual apologists for the Jewish state disagreeing.

As Jews, we stand united with another Israel, the patriarch Jacob, who cursed his sons Simeon and Levi for massacring the people of Shechem in revenge for the rape of their sister Dinah. Like Jacob, "we shall not be a party to the counsel of zealots. We shall not be counted in their assembly. (See Genesis 34. 49: 5-7).

As Jews, we stand united with the Jewish sages who rejected the zealotry of the Jewish "terrorists" at Masada, those who masked ethnic tribalism in the cloak of "self-defense" and "national honor."

As Jews, we listen not only when the sage Hillel says, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" but also when he says, "If I am only for myself, what am I?" Hillel's closing words also ring true in this hour of decision when a ceasefire is demanded of both sides: "If not now, when?"

Finally, as American Jewish progressives, and as human beings, we condemn Hamas and Israel for violating the human rights of civilians on both sides, although we do not necessarily declare these violations to be morally or legally equivalent. We affirm the rights of both Israeli and the Palestinian peoples to self-determination and self-defense, as we affirm the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


Anonymous said...

It could have been a good statement. There are a few things i don't like but I could live with for the sake of unity. However, the last paragraph is a deal breaker.

Palestinians have a right to self defense. You have no moral standing to condemn them.

Jerry Haber said...

Evildoer, read the statement carefully. It claims that the Palestinians have no less a right to self-defense than the Israelis, and I have advocated for years that were the Palestinians to have a state, they would have no less right to a powerful army than the Israelis.

But even without a state they have a right to self-defense. There is nothing in the statement that denies the Palestinians the right to an armed struggle against the Israelis, coincident with the laws of war and international human rights.

Moreover, anybody reading carefully will see that I see no moral equivalence between lobbing rockets on a civilian population and accurately bombing and destroying civilians.

That said, we made a conscious decision to go with the human rights organizations against the defenders of the rockets.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think that sending rockets on civilians should be called "a right to self defense"? Why don't you apply the same morals to their side? Besides, instead of asking that the Palestiniens should have the right to have a powerful army as the israelis, would'nt it be a lot better to have the entire region demilitarized?

I've read that one rabbi (from Safed) said that Hamas is Amalek. I suppose you don't agree. But then, who is Amalek? Is Hitler Amalek? Staline? Pol Pot? Bush? Ben Laden? Anybody? Nobody? What are the criteria to stand out as Amalek, these days?

Sorry about my awkward english


Jerry Haber said...

Mike you wrote:

"Do you really think that sending rockets on civilians should be called "a right to self defense"?

The answer is, "No,I do not, and that is why I distinguished between the two in the statement, condemning the former, affirming the latter.

"Besides, instead of asking that the Palestiniens should have the right to have a powerful army as the israelis, would'nt it be a lot better to have the entire region demilitarized?"

Why not demilitarize the world while you are at it? It's not as if countries outside the region never had designs on the region. Who will protect the region from the countries outside it?

On the federation plan first proposed by Judah Magnes, and which I find appealing, the two sides would have one common federal army, one common federal economic policy, and one common foreign policy.

But until that date, a balance of fear a la India and Pakistan may be the best thing for the two peoples.

In this latest diastrous war, one side has had a cakewalk -- or turkey shoot -- against the other. For some reason, Israelis think that killing, maiming, and rubbing a people's face in the mud, will make them more amenable to peace.


Gert said...

Jerry, I'll be signing in minutes, as well as linking to this post.


Anonymous said...

Like Evildoer, there are parts I find difficult, specifically mixing in the U.S. invasion of Iraq and identifying ourselves as "progressives."

Of course the U.S. invasion of Iraq sort of disqualifies anyone in the U.S. to comment on business in Israel. We are no better.

But also I'd hope that all Jewish people could come to the realization that Israel is not central to Judaism. God is.

Anonymous said...

I prefer this statement:

It is concise and does not try too hard to create balance where none exists.

SIETE said...

Que dios bendiga el camino que han abierto a una paz, solo posible en la autodeterminación de los pueblos, y nunca posible en la hegemonía del capital sobre los seres humanos.

Anonymous said...

I will not be a party to this treason!

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