Sunday 11 January 2009

Rochester (NY) Jews Share Perspectives on Gaza

(Note: this was signed by 48 Jews from the Rochester area, which is a notoriously tough venue for sharing non-AIPAC-approved opinions.)

Published January 11, 2008

As Rochesterians, as Americans, as Jews, we look with great foreboding at the escalating crisis between Israel and Gaza. We have noted with anguish the news accounts of hundreds of rockets being fired from Gaza into southern Israel, and the havoc, injuries, and fatalities they have engendered. We have also noted the reports of many Gazans killed and injured in Israeli air strikes (many members of Hamas, many not) and the gathering humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Civilians are always the real losers in war, and we mourn all the dead, lives suddenly asunder and families torn apart. And on January 3rd of a ground invasion of Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces has increased the casualties on both sides.

It is not profitable at this point in time to try to apportion blame between the two contending parties. There is blame enough to go around. Hamas has shown itself to have little or no interest in seeking peace with Israel, and its ongoing rocket attacks into Israel were a major precipitating factor in the current crisis. Israel, with its great preponderance of military force, had other options open to it, both diplomatic and military, other than full-scale warfare with Hamas, and its blockade of Gaza over the past year was a major catalyst in the current crisis. Israel seems to have embarked upon a policy of forced regime change in Gaza, and if there is one lesson above all to be learned from the recent and still ongoing American misadventure in Iraq, it is that overthrowing a regime can make a difficult situation far worse.

It is our fear that this is what Israel will accomplish in Gaza. It is hard to see how this latest war can accomplish anything but making the goal of a viable two state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem more difficult to obtain and yet further out of reach.

We call upon Israel and Hamas to work out the terms for an immediate cease fire, and to lay the groundwork for a future, where, at a minimum, Israel has the security it requires and Gaza has the open borders it needs for social survival. Both the Israeli government and Hamas need to take a different approach to the Gaza situation (and the West Bank occupation). This will be a start - a start of a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians that will bring mutual trust and security - building towards a lasting peace solution for the Middle East. We recognize that achieving this will not be easy, and that the friends and allies of both parties, and the international community as a whole, will have to play an important role in accomplishing this.

As Americans, we know that the United States will have to play an important role, and we hope that the incoming Obama administration takes a far more active and constructive role in securing a long term Israeli-Palestinian peace than its predecessor.

As Jews who love Israel, we hope all Jews will respect our position, as we respect the right of others to differ from us. The Jewish community needs open and frank dialogue on all of the pressing issues of the day. It will only be strengthened by airing a diversity of opinions. And as Rochesterians, as residents of a city that has so often in the past been a voice for social justice and peace, we hope our voices will be heard, and will contribute in a small way to the monumental task that confronts Israelis and Palestinians in creating a viable and stable peace for both peoples.

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