In the Bible’s first semi-mythic story of what we now call the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Abraham dies decades after he has endangered the lives of his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. His two sons come together to mourn and bury their dangerous father. As a result, Isaac goes to live at Ishmael’s well. Reconcliation!
“From the tears of grief spring up the wellspring waters of peace and reconciliation.” (Gen. 25: 7-11)
This story is intended to be a teaching of spiritual transformation. Can it be applied today to the aftermath of war, to politics, to existential fears among both peoples?
Gaza is governed by a political party that has three subdivisions, each often able to act on its own. The military wing did that on October 7, with disastrous and disgusting results. As a body, Hamas is anti-democratic at home and its military is willing to commit atrocities of killing Israeli civilians, captive-taking of civilians, and worse.
In Israel barely five weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of citizens had joined during a period of nine months in mass civil disobedience against a regime they called anti-democratic, racist, and corrupt. The regime refused to budge on its plans to end the independent judiciary.
But then came the Hamas attack with all its atrocities – to which the Netanyahu government and his whole Occupation regime had been utterly blind, through its arrogant contempt toward Hamas and its obsession with Iran as Israel’s worst enemy. (Netanyahu had even channeled money to Hamas so that it would break the unity of Palestinian nationalism.)
Israeli society’s anger at its own government’s crucial failure was soon drowned out by the atrocious total war against the people of Gaza, under the guise of destroying Hamas. But that response and a world-wide revulsion at the resulting body count in Gaza — the tears of grief and chants of anger — have begun to open up two new possibilities:
Let Israel Vote, Let Gaza Vote
This will not be easy, on either side.
On the Israeli side, the Resistance needs to reconstitute itself with six new planks in its platform and perhaps, while pursuing its civil-disobedience campaign, also setting up a new broad-based political party:
- Netanyahu and his whole national-security leadership failed Israel at the hour of its greatest need, and must be replaced at once;
- There must be a shared release of Palestinians held in Israeli prisoners in exchange for all captives taken by the Hamas attack;
- The only way to eliminate Hamas or some renamed substitute is not with an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza but with a UN-supervised election;
- Israel commits itself to agreement on a treaty with a Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza, if Gaza elects a government committed to that result;
- Agreement to greatly expand the list of non-military goods that can be traded by Gaza with Israel and the world.
- Elections in Israel by Tu B’Shvat, ReBirthday of the Tree of Life– January 24, 2024
In Gaza, the goal should also be an election as soon as possible. Hamas has done much to destroy all alternative political forces that might welcome a peace-oriented Israeli government. Even with the military arm of Hamas gone or seriously weakened there would have to be a UN-sponsored commission to oversee social and political as well as physical and medical rebuilding, to let democratic life reawaken. It is barely possible that non-military remnants of Hamas will join in such a democratic reconstruction.
As that process grows from seed to sprout, a political grouping should be encouraged that is critical of the military wing of Hamas for helping the ultra-right-wing regime in Israel bring disaster on Gaza and that promises to negotiate in full dignity with a new Israeli government for a peace-committed sovereign Palestine. Perhaps a pro-Palestinian country like Brazil could supervise such an effort. Israeli troops and police would have to withdraw.
The election campaign itself and the election could be supervised by a UN Peacekeeping Force made up of troops from at least one country friendly to Israel (Germany?) and at least one friendly to Palestine (Brazil?).
It might or might not be wise for all political parties that register for this election to be required to affirm the obligations of a UN Member to refrain from attacks on other countries.
This prescription for peace may sound utopian. Perhaps it is. But the shock to both societies has been so profound – forcing both to face too many deaths – that perhaps a transformative moment will soon arrive, bringing others in the two societies to power.
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