We at Tikkun are in mourning for the three teens murdered in the West Bank. We find this act painful and outrageous. There can be no excuse for this kind of act.
And we know that the revenge/retaliation acts of Israel will only bring about more acts of violence. The cycle will continue until Israel ends the Occupation and accepts a peace arrangement generous enough both in its particulars and in the spirit in which it is offered as to undermine the support for Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza and to empower the voices of Palestinian peacemakers.
Those terms are presented in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine (www.tikkun.org/EIP)and in the Winter 2014 issue of Tikkun magazine, and they require a deep change in approach from both Israel and Palestine (there are no pure victims or pure oppressors – but there are many people locked into fear and anger and hatred, and until that is healed and the cycle of violence actively opposed by people in both communities, the leaders and the haters will shape the realities people on all sides will continue to face).
We plead with the leadership of Israel to take the first steps because Israel is the more powerful force, not because we believe that Israel deserves all the blame for the current mess. Those first steps would be to embrace the strategy of generosity and caring for the other explicitly called for in the Torah over and over again.
Until that happens, we urge all Israelis and people from around the world to not endanger their children by bringing, sending or funding them to be in the West Bank, which is de facto a war zone. We fear that the hatred generated by Israel’s acts of retaliation will eventually blow back onto Israelis and world Jewry.
The choice is simple: endless war, violence, and suffering, or a new spirit of generosity, caring, and empathy for “the Other” – and with that an explicit willingness to admit and atone for the sins that each side has committed against the other. Both sides need to stop all their self-righteousness, break the cycle of violence, and reach out to the other side with unequivocal acts of atonement.
Below, we present two responses, one from regular Tikkun columnist Ury Avnery, chair of the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom, the other from a Palestinian human rights activist whose perspective differs radically from ours but must also be considered because there will be no peace till both sides have their stories told.
Meanwhile, we remain in deep grief for the loss of lives on all sides, for the children and teens (and yes, their parents and grandparents and families and communities) on both sides who have been murdered, victims of terror, imprisoned unjustly, or otherwise fallen victim to this conflict which could have been ended many years ago. All the violence, all the hatred, so terribly and tragically unnecessary!
As a rabbi and a Jew, I call for fellow Jews to reject the one-sided focus, to mourn all the victims on all sides, because although of course we feel a special pain for the loss of these teens who are our own, part of the family of the Jewish people, and so understandably we care especially about them, nevertheless we must model a different way of being in which we show our caring also for the suffering of those in the Palestinian world who have seen their children beaten, tortured, imprisoned, shot or killed. So we stand with all those in pain, all those in need of healing, not only among our own people but among those whom we have unintentionally hurt. It is only with this open-hearted compassion and empathy for all that we can hope to break the cycle of violence before it escalates to a level that will never ever stop. And this way of being “unrealistic” is precisely what the Torah commands when it tells us “do not take revenge” and instead proclaims an ethos of “love the Other” (not just tolerate, but LOVE). May it soon be the case that we will hear from the hills of Judea, and in the outskirts of Jerusalem a voice of joy and gladness, kol sason ve kol simcha, a voice of peace and reconciliation.
A Response from Israel: Uri Avnery from Gush Shalom:
“The kidnapping and murder of three boys is a crime deserving all condemnation”, says former Knesset Member Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom.
“No political cause can justify such an act, and among other things the perpetrators caused grave damage to the Palestinian people.
The three boys now join the very long and terrible list of victims, members of both peoples, who were killed in the cause of a bloody conflict which has already lasted for more than a century.
Also and especially on this harsh and tragic moment, it must be said: only the achievement of peace between enemies can end conflicts and put a stop to bloodshed.
It is a stormy moment, when inflammatory cries are made for revenge and the landing of a blow on the other side. It would be a grave mistake for the State of Israel to take such a route, which would lead only to bloodshed and more bloodshed, revenge and counter-revenge and counter-counter-revenge.
Only peace between Israelis and Palestinians, between the exisiting state of Israel and the state of Palestine which will arise at its side, bears the hope that these three boys will be the last victims.”
A Response From Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian Human Rights Activist from Bethlehem
When will this insanity end?
A sadly familiar scene over the past two weeks here in occupied Palestine: 10 Palestinians (including a 7 and 15 year old) and three Israeli settlers (16 – 19 year old) were killed. Dozens of Palestinian homes were demolished in the past two weeks. Over 570 more Palestinians were kidnapped in these two weeks making more than 6000 abductees languishing in Israeli gulags/prisons. 1500 Palestinian homes invaded without due process. 12 million native Palestinians still await their freedom from colonial occupation and displacement. And Israeli leaders are promising to “do more” (genocidal mayhem?). But the question remains when will this insanity end? Can it end by negotiations between occupied and occupier; negotiations that have been going on for 22 years while Israel gets $12 billion profit every year from its occupation? (that is not counting the billions from US taxpayers).
When will Israel be led by people like the previous speaker of the Israeli Knesset Avraham Berg instead of racists like Netanyahu. Listen to the wise words of Berg:
Here are Israel’s shallow prime minister and the bumbling police, the masses who cling to futile prayers and not to a moment of human peace. Here are the country’s hypocritical chief rabbis, who just a month ago demanded promises from the pope regarding the future of the Jewish people, but in their daily lives remain silent about the fate of the people who are our neighbors, trampled beneath the pressure of occupation and racism under the leadership of rabbis who receive exorbitant salaries and benefits….Despite the enormous and inspiring success of Breaking the Silence (an NGO that collects testimony from soldiers who’ve served in the West Bank), our own total silence is still the loudest thing around us. We are willing to go out of our minds over one odd and troublesome Pollard, a lone kidnap victim or three kidnap victims, but we are incapable of understanding the suffering of a whole society, its cry, and the future of an entire nation that has been kidnapped by us. This, too, needs to be said and heard during this moment of clarity – and as loudly as possible.
And how about the inspiring and wise words of Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah writing from Jerusalem congratulating Muslims on the start of Ramadan:
We all are sectarian, Christians or Muslims. We all need to continuously purify the faith in us to overcome the sectarian. The believer is one who remembers God and sees all as his creation, So he worships God and respects all his creation no matter any religion they are. ..He sees any other as a brother or sister. The sectarian has strife in him and is distant from God. He sees only himself or his family or his clan. … I hope that we all become believers, and our faith overcomes all sectarian tendency.
I am reminded of the good spirited picture someone shared on Facebook, a family where the father carries a sign that said “I am Sunni”, the mother a sign that said “I am Shia,” and the little girl carries a sign “I am Sushi.” In another video I noted fraternizing between members of the Syrian army and the opposing “Free Syrian army” that reminded me of 1914 when opposing German and British soldiers disobeyed orders of their commanders in WWI and decided to get together in Christmas and become friends. (seehttp://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/trenches.htm). The war mongers do not stop unless the people stop them. But at this moment is when we see candles of light in this darkness being lit everywhere. Palestinians and Israelis working together to achieve peace (e.g. Israeli and Palestinian association of bereaved families). A small group of activists including Jewish Voice for Peace and Palestinian Americans recentlymanaged tooutmaneuver the well-funded movement that hijacked US policy. These good people managed to get the Presbyterians to divest holding in three companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. The whole world is getting tired of this apartheid and is starting to shake-off the intimidation.
Netanyahu can only kill more people, can only create more false flag operations. He has decided to speed-up the Judaizing of Jerusalem and removal of its native people. He can work for what he calls “Kurdish independence”. The US and Israeli governments can continue to try and fund sectarianism and create divisions. They pursue the silly and dangerous notion that creating other sectarian states will finally give legitimacy to the “Jewish state” and its systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestine. They produce few “successes” like strengthening the Mujahideen to remove the soviets from Afghanistan or strengthening the “Sunni” Mujahideen to fight the Iran/Shia Boogie man. But beware of the monsters you create and instead try to create the peace that will be only based on justice. And beware of the sophistication and power of people who are increasingly not buying all your propaganda.
Peace in Jerusalem = peace on earth.
Ramadan Kareem to our Muslim Brothers and Sisters
And to all: Stay human!
I personally find some of the language in Mazin Qumsiyeh’s message offensive, particularly when he describes the three murdered Israeli teens as “settlers” which they assuredly were not! While Israel has created an apartheid reality on the West Bank, it is not intrinsically “an apartheid” state (ask the Israeli Palestinians who have equal rights with Israeli Jews) nor is its policy one of “systematic ethnic cleansing” (again, ask Israeli Palestinians how much they’ve faced such ethnic cleansing). There is little point in inflammatory rhetoric when what is needed is a spirit of reconciliation. But then again, the Netanyahu government has had the opposite of a rhetoric of reconciliation – and some of the elements in his ruling coalition are even more extreme. So, I present Qumsiyeh’s views not because they represent the voice of those who are seeking reconciliation, but because he articulates a perspective that is widespread among Palestinians who want to end the struggle and who reject Hamas’ direction but whose anger at the evils of the Occupation make it hard for Israelis to feel safe in any path but continuing to tighten their hold on the necks of the Palestinian people. Oy, what a terrible mess! Perhaps this is a moment when we should be calling on the mothers of Israel and Palestine to come together for the sake of all the children and demand that their leaders end the violence.
Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun, co-chair of the interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, California, and author of eleven books, including two national best sellers: Jewish Renewal – a Path to Healing and Transformation and The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right. His most recent book is Embracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy for Middle East Peace. He can be reached at email@example.com.