Israel: STOP the Invasion and Bombing of Gaza, and Let the Palestinian Prisoners Go

This article can be read on the home page of Huffington Post as it appears Friday morning, July 18.

Israel: Stop the Invasion of Gaza, Stop the Bombing of Gaza, Free the Palestinian Prisoners

According to Ha’aretz correspondent Amira Hass, the IDF has been conducting mass arrests in the West Bank, between 10 and 30 every day. Twenty-four of the arrested are members of the Palestinian parliament from Hamas’ Change and Reform party. The number of those arrested since the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens has already exceeded 1,000. The Palestinians are convinced that most of those detained have nothing to do with the kidnapping and that these are mainly political arrests for purposes of intimidation and revenge.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Tens of thousands of young Palestinian men have experienced arrest, torture, loss of employment, and have been unable to protect their parents, partners and friends from arbitrary and repressive treatment from IDF Occupation forces. The surprising thing is that despite this inhumane and emasculating treatment, few Palestinians have engaged in acts of violence or desperation.

I’ve argued that acts of desperation can be self-destructive. Many Palestinians will suffer for the acts of the few Palestinian Hamas extremists. But since Hamas activists have come to believe that even if they do nothing they will still be targeted, some are saying that acting out violently against the Occupation is the only thing that can restore their dignity since nothing will restore their land. I think that this is a mistake for Gaza and the West Bank. Sometimes I think that Hamas doesn’t really even care for its own citizens in Gaza — they care more about showing that non-violence will never work to challenge Israel’s occupation, and they are willing to let the people of Gaza pay the price, namely the invasion of Gaza by the Israeli army with the inevitable consequence of many more than the 220 Palestinians already killed in the past two weeks. And yet, it is hard to deny that the Israeli Occupation is so repressive and dishonoring of Palestinians that some young men have taken to violence, while others see those acts as the only thing that can momentarily give people a relief from the emotional depression of years under Occupation generates. Yet the violence against Israeli civilian targets has pushed the politics of Israel even further to the Right.

For those of us like myself who care about the well-being of all people on the planet, not only my own Jewish people, but all peoples, the high toll of Palestinian civilians is horrifying — more than a thousand civilians already wounded according to Palestinian sources and two hundred fifty Palestinian civilians and two Israelis dead. This will likely lead to more Hamas terrorists. But not only is the war stupid from the standpoint of Jewish self-interest, it is also immoral in the extreme. None of this would have happened if Israel had been serious about negotiating an end to the Occupation. But as Prime Minister Netanyahu made clear in his press conference last week, he never intends to give the Palestinian people an independent state of their own.

Israel must end the invasion, stop its bombing of Gaza, free the Palestinians it has arrested in the past years, and abandon its insane policy of seeking security through domination. This approach may work in a dictatorial regime for a little while, but even in those circumstances, the repression only works for a limited period (ask the former leaders of the Soviet Community party). Instead, Israel needs a generosity strategy, not only agreeing to a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the release of all Occupation-related prisoners, getting the US and its Western allies to provide a massive reparation fund to support the new Palestinian state till it achieves economic and political parity with Israel, share Jerusalem as the capital of both an Israeli and Palestinian state, an end to teaching hatred and racism in its schools and media in exchange for Palestine doing the same, but also agreeing to allow 20,000 Palestinian refugees a year to move to Israel each year for the next forty years in exchange for Palestine allowing Israelis living in the West Bank to stay in their settlements as law-abiding citizens of the new Palestinian state and subject to Palestinian law and court system (just as Palestinians living inside the pro-67 borders of Israel are subject to Israeli law and Israeli courts).

If Israel could apologize for its part (partial, not total) in creating the Palestinian refugee population, create jointly with Palestinians a Truth and Reconciliation process similar to that done in South Africa, and accept an international force to police the borders and protect both Israel and the Palestinians from the inevitable extremist attacks by Hamas and Israeli settle fanatics, and most importantly if as the more powerful party in the struggle Israel can act with a genuine spirit of open-heartedness to the Palestinian people in seeking to help rebuild all that it had destroyed in Gaza and the West Bank, its spirit of generosity would within less than ten years undermine the hold of Hamas on a large section of that fundamentalist group’s political base in both the West Bank and Gaza. The fundamentalist hold on populations of the Middle East is based in large part on the widespread perception that Arabs and Muslims have been systematically disrespected and humiliated by the Western colonial powers and an Israel that is perceived as the cutting edge of this humiliation. In the Middle East, particularly among Arab communities, there is no stronger “weapon” to dislodge that sense of humiliation than for the US and Israel to shift from a strategy of domination to a strategy of generosity and genuine caring for the well-being of “the Other.” And doing so would bring Israel back in alignment with the unequivocal demand of Torah: “when you come into your land, do not oppress the stranger/Other–remember that you were the Other in the land of Egypt.” So, yes, Hamas would start to lose a major part of its constituency within a generation if Israel became famous not for the power of its army but for the power of its compassion, empathy, generosity of spirit and open-hearted repentance for its part in having hurt the Palestinian people. Otherwise, stuck in its own fearfulness, unable to acknowledge its power and still seeing itself as the victim, and hence relying on bombings, assassinations, jailings without trials, and periodic invasions of Gaza, Israel will not only help Hamas grow into a permanent majority in the Palestinian world, but also put in danger Jews around the world whose knee-jerk support for our own people (understandably, since this is our own extended family) is increasingly perceived as an endorsement of repressive policies.

This focus on the psycho-spiritual dimension of the struggle and the need for a strategy of generosity is precisely what Tikkun brings to the table through our Network of Spiritual Progressives and which you’ll find sorely missing in most of the analyses whether from Israeli, Palestinian, European or American political analysts, editorialists, politicians, and media reporters and even leftie protesters. Yet it is this dimension, which is ignored to their peril by all who care about the well-being of both peoples. So, yes, we demand an end to the bombing of Gaza and the invasion of Gaza, just as we have demanded of Hamas that it stop its attempted bombings of Israel. It’s time for a brand new direction, but only you, the reader of this point can make it happen. For more information as to how, please read my book Embracing Israel/Palestine, join our interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives at, and contact our new executive director Cat J. Zavis at or at

​Rabbi Michael Lerner is Editor of Tikkun Magazine, chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without-Walls in S.F. and Berkeley Ca. and author of 11 books including 2 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.

Why the West Bank isn’t erupting against Israel

The Palestinian public lost its faith in its leadership’s schizophrenic discourse, which denounces the occupation on one hand, and abides by its dictates on the other.

By  | Jul. 18, 2014 | Ha’aretz Newspaper in Tel Aviv, Israel

Palestine Radio reported at midnight between Thursday and Friday that “the occupation this afternoon suppressed a protest demonstration near the Ofer checkpoint,” west of Ramallah. The announcer did not report that an hour before, a battery of about 30 Palestinian police from the riot suppression unit blocked about 200 protesters who were marching in central Ramallah toward the settlement of Beit El as an expression of mourning over the victims in Gaza and anger over Israel’s military offensive. “If we were 6,000 protesters, the police would not be standing here,” someone said. Indeed, the story here is not the blocking of the protesters but why they are so few.

Over the past 10 days there have been a number of demonstrations in various cities as an expression of mourning and concern over Gaza. Almost every day young people take to the streets throughout the West Bank after the nighttime prayer and clash with soldiers. If tens of thousands more had wanted to demonstrate solidarity with Gaza by facing off against the army, they would have already found the ways to do so. It is not only “security coordination” that stops them.

The clashes, the injured and two people killed this week have been swallowed up by the scenes and reports from Gaza. The daily reports of Israel Defense Forces raids have also been swallowed up, along with the continued mass arrests in the West Bank, between 10 and 30 every day, 24 of whom are members of the Palestinian parliament from Hamas’ Change and Reform party. The number of those arrested since the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens has already exceeded 1,000. The Palestinians are convinced that most of those detained have nothing to do with the kidnapping and that these are mainly political arrests for purposes of intimidation and revenge.

In contrast to the hopes or expectations of quite a few people, the fire that broke out in East Jerusalem after the murder of the teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Jews, did not spread to the West Bank. There is a solid basis for the assumption that even if there had been a military escalation, the protests would not have crossed the separation wall.

In the heritage of the Palestinian people, as a people fighting for its independence for decades, protests are a lightning rod for the political and social mood. Through them, political discourse bursts out from closed rooms and computer screens to the public sphere. Protests are the natural democratic means to challenge the unnatural situation of life under foreign rule. Protests are a kind of public opinion survey, a means of raising consciousness and direct and unimpeded communication with the leaderships.

“Lack of faith” is the common explanation for why the demonstrations do not spread. A leftist activist who went to the demonstration Wednesday suggested that her daughter join here. The daughter – “much more extreme than I am,” according to her mother – refused. She said: “don’t believe that the demonstrations will achieve anything and that the price we’ll pay for clashing with the soldiers – injured, dead – is worth it.” The Palestinian Authority and its agencies have a schizophrenic, confusing discourse: on the one hand speeches and denouncements of the occupation and on the other hand, habituation to its dictates. The PA’s official radio station is playing these days of military conflict militant music about martyrs and liberation, while the security agencies continue to oppress Hamas activists. On Wednesday night, members of the Preventive Security force stopped the Palestine Today TV channel from broadcasting live shots of Palestinian police forcibly breaking up a demonstration of young people in Jenin who were trying to reach the military checkpoint.

Such leadership does not inspire the faith that can lead an uprising if one breaks out. “For a popular struggle against the occupation, that people are talking about all the time, a strategy is needed, a plan and patience,” says Ifaf Ghatasheh, a member of the political bureau of the Palestinian People’s Party (formerly the Palestinian Communist Party). But there is no faith that the current leadership of the PLO, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, wants or is able to lay out such a strategy not now, and not without far-reaching changes that will take a long time.

Under Abbas, a style of authoritarian rule has been created, in which he makes decisions almost alone, without taking other positions in Fatah and the PLO into consideration and without consulting people who are more in tune with the public than the advisors around him, particularly intelligence chief Majid Faraj. If he would consult others, he would hear from some of them from the beginning of the escalation that on the one hand he should support Hamas’ demand for international guarantees for the ceasefire and on the other hand, he should talk about the obligation to avoid more bloodshed and destruction.

There is an outrageous contrast between Abbas’ role as a level-headed statesman who is discussing a ceasefire today, and the public disparagement of his abilities and the attitude to him as a tyrant. His logical and humane position and the great suffering must stop is perceived by many as another link in his policy of “subcontractor” for the occupation. This interpretation screams of a lack of faith.

Along with this goes a lack of faith in the entire political system, which is still torn by the rivalry and animosity between Hamas and Fatah, which has grown stronger over the past month. Fatah as a rule does not show solidarity with Gaza. Fatah cannot denounce Hamas rocket fire publicly because at this point the popular support for the rocket fire (especially as a symbol of Palestinian resilience in the face of Israeli power) is broad. Fatah cannot support the rocket fire openly because this will clash with Abbas’ position and will reveal that Hamas is indeed winning in the contest over who is a more patriotic, worthy and successful leader.

When the Palestinians have so many reasons for their lack of faith in their leadership, the geographical disconnect also affects the ability of the protests to spread. The Palestinian enclaves that Israel created in the West Bank and East Jerusalem experience the occupation differently, with varying degrees of severity. Thus the Israeli policy of suppression is expressed differently in each enclave. And responses to it develop in each enclave. Absent a strategy and faith in the leadership, the responses remain local and limited.


MJ Rosenberg on the latest news from Israel

I am desperately trying to find something good to write about tonight, given the downing of the Malaysian plane and the Gaza invasion, and I found one.

It’s not much but it’s something.

Today every Jewish organization in the Washington area sponsored a rally in support of Israel’s Gaza war and no one came. Actually, the Washington Jewish Week claims that 600 showed up including a few hundred bused in from senior homes in the suburbs. 600!

That’s it. And there were no major speakers. Of course, “progressive rabbi” David Saperstein was there to bless the war but he always does that. And Congressman Brad Sherman was there, famous for his legislation that would prevent Iran Air, a civilian airline, from buying replacement parts in hopes that their planes would crash.

Here is an email I received from my spy at the event. “MJ, you should have come. Everyone either works for a Jewish organization or is right out of the retirement home, some Orthodox kids too, bedecked in huge Israeli flags. It was about as fringe as any event I ever attended.”

Let’s see what happens now that war is official. When it comes to Israeli policies, American Jews (the affiliated minority anyway) tend to go into full lemming mode.

One thing is certain: Congress will stand firmly behind Netanyahu. The AIPAC Iron Dome over the Capitol, built out of money, will keep Congress in line. As for Obama, it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t give a damn. His remarks following the slaughter of those Palestinian boys on the beach demonstrates that when it comes to Palestinians, he is a cold cold man. (One Palestinian tweeted this after hearing Obama’s remarks: WORST MUSLIM PRESIDENT EVER.)

I know my jocular tone is inappropriate. But if I expressed the horror that I feel about Israel’s behavior,  it would be even more inappropriate.

I’ll stop there, comforting myself with the image of a pro-Gaza war rally that was an absolute bust. I’ll take what I can get.

Question: are the Birthright kids coming home or will the pro-Israel organizations use them as human shields? I mean, who in God’s name would let their kid stay in Israel now unless propaganda (STANDING STRONG FOR ISRAEL) trumps even traditional Jewish anxiety over the safety of our kids

If you pray (I don’t). pray for the children of Gaza, and the adults too, and for young Israeli soldiers, also kids, who are being used as fodder in Netanyahu’s war to preserve the occupation.


In midst of Gaza strife, now’s the time for Israel to seek a treaty with the Palestinians

We must fight the prevailing notion that all Israel can do is either wait for the next crisis or reoccupy the Gaza Strip.

By  | Jul. 18, 2014 | 2:59 AM
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at a Golani exercise.



By Zeev Sternhell | Apr. 18, 2014 | 6:00 AM |  35
By Zeev Sternhell | Jan. 30, 2014 | 12:50 PM |  12
By Zeev Sternhell | Nov. 17, 2011 | 10:52 AM |  8

Since the beginning of Zionism, Israeli society has found it difficult to see the other nation that lives in this land. Prior to independence, this blindness was a source of strength. But after 1949, and especially after 1967, the inability – or unwillingness – to understand the other has been the cause of disastrous moral and political paralysis. On this point there was never much difference between the right and the center or the center-left. Few members of the large conformist camp, part of which is inside the coalition and part of which supports it from outside by remaining silent, have the will and the ability to understand the Palestinians.

It should be said at once that it is very doubtful there are many Palestinians who are capable of seeing and understanding the Israelis, but because the Israelis are the strong ones, who control the lives of the Palestinians, we should demand much more of ourselves than we do of them, the occupied.

And so, despite the mortal danger, the suffering and the anxiety that are battering Israelis in the south, now is precisely the right time to make an effort to negotiate a comprehensive settlement. Now is the time to think both deeply and for the long term, and to come out against the prevailing opinion that all we can do is to either wait for the next crisis or reoccupy parts of the Gaza Strip.

This is also the moment of truth for Israeli democracy. Democracy means accepting the decisions of the majority in the Knesset, it does not require that we accept its opinions. The democratic system is designed for mature, rational citizens who think for themselves and who recognize that whatever human rights they demand for themselves are also the rights of the other. The test of a strong democracy is whether its citizens are free to express their opinions in public even in times of crisis without running the risk of being assaulted by right-wing thugs, under the sympathetic eye of the police.

The citizen who refuses to follow the majority has the right to say wholeheartedly that the present situation is not a war of survival for Israel. Meanwhile, the military asymmetry between Israel and the Palestinians allows us to make do with air power in order to “etch the consciousness of the Palestinians,” as then-Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon put it in 2002, in accordance with the cynical “map of pain” drawn up by the Israel Defense Forces General Staff. Therefore the individual citizen has not only the right, but the duty, to openly support negotiations toward a comprehensive agreement.

It is unlikely that the punitive measures taken by Israel, from the retaliations of the 1950s to the tactics in the first Lebanon war and to the present, have ever brought any real benefit beyond a temporary calm, if that; but official Israel refuses to understand that. For the people in power it is easier to send the air force, one of the most advanced in the world, to strike the operational infrastructure of Hamas and the homes of its operatives, knowing that the collateral damage to civilians will be tremendous, than it is to address the fundamental issues of the relations between the two peoples.

The entire past year was wasted on the refusal of the right-wing government to hold serious talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and on pointless demands for Israel’s recognition as a Jewish state. We have been doing the same thing for years. The tommy gun of legendary Israeli warrior Meir Har-Zion has long since been replaced by the F-16, but the principle remains the same. Doesn’t common sense demand that we try a different method?

tags: Israel/Palestine   
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One Response to Israel: STOP the Invasion and Bombing of Gaza, and Let the Palestinian Prisoners Go

  1. David Lyga July 26, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Michael Lerner lends, bestows, legitimizes respect for Jews with his impartiality. it takes great courage to be so ‘disinterested’ in personal agenda. There really was a time when Jews and Arabs lived in peace, learning from each other. – David Lyga

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