Repenting for What Israel Did to Gaza – Without Condoning the Wrongs Committed by Hamas

It’s been a year since Israel’s massive incursion into Gaza. The horrendous costs of that war are still being lived by the people of Gaza, who have not received substantial help in rebuilding from Israel or the West. It’s hard to know what could be done for the families of the 2,800 Gazans who were killed by the Israeli assault, or for the more than 10,000 who were injured. But what certainly should have been done by now is a complete rebuilding of all the apartment buildings, homes, schools, and hospitals that the Israeli Defense Forces destroyed. As we approach the Jewish High Holidays this September, it’s time for Jews and Americans who supported the Israeli assault to begin a process of repentance for their failure to repair the damage they caused.

An ambulance lies in the rubble of the Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza.

An ambulance lies in the rubble of the Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza following Israeli attacks in summer 2014. Gazans have yet to recover from the Israeli airstrikes on their hospitals, homes, and schools. Credit: Creative Commons/Boris Niehaus.

How the War Began

Let’s consider first how that war started. The Palestinian Authority entered into negotiations with Israel in 2013 under protest, because Israel was refusing to agree to a halt in West Bank expansion of settlements (which was part of what these negotiations were supposed to be about). The Palestinian Authority agreed, though skeptical of the sincerity of Israel’s intent to end the struggle and create an economically and politically viable Palestinian state. But since Netanyahu professed in public his commitment to a two-state solution, and Obama and Kerry naïvely believed him, the Palestinian leaders agreed to participate in a new round of negotiations led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry who had gotten Israel to agree to a specific schedule for releasing long-held Palestinians who were arrested while resisting the Occupation. But in spring 2014, when the time came for Israel to let the last and most important group of prisoners out, Israel refused to live up to its own agreement.

At that point, Palestinian Authority supporters felt they had once again been lied to by the Netanyahu government and realized that their participation in the negotiations had just afforded more time for the Occupation to continue. So the Palestinian Authority turned to Hamas and concluded a peace agreement that sought to reincorporate the Hamas into the government of Palestine. Those of us who want peace welcomed this move, because a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that does not include Hamas is of limited value. The reincorporation of Hamas into the government of Palestine meant that Netanyahu’s government could no longer say that an agreement with the Palestinian Authority was meaningless because it did not include Hamas and Gaza. But Netanyahu reacted angrily and cancelled the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, to the chagrin of Kerry, who had spent months and much of his reputation on these suddenly abandoned talks. The Obama administration looked foolish but did nothing to put economic or military pressure on Israel to change its direction.

What must have been particularly upsetting to Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition was that Hamas seemed to be willing to let the Palestinian Authority work out an agreement with Israel. Hamas leaders explained that they would not formally endorse the agreement themselves but would participate in a Palestinian government that would endorse an agreement. Hamas leaders said they would accept such an agreement as a hudna (ceasefire), which they could live with even while still asserting that Palestinians had a right to all of Palestine. This way, Hamas would have a way of explaining to its own people that it had not given up the struggle for the full liberation of Palestine. But in reality, the participation of Hamas in a government led by the Palestinian Authority would have necessitated a total suspension of the armed struggle.


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Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun, co-chair with Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without-Walls in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. He is the author of eleven books, including two national bestsellers—The Left Hand of God and Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. His most recent book, Embracing Israel/Palestine, is available on Kindle from and in hard copy from He welcomes your responses and invites you to join with him by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives (membership comes with a subscription to Tikkun magazine). You can contact him at

Source Citation

Lerner, Michael. 2015. Repenting for What Israel Did to Gaza - Without Condoning the Wrongs Committed by Hamas. Tikkun 30(3): 5.

tags: Analysis of Israel/Palestine, Editorial, Israel/Palestine, Vision for Israel/Palestine, War & Peace   
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