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


Credit: Creative Commons/blhphotography

According to Ha’aretz correspondent Amira Hass, the IDF has been conducting mass arrests in the West Bank, between ten and thirty 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 already exceeds 1,000. The Palestinians are convinced that most of those detained have nothing to do with the kidnapping of the teens and that these are mainly political arrests for purposes of intimidation and revenge.
This senseless imprisonment 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 the Israeli Defense Force 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 mentality 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 deaths 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 kinds of acts as the only things that can momentarily give relief from the emotional depression that 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 civilian casualties is horrifying – several thousand civilians are already wounded according to Palestinian sources. This high toll 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, convincing the US and its Western allies to provide a massive reparation fund to support the new Palestinian state until it achieves economic and political parity with Israel, sharing Jerusalem as the capital of both an Israeli and Palestinian state, and ending the teaching of 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, 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 a joint “Truth and Reconciliation” process with Palestinians similar to that done in South Africa, accept an international force to police the borders and protect both Israelis and the Palestinians from the inevitable extremist attacks by Hamas and Israeli settler fanatics, and most importantly act with a genuine spirit of open-heartedness to the Palestinian people as the more powerful party in the struggle, 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. Israel must seek to help rebuild all that it has destroyed in Gaza and the West Bank. In the Middle East, particularly among Arab communities, there is no stronger “weapon” than generosity and genuine caring for the well being of the other. So, yes, Hamas can start to lose its constituency fastest when Israel becomes most generous and caring, or Hamas can grow into a permanent majority the more that Israel relies on its current strategy of domination.
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 something that you’ll find sorely missing in most analyses – whether from Israeli, Palestinian, European, or American political analysts, editorialists, politicians, 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 and 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 can make it happen. For more information as to how be involved, 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

22 thoughts on “Israel: Stop the Invasion of Gaza, Stop the Bombing of Gaza, Free the Palestinian Prisoners

  1. I have great idea, Rabbi Lerner. Go on a mission to Gaza and meet with Hamas leaders. Tell them to take their rockets away form civilian areas. tell the to stop shooting rockets. Tel them to make Gaza into a land of peace. That would take courage and I would be happy to adopt you as my rabbi.

    • I think Stan’s idea sounds like the so called “pro Israel” people who say that all the P’s need to do is
      accept Israel. I have a competing idea. Perhaps the Isralie government should start arresting those who show
      aggressive behavior toward Palestinians – such as the settlers who think it is oK to destroy the Palestinians’ olive crops and
      the trees that bring them the crop. Some of these thugs should be in jail – currently they are under the protection of the
      IDF which Israeli taxpayers (and perhaps even American taxpayers) pay for. Those kinds of actions might make HAMAS
      look not as good and the Abbas government a better choice.

  2. Nations which have survived in this world do it by violence.
    You have to use violence shrewdly and I agree that Likkud does not seem to me to be very clever about it and I have much to criticize about Netanyahu.
    But look around the world and see who survives.
    It is based on guns.
    Prayer is very nice but I’ll come to a gun anytime.

  3. Agree with Stan. Would be great to see Rabbi Lerner make an attempt at getting Hamas to change their ways and see the light of peace!

  4. Israel shame on you………….Your just as bad as the nazis……….Stop the slaughter before the world gives palistine the same weapons you have to do to you what you are doing to palistine..No more USA taxpayer money to israel…No more to murderers

    • Oh poo!. Dropping the “N” word is designed as for cheek mate. Too bad you come here empty any real context and historic perspective. By that definition the British were BIG Nazis in WW 2. IN response to London being bombed, the bomber Germany back to the stone age. .

  5. I find many of the comments above disheartening. The whole point of Rabbi Learner’s message (expressed not just in this article but in all of his work, especially his book Embracing Israel/Palestine) is embracing both sides and calling for both sides to live in love and act from a place of love, not a place of fear and hatred. Yes I agree that Hamas needs to change, but they are not the only player in the equation. You cannot demand that Hamas changes as a prerequisite for Israel to change. I will take love and peace over guns any day

  6. No schools, no houses, no hospitals, just bunkers
    Some Concrete Facts About Hamas
    Guess how many skyscrapers the terror organization could’ve built instead of tunnels
    Israeli troops entering Gaza last week have so far uncovered 18 tunnels used by Hamas to send armed terrorists into Israel and built using an estimated 800,000 tons of concrete.
    What else might that much concrete build? Erecting Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, required 110,000 tons of concrete. Hamas, then, could’ve treated itself to seven such monstrosities and still had a few tens of thousands of tons to spare. If it wanted to build kindergartens equipped with bomb shelters, like Israel has built for the besieged citizens of Sderot, for example – after all, noted military strategists like Jon Stewart have spent last week proclaiming that Gaza’s citizens had nowhere to hide from Israel’s artillery – Hamas could have used its leftovers to whip up about two that were each as big as Giants Stadium. And that’s just 18 tunnels. Egypt, on its end, recently claimed to have destroyed an additional 1,370. That’s a lot of concrete.
    You may find such calculations callous. They certainly pale in comparison to heart-wrenching photos of dead children on the beach. But they matter a whole lot: If you’ve ever read Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, or played Sim City, or just looked out your window and paid attention to your city’s changing skyline, you know that urban leaders are measured not by what they say but what they build. And Hamas, almost exclusively, chose to build tunnels, bunkers, and launching pads for missiles.
    Now, from purely military point of view, there is something brilliant about transforming a strip of coastal farmland into a giant concrete aircraft carrier that’s impossible for your enemy to sink. But the idea that Hamas’ tunnels are intended to promote the welfare of Gaza’s 1.8 million civilians, who are forced to live on deck as rockets are fired, is bunk. If the tunnels were truly lifelines for Gazans, as Western apologists occasionally argue, one might expect any reasonably responsible leadership to avoid firing barrages of rockets at civilians inside Israel.
    The intention behind Hamas’ tunnels is clear from where the exits are located: inside Israel. The terror organization packed its subterranean networks of tunnels and bunkers with explosives, weapons, and murderers, some disguised as IDF soldiers. Their gallant plan was to send the killers through the tunnels, so they could emerge from the ground in the middle of Israeli kibbutzim and start throwing grenades and shooting indiscriminately, with the goal of killing as many Israelis as possible. That’s not very neighborly.
    So, where did Hamas get all that concrete? Most of it came from you and your government. Hamas got its hands on the supplies it needed to build the tunnels after it pleaded with the international community last year to help redeem Gaza from the throes of a humanitarian crisis, caused by the fact that both Israel and Egypt closed their borders to Gaza, because both countries grew tired of having their soldiers and citizens murdered by terrorists. Needless to say, Israel’s concerns about how the concrete would be used were universally derided in the West as inflicting cruel and needless suffering on the people of Gaza – who, needless to say, didn’t receive any of the concrete for their own use. The priorities of Ismail Haniyeh’s government were crystal clear – to use all resources at their disposal to launch another war with Israel.
    And if you are among the tens of thousands of political idiots who spent last weekend demonstrating in support of Hamas – now that the Khmer Rouge isn’t fashionable – it may also be useful for you to know that while Gazans languish in in poverty, Hamas’ bosses are living large; Haniyeh, for example, bought 27,000 square feet of beach-side property a few years ago for $4 million, pays for his children to study in Europe, and sends his family members to hospitals inside Israel – all good choices, which he ensures are not available to anyone in Gaza who isn’t a high-level member of his fundamentalist political cult.
    What all this adds up to is that Hamas is not seriously interested in governing Gaza, which is why all the honorable attempts at resolving this current round of bloodletting will fall flat. New elections won’t help. Giving Hamas more concrete won’t help either.
    Earlier this month, Israel’s former chief of staff and Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz proposed a dollars-for-demilitarization deal; it called for a ceasefire, followed by a payment of a whopping $50 billion designated for welfare and infrastructure in return for a promise to cleanse Gaza of rockets and to destroy the tunnels. It’s an interesting idea, which rests on the assumption that the cash will make its way to Gaza’s tired, poor, and huddled masses. It won’t.
    We are left with a harsh realization that makes so many of us, good liberal Jews reared on the principle that nothing stands outside the realm of reason, deeply uncomfortable: There’s no negotiating with Hamas. Not because of some lofty and abstract principle – we don’t negotiate with terrorists! – but because Hamas isn’t here to talk or build or heal the wounded people of Gaza. The organization’s raison d’etre is killing people in order to bring about the rule of its fundamentalist and radically intolerant brand of Islam – they shoot Jews, and they also shoot anyone else the organizations doesn’t like, including Egyptian soldiers, gays, and political opponents from other Palestinian factions.
    Anyone with a genuine commitment to human rights – not to mention sympathy for the Palestinian cause – should join Israel in its efforts to rid the world of such sheer evil and topple Hamas. To leave Hamas in power is not a moderate solution to anything. It is to become complicit in the agenda and the actions of a terrorist organization in inflicting terrible and continuing pain not only on its neighbors but also on its own people.

  7. I have a problem. Rabbi Lerner is not alone. Many good Jews are with him. I don’t know how to handle this – which for me is a very serious problem.
    I believe that the Jewish people ARE one nation, and must make all reasonable efforts to strengthen the mutual respect and – yes – love: Ahavat Yisrael; Ve’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha: Love thy “Raya” as yourself. The full verse is: “Thou shalt not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD [leviticus 19,18]. “Raya” is often correctly translated “neighbour”, but that is a good translation for verses in Deuteronomy – which refer mainly to the situation where the Children of Israel are living in their land, but not in Leviticus. For instance – in this verse, the “raya” is parallel to “the children of thy people” – wherever they are, so why should the “raya” have anything to do with physical proximity? It doesn’t. “Raya” means a member of your community – perhaps even a virtual internet community. So the full meaning of the verse in Leviticus is: “Thou shalt not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love THY COMMUNITY MEMBER as thyself: I am the LORD.”
    As a Universalist, I believe that Judaism has valid – important – messages for non-Jews, and Jews can and should learn from the messages of other peoples – I like to take verses like that and broaden them as much as possible. I like to see all creatures – including animals – as my community, for many purposes – for instance, to love them. If necessary, humans take preference over animals. Many people only get the iron they need from meat, they don’t absorb the iron they need from medications. So animals must be slaughtered. within every broad community – there is an inner community, up to my family, my wife and myself – MY most inner community.
    Many people are idealists. This is fine and beautiful. But many idealists live in a state of denial of facts which conflict with their ideal picture of the world. In this state, idealists make serious mistakes. Their intention is for the good, but perception is flawed, their analysis mistaken, and their advice is useless – or downright dangerous.
    Some picture an ideal world in which all people live happily and in good health, minding their own business. Many – at least hundreds of millions – do not share this picture. They believe in unity. We should all conform to some agreed goal, life-style, religion – whatever. Usually they believe that we should all conform to their agreed goal, life-style, religion – whatever. These people are often innocent believers, with only good intentions. Sometimes, some of them, appear to be very threatening. Like, for instance, ISIS: they think every man should have a beard, and execute Muslim men who do not grow their beards. Isn’t is strange to us, that they believe that this is right in the eyes of God?
    On the other hand, we should get used to people doing strange things because of their beliefs. Especially doing strange things to other people. This has happened so often to Jews, that Jews should be very wary of people who say they intend to harm Jews. As a rule, such threats were carried out, starting with – say, arbitrarily – the inquisition. We were warned, and chose to believe we had safe haven in Spain. The Church did not explicitly say that Spain was exempt, but the Kings were nice to us – so we stayed in Spain until the inquisition caught up with us. Pogroms in Eastern Europe did not happen out of the clear blue sky. We knew of the hatred of Jews rampant in that part of the world, we chose to ignore it.
    Although “Allah is a Zionist” – – many Arabs do not submit to Allah in his wish that Jews live in the Promised Land. Many Arabs – and many other Muslims – believe the the best thing they can do is kill Jews. Some of these – a small percentage of these – are organised in the Hamas. Being nice to them is not going to change them. I know. I have met Arabs – in free and open talks, members of the Palestine Authority and the Fatah central committee, Arabs in Europe, in Jordan, Egyptians… My very clear impression is that when a person says he wants to kill Jews – he means it.
    Certainly Rabbi Lerner is within his rights to call for whatever he thinks is good. The problem is – why does he think that ‘stopping the invasion of Gaza, stopping the bombing of Gaza and freeing the Palestinian prisoners’ makes any sense. Does he really think that returning the opportunity of the Hamas militia to send rockets into Israel will suddenly bring peace? Doesn’t he know that most of the security prisoners released return to their murderous intents and practices? Why should Israel stop bombing Hamas military targets bring peace? Did any cessation of warfare in the Middle East bring peace?
    Speaking out of ideals and ignoring facts is hardly a policy. It is just damnfoolishness,

  8. The prophet Jeremiah criticized Kings Yehoyakim and Tzidkiyahu – after his messages were put before the people and rejected. AND Jeremiah believed that he was sent by God.
    Most critics of Israel do not believe they were sent by God, the people of Israel are not with them, they do not have the knowledge it takes to really assess the need of this battle, they do not relate to the threats seriously – gives them the audacity to criticize?

  9. Thank you Rabbi Lerner for your words of love and compassion toward humanity and all others. And as of all the other commentators here, hate is very blinding as its very apparent from the contents of their message. Killing and be killed is what they know. May who or what ever they believe in bring some light to the darkness of their hearts and minds. As it seems that logic and common sense does not penetrate their thick skulls nor the walls that they have built around them of isolation and indifference with the mortar of hate! Do they have parents? What did they teach them?

  10. I am not Jewish or Palestinian, I have no stake in this except as an
    American, but I am horrified by the slaughter US funds are helping
    Israel to carry out against innocent civilians. One child killed every
    hour? How many more injured? Even our worst serial killers can’t
    compete with this inhumanity and lack of conscience. I can’t imagine
    Israel with have any sympathy from the world after this, and likewise
    the US for supporting it. Once there were horrible mass murders of
    Jews by a psychopath just for being Jewish. Senseless. Now we see a similar
    scenario for innocent Palestinians just for living in Gaza–with no
    escape route. Eerily familiar and shameful. I am heartened to see
    members of the Jewish community rising up against these atrocities,
    and join them in prayers for peace.

  11. I’m not an economist, but I can just imagine what could have been built in Gaza if all of the material and human capital and resources that went into building the tunnel infrastructure after Israel left in 2005 would have been used instead to build the infrastructure of a modern nation. It is Hamas alone that has kidnapped and enslaved the people of Gaza and confined them to their prison.,7340,L-4550063,00.html

  12. Atheists will never understand what is happening here.
    They are too attached to liberty and vice, and even now, in their bones they know that the days of hedonism and freedom are coming to an end.
    I wonder if they will join the Nazis, in baying for the blood of Jews.
    You see, a true atheist does not believe in divine justice. They always need someone to blame for their own problems.
    Witness Conspiracy Theory become Conspiracy Fact, as Hitlers old myths are dredged up once more.
    You cannot outrun YHWH.

    Leviticus 26
    23 And if you refuse to be chastened, and cross me still,
    24 I will cross you in my turn, punishing your sins sevenfold.
    25 I will let war loose upon you in return for breaking your covenant with me; and when you take refuge in the cities, I will send pestilence among you. And soon you will be fain to surrender to your enemies,
    26 when I have cut off your supply of bread, so that ten women can bake in one oven, and dole out the bread by weight to men that eat and are still hungry.

  13. Just West Bank? No, Israel needs to give back most of Palestine which it stole. Abandon the settlements, take down the apartheid wall, arrest and try the brutal racist bient settlers and end Zionism, which is a racist system.

  14. Sr. Lerner
    muy buena su nota sobre que “Israel ha roto su corazón”
    Es importante que Ud. y otros se manifiesten por lo que hace criminalmente Israel porque de lo contrario la gente va a generalizar y comenzara nuevamente una caza de brujas contra los judíos.
    Pienso que la Franja de Gaza esta geopolíticamente mal ubicada, se tendría que ofrecer una permuta de territorio para desplazar pacíficamente y con una buena retribución a los palestinos para que se condensen en un solo territorio. De esa forma Hamas quedaría desprestigiado y con el tiempo repudiado por los mismos palestinos.
    Guillermo Usinger

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