Here’s a letter I recently sent off to the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times:
To the editor,
I recently traveled with a Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace) delegation to Israel and the Palestinian territories. We met with academics, peace activists, and politicians, including Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Prime Minister Fayad. Among other things, we learned much about the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, circumstances reflected in the 1/22/08 article, “Tens of thousands of Palestinians flood into Egypt through breached Gaza wall.”
Critics of Gaza’s Hamas-led government blame the destitution on the firing of Qassam rockets into southern Israel and clearly, such attacks are intolerable. No country should be expected to remain passive under attack.
But are Israel’s economic blockade and military incursions providing the answer? Currently 860,000 Gazans – more than half the population – now rely on the UN for food. In recent military operations, some twenty Palestinians were killed, including a three-year-old girl. Israel may hope its tactics will turn Gazans against Hamas, but given the choice to hate Hamas or hate Israel, Palestinians will most certainly choose the latter.
Economic deprivation is clearly not working, and we know that there’s no military solution. As always, the only answer is negotiation, as President Bush indicated at the Annapolis peace conference. In the short term this means a negotiated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas; long term, it means a two-state solution.
This won’t be easy. It won’t happen in one step, and more blood may be shed. Bush’s path is far from clear, but those who support Israel must support his efforts towards peace and encourage him to follow up his words with strong actions.
Clearly, war and collective punishment aren’t the answer. If Israel and the Palestinians want true peace and security, the only solution will occur across a table.
Rabbi Brant Rosen
Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Evanston
Brit Tzedek v’Shalom Rabbinic Cabinet