Outrage in Gaza Redux

Israel’s military assault on Gaza in 2008-09 represented an important turning point in my own relationship with Israel. I recall experiencing a new and previously unfamiliar feeling of anguish as Israel bombarded the people living in that tiny, besieged strip of land over and over, day after day after day. While I certainly felt a sense of tribal loyalty to the Israelis who withstood Qassam rocket fire from Gaza, I felt a newfound sense of concern and solidarity with Gazans who I believed were experiencing nothing short of oppression during this massive military onslaught.

And now it’s happening again. Only this time I don’t think the term “anguish” quite fits my mindset. Now it’s something much closer to rage.

It’s happening again. Once again 1.7 million people, mostly refugees, who have been living in what amounts to the world’s largest open air prison, are being subjected to a massive military assault at the hands of the world’s most militarized nation, using mostly US-made weapons. And our President is not only looking on – he is defending Israel’s onslaught by saying it has a right to “self-defense in light of the barrage of rocket attacks being launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians.”

Let’s be clear: this tragedy didn’t start with the Qassams.  It didn’t start with the election of Hamas. And it didn’t start with the “instability” that followed Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

No, this is just the latest chapter of a much longer saga that began in 1947-48, when scores of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their cities and villages in the coastal plain and lower Galilee and warehoused in a tiny strip of land on the edge of the Mediterranean. By all accounts, most were simply too overwhelmed to realize what was happening. The ones who tried to return to their homes were termed “infiltrators” and were killed on sight. Others resisted by staging raids in the newly declared state of Israel. Sometimes they succeeded, more often they did not. Either way, Israel decided early on that it would respond to each of these reprisals with a overwhelming military show of force.  And those reprisals and that show of force have essentially been ongoing until this very day.

I realize, of course, there is plenty of political subtext to this latest go-around.  I’ve read the timelines and have formed my own opinions on the latest “who started it?” debate. I’ve also read plenty of analyses by Israeli observers who believe that this was not a response to Qassam fire at all but was very much a “war of choice” waged by an Israeli administration looking to shore up political support in an election season.

I’ve also read a widely circulated article from Ha’aretz about Israel’s recent execution of Ahmed Jabari (the head of Hamas’ military wing). I learned that up until now, Jabari was “Israel’s subcontractor” for security in the Gaza Strip, that Israel has been literally funding Hamas through intermediaries in exchange for peace and quiet on their southern border, and that when Jabari failed to deliver of late, the decision came down to take him out. Another article, written by the Israeli who negotiated with Jabari for the release of Gilad Shalit, revealed that negotiations were still ongoing with Jabari when the Israeli military assassinated him with a drone strike.

Yes, the wonky side of me has been avidly reading all these analyses. And while I do believe they provide an important counterbalance to the mythic statements by Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the US State Department, the more I read the cynical political subtext for this war, the sicker I get. No, this isn’t about Qassams, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s about elections either. It’s really just the most recent chapter in a much longer litany of injustice – the latest attempt by Israel bring the Palestinians to their knees through the sheer force of their formidable military might.

Of all the analyses I’ve yet read, one of the very few that truly seemed to grasp this truth came from Yousef Munayyer, of The Jerusalem Fund/Palestine Center:

The problem Gaza presents for Israel is that it won’t go away—though Israel would love it if it would. It is a constant reminder of the depopulation of Palestine in 1948, the folly of the 1967 occupation, and the many massacres which have happened since them. It also places the Israelis in an uncomfortable position because it presents a problem (in the form of projectiles) which cannot be solved by force…

Israel has tried assassinating Palestinian leaders for decades but the resistance persists. Israel launched a devastating and brutal war on Gaza from 2008 to 2009 killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, but the resistance persists.

Why, then, would Israel choose to revert to a failed strategy that will undoubtedly only escalate the situation? Because it is far easier for politicians to lie to voters, vilify their adversaries, and tell them ‘we will hit them hard’ than to come clean and say instead, ‘we’ve failed and there is no military solution to this problem.’

Like last time, I know many in the Jewish community will say it is unseemly of me to criticize Israel this way while Israelis live in fear of Qassam fire out of Gaza. I know there are those who believe that by writing these words, I’m turning my back on my own people in their time of need. But I know in my heart that my outrage at Israel’s actions goes hand in hand with compassion for Israelis – particularly those who know that their leaders’ devotion to the sword is leading them into the abyss.

Additionally, as I wrote under tragically similar circumstances in 2009:

I believe Israel’s response to Hamas’ missile attacks have been disproportionate and outrageous. I believe their actions only further endanger the security of  Israelis while inflicting collective punishment and a severe humanitarian crisis upon Gazans. Indeed, just as I cannot understand what it must be like to be a citizen of Sderot, I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to be a Gazan citizen at the moment, living under constant air attack, with no running water or electricity and dwindling food, as hospitals fill up with wounded and corpses lie rotting in the streets because relief workers are unable to reach them.

When will we be ready to accept that this is not a “balanced” conflict or even a “war” by any reasonable definition – and that it never was?  When will we face the painful truth that this is not a story about one side versus the other but about one side oppressing the other?  Frankly, all the well-meaning liberal comments about “praying for peace on both sides” and leave me cold. Worse, I find them insidious because they simply serve to support the myth that this is a conflict between two equal parties. It is not. And peace will not come until we admit this – until we admit that there is an essential injustice at the heart of this tragedy and that try as it might, Israel will never be able to make it go away through the sheer force of its increasingly massive military might.

Beyond the rage, I’m heartened that this time around there is a growing community of conscience that is speaking out publicly and in no uncertain terms to protest Israel’s latest outrage in Gaza. I am so deeply grateful for my friends and colleagues at Jewish Voice for Peace, who is alone in the Jewish world in condemning this latest assault.  I urge you to read JVP’s courageous statement, which I know gives voice to increasing numbers of Jews and non-Jews, young and old, religious and secular, who are coming together through the courage of their conscience.

At this point in my posts I would typically write “click here” to lend your voice to some kind of collective statement.  I’m going resist that temptation and urge you instead to take to the streets.

I’ll see you there.

83 thoughts on “Outrage in Gaza Redux

  1. T

    You are a great man 🙂 Thank you for standing up for what’s right, even when it’s hard. I share your compassion, righteous indignation and love for humanity.

  2. Pingback: A Rabbi speaks out about Israeli crimes in Gaza — Antony Loewenstein

  3. Pingback: Tears of Gaza | TheSemiClassicalLimit

  4. Pingback: The Outrage in Gaza | The Trojan Horse

    1. Golda Haberland

      Thank you Rabbi for clarifying the situation in Israel. I am bound to admit initially my opionion took a dim view of terrorism neglecting to acknowledge the innocent Palestinians caught in between But in my defence in view of the havoc Jihad’s all around the world have caused it has been difficult for me to be objective about the situation in Israel. In ’67 I was a new Mother typical of a woman widowed my thought was for my child – in ’73 she was still under 10, the attempt between Egypt & Isreal at Camp David to attempt to resolve the question of the Middle East. The assination of Anwar Saddat by his own was a sad day for the Middle East. Thank you again (nee) Golda Haberland

      1. Golda Haberland

        However bad things seem to be get in Israel ‘Cease Fire’ comes within max 10 days! This time I hope a long term solution can be achieved. Harbouring animosity will only set the whole process off again, the more emotional and angry people get the worse things will become again. I believe Israel must be accepted by Arab States since Israel is just a little spot in the entire Middle East. My fear is Iran and fanatics of any denomination but in particular the Middle East – these are the problem makers for the Middle East. Somehow Israel has to rise above them and lead the way to peace.

      2. Shirin

        I believe Israel must be accepted by Arab States since Israel is just a little spot in the entire Middle East.

        Two things, Golda:

        1. Since 2002 the Arab states have had on the table a peace proposal that offers Israel peace, full official recognition, and normal diplomatic and economic relations. For ten years Israel has rejected this proposal as a “non-starter”. Now, who do you think is refusing to accept whom?

        2. Israel is not just a little spot in the entire Middle East. Israel is an aggressive, expansionist country created by colonists from another continent who forced their presence on the peoples and countries of the area, often violently and has by and large disregarded the rights, needs, and welfare of the indigenous peoples of the land they took over by force, as well as the territorial integrity and other rights of the neighboring countries. Israel has ethnically cleansed more than a million people from their ancestral homes, and bombed, invaded and occupied neighboring countries, in some cases taking over their neighbors’ sovereign territory, colonizing it, and exploiting its natural resources. Israel’s behavior is a constant threat to peace and stability in the region.

        My fear is Iran…

        Iran has not invaded or occupied another country, or involved itself in a war of aggression for nearly three hundred years. During its 33 years in power the Iranian regime has not shown any inclination to change that history. Israel is the most militarized country in the world, and has a lifelong history of terrorism, ethnic cleansing, expansionism by force, oppression, and aggression. Yet, your fear is Iran?

        and fanatics of any denomination but in particular the Middle East – these are the problem makers for the Middle East. Somehow Israel has to rise above them and lead the way to peace.

        Israel is the number one problem-maker in the Middle East. Somehow Israel has to rise above its own history and nature, and accept the offers of peace made to it by the entire Arab League, and by Palestinians, who are the very people Israel has dispossessed, and oppressed for its entire history.

  5. Pingback: Gaza « Rabbibrian's Blog

  6. Jeff Loewenstein - Melbourne, Australia

    Needless to say the usual suspects will accuse the Rabbi as being a self-hating Jew, etc. No way. Rabbi Rosen I commend you and tip my hat to the humanity and Jewishness of your response to Israel’s latest outrage. Stand firm against the brick-bats and abuse…….

  7. Cyrus

    I am married to a Jewish woman whom I love dearly. I have always been perplexed as to how to negotiate between my respect and admiration for Judaism (the culture and the faith) and my distaste for political zionism. Rabbis like you would end my conflict as my children can be proud of their Jewish heritage without being forced to adhere to the narrow and self-serving goals of the political/military “leadership” in the state of Israel.

    Rightousness is godliness.

    I salute you rabbi.

  8. i_like_ike52

    JVP and and the other Jewish “Progressives” can rant and rave about military operations like this until the cows come home but it is totally irrelevant to us in Israel. They are no different than Neturei Karta and the old Soviet Yevsektsia-(Jewish section of the Communist Party of the USSR) . They are Jews who have or had completely cut themselves off from the Jewish people. Whether the Jewish “Progressives” like it or not, Israelis support this unfortunately necessary operation and will continue to do so no matter how many demonstrations JVP makes. The “Progressives” are disappointed with President Obama’s stand on the issue. While I am no fan of his I can say that maybe he knows things that JVP couldn’t possibly understand. Why? Because for JVP and the other radical anti-Israel Jewish groups NOTHING ISRAEL CAN DO WILL EVER SATISFY THEM. As Brant himself says “No, this isn’t about Qassams, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s about elections either. It’s really just the most recent chapter in a much longer litany of injustice – ” . . As JVP writes on its web site, even Tel Aviv is essentially an “illegimate settlement” so it is all of Israel that is the problem.It is Zionism that is the problem, it is the Jewish demand for self-determination in Eretz Israel that is the problem. Even when Israel stops this operation, the “Progressives” will then tell us “Gaza is a big open-air prison, Gaza is one big concentration camp, blah, blah” and that we should “understand” their continued firing of rockets indiscriminately into Israeli population centers (which is a war crime) and their continued firing at soldiers and civilians close to the border. Israel pulled out of Gaza and destroyed the Jewish settlements there and expelled the Jews living there for decades, but it wasn’t enough. Instead of building up their society they cry “The occupation continues”, “the refugees have to back to their homes in pre-67 for there to be ‘justice’ as the Jewish ‘progressives’ keep declaiming and we are supposed to continue to “understand” the violence they responded to the Israeli withdrawal with.
    Barak, Sharon and Olmert offered to have Israel pull back almost all the way to the pre-67 lines and even give up the Jewish holy places like the Western Wall, Mount of Olives and the other Jewish holy places in Jerusalem knowing that dividing Jerusalem would destroy the city by turning it into a shooting gallery just like the area around the Gaza Strip. But it wasn’t enough for the Arabs. The only thing that will bring ‘justice’ that will satisfy the Arab world and the Jewish “progressives” who seem to totally identify with them is for Israel to eradicate itself. Ain’t gonna happen, so keep up your meaningless demonstrations and demands for boycotts. We have surived Jews of this type in the past (where is the Soviet Yesvsektsia today?) and we will outlast them today. Just remember one thing, by looking at the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict over the last 100 years, every single outbreak of violence by the Arabs has lead them to disaster and Israeli has emerged further strengthened afterwards. Jewish “Progressives” who “understand” Arab violence are simply encouraging the Arabs to destroy themselves and end up pushing real peace further and further away.

    1. Wendy Carson

      Your reply is totally out of touch with many Jews as myself and Rabbi Rosen He is a man of honor and justice and I am proud as a member of his Congregation to call him my Rabbi.I stand with him and all jews who seek a world of peace and justice for palestinians and all people of Israel.

    2. Ron Edwards

      At last, your true voice, Ike. You’ve left hundreds of posts on this blog, always refining that image of the reasonable, practical man who simply must speak truth to wide-eyed idealists. You’ve even chosen the perfect pseudonym for Americans to think of you as that man.

      However, it’s always been obvious what you are: a privileged, entitled, bigoted barbarian. Thank you for letting the mask drop at last. You pride yourself on the torture and gratuitous destruction of others. How about that dead kid in the picture? Not enough? A few more for you then, perhaps? See here: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/11/16/civilians-under-attack-in-gaza/.

      Let’s examine that defiant cry of yours, the “we’re still here, bring it on” stuff. Israel in its current configuration is still here the way its psychotic-in-chief, Ariel Sharon, is still breathing. Without the U.S. disgracing itself repeatedly with its veto at the U.N. Security Council, without the phenomenal U.S. military and financial support in contravention of its own laws, and without the outright bribery and blackmail which cows the U.S. legislature to toe the Likud line, domestic tensions in Israel and international pressure would end this hideous farce in minutes.

      I am not speaking of physical destruction or even any deconstruction of the state. I am speaking of domestic and international privilege, as enjoyed by the State of Israel and especially its Ashkenazi inhabitants. That is precisely what endures and what underlies all the gussied-up noble words about a “Jewish and democratic state.” That’s what this has always been about. And its endurance hangs on a very fine thread. You speak of JVP as a fringe pathetic group, but I am sure that a skilled propagandist such as yourself is fully aware of age-based trends in Jewish Americans’ views, or that the support of Sheldon Adelson and his ilk is rapidly becoming a liability to an American politician, or that the only grassroots movement favoring hard-line Israeli policies in the U.S., the Apocalyptic Christians, has hit the limits of its political and cultural influence, or that pinkwashing hit an immediate refusal to comply from American LGBQT activists.

      Americans are now better informed, and your tricks don’t work. Go ahead, try that lie again about “no partners for peace” at Camp David 2000. I follow al-Ha’aretz and saw the Israeli government documents that debunked it all the way back in 2007. Or your wonderful phrase, “Jewish demand for self-determination” to describe the history of the preservation of privilege, as if non-white Jews in Israel were anything but useful subordinates to those in power, or as if more than 20% of the citizenry of Israel were not Muslim and Christian. Or perhaps the stunning numbers of Jewish emigrants away from Israel in the past ten years is what you mean, with no mass of conveniently white semi-maybe-Jewish Russians to pay to replace them this time.

      You are obsolete; even this post of yours offers nothing but dead-letter, stale talking points; cartoon caricatures of “the Arabs, the Arabs” as if Menachim Begin were spraying spit in his disturbingly fascistic speeches again; and finally, with no mistake, your true face. A foul one. It’s time for grown-ups to take your guns away and let you join the whining left-overs from South Africa in a flyblown bar somewhere.

  9. davidkolen

    It’s a shame, really. When you and I studied for my Bar Mitzvah, I spoke of the need to recognize those of all faiths as brothers and sisters. You stood by my side when my brother died, when my grandparents died. I trusted you, and in many ways, I still trust you now.

    But what do you do now? You use your pulpit to point fingers, to assign blame, to scream righteous indignation from the mountaintop. These are people, all of whom in their lives have been victim to injustice, and their are no easy answers, as you seem so eager to assume. The answer is not to protest in rage, but to search deeply within ourselves for solutions, for answers. We must acknowledge that fundamentalism, both in Israel and in Gaza, has led to a conflict that is unfair to both Israelis and Palestinians.

    I know you to be a kind man, and a wise man. Someone who seeks for answers beyond what lies in front of your face. Please, realize that what you are doing here helps no one, not Israelis, not Palestinians, not your readers. You seek to engender hatred and righteous rage, when you and I both know what we need now is an acknowledgment of the difficulties of the situation, of wrongdoing by both sides, and men like you need to offer words of wisdom on how to move forward, not back. Indignation will lead us nowhere.



    1. Dave

      David, I think you miss the point. Rabbi Brant is doing what all good human beings should be doing…. Being the voice of the voiceless. Since Israel’s violent forced inception, the only way the Palestinian people have been heard, is via their homemade rockets.

      The oppression has never stopped. When one is oppressed, it breeds desperation. This desperation manifests in doing whatever can be done to be heard, so rockets are fired. Israel cries foul and bombs the Palestinian lands in a completely disproportionate and civilian targeted attack. The world’s leaders get involved (Most pretend in order to thinly veil their political zionist intent) and try to sort the differences, a ceasefire is called. The rest of the world forgets about Israel and Palestine. Israel and Palestine resume the oppressor and the oppressed.

      The palestinian people have been imprisoned and enslaved since all of this started (over half a century ago) and it’s not fair.

      But alas, the age of information is slowly breeding enlightenment to the world community as to what is going on, particularly the younger generations, are catching on to the Western MSM’s game, and now have access to news and information by other means (access to the whole truth!)

      Israel and USA’s days of how they are currently behaving are numbered. It’s time to have a talk, and whether Israel and it’s US allies like it or not, they’re going to have to listen.

  10. Ali Habibi

    Thank you for writing this Rabbi. This is how I see it too. Exactly. Thank you for giving voice to this truth. God bless you and keep you.

  11. Monir Deeb

    Rabbi Brant,
    People like you, Jewish, and speak the truth about Israel are rare in the Jewish communities. But your number is increasing and your voices are growing. You and the likes of you, are restoring the faith in me for the integrity of the Jewish spirit ,which I have struggled with while witnessing Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, and the Jewish biased stand with Israel, right or wrong for my 61 years of life. Israel future and the Jewish existence among the Nations , will not depend on Israel’s military might, or the use of arms that America gives them. Or how much land they steal from the Palestinians.
    How many more can they jail, deport or ultimately kill. No, It will all depend on people like you, your integrity, and respect for your humanity. I thank you for showing it more than your Jewishness. I hope others will hear your call to be human first, then a loyal Jewish/Zionist/israelis, second.

  12. Rabbi Green

    Send this to Hamas.They’ll appreciate it. In your condemnation, you are right to find both the militant Hamas terrorists who hide behind civilians and the independant waiting to be recognized democratic state of Israel currently held hostage by a coalition based power hungry manipulative politico; however, it’s odd that your emotional visceral empathy goes to the Palestinian victims of Hamas rather than to both the victims of Hamas in Gaza as well as in Israel. Hamas is doing a good job in so far as unallianated disaffected Jews (like B.B. Warren, above) can find a way back into the Jewish world by attacking the Jewish state instead of providing nurture and support and reality checks and serious advice the Jewish state. Pointing the finger is always so satifying. Your tribalism, Brant, is inverted and just as unbalanced as the bizarre imbalance perpetrated by the machinations and manipulations of Bibi. Your photograph is so manipulative. You think that Israelis are stupid and don’t know that their government is leading them toward disaster. You condemn the Israeli government and show no sympathy to the suffering of the Israeli citizenry. You don’t really condemn the Hamas organization but show in image and word symaphy to the suffering of the Palestinisians. What are you gonna say, Brant, that the Hamas doesn’t represent the Palestinians? Yeah, we all know the stats and the baloney. Well, big surprise, Bibi’s Balony coalition of manipulative fear mongering doesn’t represent the major wish of Israelis. How convenient for you to notice the injustice of only one side — and thereby attract those marginal Jews who can feel comfortable expressing their own mixed and negative self-identity by projecting it outward and against Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel. Thanks a lot for your sincerity. Not a lotta thanks for your advice or modeling. Rather simplistic and self-serving. I’m sure you’ll get a lot of rousing supporters and others who’ll quote you and give you a rush of affirmation. It’ll help you, but, it won’t help the people you care so deeply about or the Israelis either.

    1. Wendy Carson

      I would like to reply. Brants statements are troubling because of the terrible tragedies that are happening while air strikes and possible ground invasions are taking place that can kill so many trapped in gaza with absolutely no where to hide.I srael whether you support this action or not is putting themselves in total isolation in the mid east.I am yet to see peace minded Israelies take to the street possibly in fear that they would be attacked to demonstrate to their goverment that these acts of total aggression must stop at once.this has only in the past made things more difficult for Israel and cost human life among them and hsa made any attempts for peace a total iimpossibility.I stand with rabbi Rosen as a Jew and as a member of the world community who wants all human rights to be respected.

    2. Shirin

      Ah yes, the wel-known switcheroo. Hamas is the real culprit here. Hamas is not only responsible for the rockets that are terrorizing people in southern Israel, it is responsible for the abuses Israel is perpetrating on the Palestinians.

      Unfortunately, at least part of your scenario is not well-supported by those inconvenient things called facts. Reports from the Israeli military, as well as recently from Gershon Baskin who was negotiating with Hamas toward a hudna, have said that with rare exceptions the rockets fired into Israel are not coming from Hamas, but from fringe organizations. Baskin reported recently that Hamas has fired a few rockets, but that they generally aim for empty fields when they do.

  13. Emm

    So, basically, Israel doesn’t have a right to defend itself because it doesn’t have a right to exist as a Jewish state. That’s what you imply when you go all the way to 1948 and the refugees.

    1. Ron Edwards

      Nations are not people and do not have rights, whether to exist or any other right. That phrase is a red herring long, long past its due date for the junkyard.

      Also, a word of advice for your trolling: starting a post with “So, basically …” is an amateur move. Try a rough draft on paper first, before you post. You’re welcome.

    2. Shirin

      That’s what you imply when you go all the way to 1948 and the refugees.

      What an astonishingly revealing comment.

      What other historical facts and realities do you believe we should ignore because mentioning them threatens the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state?

    3. Neretva - River In Peril

      No, Israel has no right to exist – actually no country on this planet has right to exist, not now or not in the past ! People have a rights, countries do NOT !

  14. Adam

    Your comments that the conflict started in 1947 seem a bit misguided as they leave out the anti-Jewish pogroms in the1920s, and the civil war in the 1930s.

    The violence truly started back in 1920, when Muslim mobs set out in pogroms attacking and killing Jews. The ethnic cleansing started in 1929, when Muslim mobs massacred, then cleansed the long standing Jewish community of Hebron.

    In the 1930s, there was a civil war and also infighting between pro-negotiation, pro-coexistence groups of Palestinians and racist, xenophobic, Palestinians who sought to oppress or cleanse the Jews.

    Only when the partition plans of both 1937 and 1947 were rejected by Palestinian Muslims, and they vowed to keep attacking and killing Jews, until every inch of “Palestine” was theirs did things head into the 1947 war.

    1. Shirin

      Adam, I don’t know how to tell you this, but it was not just Muslims who rejected the Zionist program for Palestine. Why, there were even Palestinian Jews who resisted Zionism.

      It was even not just Muslims who reacted violently to the takeover of their homeland by European colonists who happened to be Jews. Some of the most notorious “Palestinian terrorists” happen to have been Christians.

      As for your description of certain historical events, sadly they are completely lacking in both context and factual accuracy, not to mention nuance. For starters you completely ignore the conduct of the Jewish colonists that in many cases led to what you incorrectly label with the inflammatory term “pogroms”.

      I would suggest some enlightening reading for you, but something tells me you would not be interested.

    2. Ron Edwards

      Hasbara 101: state something the targeted poster did not say, and attack it. Rabbi Brant did not say the conflict began in 1947. He stated correctly that the tragedies in Gaza did not begin at a later date, a necessary point to keep people from preserving an unjust status quo under the guise of false solutions which preserve policies beginning and stemming from the moment the British ceded the Mandate of Palestine to the Zionist leadership there.

      Hasbara 102: exploit Americans’ ignorance of any history before or after 1944-1945. I am old enough to remember U.S. history books which recounted “American victories” vs. “Indian massacres,” whose authors probably prided themselves on accuracy in terms of dates and body counts but were oblivious to the fundamental lie they were presenting. Your account is stunningly free of any reference to Zionist policies, all of which I recommend to the reader via Rashid Khalidi’s The Iron Cage, a book which spares no criticism for any leadership of that area and time. For the later stages, one might expect at least a passing reference to the Irgun.

      Hasbara 103: invoke 9/11 through secondary phrasing. “Palestinian Muslims” is a fascinating construction if we’re talking about the 1930s, considering that Jerusalem, for example, was about 50% Christian. The reader is recommended to Donald E. Wager’s Dying in the Land of Promise.

      And finally, Hasbara 201: distract from the point by forcing the respondent to cope with distortions regarding supporting points. Or did you simply concede to the Rabbi’s rage about the dead kids? Here are two more: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=538835.

  15. Nomorenakba

    I’m stunned but not surprised and heartbroken beyond words. Privilege can only be maintained through oppression and violence and Gaza is just one more chapter in the Palestinian Nakba – over 60 years of dispossession.

    Two links:
    Names and ages of Palestinians murdered:

    In and out Livestream reporting from Harry Fear: http://tinyurl.com/c64khhy

    We must work to end support for racist delusions of supremacy and entitlement in our communities.

  16. Pingback: Ethnic Cleansing, Human Rights Violations – Israel vs Palestinians in Gaza « Sheila's Take

  17. shmueljacobowitz

    You have so many facts wrong its unbelievable…You are seeing only one side of this, and there for your opinion is not close enough to reality..Ofcourse you read the articles that go against Israeli opinios, but how about visiting Sderot, Or Ashdod, for one day..Only one day…That will shake you up..We didnt start “cast iron”, and we didnt start this fighting now, either. The Hamas had started it, Shooting rockets out of schools and hospitals, just to try kiling more civilians..You are not looking at the part..And Israel is doing all it can to try not to kill civilians, but thats not an easy thing when Hamas is Shooting from houses, and still, Israel is doing the best job it can, trying to kill only terrorists..No other state would allow missles fired daily at its civilians..What would Obama do in that case? What would Putin do if rockets were fired on moskow? He would bomb the Gaza strip so hard that after he finishes it would look like a Mcdonalds parkinglot..
    Good night

    1. nomorenakba

      Any talk about Sderot needs to address the original injustice. It is important to remember that Sderot and Or ha-Ner are now exclusive Jewish colonies built on the Arab town Najd’s land and the Arab inhabitants were completely expelled by Jewish troops – Israeli occupied on May 13, 1948: http://www.palestineremembered.com/Gaza/Najd/index.html Of course, the refugees have been denied their right to return for racist reasons of “demographics” and the fear of losing “Jewish majority.”

      I find it helpful to have an extra copy of Rabbi Brant’s book available for others at cost.. I do this also for Marc Ellis, Judaism Does Not Equal Israel, Miko Peled’s The General’s Son, Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ramzy Baroud’s My Father was a Freedom Fighter, Omar Barghouti’s, BDS, and Tikva Honig-Parnass,, False Prophets of Peace – Liberal Zionism and the Struggle for Palestine. False Prophets of Peace completely deconstructs the myth that there was ever a true left in Israel.

      1. Shirin

        Let us not forget that towns such as Sderot, which are situated along dangerous borders, were the places the Israeli government typically settled Jews who came from Arab and other non-European countries. Ashkenazim were settled in less hazardous parts of the country.

      2. nomorenakba


        Let’s not forget to expose the “exchange of populations” “Jewish refugees from Arab Lands” sham – a shameless effort to obstruct the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their families.

        Iraqi Jews reject ‘cynical manipulation’ of their history by Israel, Zionists


        Israeli hasbara effort– ‘Justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries’– gets pushback from Baghdadi Jews


        The Zionist Destruction of the Iraqi Jewish Community
        When the Zionist Underground Planted Bombs Outside Baghdad’s Jewish Cafes and Synagogues


        Israel’s Refugee Pawns


    2. Shirin

      So, Hamas is just trying to kill civilians? And how are they doing? How many Israeli civilians has Hamas killed so far?

      And Israel is doing the very, very best job it can trying not to kill civilians? And how is it doing? How many civilians has Israel killed so far? In fact, just tell us how many women and children Israel has killed, since we do know that any male Palestinian is most likely a terrorist, right?

    3. Shirin

      Shmuel, if this is the best Israel can do to try its very best not to kill civilians it is not very good at it:

      In the worst attack since the start of its aggression on Gaza, an Israeli warplane fired a missile into a four-story house in Gaza city, at approximately 2:35pm today, destroying it and killing multiple civilians.

      Most of the corpses that have been found are for children and women. Efforts to search for the victims were still on-going when this press release was published.

      It has been confirmed that the sudden attack killed the following civilians:

      – Samah Ad-Dalu, 27, the wife of the house owner’s son, and her children:
      – Jamal Mohammed Ad-Dalu, 6;
      – Yousef Mohammed Ad-Dalu, 4;
      – Ibrahim Mohammed Ad-dalu, 1; and
      – Suhaila Ad-dalu, 73, who is the sister of the house owner;
      – Tahani Ad-Dalu, 52, who is the wife of the house owner; and her daughter who has not been identified yet.

      The civil defence also found the bodies of two neighbors:
      – Abdulla Al-Mzannar, 18; and
      – Omniya Al Mzannar.

      Neighbors of the bombarded house informed Al Mezan that the bodies of at least three other persons are expected to be under the rubble:
      – Ranin Ad-dalu, 22;
      – Sara Ad-Dalu, 9, and
      – Mohammed Jamal Ad-Dalu, 29.

      I think Israel needs to improve its ability to not kill civilians before it makes any more attacks.

      Israel has demonstrated its lack of skill in not killing civilians many times, such as during Cast Lead when it failed in its efforts to not kill around 1400 civilians. How may civilians do you think Israel will fail in its effort to not kill this time around?

  18. Pingback: Latest IAJV newsletter | Independent Australian Jewish Voices

  19. Jay A

    We need more people like you in this world Sir. Those who think with their brain. Those who will speak for what is right, neglecting to stand by the norm of your peers.

    I commend you again my friend.

  20. Pingback: An American rabbi’s outrage at Israel’s assault on Gaza — War in Context

  21. Beth Phillips

    Rabbi Brant, I admire your courage in speaking out on this most controversial of topics. The extent of Israel’s militarism sets the tone for all so-called negotiations. I dare not say whose example Israel is following in denying Palestinians their right to a homeland – both groups have a right to a homeland. That is justice: balance. There can be no harmony without balance. We are watching history repeat itself with a tragically ironic, different cast of characters.

    1. Ron Edwards

      Your very word “response” reveals your point in posting.

      This is not about Israeli responses, as if they were doing nothing until one day, oh my goodness, rockets!

      The people of Gaza have no water, no food, and no power except as Israeli authorities see fit. That translates as well into no health care, no economy, and no education, except what they can eke out through heroic means. They have no freedom of movement. Their very calorie counts – literally – are limited and mandated by a political culture which freely uses the terms “cockroaches” and “cancer” toward them, and has brazenly used their children for free-fire drone and gunmen attacks, to buy votes from an explicitly racist and lawless demographic.

      So, no – there is no appropriate Israeli “response.” There are instead responsibilities. One to consider was present long before this day: at the very least to conform to the Oslo accords. But since that was never done and is apparently no longer binding (as the Israeli administration explicitly sees it), then let’s go ahead and consider the real, biggest responsibility, which is best examined from multiple angles although it should be indeed understood as a single thing.

      To Israel,

      1. Declare some borders already.
      2. Write a real constitution rather than that Basic Law travesty.
      3. Conduct reconciliation hearings along the lines of post-Pinochet Chile.
      4. Erase the distinction between citizen-nationals and merely nationals.
      5. Pay reparations and reconstruction to the people of the West Bank and Gaza.
      6. Either scrap the nuclear arsenal or sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
      7. Cease the policies of extra-national assassination and sabotage.
      8. Release all political prisoners based on the policies of occupation.
      9. Offer a real, neighborly treaty to the governments of Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.

      In essence, abandon the appalling, immoral, foolish, and self-destructive concept of “the Jewish state.” Be a real nation instead. Go ahead and call Judaism its national religion if you like. (Let’s not have any absurdities about France for the French, or anything similar. There are no, zero modern nations built from a single ethnic or linguistic base.)

      This responsibility dates back to 1948. Do it. This has been a public service message (by your request) from the one who writes the paychecks, the U.S. citizen.

      Oh, almost forgot. 10. Just for me, unplug Sharon.

      1. Shirin

        Ron, you left out Syria. Israel is illegally occupying and colonizing sovereign Syrian territory. It is also a fact that Bashshar Al Asad made several attempts to reach out to Israel to negotiate a resolution on the Golan and to make peace.

        Whether we like what the Syrian government is doing internally right now, Syria as a country still has rights in this situation.

    2. Shirin

      Shai Wilkins, what – according to you – would be an appropriate response from the Palestinians in Gaza to the kind of horrific oppression to which Israel has subjected them for years? How should they respond to being held under an armed siege for years in a small area from which they cannot escape? How should they react to having import of food goods strictly limited in order to, as Dov Weisglass put it, put them “on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,” What should they do when Israeli soldiers come into their farms, kill their farm animals and destroy their agricultural fields. What would you suggest they do about the fact that Israel will not allow their fishermen to fish? And what on earth are they supposed to do about having their children shot to death while playing soccer, or walking to and from school by Israeli soldiers?

      One of the incidents that is widely understood to have provoked the rocket fire that the Israelis used as a pretext for their current conflagration was the November 8 murder by Israeli soldiers of 13-year old Ahmad Abu Daqqa, who was playing soccer with his friends in the village of Abassan, which is in the area of Khan Younis. In fact, that was not the only such murder of a child during that week.

      So, Shai Wilkins, what would you have the Palestinians do in response to the murders of their children? What would you have them do in response to the arbitrary oppression Israel subjects them to day after day after day after day?

      To put it in a nutshell, Shai, do Palestinians have a right to self-defense, or is that right reserved exclusively for Israelis?

  22. Ken Kelso

    Shirin, Israel doesn’t target civilians, while the Pals only target Israeli civilians.

    Are any of these civilans being killed because Hamas places their military rockets among civilians so they can use them as human shields for propaganda purposes?

    Why aren’t you angry at Hamas for using civilans as human fodder?
    Don’t you care about these civilians?

    You are a horrible coward not to have any feelings towards these civilians being put in harms way by Hamas!

    Israel values life, and protects her terrorized children in bomb shelters. Hamas has held the Palestinian people hostage – without any regard to where they store their missiles and rocket launchers. Hamas has kept any new elections from happening, and has KILLED more moderate opposition. Just like their terrorist sponsors the Mullahs in Iran do to the poor Iranians who are scared to death by their ruthless oppressors.

  23. Ken Kelso

    Rabbi Brant, Hamas started this whole sitation by attacking Israel and injuring 4 Israelis including blinding one Israeli. Then Israeli fired back and Hamas started firing missles at Israeli civilians.
    But somehow you blame Israel for this, instead of the terrorists Hamas. You are really loony.
    Gazan’s are free to travel anywhere they want by going through the Egyptian border which is now controlled by Hamas ally the Moslem Brotherhood.
    Israel will not allow Hamas and their terrorist backs to go through Israel so they can kill Jews.
    If Cuba fired 1000 missles at Americans in Miami, how do you think America would react?
    If Germany fired 1000 missles at England, how do you think England would react?
    We know how England would react. Does the city Dresden answer that question.

    1. Ron Edwards

      Pfeh. More minions. I wonder if the same guy has to post over and over again with these neutral-American names like “Steve” and “Ann,” with a few “Gils” or “Levis” to round it out, or if there’s a team that takes turns, maybe trades sites around like “you do Shalom Rav and I’ll do Mondoweiss for a while.”

      This is like playing whack-a-mole. “… started this whole situation,” “… held the Palestinian people hostage,” … it’s Hamas, I tell you! Hamas, Hamas!

      Strangely, that word isn’t working any more either. There’s too much available information now: about Hamas’ origins, about their evolving leadership, about their role in the community, about the actual policies of 2000, about the scuttling of the Oslo accords as soon as the ink was dry, and most crucially the complete and total lack of correspondence between occupied Gaza and these “nation shoots missiles at other nation” scenarios you cook up.* Hint: it ain’t Hamas who counts the calories permitted to enter Gaza on a per-week basis.

      Huh, you say, so “Hamas” isn’t working. I know: Iran! Iran, Iran! Did you hear me, America? Iran!

      That would be the same Iran who signed the NPT and abides by it to the letter. How about Israel, then? I have a pen if you need to borrow one. Of course you’d have to junk those 400+ warheads, which compare to Iran’s nuclear arsenal by … ummm, 400+ to zero.

      Or were you genuinely sad and sorry for those poor, poor Iranians? Like you’re sad and sorry for those poor, poor Lebanese, or those poor, poor residents of Gaza? Such a humanitarian you are! Considering that popular politicians in Israel routinely refer to the same people as “cancer.” Considering that the current sanctions against Iran are themselves acts of oppression, terrror, and war. Maybe you like the pictures of dead kids from there, too?

      Rabbi Brant, I would greatly enjoy it if you had the ability to color these posts from obvious on-line hasbara minions (“go ye forth and spam any wrong-thinking blogs with Begin-era talking points!”), so those of us who’d actually like to have a conversation would be able to ignore them. You’ll notice that not one has actually engaged with a response; they flap in, drop their load, and move on for the next wave to come by.

      * Although it’s remarkable how well the examples are tuned to the nerve endings of Americans, as if rightly tagging the Dresden bombings as an atrocity would be to side with Nazi Germany, or as if objecting to the Cuba scenario would be to repudiate our cherished-but-false mythology about 1962. I would love to get my hands on the manual your little cadre is using.

  24. Pingback: Outrage in Gaza Redux | At the Threshold

  25. Amy Snow

    My reaction to Rabbi Rosen’s letter is very mixed. He needs to pack-up his wife and sons and go live in Ashdod or Kibbutz Got (where I was for a while) and experience bombs going off around you constantly day in and day out. He and his comfortable family in Illinois might feel a bit differently about stopping the missiles and bombs when his children can’t go to school or play outside and have to run to a bomb shelter every time a siren goes off. Needless to say I find his comments, even with all his research, rather arrogant and limited. He thinks he knows what it is like to have bombs raining down on houses filled with families? I doubt it.

    He is right about some of the history he quotes – but there a lot of different takes on history. Is the Rabbi missing the fact that Hamas and other militant groups want to annihilate every Israeli Jew? That’s their mission. Yes, we need peace dearly. Yes, there are many Palestinians who do not want to destroy Israel and want to live in peace. Everyone I know in Israel is sick and tired of war. On the news I hear Palestinians who are equally sick and tired of war and wish their leadership would stop sending bombs into Israel. There are good people in Gaza, in the Arab world, and Israel who want nothing more than to live their lives.

    The missiles and bombs have to stop. If Brant wants to “rage” in the streets, let him. Will his raging rants stop the bombs and conflict? Seems to me there’s enough rage to go around already. Why isn’t Rabbi Rosen promoting diplomacy and peace? I think negotiated solutions are more sane and would rather see us all support efforts in that direction. Enough already with rage!

    1. Shirin

      Amy, perhaps you need to pack up your family and go live in Gaza City or Khan Younis or any other part of Gaza and experience life there. You might feel a bit differently when your children have no shelters to run into when Israel chooses to launch one of its regular missile strikes at some “suspected terrorist” who may or may not be in the targeted location, let alone one of their periodic major barrages of hundreds of missiles a day.

      You might understand better how to “make the bombs stop” when you discover that your children have been “put on a diet” by the Israeli government in order to punish you for your electoral choices, and that “diet” consists not only of limiting the amount of food permitted to enter Gaza, but also involves regular destruction of crops and agricultural fields, slaughtering farm animals used to produce meat, eggs, and milk, shooting at or arresting fishermen and destroying or confiscating their boats and equipment when they attempt to fish in Gaza’s territorial waters, and leveling flour mills and bread bakeries so that when you go to buy food there is nothing on the shelves.

      You might understand better how to make the bombs stop when you realize that by allowing your children out to play football, or to walk too and from school you are putting them at risk of being used for target practice by Israeli soldiers, as the parents of Ahmad Abu Daqqa and his friends discovered to their grief on November 8, and as happens on such a a regular basis that it is not really news anymore.

      Or perhaps it will help you to understand better how to make the bombs stop when you look at the ruins of the two children’s zoos – small efforts at creating some semblance of normalcy for children – that were destroyed by the Israeli military who slaughtered the helpless animals in their cages then razed the structures.

      You might understand better how to make the bombs stop when you understand the kind of life your country has deliberately ad systematically doomed the Palestinians to by shutting them up in what has been called the largest open-air prison in the world and denying them the most basic fundamentals of human life.

    2. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      I realize that living life under the reality of missiles from Gaza is intolerable. Of course I can’t imagine what such a life under fire must be like and I said as much in my post. But I also have to admit that as intolerable as it is to live in the south of Israel right now, their lives are considerably more tolerable compared to the lives of the 1.7 million Palestinians, mostly refugees, who are living in a completely besieged strip of land 40 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide, who cannot leave, who have limited access to basic goods, electricity and medical care, live under a shattered economy and are only allowed food that is rationed by Israel to just under starvation levels (you can read about that here). I don’t live in Gaza either, but I do believe in my heart that what Israel is doing to the people there amounts to collective punishment.

      On the subject of Qassams, it is an undeniable fact that that they only started “raining down” when Israel opted to go into Gaza with a massive military assault. That is not to say they haven’t been a problem on Israel’s southern border – but in fact there had been negotiations ongoing with Hamas to try and curb the various factions responsible. I’m not sure if you read the article to which I linked, but the Israeli negotiator Gershon Baskin made it clear that talks were ongoing with Hamas’ military head Ahmed Jabari to keep Hamas from firing missiles. He was largely able to do this, but had spottier success with other Palestinian splinter groups. In fact, Israel was still actively negotiating with Jabari through lower channels when the Israeli military made the decision to assassinate him and start this latest military operation. I agree with you 100% that negotiated solutions are “more sane” – and I grieve that Israel opted for a massive military onslaught that has only succeeded in slaughtering scores of Gazan civilians while making Israelis even less secure than before.

      I’m glad you feel I’m right about “some of the history” I quoted, even when you cryptically add that there are “a lot of different takes on history.” I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I do believe your statement that Hamas wants to “annihilate every Israeli Jew” is simplistic and incorrect. In Hamas, as in any political organization, there are hard-liners and moderates – and moderate leaders in Hamas have long stated their willingness to exchange land for peace. (You can read more about that here if you like). And as I said above, Israel has been long negotiating with Hamas in many ways over any number of issues. But Israeli leaders have to know that by going in militarily in this massive a way, they are only emboldening the extremists in Hamas and the more extreme factions in Gaza while leaving the more moderate leaders hung out to dry. I’m sure many in Israel are “sick and tired” of war – but Israel’s leadership clearly is not. They consistently opt for the military solution to political problems, as if they can simply crush Palestinians into submission. But they never will – this approach is only a path to more tragedy and misery for both sides.

      Yes, I do feel rage, but I don’t believe I’m ranting here. If you have anything to say to the substance of my arguments beyond “there are a lot of takes on history,” I’m eager to hear them. I think anyone who has read my writing at all knows I consistently and regularly “promote diplomacy and peace.” But when Israel’s leaders consistently opt for the military approach – supported unquestioningly by our own country (the ostensibly “honest broker” between Israel and the Palestinians) – I feel a very real anger and I won’t apologize for it.

      I’m sure you remember the days of the Vietnam war. That was another time in which many felt rage at what they believed were outrageous military actions and yes, they did indeed take to the streets. We all know what happened in that instance – the popular demonstrations opened up the public’s eyes to the reality of that brutal, illegal war and eventually pushed the US government to end it.

      I attended such just a demonstration/march against the Gaza attacks last night here in Chicago (and plan to write a post about it soon). For now, I will say it was an inspiring example of how over a 1,000 people could channel their rage into an inspiring mass call for justice. At present, the powers that be are unwilling to “promote diplomacy and peace.” As always, it’s up to popular movements to force their hand. I was proud to march – and am saddened to hear that you consider my actions to be just another “ranter” raging in the streets.

      1. Amy Snow

        Check your facts. You are wrong the missiles and bombs have been arriving in Ashdod and the surrounding area for many years. I know, I was there and my family and friends are there now.

        I don’t want the people of Gaza or Israel to be bombed! Neither deserve this insanity. Reread my response – Diplomacy…Peace… Not simple, but people can find solutions if they communicate!

        Anger and rage only lead to more anger and rage – enough! Haven’t you noticed your reaction to what you think I said without really reading it? Sad.

      2. Shirin

        And Amy, how long have the missiles and bombs and bullets, and torture chambers and bulldozers, and tanks and so on been a daily part of the lives of Palestinians?

        You can’t dispossess people, herd them into a reservations where you keep them imprisoned under massive deprivation and torment, refuse them even the use of their lands and seas, punish them with starvation and bombardment for freely electing the “wrong” party, and expect them to simply accept their fate and remain docile.

      3. David

        I’m an Israeli.
        Israel needs its military strength. Response readiness is paramount.
        But Israel is a poor and ill-schooled country. The proportion of Israelis in poverty is staggering from a Western viewpoint. An enlightened approach to the problems of the even poorer people under the occupation is needed in order for the nation to begin focusing on its internal dilemmas. That wont happen while military/political/industrial cronyism controls the nation’s politics
        Israel’s economically and educationally disenfranchised classes buy into the tough guy mentality sold by the pols and the media and keep the militant right in power. They’re being force fed ideas, behind which a concept not unlike “lebensraum” lurks. Everyone who argues for a humanistic approach is labeled negatively. The legions of professional soldiers in the military justify their existence with elaborate and expensive “operations” and defense measures. Meanwhile the educated upper classes with ties to the military are getting richer; they see no reason to end this “forever war”
        To Matt and those many good American Diaspora Jews like him, I’d just want to say: don’t give props to policies you can’t endorse morally. Stand among the Righteous or stay out of the fight. Or at least try not to inhibit people with a broader perspective from speaking out freely. Whether they are Jews or not
        We don’t need any guilt-fueled mindless support for wrong, evil-appearing, evil-in consequence policies. It’s my children’s and children’s children’s lives at stake here.

    3. Ron Edwards

      If that’s your mixed response, I’d like to see your unequivocal one. Oh wait, I *am* seeing it! It’s right in this photo: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/17/israel-gaza-us-policy.

      You see, the people in Gaza can’t be there “for a while” like you (allegedly) were in Ashdod. They can’t go or be anywhere “for a while.” Why? Because their freedom of movement is utterly restricted by the IDF.

      Your post exhibits two features which set off my insincerity-detector. First, you claim a mixed response and then provide an unequivocal screed. Second, you base the entire screed on a false model (the two-sides thing). Your verbal trick has one purpose: to perpetuate this business about two sides exchanging weapons fire. But this is not about the exchange of weapons fire of any kind. It’s about being slowly and sadistically tormented and killed, in a cage. The people of Gaza, including Hamas, do not hold over a million and a half people in a cage and starve and deprive them of any imaginable means. Hamas is not the villain of this piece.

      1. i_like_ike52

        Your distortion of history and the current situation in Gazaq is outrageous. The people of Gaza are not and were never “starved”. They are not trapped in a cage. They have a border with their Arab brothers in Egypt. When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 there was no “siege”, there was no “blockade” but there was a wilingness to live in peace with the Gazans and Osrae; would have been happy to have them travel freely in and out as was the case during the years before Oslo when the area was controlled by Israel. Gazans TODAY have a higher standard of living than do Egyptians. Israel put the restrictions on Gaza for one reason and one reason only…because the terror groups attack Israelis on the border and fire missiles into Israel. Gazans freely elected the terrorist HAMAS regime whose charter (its constitution) calls for a war to the death with Israel (Brant’s choosing to accept propaganda lines by some of their spokesmen who blur this point in order to sound moderate to Westerners is meaningless, it is the official leadership who makes policy and what they tell their own people is operative, not propaganda directed at people like Gershon Baskin). This is why there is the conflict. It is their HAMAS regime that is the cause of Israel’s restrictions. Period.

      2. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

        Ike, I’m sorry but your facts are simply wrong. When Israel pulled out of Gaza, it still maintained strict control over 90% of its borders. And Isamil Haniyeh is not simply a “spokesman” for Hamas – he is in fact their Prime Minister (or in your words, an “official leader”).

      3. Matt

        Ron, Shirin,

        Are either of you Jewish? If not, I suggest you stay away from the debate as you have no skin in the game.

        I am Jewish. I do not agree with what Israel is doing. But I do believe in Israel. I am a Zionist, for better or worse.

        I think that the Palestinians are treated terribly. But I believe in Israel. And everything that you both–and to a lesser extent the Rabbi–have written indicate that fundamentally you do not believe in the Jewish state. As is such, your opinions hold no weight because again, Jewish or not, you have no skin in the game

        With that said let us clear up a few things: permanent refugee status. No where else in the world does this exist. If you are a refugee in the United States your son is not a refugee he is an American. The UN needs to do away with this designation. These people need to become citizens of Gaza and this will add legitimacy to their fledgling country and make it more difficult for Israel to continue to flaunt the Oslo accords (one of Ron’s few correct facts).

        Everywhere else in the world history is history, but not Israel. Like it of not imperialism happened. Happened over there, happened over here, happened in Africa etc. We accept that we took the land from the Native Americans in the US. We accept that we took Texas from the Mexicans. And most pragmatic people accept that it was wrong to do so; however, no one would accept the Indian reservations firing rockets into cities or the Mexicans bombing Texas. Nor should we. History has taken its course and for now America won those battles.

        Hopefully one day history will take its course in Israel and the world will accept our right to exist.

        As a pragmatist I can’t help but wish Hertzel had been successful in his attempt to build a Jewish colony in West Africa. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful and now we have Israel and as Jews, I believe we must support it.

        Lastly, and I just can’t help myself, but is Ron a cartoon character? Are there adventures of Ron? I bet they are funny!!!

        Your Welcome

      4. Shirin

        Are either of you Jewish? If not, I suggest you stay away from the debate…

        So this is a Jews-only conversation now, is it?

        I’ll say this for you: You’ve got chutzpah.

      5. Ron Edwards

        (The “reply” embedding is confusing me slightly; I hope this lands where it belongs, in response to Matt. And oh look, Ike’s back! with nothing worth responding to, though.)

        1. No, I am not Jewish. I support the Reconstructionist Synagogue and I feel great pride about its presence in our multi-ethnic, multi-religious community. I concede to you neither moral nor policy authority in the discussion.

        2. I have extensive skin in the Israel game because I am a U.S. citizen. My government runs interference for the State of Israel at the U.S. Security Countil via its veto; it provides $3.1 billion dollars (mine) in aid annually, in addition to additional bonuses and loans curiously free from payment schedules or interest; and its legislature and State Department are directly influenced by Israeli political representatives. In terms of money and political investment, I and my fellow U.S. citizens are more citizens of Israel than anyone living there, in what amounts to a massive, non-taxed, welfare-based 51st state. We – all U.S. citizens – have more than skin in this game, we have governing authority and ought to start using it better. See my comments to Ike above concerning what would happen if that authority were to alter its current indulgent, disgraceful policies.

        3. You confound the concept of “State of Israel” with “the Jewish state.” I doubt you will manage even to read the following points, but perhaps others can benefit from them.

        i) The former is an actual political entity, however recognized or un-recognized it may be, with member status at the U.N., for what that is or isn’t worth depending on who’s talking. Qualifications aside, the State of Israel exists and intimations to the contrary are nothing but talking-points.

        ii) However, the latter is a speechmaker’s confection. It has no status in any political document of any interest to anyone. It was never acknowledged, recognized, or confirmed in any way. It is is, in fact, not even defined. Its use would merely be a typical bit of nationalist bloviation along the lines of “America the land of the free,” except that it ties easily although falsely into Holocaust awareness, and except that it is used as a political club in Israel to justify marginalizing non-Jewish citizens (and in Gaza, starving, imprisoning, torturing, and bombing people who live in enforced subordination to that same state, in case you missed that part).

        The phrase “the Jewish state” has no power either to deny someone a voice in the discussion because he or she is not Jewish (me), or, to be as clear as possible, to include someone because he or she is (e.g., Pamela Geller and Daniel Pipes are unsupportably bigoted and vicious, so should be excluded from any discussion among serious people). I recommend Marc Ellis’ “Judaism Does Not Equal Israel” and Joel Kovel’s “Overcoming Zionism” to those who are still struggling with the propaganda impact of the phrase.

        4. I notice that you provide no justification that any of my points are counter-factual, only implying that they are in contrast with the accurate point that you did acknowledge. This is called defamatory rhetoric – making someone look bad in contrast to your magnanimous acknowledgment, yet failing actually to identify any wrongdoing or inaccuracy on their part. It doesn’t work on me, nor on anyone reading this, now that I’ve called it out.

        5. I am uncertain why my name is funny or should have anything to do with a TV show. You also appear to be mimicking my earlier posts, poorly; for example, you have misspelled “You’re welcome.”

      6. David H


        From a purely economic perspective, your comment is wrong and borders on the bizarre. By no reasonable measure can Gazans be said to enjoy a higher standard of living than Egyptians (who themselves are poor). According to the World Bank, for both the West Bank and Gaza combined, Gross National Income per capita (I cannot find reliable comparable GDP figures) when adjusted for purchasing power parity is roughly half that of Egypt. Whereas 99% of rural Egyptians have access to an ‘improved water source’, only 81% of those in the West Bank and Gaza do. Moreover, the West Bank/Gaza is one of the few places in the world where this figure is getting worse over time.

        Amnesty International and the UN report that 60% of Gaza’s population is ‘food insecure’, and estimates of poverty rates range from 40% to 60% (the lower coming from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and the higher being reported in Ynet). In contrast, the poverty rate in Egypt is just over 20%. All other metrics of ‘standard of living’ (e.g. schooling etc.) are higher in Egypt than in Gaza, with only life expectancy being close.

        Moreover, the situation in Gaza has actually deteriorated over time. According to the IMF, “In Gaza, real GDP per capita is still 35 percent below its 1994 level” and, “Gaza’s real GDP per capita has been on a downward trend since the blockade in 2006, with its recovery starting only in 2009”. In contrast, Egypt’s real GDP per capita (already higher than Gaza’s) has increased substantially during the period. As Amnesty International (like all other organisations dealing with Human Rights and International Law) makes clear, “it is Israel, as the occupying power, that bears the foremost responsibility for ensuring the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza”.

        Regarding freedom of movement, we need to be clear about two things: firstly, the primary responsibility for freedom of movement and information lies with Israel. Israel controls the majority of land borders and also has the ability to close the border with Egypt if it so wishes. Israel prevents air travel in and out of Gaza, Israel prevents sea travel in and out of Gaza, Israel controls the electromagnetic spectrum in Gaza. As such, Israel is (and is internationally recognised as) the occupying power with ultimate responsibility for the provision of welfare and freedom of movement. Egypt, having a border with Gaza bears secondary responsibility for freedom of movement and it too has only partially fulfilled its obligations in this respect. However, it is important to note that Egypt’s actions are immaterial insofar as Israeli obligations are concerned.


        Further Reading and information:
        The Penn World Tables give a variety of indicators (not for the West Bank and Gaza).
        Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
        Sara Roy’s work on de-development, particularly in the Gaza Strip
        Both the IMF and World Bank have specific information on the West Bank and Gaza. The IMF also gives regular economic updates.
        The UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch give a non-economic perspective.

  26. natan zeligson

    Dear Rabbi,
    Firstly, I wish to qualify my response by stating that the only views that ought to be given any weight, are the views of the peoples who continue to live in Israel and the territories. While I lived in Israel for 17years, I now (unfortunately) live in the Diaspora (due to family circumstances) and therefore have a limited perspective of the reality in the region. I believe you do as well, and so I would urge your readers to bear this in mind as they support or condemn your ‘outrage’.
    As regards this ‘rage’ you express, what took you so long? Where was your rage four years ago, or six years ago, or during the second intifiada, or the first? You state that “this is just the latest chapter of a much longer saga that began in 1947-48, when scores of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their cities and villages in the coastal plain and lower Galilee and warehoused in a tiny strip of land on the edge of the Mediterranean.” It seems that in fact the rage you feel is really in response to the source of it all, the ethnic cleansing of 1947-48. Indeed, the ‘saga’ you are outraged by, is the very essence of the Jewish state. In fact, in the interests of historical accuracy, your rage really ought to be connected by the very reality that began, not in 1948 as you erroneously claim, but as early as 1882 when the first Zionists settled in the region.
    You see, rabbi, the moment you reduce the Israel – Arab war of 1947-48 to ‘ethnic cleansing’ perpetrated by the Zionists against the Palestinians, you question the very purpose of the Jewish state.
    Your ‘outrage’ is to be expected from someone with an immature and ultimately superficial understanding of modern Jewish history. Your response is in essence, no different from typical responses I hear from sensitive but ignorant Jewish high school students struggling with similar questions. You are undoubtedly much more eloquent and sophisticated in articulating your discomfort, but like my students, your response boils down to an inability (or unwillingness) to distinguish between idealistic longings for a ‘better world’ and the real world in which we happen to live.
    I suspect my utopian vision of a Middle East with Jews and Palestinians living in peace side by side, in parallel states, both striving to achieve societies characterized by justice and righteousness, is very similar to your dream of Jewish – Palestinian relations. Where we differ is in how we cope with the harsh reality that is the world we live in (or more accurately, how we ‘cope’ with the world in which the Jews and Palestinians over there live). What you have done, is to allow your idealism to distort a mature appreciation of the real world. Yet if all you are guilty of is naivety, I would spend less effort in responding to your article. Unfortunately, what you are doing is far more damaging (to your own people) than perhaps you are willing to admit. Beneath the surface of your righteous indignation lurks an idea that went out of vogue for a while, but has returned camouflaged in the language of enlightened post-industrial liberalism. Like many before you, you are promoting and strengthening the idea that Jews, and only Jews, should be denied what all others are entitled to. For the uninitiated, (although not you, who I assume – I hope – have already figured out my accusation) this is anti-Semitism in its crudest formulation.
    Even more alarming than this though, is that you use your rabbinical authority and position to legitimize and disseminate this insidious idea, not to the uneducated, but to so many who themselves have influence. Sure, there are other anti-Zionist ‘rabbi’s’ (like Neturei Karta adherents or Rav Shach affiliates) spreading similar objections, but who take those religious extremist rabbis seriously anyway – certainly not your sophisticated and discerning audience. As a liberal rabbi, your appeal is especially attractive to people desperate for the voice of ‘reason’, for a voice qualified with a deep knowledge of the complexities of the conflict, for a voice that represents an imagined objectivity. Yours is that voice, and to many, it is like a stream of cold water on parched lips. If a liberal, representing the ultimate in authentic Jewish commitment, can question the very foundations of Zionism, then it must be reasonable for all those liberal Jews struggling to reconcile their deep family loyalties and tribal allegiances with their moral sensitivities, to question the very legitimacy of the state of Israel as a Jewish state.
    I feel it necessary therefore, to ask you (and your enthusiastic Jewish (and non Jewish) supporters) to think about the following: The question I would like you to answer please, is what you understand as to the purpose of Zionism? That you are passionately willing to promote the political rights of the Palestinian people (and almost every other oppressed nation I imagine) to determine their own destiny, is clear from your sentiments. Yet are you, rabbi, willing to fight for the same basic right for the Jewish people? Or is the very notion of Jewish power an anathema to your moral sensibilities. Are you comfortable with the prospect of a Jewish majority, or is this only tolerable when Jewish ‘govern’ themselves as a community when there are no real, soul retching moral dilemmas to deal with…you know, the moral dilemmas that only a nation in a position of real power is forced to confront.
    Anti-Semites are crystal clear when dealing with Jews whose power over non-Jews is deemed excessive. How many Jews were slaughtered during the Middle Ages for being in the unenviable position of having debts owed to them? And it continues in our age. When asked what she suggest Israeli Jews do to right the wrong (in her view) perpetrated by Zionism, white house correspondent Helen Thomas, until then regarded as a trusted and reasonable journalist, proceeded in a single utterance, to ruin an illustrious reputation that spanned almost half a century. Thomas revealed her deep-rooted anti-Semitic sentiments, when, in an apparently moment of uncensored honesty, proposed that the solution to the Middle East conflict is for Jews to simply ‘go back to Europe from whence they came’. This idea, although totally unexpected from so well known a journalist, is not in itself so foreign. It happens to be a staple of anti-Zionist rhetoric of those who regard the Zionist movement as nothing more than the extension of European colonialism in the Middle East, or a modern version of the Christian Crusades into Moslem lands.
    Is this however, a position you Rabbi, are willing to associate yourself with? Is this, Rabbi, indeed what Jews should have done in 1937, less than a year after Nazi Germany ‘celebrated’ its Jewish citizens by stripping them of citizenship and thereby legally preparing the road to Auschwitz? In 1937 Jews in Palestine accepted a British plan (the Peel Partition plan) to divide the country according to which the Palestinian Jews would receive less than a third of the land and the Palestinian Arabs would receive two thirds. Out of desperation, and convinced that time was running out for German Jewry, the Zionist leadership accepted the proposed division, so that they could rapidly set up a refuge for the Jews of the Europe Helen Thomas so highly recommended. Should they have refused the chance to offer such a refuge? Should the tens of thousands of Jews who had already settled in British mandated Palestine by the mid 1930 have packed up and returned to Europe? (Ironically, it was the Palestinian leadership who rejected the option of sharing the land, even though they would have received the lion’s share of the partitioned territory). What about a mere decade, (yet a light year in human history) later? Would you propose, like Helen Thomas, that rather than celebrate the 1947 UN recommendation for the country to be shared between two claimants (two peoples and one land), the tens of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors who fought tooth and nail to come to British mandated Palestine between 1945 and 1947, should have simply returned to the welcoming arms of their murderous European comrades?

    A celebrated, left wing Jewish Israeli author (I think it was Amos Oz) was once asked how, as a member of a religious/ethnic majority, he deals with repeated challenges for him to justify his national political existence. The author stated that he was prepared to be the second of the world’s nation states to voluntarily renounce their claim to national political sovereignty. Are you Rabbi, prepared to become the first? Why, as leader of a persecuted religious/ethnic minority for over a thousand years, are you so keen for Jews to become that vulnerable minority again? Is your connection to Jewish collective memory so tenuous that you have forgotten what it was like for Jews less than 80 years ago? Or is it your apparent national amnesia and blatant ignorance and/or denial of Palestinian intentions that has led you to imply a single democratic (but not Jewish) state as the most viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    And so, I will end my response – as I write from the safety of the region in which we both live, whose own history is replete with the slaughter of thousands by the hands of settlers from afar – with a midrash, a story:
    A survivor of a boat accident has been treading water in the ocean for several hours. He is slowly losing his strength. Suddenly he sees another man lying on a long plank, apparently from another wreckage. The man in the water (the ‘waterman’) miraculously manages to swim and reach the plank, grabs onto the edge, and slowly begins to pull his waterlogged and freezing body onto the plank. The man on the plank (the ‘plankman’) insists the waterman let go of the plank and slide back into the water. The waterman points out that the plank is large enough for both men to survive, but the plankman refuses, and begins to try pushing the waterman back into the water.
    So the question is, is waterman justified in saving his life if the only way he can do this is to force plankman to share the plank? Is plankman justified in refusing to allow waterman onto the plank…after all, it is not the fault of plankman that waterman’s boat sank.

    Dear Rabbi, I welcome your response.

    1. David

      Dear Nate,

      the policies of aggression don’t make peace; they endanger the future of all Jews. There are times when a people have to quit riling up their enemies and work responsibly for peace; regardless of how you want to interpret history, regardless of the heroic actions of Israel’s clandestine forces, the day i coming when real armaments will be available to the nation’s enemies. And then those of us who live in the Holy land will be in real mortal danger. And the kibbitzers will get the chance to say “it was inevitable.”
      The Rabbi here is doing a great job of leavening with morality the mindless support for Israeli militancy traditionally accorded by American Jews. Don’t confuse the issue with incongruous parables, okay? The situations aren’t the same.

    2. umrayya

      Nice attempt, Natan, to drown reality in a sea of words and fantasy.

      Those of us with a mature and deep understanding of the history and present-day reality surrounding the creation by European colonists, and maintenance by violent force of an ethnically-defined state – a serious anachornism in today’s world – have every right to have our views heard and considered.

      My advice to you would be more reality, fewer words.


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