First, a brief excerpt of a message from the field:
…I was in Israel during the events that led up to the current war and experienced the first rockets shot from Gaza towards the Tel Aviv area. I celebrated at a wedding at which attendees found themselves taking cover together, as well as later seeking shelter while driving and then during a meeting at a café. I had the opportunity to be briefed by political leaders and analysts as the military operation was launched. This emphasized for me the basic truth that Ameinu focuses on the unfolding story based on our deep roots in Israel and our families, friends and colleagues who are there now. This is not a political exercise for us, but one of our people under siege…
-Kenneth Bob, Ameinu National President
All of us at Ameinu – leadership, staff, members and activists – are united as we stand with Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces as it acts to defend the people of Israel from the thousands of rockets and mortars delivered by Hamas and the terror tunnels designed to facilitate their killing of Israelis. We mourn the loss of over 50 brave IDF soldiers and are deeply relieved that the Iron Dome Missile Defense System has greatly limited civilian casualties on the Israeli side of the border.
While we are in full solidarity with our people and families in Israel, we look at this conflict as one with many nuances and grey areas that demand our attention and insist that we honestly struggle with these challenges. We see this type of soul searching and questioning, not as a betrayal as suggested by some on the right, but as being true to our essential identity as Jews, as Zionists and as human beings.
- There has been a troubling trend by many supporters of Israel to downplay the suffering and the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. We must preserve our human response to the humanitarian disaster underway in Gaza and mourn loss of innocent life, regardless of their religion or ethnic heritage. All sides must focus on avoiding civilian casualties, something completely lacking in Hamas’ intentional targeting of Israeli civilians and their cynical deployment within neighborhoods and civilian facilities. Supporters of Israel should not shy away from engaging with these types of moral dilemmas and from questioning whether the force being used is absolutely necessary to achieve military and/or diplomatic goals.
- Israel’s defenses appear to be unequally provided to different communities across the country. We are particularly concerned about lack of shelters and other forms of protection for Bedouin communities in the Negev. Our commitment to promoting equality and a vision of a shared society for Arabs and Jews in Israel leads us to demand that, particularly during wartime, fairness and equal justice be front and center for all citizens of the state.
- While existing before the latest conflict in Gaza, the rising anti-Arab incitement and violence in Israel is deeply troubling. The refrain of “Death to Arabs” during political rallies and incitement by Jewish political and religious “leaders,” the revenge killing of Palestinian teen Mohammad abu Khedir, the expansion of “Price Tag” attacks on Palestinians and their property and the general polarizing and coarsening of discourse in and about Israel and its Arab citizens, which remains a very dangerous trend for Israeli democracy.
- The malicious and patently false charge that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza is also a very dangerous trend. All must be concerned about the heightened anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence seen at demonstrations across Europe and America, which counters the common claim that anti-Israel political speech and action is legitimate and is no danger to local Jews. In these cases, anti-Zionism and critiques of Israel are easily morphing easily into pure anti-Semitism and grave threats.
While horror and moral complexity of the fighting are evident, we still are encouraged by a number of civil society responses to the conflict. Examples include the Jewish-Arab collaborative events of Givat Haviva and the Bereaved Family Forum use of social media to connect Jews, Arabs and others through their commitment to coexistence and empathy, direct services for victims and the vulnerable provided by Ameinu’s strategic partners including Habonim Dror, Dror Israel and AJEEC-NISPED. Details of these efforts were reported in our most recent E-newsletter. Other notable examples include the Israeli field hospital at the Erez Crossing for injured Gazans and heart surgery provided to a Palestinian child by Save a Child’s Heart at the Wolfson Medical Center. All of these cases, and many more, not only demonstrate a continuing commitment to peace, reconciliation, democracy and justice by Ameinu and our Israeli colleagues, but offer a hopeful basis for building the future of Israel and Palestine after this conflict is over.
And how would we get to this clearly desired point? Ameinu is heartened by the important, if brief, humanitarian ceasefires and encourages all parties to seek a long term ceasefire along the lines of those being proposed by former Defense Minister MK Shaul Mofaz, former Chief of Israeli Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin and others. These include the demilitarization of Hamas in Gaza, reinforcement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the central leader of the Palestinian people, rebuilding the economy and infrastructure of Gaza and ending the blockade of Gaza to facilitate trade and freedom of movement. We are watching this process unfold and are looking for constructive ways to support this approach.
Finally, looking beyond the current tragic conflict, we have known all along that military solutions cannot address the real needs of either Israel or the Palestinians. Security, prosperity and global acceptance for Israel can only come from negotiating a two state solution with the Palestinians. And Palestinian self-determination, justice and an end to the Israeli occupation can also only come from a negotiated settlement. While we were dismayed that the recent negotiations process under the leadership of Secretary Kerry failed, and believe there should be consequences for political leaders who chose to support rejectionist elements instead of peace, after the Gaza conflict there will once again be a chance to restart this essential work for Israel and the Palestinians. A ray of hope is the renewed attention being paid to the Arab Peace Initiative. Just a few weeks ago, Saudi Prince Turki al Faisal wrote to the Israeli people making it clear that his government and the Arab League were ready to work with Israel and Palestinian President Abbas to build a process on this initiative. And so, if Israel and the Palestinian Authority seek to make big moves, with the support of the international community, there is a chance that a fundamental change in the lives of Israelis and Palestinians could be achieved in the wake of the suffering and destruction of the war in Gaza.