Gaza conflict 2014 – the Shorts

 

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You may have noticed that we have been trying to post conversation-provoking statuses on our facebook page. Here are some of them in one document for your use. Feel free to post them on your own facebook pages, or to use them as short opening conversations at team or committee meetings.

Click here to download a printable version.

Three thoughts on proportionality

July 28, 2014 by

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Disproportionate attention

There is the feeling that the media and public response to the Gaza war is disproportionate to their response to every other conflict in the world. As thousands are slaughtered in Syria, all rage is directed to Gaza.

Part of me is surprised at the surprise. There is an antisemitism at the heart of Europe. There is an antisemitism at the heart of the Islamic world. Big whup. These facts don’t dispel for me the deep agony I feel when a defender of Israel wishes us to be compared to a murderous dictator such as Assad. Even if the comparison is relatively favourable. That is not the kind of company we should be keeping.

It must not be a rhetorical question

This video of Israeli philosopher and consultant to the IDF Moshe Halbertal lays out all the key questions. Halbertal points out that “proportionality” is not about the death of combatants. It is about the death of civilians. As he puts it from 17:10 onwards: “Is the expected collateral killing proportional to the military advantage to be gained?”

So it’s a really good question. It accepts that civilians might die in urban warfare. And it asks how many civilians is it “worth” killing in order to win the military advantage? It is the correct moral and philosophical question to be asked.

Halbertal’s question must not be solely rhetorical. I believe we Israelis have been remiss at going ahead and trying to find an answer. 

Are we really okay with the rationale: “We fired on the hospital/school because they fired at us from there: It is their fault that we fired back.”? Well it certainly paints Hamas black, but it doesn’t answer Halbertal’s question.

What military advantage did we gain by firing back? Was that advantage worth the risk that we might slaughter some kids along the way?

It seems we are too easily appeased by Hamas’ guilt to assess our own. It tortures me.

Desired disproportionality

If we want Palestinians to appreciate that violence against us does not pay, I believe we must also work behaviouristically to show that non-violence does pay.

If we are, as I am beginning to fear, responding disproportionately to Hamas violence, I believe we should be equally disproportionate in resopnding to all Palestinian non-violence. Any Palestinian who denounces violence, even in a mealy-mouthed way, should be ridiculously disproportionately rewarded. Abu Mazen, and his former Prime Minister and non-violent State-builder, Salam Fayyad, should have been treated as kings by our government. Every bona fide business established by the PA should receive outrageously generous subsidies from the Israeli government. Sweets should be thrown at every Palestinian kid who smiles at an Israeli.

At the same time I think we should be disproportionately generous to our amazingly non-violent Palestinian Israeli citizens. Forget trying to bring the education budget for Arab schools up to parity – it should be twice the size as the budget for Jewish schools. Don’t fight for Arab Israelis to have the same house-buying subsidies as Jews – fight for them to have even bigger subsidies.

If we are okay with severely punishing Palestinians for the violence of their leaders, we should also be willing to seriously reward them for the opposite.

Radi Detey (“ради детей”) – for the sake of the children

July 22, 2014 by

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Meir Pichhadze (August 16, 1955 in Kutaisi, Georgia - February 4, 2010 in Tel Aviv, Israel)

Radi Detey – that’s the answer you’d get, if you asked a Russian immigrant “Why did you emigrate to Israel?” That first generation of Soviet immigrants that left its country, homeland, and home of its fathers, and moved to Israel (generally with family, grandmother, piano and dog. Actually with me it was a piano and a violin, two grandmothers and a grandfather), did so out of Zionist considerations but mainly “Radi Detey”. For the sake of the children. For the possibility that they might have a future, education, a good life. Life.

For exactly the same reasons there were those who emigrated to Germany, South Africa, Australia, and of course to North America. My father, who ever since he was a student had been a wildly passionate Zionist, left a high-ranking post in the defence industry in order to receive an exit visa from the USSR. For several years he was forced to make do with a job running the National Ballet and Opera theater, God forbid.

For him making Aliya was an old dream and a new adventure. A familiar stance.

My mother, who to this day has always shied away from politics, and is a firm believer that man is born good, was driven by her terrible anxiety for her two children, my sister and me, after Chernobyl.

Emigration in the face of mortal danger is also no great innovation in the history of the Jews.

Our grandparents came with us, because separation was inconceivable.

After my first visit to the USA at age 16, in a somewhat hesitant voice my father asked if I regretted that we had come to Israel of all places (after all I had seen in the US)? I said no. And I meant it. This is my place. This is my home. This is my language. In the deepest sense of the word.

24 years have passed since our Aliyah.

We are no longer counting the wars, the sirens, and the campaigns in Gaza.

But today I am a father. Father to Danielle. A wonderful baby-girl, nearly 3,the joy of my life. Yet this morning began with our big hug, only this time – to the tune of sirens and Iron Dome explosions.

It is her first war; her second week of Operation Protective Edge sirens and explosions.

And this is the first time I find myself asking myself, what should I be doing Radi Detey?

What should I be doing for the sake of my children?

What should I be doing to ensure my daughter has a sane future, education, a good life. Life?

The place of fear, faith, and love in times of war

July 18, 2014 by

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This beautiful and thoughtful piece was written in 2006, during the 2nd Lebanon War. Once again our Israeli Government has decided to put troops on the ground, this time in Gaza once more. Sara Eisen’s words still ring true and current.

 

A society with a healthy dose of fear gives me faith. And a home.

A well-known editor of a widely read Jewish American weekly wrote recently of his deep fear that Israel, with its many hostile and tacit enemies, may be (God forbid, he added) on its way out. The truth is that there is no way to make someone feel better about a qualm like that. It is a logical fear – – although logic, for better and worse, has never been the stuff of Jewish, and especially not Israeli, survival.

The other truth is that scary columns are useful, even when they contain no real operative suggestions, because anxiety often – or hopefully – prompts communal discourse, action, and change. My (quasi-logical) response to him, in Jewish fashion, is a problem, and a Talmudic reinterpretation of Churchill:

Prove: Fear is fine (just not by itself.)

Theorem #1:
Wives and mothers of conscripted Israeli soldiers, and not only the citizens of Gaza and Lebanon, are the people most afraid of Israeli soldiers showing up at their doorsteps.

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Save a Child’s Heart

 

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Click here for downloadable pdf

Children with Sick Hearts Abroad, Resources They Need in Israel

  Right this moment, thousands of infants and children across the world are suffering from heart disease. Some of these children have access to the treatment that can help them. Unfortunately, many children do not. Many of these children suffer from congenital heart disease, which is responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects.

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3) This was my home – Zeh haya beyti – זה היה ביתי

 

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A song exploring concepts of “home”, and the emotional impact of the Gaza disengagement.

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Not every tragedy has a hero

October 19, 2011 by

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(Originally published in Ten Minutes of Torah and Galilee Diary)

Redemption of captives comes before other forms of tzedakah… and one who ignores the plight of the captive violates the commandment, “Do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow.” [Leviticus 19:16]. But we must not redeem the captive for an exorbitant price, in order not to distort the system and encourage our enemies to pursue us to capture us (to hold for ransom)…

-Maimonides (Rambam), Mishneh Torah, Laws of Gifts to the Poor 8:10-12

The quiet little rural community of Hila, about 30 minutes northwest of Shorashim, has become over the past five years, and especially over the past 24 hours, a focus of the entire nation’s attention. Five years ago a kid from Hila doing his army service on the Gaza border, Gilad Shalit, was captured by Hamas forces and secreted somewhere in Gaza. For five years the entire country has been absorbed in the personal drama of the Shalit family and the fate of Gilad. Today he was released in exchange for around 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, including a number who were involved in major terror attacks.

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Delegitimation and Dissent – Prof. Michael Walzer

September 20, 2011 by

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Delivered by Professor Michael Walzer at the Global Jewish Forum – a Makōm seminar for the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Jerusalem, June 2011/Sivan 5771

Michael Walzer is Professor Emeritus at the School of Social Science of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, the editor of Dissent magazine, author and editor of more than twenty books, including Just and Unjust Wars, The Company of Critics and the Jewish Political Tradition.

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Roger Waters and BDS

March 16, 2011 by

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Dear Mr. Waters,

I was deeply disappointed to learn that you have decided to build a wall between yourself and your Israeli fans. We love you here in Israel. Surely, you must know that from the warm reception you received when you performed here five years ago at the Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom.

What you may not realize is that most Israelis believe in a two-state solution. But this vision is not as easy to turn into a reality as you may think. Instead of recognizing the situation’s complexity, you have joined the campaign to boycott Israel, appointing yourself as a judge in a conflict between Middle Eastern tribes. (How British of you!)

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Criticism in Context

February 13, 2011 by

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At Sinai, the Torah was handed down with its moral code, system of social justice and protections for minorities, and expressing the value of peace. A people was forged into a nation with the promise of a land. Israel was the heart of Jewish identity when the Children of Israel stood at Sinai.

It was at the heart of Jewish identity at the First Zionist Conference and remains at the heart of Jewish identity today. That is why I tolerate no denials of Israel as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people. I attack the suggestion that Zionism is racist or that a Jewish state merits that malicious canard.

I advocate for Israel publicly and privately without fear. It is “my state” and advocacy is just one of the many ways in which I contribute to its well-being.

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