Finally, a liberal American Jewish group has gotten it right. Till now, most have rather timidly called for a new ceasefire and resumption of “humanitarian aid” to Gaza. This, of course, is precisely the ceasefire proposal Israel offered Hamas, and which the latter refused because it did not include a lifting of the 18-month Gaza siege, which has imposed a punishing, bleak existence on the area’s 1.5 million inhabitants. In my opinion, it doesn’t take much courage for a liberal group to advocate a position embraced by Israel before it launched its assault against Gaza. It takes courage to see this situation as it is and declare that Israel (and Hamas) needs to live up to its share of the bargain.
This is precisely what Meretz USA** has done in its current statement opposing the Gaza debacle:
Meretz USA calls for the immediate and absolute cessation of violence between Israel and the Hamas.
Understanding that only such a result can forestall a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, preserve Israel’s security, and maintain space for diplomatic progress, Meretz USA urges all parties concerned to engineer an urgent and complete cease-fire that will be accompanied and reinforced by the following elements:
1. Sustained diplomatic talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.
Such talks should be aimed, in the short term, at easing conditions in the West Bank and Gaza in order to reduce tension and strengthen Palestinian moderates; and, in the long term, at the achievement of an equitable two-state solution which hardliners on both sides – Hamas being one of them – continue to oppose.
2. The verifiable termination of weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
The cease-fire should not serve as a respite during which the Hamas expands and improves its armaments and military capability.
3. The lifting of the economic blockade on Gaza.
The consistent provision of humanitarian aid must be guaranteed and the security situation must not be exploited by Israel to collectively punish the Palestinian people through the smothering of their economy.
For the sake of comparison, here is a statement from Brit Tzedek:
Tell President-elect Obama that his strong voice is needed now. He must call for an immediate ceasefire that ends the attacks by all sides and facilitates the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
I am in favor of any statement by any group that voices opposition to the Gaza conflict and I’m certainly in favor of calling for Obama to get up off his tush and speak out on this madness. But why can’t liberal Jewish groups call a spade a spade? Gaza needs more than “humanitarian aid.” It needs a lifting of the siege. Completely.
When I reported my criticism to a Brit Tzedek staff member, I was told I wasn’t being a supportive ally. Solidarity is a good thing no doubt. But it’s imperative in the face of moral madness that we speak out forthrightly. That we not pull punches for the sake of how some in the Jewish community might perceive what we say. We have to speak truth in this time of depravity. To do any less is doing a disservice not only the Gaza victims, but to our own sense of Jewishness and Zionism.
Remember, it was Israel which refused to lift the siege, though that was part of the earlier ceasefire to which it agreed. It was Israel by the way, which launched a massive assault on Gaza tunnels on November 5th which killed five Hamas operatives. It was Israel which broke the last ceasefire. This act was answered by Hamas rockets fired at southern Israel. When Livni and Barak talk about how intolerable the rockets are they forget that it was they who brought the rockets down on their own citizens head by breaking the ceasefire.
I say these things not to place all blame on Israel because there is always blame to go around in these situations and Hamas is not blameless. Terrorizing and killing civilians is never blameless no matter who is the perpetrator. But we must not fall prey to the political-historical amnesia in pro-Israel propaganda voiced by apologists like Benny Morris in today’s N.Y. Times.
**It should be noted that Meretz USA is entirely independent of Israel’s Meretz political party, which by the way has temporized its opposition to the Gaza assault.