Today brings words of two moving developments in the rising opposition to the war in Gaza among American and Israeli Jews. Michael Lerner’s Network of Spiritual Progressives took out full page ads in the N.Y. Times and Washington Post saying:
Cease Fire Now in Gaza
It’s Time to End the Violence in the Middle East–Once and for All
When you become president, please call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for an international peace conference to implement a fair and lasting solution to all aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The solution must also address the conflict between Israel and other states in the region. The international community must stop the violence and terror against Israeli civilians and against Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. The international community must also stop the hidden but persistent violence of the Occupation itself.
The strength of the statement was also its weakness. It focused almost exclusively on the big picture of resolving the entire conflict and almost ignored the immediate events of the Gaza war. As such it does little to stop the fighting and death occurring right now. But it does compel us to keep our eyes on the prize of long term and comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
The problem of course with a visionary statement like this is that it deliberately ignores the tremendous bitterness built up in Israel and especially in Gaza as a result of the Gaza massacre. And this is precisely the bitterness which pushes such visions of peace farther into the distance. It is hard to know whether peace has receded a month or a year or a decade as a result of Operation Solid Lead. But certainly Lerner’s statement will do little to lessen that and that is the insurmountable obstacle that we now face.
The other strength of Lerner’s statement is that it focuses profoundly on the moral and spiritual underpinning of opposition to Israel-Arab enmity. In Israel, unfortunately, there is almost no consideration given to such concepts. This has become a war of survival for Israelis, who often feel there is no room for ethincal considerations when life is at stake. Of course, it is precisely when life is at stake that morality becomes an even more critical component of our decision-making apparatus. Who needs morality when life is good and all is well?
The Israeli peace group, Courage to Refuse, held a demonstration encouraging IDF soldiers to refuse to serve in Gaza. This YouTube video is a series of interviews with several refusers (Seruvniks in Hebrew), who provide a moving counterpoint to the flag-waving and jingoism that characterizes much of Israeli society about this war.
This is an excerpt of Noam Livne comparing the courage it took him to serve in intense combat conditions versus the courage it took him to refuse to serve:
I was a combat officer for four years. I was in Gaza. I was in Lebanon. I commanded ambushes. I commanded outposts. I fought “terrorists.” I was under mortar attack. I was shot at and did all the scary things one does in the military. And I say with all my heart that to refuse demanded more courage.
I call on all soldiers, pilots, officers and all who participate in this war to seek that courage within.
Stirring words from the frontline of the battle for the hearts and minds of the Israeli public.