Rabbi Michael Lerner
According to Ha’aretz correspondent Amira Hass, the IDF has been conducting mass arrests in the West Bank, between 10 and 30 every day. Twenty-four of the arrested are members of the Palestinian parliament from Hamas’ Change and Reform party. The number of those arrested since the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens has already exceeded 1,000. The Palestinians are convinced that most of those detained have nothing to do with the kidnapping and that these are mainly political arrests for purposes of intimidation and revenge.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Tens of thousands of young Palestinian men have experienced arrest, torture, loss of employment, and have been unable to protect their parents, partners and friends from arbitrary and repressive treatment from IDF Occupation forces. The surprising thing is that despite this inhumane and emasculating treatment, few Palestinians have engaged in acts of violence or desperation.
I’ve argued that acts of desperation can be self-destructive. Many Palestinians will suffer for the acts of the few Palestinian Hamas extremists. But since Hamas activists have come to believe that even if they do nothing they will still be targeted, some are saying that acting out violently against the Occupation is the only thing that can restore their dignity since nothing will restore their land. I think that this is a mistake for Gaza and the West Bank. Sometimes I think that Hamas doesn’t really even care for its own citizens in Gaza — they care more about showing that non-violence will never work to challenge Israel’s occupation, and they are willing to let the people of Gaza pay the price, namely the invasion of Gaza by the Israeli army with the inevitable consequence of many more than the 220 Palestinians already killed in the past two weeks.
And yet, it is hard to deny that the Israeli Occupation is so repressive and dishonoring of Palestinians that some young men have taken to violence, while others see those acts as the only thing that can momentarily give people a relief from the emotional depression of years under Occupation generates. Yet the violence against Israeli civilian targets has pushed the politics of Israel even further to the Right.
For those of us like myself who care about the well-being of all people on the planet, not only my own Jewish people, but all peoples, the high toll of Palestinian civilians is horrifying — more than 1,000 civilians already wounded according to Palestinian sources, and 250 Palestinian civilians and two Israelis dead. This will likely lead to more Hamas terrorists.
But not only is the war stupid from the standpoint of Jewish self-interest, it is also immoral in the extreme. None of this would have happened if Israel had been serious about negotiating an end to the Occupation. But as Prime Minister Netanyahu made clear in his press conference last week, he never intends to give the Palestinian people an independent state of their own.