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November 16, 2012

Gaza-Israel Violence: The Fuller Story

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow

In this report to readers and members of The Shalom Center, I will be filling in that back story with reports from the Israeli and Palestinian press. Then I will include a brief and trenchant comment by Uri Avnery, veteran Israeli peace activist and former member of Knesset who has been committed to a two-state peace settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for four decades.

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Dear friends,

There is a back history to the present and worsening violence between Israel and Gaza that has not been covered at all in the US media, which began to cover events in Gaza only when the Israeli government assassinated the head of the "military wing" of Hamas. (He might also be described as the Minister of Defense of the government of Gaza.)

In this report to readers and members of The Shalom Center, I will be filling in that back story with reports from the Israeli and Palestinian press. Then I will include a brief and trenchant comment by Uri Avnery,  veteran Israeli peace activist and former member of Knesset who has been committed to a two-state peace settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for four decades. And finally, I will be including a brief letter of my own, written to American officials of the Jewish National Fund. The JNF had written American Jews (including me) with an appeal to carry out certain Jewish values, which in their reading required strong support of the Israeli strikes against Gaza. I wrote to explore what the full meaning of those Jewish values might be. 

In this report, to keep clear the distinction between my thoughts and the reports or comments of others, I am coloring my own comments blue and others maroon, and also using different type faces. (editors's note; on OpedNews, others comments are indented.)

1.  On November 11, three days before the assassination, I read and forwarded to a number of rabbis a report of the Israeli press sent out by Americans for Peace Now (which has begun doing this daily). In each day's review, first there is a list of major articles in the major daily newspapers from Haaretz (moderately liberal) to Yisrael Hayom (fiercely right-wing; owned by Adelson).  Each item has a URL for direct access. Then there is a news summary commenting on the coverage of major events..  To order the free daily review, click to:  http://peacenow.org/nosh.html

The report for Nov 10 included the following comment:

The Israeli headlines read: Four IDF soldiers injured by an anti-tank missile. The Maan News Agency [a Palestinian news agency] headline was that four civilians were killed and 25 were injured when Israeli tank shells hit a funeral tent. Following the killing of four Palestinian civilians, more rockets were launched over the fence into Israel.

Reading the Israeli papers about the escalation between Gaza and Israel, one would never think that the Palestinians may be responding to Israeli killings as well as incursions into their territory. Maariv illustrates the escalation by listing four events between October 23 and November 8th in which Palestinian road mines and rockets injured Israeli soldiers. There is not a word about the killings of two civilians last week, one a 13-year-old boy, who was killed when IDF moved forces into Gaza sparking a firefight with local militants.

But, then again, on review of today's reports and those from last week,there is almost no mention that Israeli forces ever entered Gaza.In fact, it is usually not reported, except on Maan. It is not clear to this writer, who reviews the news daily, when the IDF started making such regular incursions into the Gaza Strip. Usually the Israeli papers [evasively or unprofessionally? -OH] write " The soldiers were operating near the security fence ...," when, in fact, they were operating from the Gazan side. Yedioth mentioned in today's story that the IDF jeep that was hit was indeed inside Gaza and showed it in an illustration. But there was no questioning of the issue.

Maariv made no mention of where the soldiers were when they were attacked and Israel Hayom's Hebrew edition actually wrongly wrote that they were "some 150 meters inside Israel."  The English edition just writes that they were "patrolling the border."  It also reported that Hamas took responsibility for the fire, but did not say why.

They all write that the recent round of violence began when Palestinians fired on the soldiers' jeepon Saturday. Only Haaretz quoted Hamas' military wing saying the attack on the jeep was  in retaliation for the death on Thursday of a Palestinian child by IDF fire.

It was Maan that reported that the  killing of 13-year-old Hamid Younis Abu Daqqa happened when four Israeli military vehicles briefly penetrated the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday morning, leading to clashes with Palestinian militants. "Abu Daqqa was killed on Thursday after Israeli forces targeted houses and farms east of Khan Younis, according to Ashraf al-Qidra, a medical spokesman in Gaza," Maan wrote. 

IDF forces also entered Gaza on Wednesday, Maan reported, noting that 'an army spokeswoman said  the vehicles were conducting "routine activity" and she was not aware of the incident of tank fire. A Palestinian man was moderately injured by tank fire in central Gaza on Wednesday, a medical official said.'

There has been no examination or discussion in the Israeli media of this "routine activity."

2.  Next I want to present a timeline of the violence from the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), an independent non-profit organization that provides journalists with quick access to information about Palestine and the Palestinians, as well as expert sources, both in the United States and in the Middle East.

IMEU Timeline:

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8

Following a two-week lull in violence, Israeli soldiers invade Gaza. In the resulting exchange of gunfire with Palestinian fighters, a 12-year-old boy is killed by an Israeli bullet while he plays soccer.

Shortly afterwards, Palestinian fighters blow up a tunnel along the Gaza-Israel frontier, injuring one Israeli soldier.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10

An anti-tank missile fired by Palestinian fighters wounds four Israeli soldiers driving in a jeep along the Israel-Gaza boundary.

An Israeli artillery shell lands in a soccer field in Gaza killing two children, aged 16 and 17. Later, an Israeli tank fires a shell at a tent where mourners are gathered for a funeral, killing two more civilians, and wounding more than two dozen others.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11

One Palestinian civilian is killed and dozens more wounded in Israeli attacks. Four Israeli civilians are also injured as a result of projectiles launched from Gaza, according to the Israeli government.

During an Israeli government cabinet meeting, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz urgesthe government to "cut off the head of the snake... take out the leadership of Hamas in Gaza." He also calls for a cutting off of water, food, electricity, and fuel shipments to Gaza's 1.7 million people.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12

Palestinian militant factions agree to a truce if Israel ends its attacks.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14

Israel breaks two days of calm by assassinating Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas' military wing. According to reports, at least eight other Palestinians are killed in Israeli attacks, including at least two children. Palestinian militant groups vow to respond.

3.  Comment by Uri Avnery:

Netanyahu and Barak have decided to deliberately violate a cease-fire which had just been stabilized.

At the price of great and ongoing suffering on both sides of the border, the government's aim  had been accomplished: social issues will be removed from the public agenda and the election campaign

"Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak have decided -- for the second time in a row the State of Israel will conduct general elections under the shadow of war in the Gaza Strip. The cease-fire which already started to stabilize has been broken deliberately and shattered to pieces. The inhabitants of the communities of southern Israel, who just started to breathe freely, are sent right back to air raid alarms and to running to shelters" said  former Knesset Member Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom.

"At the price of great suffering on both sides of the border, the government's aim has been accomplished: the social issues, which threatened to assume prominence in these elections, have been pushed aside and removed from the agenda  of the elections campaign. Forgotten, too, is the brave attempt of Mahmoud Abbas to address the Israeli public opinion. In the coming weeks, the headlines will be filled with constant war and death, destruction and bloodshed. When it ends at last, it will be revealed that no goal has been achieved and that the problems remain the same, or perhaps exacerbated. "

Published on  Nov 15, 2012  by RussiaToday

The operation "Pillar of Defense" has been launched by the Israel military on Wednesday. Many of the buildings in downtown Gaza City are in ruins or badly damaged after being attacked by Israeli warplanes. The IDF says all options are on the table in Gaza, including a ground operation. Israeli warships have struck "terror sites" in the Gaza Strip, the military forces confirmed. 

4. Finally, my own questions to the Jewish National Fund officials suggest my own understanding of how Jewish values might be applied to this violence:

Dear  xxxxm xxxx,

I understand from JNF that you are available to answer questions about its message on the increased violence between the Government and People of Israel and the Government and People of Gaza. I do have questions:

1.   Why did the JNF headline rockets against Israel without mentioning that in the previous week there had been armed attacks by IDF units (presumably under orders from above) that included the killing of several Palestinians in Gaza and military incursions into Gaza, BEFORE the Gazan rocket attacks on Israel?

2. The JNF cited Pekuach nefesh ["Save life," the Prime Directive of Jewish law] Is this restricted to "Protect Jewish lives" or does it encompass "Protect Palestinian lives" (including 11-month-old babies)?

3. The JNF cites "All Jews are responsible for each other." In my view, this means I would be responsible to protect a Jewish life if a Palestinian head of government were to order the lynching, without trial, of the Israeli Minister of Defense.   Does this also mean that I am responsible if an Israeli Prime Minister orders the lynching, without trial, of a Palestinian official? In each case, responsible how? To prevent the killing? To punish it? To weep before God?

4. The JNF cited "Do not stand idly by when a life is in danger." In my view, this certainly applies when three members of a family in Southern Israel are killed by a rocket aimed by some group of Palestinians.  Does this also apply when a Palestinian life is in danger? An 11-month-old baby, for example? What does "not standing idly by" mean in the first case? In the second?

JNF said that "At this time it is important to teach our children essential Jewish values." I agree. I would appreciate your help in clarifying what these "essential Jewish values" are.

I am glad that JNF made it possible for me to ask these questions to real live human beings, not a corporate institution. I look forward with great interest to your answers.


photo from Russia Today video above



Submitters Website: http://www.shalomctr.org/

Submitters Bio:

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph. D., founded (in 1983) and directs The Shalom Center , a prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life that brings Jewish and other spiritual thought and practice to bear on seeking peace, pursuing justice, healing the earth, and celebrating community. He edits and writes for its weekly on-line Shalom Report. In 1996, Waskow was named by the United Nations a “Wisdom Keeper” among forty religious and intellectual leaders who met in connection with the Habitat II conference in Istanbul. In 2001, he was presented with the Abraham Joshua Heschel Award by the Jewish Peace Fellowship. In 2005, he was named by the Forward, the leading Jewish weekly in America, one of the "Forward Fifty" as a leader of the Jewish community. In 2007, he was named by Newsweek one of the fifty moist influential American rabbis, and was presented with awards and honors by groups as diverse as the Neighborhood Interfaith Movement of Philadelphia and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation.

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