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Is it a social justice and health issue in Gaza yet? Can we agree to disagree?

By       Message Ruth Wangerin       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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Can we agree to disagree about Israel and still do something about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza?

First, let's get rid of the obfuscation.  The US and the UN Security Council call for restraint and an end to violence "on both sides."  Yes, Gaza is shooting (pathetic) rockets into Israel.  But is that a band of powerful, scary, irrational "terrorists" on the verge of annihilating the Jewish people?  Or is that more like a slapped kid sticking out his tongue?

Not all "violence" is created equal.  One Israeli has died since the expiration of the ceasefire, and over 280 Palestinians.  The people in Gaza have lost their police and security services as well as many of the supply tunnels used to smuggle essential supplies from Egypt during the siege.  All that Israel has lost is a few more popularity points.

Forget those who take satisfaction in the disporportionate body count in favor of the strong against the weak.  Forget those who have investments in Israel.  My comments here are addressed to the "humanitarians" among us. For American advocates of social justice and health, the Israeli siege of Gaza and now the aerial attacks create an ethical dilemma.  Why?  Because our country has been siding with Israel financially and morally and politically--and we can't even talk to each other about it! 

Can we agree to disagree about the ultimate conflict and still talk about how to stop the killing?

Those among us who claim to care about social justice can't just ignore the situation.  Nor can we continue to let Israeli policy and the difficult statements of Israel's neighbors/rivals in the region rip our own social justice movement apart. Concern about what's good for Israel have even complicated the views of American peace activists on the US invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, and potentially Iran.

In the West Bank, in the UK, and even in New York City, there are demonstrations condemning what's being called an Israeli "massacre" in Gaza.  Words like "apartheid" are being thrown around.  But here in the country whose tax dollars pay for the aerial bombardments and buy the bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes, in the country whose veto in the Security Council protects Israel from international sanctions, most of us are sitting on our hands.  Our increasingly bloody hands.

My suggestion is that we agree to disagree on what seems to be the underlying bone of contention--the "Jewish state"--and move on.

How?  We need to acknowledge and respect that people have different ideas.  Some people perceive an everlasting "Jewish state" as a life or death issue.  Others perceive a "Jewish state" as a call for an exception, if not a violation, of the general international consensus in favor of secular democracy.  Advocates of the two views sometimes destructively, and inaccurately, accuse each other of "racism" on the one hand, or "antisemitism" on the other.  This must stop. 

My suggestion is that we figure this "Jewish state" issue out later, after dealing with the humanitarian crisis of the Palestinians, most notably in Gaza, in the same way we would discuss a humanitarian crisis anywhere else in the world.  Lots of international, European, and Israeli rights groups are doing just that.

Here in the US, we're stuck on the "Jewish state" issue.  Many people have assumed that a "Jewish state" requires a Jewish majority on a defensible piece of territory, and that that is why the Israeli government does what it does.  So, for example, sometimes they "have to" violate the human rights and territorial claims of others and even meddle in US foreign policy.  Given that perception, it's not hard to understand why there's been a silence on the siege of Gaza, for example--even among Americans who condemn violations of human rights by our own country.  The United States, no matter what happens or who criticizes its actions, will probably continue to exist more or less as currently constituted, that is, as a multi-ethnic, secular democracy of sorts.  But no one can be confident that Israel will remain a Jewish state decades after regional peace conferences, fair agreements, handshakes, cultural exchanges, redrawing of borders, and return of refugees.

If I'm right that the sticking point is the issue of the "Jewish state," then that helps explain why the police forces and elected governments of the Gaza strip and of Iran have been portrayed as "legitimate" targets.  It's obvious--Hamas does not prefer the notion of a Jewish state, given that Israel can't afford to allow the right of return to large numbers of non-Jewish Palestinians if it wants to remain Jewish.  And Iran's government, in addition to aiding Hamas and Hezbollah, has publicly called for a referendum among all the residents of the area comprising Israel and the Palestinian territories, a referendum in which millions of people might vote against the notion of a Jewish state.  So the Hamas and Iranian leadership have been demonized because of their political opinions -- not because of fictional threats to commit genocide against Israelis or Jews.  The result of the demonization has been that public opinion, which normally would oppose aerial attacks that kill and wound human beings, is ready to make an exception for the people in Gaza and Iran.
Articles about the health implications of the current conflict in Gaza  include:
Protests in London. 
Israeli jets target Gaza tunnels. 
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Ruth Wangerin is a long-time peace activist who is very distressed that the anti-war movement has still not succeeded. The ideas expressed in her postings on OpEdNews and elsewhere are hers alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the (more...)

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