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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/11/10

Why Are Jews Organizing a Memorial for Muslims Killed in Israel's Attack On the Gaza Flotilla

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Rabbi Michael Lerner
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You probably heard or read that we at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives, as part of our strategy conference for both secular and religious progressives this weekend in Washington D.C. (http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/conference">info here) will be holding a memorial service for those killed on the Gaza Aid Flotilla last week, as well as prayers for healing of those who have been wounded (including Israeli soldiers who, for no fault of their own, were sent on this "fool's mission" by the arrogant and militarist leaders Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak), as well as prayers for the release of Gilad Shalit by Hamas, and release of thousands of prisoners now held by Israel,many of them never even charged with a crime, and most never given a jury trial.

Though convened by Tikkun, the Memorial service and led by Rabbi Arthur Waskow and me (Rabbi Michael Lerner), the Memorial will also have Christian prayers presented by Rev. James Winkler (chair of the Board of Church and Society of the United Methodists of America) and Rev. Ama Zenya of the United Church of Christ, and by Sayyid Syeed of the politically moderate Islamic Society of North America, And it will take place in Lafayette Park across from the White House as part of our larger rally from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. supporting Obama to BE The OBAMA MOST AMERICANS THOUGHT WE ELECTED in 2008.

Let me explain my motivaton. I am totally opposed to Hamas and support the non-violent overthrow of their regime in Gaza, not by Israelis bombing or starving the people of Gaza, but by the Palestinian people themselves. I similrly oppose the blockade of Iran and Cuba, and would oppose a blockade of the US should China or other countries at some future date think that the best way to overthrow the American Empire.

I am opposed to the Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade on Gaza, in part for humanitarian reasons, in part because as someone deeply committed to Israel's security, I believe Israel will be far safer when it has worked out a just solution for the Palestinian people than it is now. That will take a whole transformation of consciousness on BOTH SIDES, and as the more powerful military power, Israel needs to take the first steps in the directin of reconciliation by dropping the strategy of military domination and embracing instead a strategy of atonement and generosity. In fact, we at the Network of Spiritual Progressives have proposed a Global Marshall Plan (download and read the booklet about it at)--and the first place it might be used could be The Middle East. The idea is simple: the way to achieve "homeland security," be it for the US or for Israel, is to act in a generous and caring way towards others, not a selfish and militaristic and dominating way!

Our view is that the world we want cannot be achieved by more power and control, but only by more love and kindness.Naive and utopian? No, what is really naive, given the history of the past ten thousand years of human history, is to believe that if we continue the path of domination, power over others, and war we can achieve a world in which people will be free from wars and free from hurtful and psychologically deformed others. Neurosis might be defined as doing the same thing we've always done and believing that this time it will have a more successful outcome. It's time for the human race to adopt a different and more loving strategy--and that is what we at the interfaith (and for secular humanists too) Network Of Spiritual Progressives are all about (check out our Spiritual Covenant with America at www.spiritualprogressives.org).

So, if we want to build such a world, we need to start by developing trust and showing caring for others. And that is what the US should be doing and what Israel should be doing.

I do not believe that a military assault on a vessel carrying aid to Gaza (and no guns--even Israel now admits they found no military contraband or any evidence of guns or munitions on the boat) and killing some of the people who resisted that raid (which any American boat would have also resisted, had a foreign army approached with intent to divert the boat to another location) was a step in the direction of reinforcing the influence of the non-violent voices in the Palestinian world, but rather reenforced the most violent people who can now say "see, these Jews will never allow even non-violent protest, but will meet it with violence."

That the scene turned violent was inevitable once Israel started shooting at the ship from helicopters in the dark of night on the high seas, leading people on the ship to believe that the army was intending to kill, and leading some to grab knives from the kitchen or bars from the walls to protect themselves (though later it became known that the IDF was shooting rubber bullets, which in any case can wound or blind, the people on the boat did not know that and heard explosions and felt the attack from the air as a violent assault and sought to protect themselves).

That some Muslims and some Israelis may have come with a desire for a confrontation is no suprise--every peace march I've ever been on has had some such people. The media always seeks to describe the demonstrations as violent if a handful of participants smash windows or fight with police even while tens of thousands of others are doing nothing of the sort--and years later we've found that at least some of those actions were done by undercover police or FBI seeking confrontation to discredit the wholemovement. I think it was for this reason that the organizers of the flotilla searched everyone to make sure that no one was carrying any guns, unlike the Israelis who came with their arsenal and began the violent confrontation that was totally unnecessary, since the organizers of the flotilla had made clear that they would have no objection to having Israeli army personnel search the boat for any suspected guns or munitions but would not accept having their boats captured and diverted to an Israeli port, since the point of the non-violent protest was to challenge the bloackade of Gaza.

Given all this, it seems appropriate for Jews, in whose name Israel claims to be acting, to repent this deed of violence, and to do a memorial prayer for those Muslims who were killed--not as testimony based on knowing their lives (for all I know some could be scoundrels or worse, though I've seen no evidence that any of them actualy ever participated in an act of violence against Jews), but because they were human beings electing to participate in an act of non-violent civil disobedience to an unjust occupation and blockade. And we will simultaneously be praying for the healing of those wounded or hurt (including Israeli soldiers who were sent on this crazy mission by an arrogant Israeli elite that spits on the ethical concerns of the rest o.

It is time for us to reaffirm the old Biblical notion that everyone is created in the image of God, that we are to, as the Bible teaches, "love the stranger (The OTHER)," and that the human race needs to not commit to giving up the domination worldview and embrace the worldview of love and generosity espoused by Tikkun magazine http://www.tikkun.org and the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

And at our conference in D.C. this Friday June 11 to Sunday June 13 we will be discussing how that transforms into policy (e.g. the ESRA--The Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution (http://www.spiritualprogressivess.org/ESRA). I hope you'll come to that conference--it's not too late to register at http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/conference--or at least to read our ideas on line and JOIN the NSP and help us advance these ideas in the world.

And it is important for liberal and progressive Jews, Christians, and Muslims to do this as Jews because we want to make clear to the world that Israel's actions are NOT representative of the Jewish people in the world, though most of us remain committed to Israel's security and well-being to be achieved through justice, generosity, atonement, and love.

Israel/Palestine issues will be discussed at our conference also by Rabbi Arik Asherman who is chair in Jerusalem of Rabbis for Human Rights, and by Gershon Baskin of Jerusalem (a columnistin the Jerusalem Post) and BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) will be debated (see also the debate that will appear in the July issue of Tikkun). But the main focus of our conference, starting Friday at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 E. Capitol St, NE, a few blocks from the Supreme Court, will be our proposed ESRA: Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution which wouldoverturn the gifts to corporations given by the Supreme Court in recent decisions and require corporate environmental responsiblitywhile also requiring public funding and only that of national elections (info here) and our proposed Global Marshall Plan (info here) which we are currently thinking might start by eliminating the poverty in the Middle East (including in Israel and in Palestine and Gaza) upon which fundamentalists of every variety prey.

I hope you will now understand that our activity on Sunday at 1 p.m. is not only about Muslims killed, but also about a new conception of the kind of world we want and how to get there--a path of peace, justice, kindness, generosity, love and healing.

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Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun and national chair of the Tikkun Community/ Network of Spiritual Progressives. People are invited to subscribe to Tikkun magazine or join the interfaith organization the Network of Spiritual Progressives-- "both of which can be done by (more...)
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