As of January 28, the most immediate version of the Gaza-Sderot crisis has eased slightly -- but not ended.
After more than a week of near-total ban on fuel supplies, the Israeli Army told the israeli Supreme Court yesterday that it would resume permitting Gaza residents to purchase fuel –- but would limit the amount they could buy by as much as 81% and would cut the electricity supplied directly to Gaza beginning February 7.
Even this limited easing probably came under pressure from three sources:
• the mass nonviolent civil-disobedience movement of Palestinians and world-wide coverage of it in the breakthrough of the border at Rafah, which to many people looked and felt like the crossing of the Red Sea or the fall of the Berlin Wall;
• opposition from some Israelis to the super-blockade imposed on fuel for electric power stations, including nonviolent direct action through the relief convoy at Erez and an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court to halt the fuel embargo;
• and probably pressure by the US (which refused to support a UN Security Council resolution against the embargo but delayed action in what was almost certainly a warning).
In the US, two Jewish organizations with important connections to mainstream Jewry but independent stances on Israeli-Palestinian relations clarified their Gaza approaches a great deal, calling for talks between the Israeli government and Hamas, aimed at a cease-fire in regard to Gaza & Sderot, and an end to the blockade.
These two are Brit Tzedek v'Shalom (Jewish Alliance for justice & Peace) and Americans for Peace Now.
These events may temporarily alleviate both some material needs and spiritual despair, but in the longer run cannot solve the intertwined crisis of fear, rage, and violence in Gaza and towns like Sderot.
IT IS STILL TRUE THAT ALL THE SEEDS OF THIS CRISIS REMAIN, AND IF THEY ARE NOT ADDRESSED THE VIOLENCE ON BOTH SIDES IS ALMOST CERTAIN TO START AGAIN.
FOR THOSE REASONS, The Shalom Center HAS DONE TWO THINGS:
1) We have posted a special section of our website on the Gaza/Sderot crisis, of which this article is a part:
This section includes a dozen or so reports & essays. – Reading it will give you a brief but useful introduction to the origins and course of the crisis, including details about the events mentioned above. Much of this information has not appeared at all in the conventional American media.
2) We have initiated discussions with a number of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders toward the possibility of a joint public statement and action not only calling for a ceasefire but addressing the deeper reasons for the explosions of violence.
The heart of the problem is that many members of each community deny the legitimacy of the other. Many Israelis look on Palestinans as strangers and interlopers in the land; many Palestinians look on Israelis in the same way. Each people has suffered deeply in its recent history, and some in each community have taken that suffering as a warrant to impose their will on the other, or if that cannot be done at least to wreak vengeance on the other for the humiliation and violence it is suffering.
Torah addresses this response with wisdom that applies to both peoples.
Over and over, it teaches: "You shall love the stranger, you shall accord the stranger one law with your selves, for you know the heart of the stranger; you were slaves and strangers in the Narrow Land [Egypt]."
Why does the Torah need to repeat this teaching some thirty times? Probably because people were not paying attention. It was much easier to turn suffering into a warrant for rage and hatred and violence.
That is often the first short-sighted response to suffering, but the Torah reveals the wisdom of generations, centuries, millennia:
We must open our hearts to others who are also suffering, and treat them with love and justice.
In this moment of fear and rage, many Israelis and many Palestinians find themselves caught in the Narrow Place of violence. So from around the world, others must join with those Israelis and Palestinians who are trying to follow a different path.
We will keep you abreast of what The Shalom Center is doing to pursue these possibilities. meanwhile, we encourage you to read the rest of the essays and reports in this Websection.
Shalom, Rabbi Arthur Waskow