Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Rabbi's Response To A Recent F.O.R. Statement On Gaza

Source: Oxfam International
Some of us are a part of a monthly breakfast conversation group that is a local chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a faith-based organization dedicated to promoting peace and justice. Here's a statement released by members of the organization over a week ago in light of the continuing violence in Palestine and Israel:

"Violence is a blunt, destructive instrument.  It causes harm to those who use it as well as those it is used upon.  There is great need for safety, justice, and mercy in Palestine and Israel.  The National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation deplores the indiscriminate use of violence in Israel and Palestine.  We strongly urge all parties to return to the ceasefire, and focus attention to resolving the needs of the people regardless of religion or race or national identity."

The following is a critique written by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, FOR Freeman Fellow, in response to the above statement:

Beloved colleagues:

As much as I love FOR, I find the FOR NC statement on Israel/Palestine to be completely inadequate for the 'continuing crisis' in Palestine. The statement is out of touch with the actions of Israeli, Palestinian and solidarity activists around the world as to make this statement irrelevant and troubling. 

Surely telling Palestinians that indiscriminate violence is deplorable hides the total destruction of Gaza by Israel and ignores the reality of ongoing Occupation, the siege, land theft, dispossession, the crushing reality of the West Bank,  the past three onslaughts against Gaza and the ongoing reality of Nakba.   

Is this really  the time to remind Palestinians about indiscriminate violence? They are experiencing one of the worst intentional mass killings initiated by Israel, with almost 2000 people killed, 80% of them civilians, over 400 children in less than a month, the intentional targeting of civilian infrastructure including 141 schools, 6 hospitals, 10,000 houses, factories, farm land, roads and animals.  1/4 of the country is displaced, there is no drinking water, the targeting of the electric plant has caused almost total black out, and the intentional use of dum dum bullets fired at people's legs while they are trying to flee has crippled many. And on and on. 

Blockade, siege and dispossession has been an intentional policy on Israel's part which has been documented by Goldstone Report, Baruch Kimmerling, Ali Abunimah, Ilan Pappe, Miko Peled, Mohammed Omer, and so many many others, including dozens of delegates who have seen Israel's occupation policies over many decades. A statement against indiscriminate violence that equates Palestinians and Israelis, the two parties to the conflict, borders on an ethical failure to the truth. 

The FOR's statement also does not address the monstrous US policies that propel this conflict, the fact that Israeli and US companies are profiting like bandits from drones, surveillance, weapons, etc.  Connecting the dots between US colonial imperialism, police violence, warehousing people, Islamophobia and racism is completely absent from this statement. The fact that FOR has NOT embraced BDS this time around, while promoting SA BDS and FOR's role in the civil rights movement, is deeply disturbing and needs serious reflection.  

Please consider rewriting an NC statement that is more in line with decades of FOR work on the Middle East and current with the struggle to overcome occupation and siege. Would you consider skyping with your FOR partners in the struggle for justice to see what they need from the FOR? I, for one, cannot pass on the current statement. It would be counter-productive, esp. at a time when I have brought in young Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Palestinian solidarity activists to talk about the growing multifaith movement for justice in Palestine.  With deep respect for FOR's work for peace and justice.   

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Freeman Fellow @ The Fellowship of Reconciliation 

Co-founder of Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence

Order my book Trail Guide to the Torah of Nonviolence
 by emailing
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