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  • Doug Dix

Speaking of Peace

United States Senator Chris Murphy told CNN that "the level of civilian harm inside Gaza has been unacceptable and is unsustainable." A West Hartford rabbi challenged this statement: "You seem to blame Israel for the suffering of the Palestinians of Gaza and question whether Israel is conducting its operations in accordance with the laws of armed conflict" (Hartford Courant, December 3, 2023, p. 1). Such questioning is the mark of anyone truly interested in doing right. But the rabbi disagreed: "These implications are legally baseless and morally bankrupt. Neither international law nor any moral code allows terrorists to render themselves immune because they are craven enough to use their own people to guard their terrorist bases." This rabbi speaks as if he were infallible, as if he were pope, in other words. But Jews don't have a pope, and don't recognize anyone as being infallible on anything. Jews argue to find the right. We call that argument "Talmud."

I'm not an expert on international law, so I can't comment on the accuracy of this rabbi's proclamation. But attacking innocents is always a risky business. It always feels wrong to normal people and always warrant all the scrutiny we who want to be right can muster.

Perhaps what Israel is doing in Gaza does fall within the boundaries of international law. I can't say. The rabbi wants to believe that it's not Israel, but Hamas that is attacking these innocents. But his reluctance to debate testifies to the frailty of his belief. What Israel is doing does clearly violate the Golden Rule. If the tables were turned, even this rabbi would not want Hamas to inflict on innocent Israelis what Israel is inflicting now on innocent Palestinians. And Israel's action clearly violates the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal effective recognition and observance" (Preamble). More importantly, perhaps, Israel's action violates God's law as articulated in such passages as Gen. 4:1-9, Gen. 18:16-33, Lev. 19:18, Lev. 19:33-34, Isaiah 2:4, and Matt. 5:43-48.

This rabbi is unusual in his outspokenness. But the vast majority of Jews, both clergy and lay, show approval of Israel's action by their silence: "Qui tacet consentit." It's the legal maxim that silence implies consent. But it's not just Jews who are silent. The only cure for war is an effective plan for enduring peace, but I'm the only one offering such. See the MOMS blog on peace in Palestine. The best others offer is "a two state solution" as if this sound bite qualifies as a plan.

Soon after the October 7th attack by Hamas, I wrote to the Secretary General of the UN, and President Biden, and U. S. Senators Murphy and Bluementhal asking for an international peace force to occupy Gaza and offering a plan for enduring peace, but no one responded. I wrote to my three rabbis, the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, the Jewish Federation of North America, and the National Council of Jewish Women offering a plan for enduring peace in Palestine and asking for collaboration, but without response. I made the same offer to the Palestinian American Organization Network, the Palestinian American Medical Association, and the U. S. Palestinian Council, but without response. I made the same offer to the Peace Alliance, the World Peace Alliance. the International Peace Institute, the American Peace Now Alliance for Peace Building, and International Alert, but to no avail. I made the same offer to the Israeli Knesset, along with Israeli President Herzog and Prime Minister Netanyahu, without response. Finally I made the same offer to the President of Harvard, and to all 21 presidents of colleges in Connecticut. Only one responded, and, even that one refused my invitation to create a program for peace at her college.

Israel bought the war. It's spending some $260 million/day to fight it (Bloomberg, 11/13/23). For a small fraction of that, it could have bought the peace by countering Hamas propaganda with community service and education. But Jews didn't want peace badly enough. We ignored the plight of Palestinians. We celebrated Hanukkah, while Hamas spewed hatred. Now Israel defies the world's call for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid. In so doing, it mistakenly killed three Israeli hostages. That's not how to win the war that matters, the one for the hearts and minds of normal people. And the Jews and Christians and peace agencies and colleges stay silent.

It's a strange silence. Peace ranks among our most treasured aspirations. It is the goal of Judaism (Numbers 6:22-27), Christianity (John 14:27), and Islam (Qur'an, Surah 50:34, and 56:24-26). Yet peace remains ever elusive. How do we solve such a problem? I can't imagine any way but to think better. College professors congratulate themselves on their superior thinking skills. Why would they not want to use those skills to convert war to peace?

Here's my thought: "Good fences make good neighbors" (Robert Frost, Mending Wall). So, make a good fence with state-of-the-art underground detection. Fix the ends in Israel just north of Gaza and push the middle into Gaza. Clear this fenced area of weapons and people, and, then, allow unarmed innocents back in through a security gate. Push the middle further south and repeat the procedure until all innocents are unarmed and on the Israeli side of the fence, and all terrorists are on the other side. Help the innocents build houses, schools, hospitals, parks, etc. and a government of, by, and for the people with liberty and justice for all. Offer the terrorists incarceration, rehabilitation, and the possibility of reintegration into society. Incarcerate those who reject rehabilitation. Cultivate enduring peace within Palestine and between Palestine and Israel. Enforce this peace with U.S., UN, NATO, or other multinational, or private agency enforcement and protection.

Develop industry, e.g., solar farms, solar desalination, National parks and seashore, green tourism, etc. Create a soccer league where Israelis and Palestinians play on the same teams. Create a symphony orchestra in the same format. Teach Palestinian youth how to create and manage a democracy.

We can't wait for Arabs to develop Palestine. Peace-loving people of the world can "adopt" the innocent Palestinians and help them in the way Americans helped the Japanese after their surrender. Within five years of that surrender, Japan was a growing force for peace in the world. Gaza is smaller than Low Angeles. Its renaissance can happen in a flash. All that's lacking is our will to make it happen.

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