Published November 21, 2012
Growing up the son of a Puerto Rican Catholic father and a Jewish mother was often theologically confusing. But the confusion ended when it came to Israel. Zionist to the core, I would die for the Jewish homeland. Like most Jews of a certain age, the notion of a world without an impregnable fortress/sanctuary for the often victimized Jewish race is intolerable. Never again.
But that doesn’t mean I think the Israel can do whatever it feels appropriate under the banner of self-defense. Five Israelis have been killed by hostile action in the current round of fighting. As of this writing 141 Palestinians are also dead, about half of them civilians, including babies. That is more than 25 to 1, Palestinian to Israeli dead. That fact curdles the blood of even us Zionists.
There are, of course, extenuating circumstances that somewhat explain the uneven suffering. The gangsters of Hamas who rule Gaza have become expert in placing their rocket launchers in the midst of civilians. They are racketeers who specialize in provoking a violent Israeli response and then running away to leave helpless civilians to pay the butcher’s bill.
Additionally, the Israelis have done more than any force in the history of modern warfare to mitigate collateral damage. In a good way, they are the baddest of the bad. Thousands of their smartest bombs seek out specific Hamas militants in specific apartment buildings with jaw-dropping accuracy most often sparing the innocent.
Further, the Israelis are bending over backward to minimize civilian casualties. Aside from precisely targeting their attacks, they are dropping leaflets, even emailing and sending text messages to area residents warning them to steer clear if they are in close proximity to Hamas facilities and personnel.
Still, Gaza isn’t much bigger than Philadelphia, about 140 square miles. Since half the Strip is rural, the populated areas are densely packed with 1.7 million people. Going after specific targets in crowded Gaza, is like going after specific targets in downtown Brooklyn. Inevitably Palestinian kids get killed and that feels Un-Jewish.
Yet, what is Israel to do? No nation can tolerate wanton rocket attacks terrorizing its people. There was a bomb tossed onto an Israeli bus just today. Israelis deserve security and domestic tranquility. But if fairness is still possible after all the bloodshed and bitterness of the last 65 years, so do the Palestinians.
What is the Palestinian kid whose whole life has been spent under Israeli occupation to do? What would you do? Would you join Hamas or some other militant organization if your whole life had been spent surrounded and blockaded by Israel; your travel, your educational and economic options severely restricted?
Now Secretary Hillary Clinton is in the region trying to be an honest broker between the parties. We have standing with both sides. We have funded Israeli’s superbly effective Iron Dome anti-missile system, and provide the nation with more military assistance than we do any other on earth. Palestinians too look to us as the only credible intermediary with sufficient leverage with all the parties to bring all to the negotiating table.
At worse, the cycle of violence that started eight days ago when Israel assassinated the Hamas militia chieftain becomes just another violent chapter in a 14-century-old fight.
But there is another possibility, however slim. The warring parties can seize the opportunity to move toward the two-state solution; two sovereign nations: Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace.
That has been America’s specifically stated foreign policy since President George W. Bush. President Barack Obama has adopted the policy. And Secretary Clinton restated it as our ultimate goal in talks with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday in Jerusalem.
Making Palestine independent won’t automatically eradicate terroristic threats to Israel. There will still be those who seek the destruction of the Jewish State. But it would not meaningfully aggravate Israel’s peril. Perhaps law-abiding Palestinians would treat the militants more as criminals and terrorists than as heroes. Most of the people in Gaza already despise Hamas. The move toward the two-state solution would be the fulfillment of the national dream of an occupied people. It would remove the world’s biggest gripe against Israel. And it is the right thing, the Jewish thing to do.