By Howard J. Gale
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 02/02/09
“Every bomb ever made falls on all of us.” (Alice Walker)
Israel has dropped tens of thousands of pounds of U.S.-made and/or U.S.-paid-for munitions on one of the most densely populated regions on Earth. Israel has been firing on known United Nations schools, killing dozens of civilians.
There are credible U.N. reports that Israel has bombed shelters to which Israel evacuated civilians 24 hours earlier. Israel is using artillery shells, widely banned cluster munitions and white phosphorus munitions, all of which guarantee an increasing proportion of civilian casualties (more than 50 percent of the more than 1,000 Palestinians killed). How can one justify the dropping of a 2,000-pound bomb on the home of a Hamas leader killing 18 others, including four children?
Could one imagine Britain claiming the right to bomb Northern Ireland during the four decades of “The Troubles” as a means of “self-defense” against terrorist bombings? Indeed, after Britain further militarized the conflict in January 1972, when 13 Northern Irish civilians were shot by the British Army, deaths nearly tripled that year. Militarizing the conflict prolonged it for another 25 years, resulting in more than 3,200 deaths. Did the Mitchell Principles accepted in 1997 end all violence? No. There were 129 deaths reported during 1998-2006. But negotiations are a critical step to decrease the violence and make peace possible.
How can Israel stop the Hamas rocket fire? By maintaining a cease-fire with Hamas. The cease-fire that started in June rapidly deteriorated after Nov. 4 when Israel launched attacks in Gaza — killing six Palestinians — and further tightened the 18-month blockade (with less than 1 percent of food trucks getting in, compared with two years ago). The blockade of food, fuel and medicines has resulted in far more death and civil strife than that caused by the rockets and mortars fired from Gaza into Israel. Rockets and blockades are crimes, and both must end. You cannot end two crimes by committing a far more terrible third crime.
How can Israel’s war end Hamas’ rocket fire? By brutalizing young Palestinians who watch family killed by Israeli bombs, thereby guaranteeing future recruits for Hamas? By bombing the Islamic University and other schools in Gaza to guarantee a society that has no hope? By bombing police stations and new police recruits (42 killed in the first days of Israel’s bombing), a war crime, according to Human Rights Watch and others, thereby guaranteeing no peacekeeping authority to keep Gaza from descending into chaos? By killing the families of Hamas leaders, teaching Palestinians that there is no such thing as a civilian? By destroying the very infrastructure of police and security forces that had been enforcing the cease-fire before November?
When the great Rabbi Hillel was asked to sum up Jewish law, he responded, “What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man: This is the whole Law; the rest is mere commentary.”
The Talmud, the second-most-important text in Judaism, says, “For the sake of peace, non-Jewish poor should be supported as we support the poor of Israel, the non-Jewish sick should be visited as we visit the sick of Israel, and the non-Jewish dead should be buried as we bury the dead of Israel.”
Only a tribalism that hardens one’s heart and blinds one to reality can reconcile Judaism’s most sacred teachings with the death Israel has dispensed in Gaza.
“Every bomb ever made falls on all of us.” They ravage the flesh and psyche of those who receive them, they ravage the morality and innocence of those who send (or supply) them.