A photograph of post-attack rubble.
Credit: CreativeCommons / Physicians for Human Rights - Israel.
As conflict continues to plague Israel/Palestine, as well as the rest of our world, we invite you to take a concrete step towards healing by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives (email cat@spiritualprogressives.org for more information). Let us acknowledge the one-year anniversary of Israel’s attacks on Gaza by revisiting some of Rabbi Michael Lerner’s words, both those acknowledging the grief inspired by this (and all) conflict as well as those that inspire hope to heal the pain in our world.

It is the brutality of that assault which finally has broken me into tears and heartbreak. While claiming that it is only interested in uprooting tunnels that could be used to attack Israel, the Israeli Defense Forces have engaged in the same criminal behavior that the world condemns in other struggles around the world: the intentional targeting of civilians (the same crime that Hamas has been engaged in over the years in its bombing of Sdeyrot and its current targeting of Israeli population centers, thankfully unsuccessfully, which correctly has earned it the label as a terrorist organization).

Using the excuse that Hamas is using civilians as “human shields” and placing its war material in civilian apartments – a claim that a UN human rights investigatory commission found groundless when Israel used it the last time it invaded Gaza in 2008-2009 and engaged in similar levels of killing civilians – Israel has managed to kill over 1,500 Palestinians and wound over 8,000 thousand more.

The stories that have emerged from eye-witness accounts of hundreds of children being killed by Israel’s indiscriminate destructiveness, the shelling of United Nations schools and public hospitals, and finally the destruction of Gaza’s water and electricity thus guaranteeing deaths from typhoid and other diseases as well as widespread hunger among the million and a half Gazans (most of whom have had nothing to do with Hamas), highlights to the world an Israel that is rivaling some of the most oppressive and brutal regimes in the contemporary world. Israel does not intentionally target civilians, but it has full reason to know that its targets will inevitably kill huge numbers of civilians. We who rejected the excuse that Viet Cong were hiding in Vietnamese villages as the rationale for U.S. forces to wipe out hundreds of such villages and ultimately cause millions of Vietnamese deaths in the Vietnam war will not accept a similar rationale for what is a de facto Israeli war on Palestinian civilians. Fine, destroy tunnels potentially used to infiltrate Israel; but it is a crime against humanity to destroy housing compounds, schools, and hospitals.

Above all else, I grieve for all the unnecessary suffering on this planet, including the Israeli victims of terrorism, the Palestinian victims of Israeli terror and repression, the victims of America’s misguided wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the victims of America’s apparently endless war on terrorism, the victims of so many other struggles around the world, and the less visible but real victims of a global capitalist order in which, according to the UN, between 8,000 and 10,000 children under the age of five die every day from malnutrition or diseases related to malnutrition. And yet I affirm that there is still the possibility of a different kind of world, if only enough of us would believe in it and then work together to create it.

My fervent prayer: STOP ALL THE VIOLENCE, END THE OCCUPATION AND CREATE A LASTING PEACE AND A RECONCILIATION OF THE HEART. This reconciliation does not deny the vast inequality of power between Israel and Palestinians, and the corresponding responsibility of the more powerful force to take the first major steps toward a real peace, NOT a “peace process” which goes nowhere, but a true resolution of the conflict.

Nothing is going to change in the Middle East until we can change the way the struggles are understood both in the media and in the larger publics that have increasingly moved toward extremist perceptions of one side or the other.

So yes, a first and critical step is to change the discourse, and only you and hundreds of thousands of others can do that by refusing the dominant discourse, challenging the media and the politicians who side blindly with Israel no matter how horrible its escalating violence becomes, and challenging the leftists who rightly criticize Israel’s occupation as the central cause of the present violence but wrongly refuse to challenge Hamas’ violence or to see how that violence is a gift to the Israeli settlers who insist that it is they who will provide the first line of protection against Palestinian extremists.

In this hour of war, violence, and pain, we reaffirm the humanity and decency of all the people on our planet, and our ability to see the humanity and God-presence in the Palestinian people, the Israeli people, and all people on the planet. We understand that each of the many sides of the conflicts tearing our world apart today have their own legitimacy, but we also know that violence cannot be the path to a peaceful and safe world. We may be outraged at the behavior of governments, political parties, or groups acting in hurtful ways, but we will not accept any attempt to generalize that righteous indignation into generalities about all people of a certain nation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other such grouping.

We know that peace can only be sustainably achieved when the world is reorganized along principles of social justice, caring for each other and caring for the planet Earth-and so we will commit to putting our energies into that task. Give us the strength and wisdom to know how to heal the many hurts of people who have responded to their own pain by acting in painful ways toward others. Give us the capacity to show empathy and to learn how heal the wounds, not only of the oppressed, but also the wounds that distort the behaviors and generate the fears that are the basis of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and every other form of distorted consciousness. And give us the humility to recognize our own blind spots and the courage to work to heal ourselves even as we seek to heal others!