Rutland Herald and Montpelier (Barre) Times Argus

Sunday August 3rd, 2014


A 72 hour humanitarian cease fire in Gaza was supposed to begin on Friday August 1st, but both its present and future look uncertain. This follows Secretary of State John Kerry's earlier “foolish blunder” of trying to get the killing stopped in Gaza. We know it was a blunder because senior members of the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu copiously leaked this line to the Israeli news media. And within hours this spin was dutifully adopted by much of the American news media.

By these accounts, hundreds of Gazan civilians were still being killed, many of them children, because Kerry, and men like UN Secretary General Ban Ki- moon were “too eager” to achieve a cease fire. In the words of Michael Oren, the previous Israeli Ambassador to Washington, “These senior statesmen can be most helpful now by doing nothing. To preserve the values they cherish and to send an unequivocal message to terrorist organizations and their state sponsors everywhere, Israel must be permitted to crush Hamas in the Gaza strip.”

 Actually, history shows that Israel has frequently been given an effective carte blanche to “crush” Palestinian resistance - during two invasions of Lebanon, and several of Gaza. Yet in spite of its overwhelming military force, Israel seems to have merely made even more enemies more determined than ever to resist.

This subject of course has prompted a great deal of commentary, much of which I have read with heavy heart for its hopelessness. Still, two commentaries, by prominent, knowledgeable journalists, both of whom are Jewish, struck a chord with me.

David Remnick was born in New Jersey and raised a secular Jew. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, foreign correspondent and since 1998, the editor of the New Yorker Magazine.

Concerning Gaza, Remnick wrote:

“It is impossible to ignore the cynicism of Hamas, which rules Gaza and knows what fear and retribution it provokes by firing thousands of rockets into Israel and hiding its arms in mosques and schools. Those rockets have increased in range, if not yet in accuracy, and have managed to terrorize Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat, and, crucially, Ben Gurion Airport.

“Nor is it possible to ignore the bloodshed that Israel has exacted in Gaza……. The shelling of the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City alone left more than ninety Palestinians dead, including at least twenty-one children….. a school run by the United Nations in Beit Hanoun was hit, killing sixteen civilians and wounding around a hundred and fifty. And yet Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, suggested last week that the Israel Defense Forces should be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for the “restraint” and the humanity of their assault––their “knock on the roof” warning shots, their text messages and phone calls alerting homes, hospitals, and schools. The Bakr family of Gaza City, which lost four children to an Israeli strike on the beach, will likely decline an invitation to Oslo.

 “Meanwhile, the most malign and extremist elements within this conflict––Israeli and Palestinian—grow in strength and deepen their conviction that there is no chance of accommodation. Childhood memories of terror and death accumulate, and cripple the moral and political imagination. (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas, who, for all his flaws, really was Israel’s most promising partner for peace in this saga, is seventy-nine, weak, and threatening retirement. Netanyahu, who voiced support for a two-state solution in 2009, appears to be reversing himself. Members of his ruling coalition, like Naftali Bennett, say bluntly that their peace plan is the annexation of much of the West Bank.”

Roger Cohen is British, a foreign correspondent and now columnist for the New York Times. He has strong ties to the Jewish faith and lost family members in the Holocaust. He bristles with the irony of certain Europeans criticizing Israel for how it deals with its anti-Semites such as Hamas. But then goes on:

“ I am a Zionist who believes in the words of Israel’s founding charter of 1948 declaring that the nascent state would be based “on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel. 

“What I cannot accept, however, is the perversion of Zionism that has seen the inexorable growth of a Messianic Israeli nationalism claiming all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River; that has, for almost a half-century now, produced the systematic oppression of another people in the West Bank; that has led to the steady expansion of Israeli settlements on the very West Bank land of any Palestinian state; that isolates moderate Palestinians like Salam Fayyad in the name of divide-and-rule; that pursues policies that will make it impossible to remain a Jewish and democratic state; that seeks tactical advantage rather than the strategic breakthrough of a two-state peace; that blockades Gaza with 1.8 million people locked in its prison and is then surprised by the periodic eruptions of the inmates; and that responds disproportionately to attack in a way that kills hundreds of children.

“This, as a Zionist, I cannot accept. Jews, above all people, know what oppression is….No argument, no Palestinian outrage or subterfuge, can gloss over what Jewish failure the killing of children in such numbers represents.

“The Israeli case for the bombardment of Gaza could be foolproof. If Benjamin Netanyahu had made a good-faith effort to find common cause with Palestinian moderates for peace and been rebuffed, it would be. He has not. Hamas is vile. I would happily see it destroyed. But Hamas is also the product of a situation that Israel has reinforced rather than sought to resolve.”

I have chosen to use expanded quotes by these two experienced reporters from mainstream American news organizations, because while they happen to be Jewish, they have no apparent difficulty in separating their feelings for the state of Israel - from the hard line policies of its government. Given the history of anti-Semitism, this can be tricky. In my opinion they deserve to not only be commended but heeded.

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