Gaza and us

By Dow Marmur

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have every right, indeed a sacred duty, to defend the borders of their country. The question many of us are asking today is whether this can only be achieved by killing more than sixty Gazans in one day and maiming hundreds. True, had the residents of Gaza been allowed to cross the fence that separates them from Israel, many Israelis would have died and Israeli property would have been destroyed or looted. The question is whether the border can be defended differently.

Dan Bielski, a respected Israeli journalist, believe that it can. Instead of putting perhaps largely inexperienced soldiers there, the IDF should have sent the Border Police. Its soldiers are said to have much more experience, and perhaps maturity, in dealing with incidents of this kind.

Bielski also believes that the IDF should have mined the area inside Israel along the border and make it clear to trespassers that they’d be blown up.

In the eyes of the world, Hamas has been the victor in the confrontation that has now lasted several weeks and is likely to continue indefinitely

As things have turned out, Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules Gaza, hasn’t been able to penetrate Israel but, despite the loss of so many lives, or perhaps because of it, in the eyes of the world, it has been the victor in the confrontation that has now lasted several weeks and is likely to continue indefinitely. People in many countries seem to be outraged by Israel’s conduct, as are many Israelis. Turkey and South Africa have recalled their ambassadors and measures by others, by no means only diplomatic, may follow.

“Gaza paralyzed me into silence” wrote Donniel Hartman, the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem: “the inhabitants of Gaza have every right and reason to demonstrate against the tragedy which is their life. Not only do they live under unforgiveable and deplorable conditions, no one is taking responsibility either for their predicament or for the path to rectify it.”

That includes Israelis who, as I’ve suggested before, seek diversions, thus perhaps dulling their pain. The political establishment found a diversion in the inauguration of the United States embassy in Jerusalem. The jubilant celebrants seemed to have chosen to be oblivious to what was happening sixty miles down the road in Gaza.

The residents of Tel Aviv found their diversion on Rabin Square by singing and dancing with Netta Barzilai, the Israeli winner of this year’s Eurovision contest. Preparations for next year’s event to take place in Israel are said to have already started, perhaps also as part of the need to think about something else than Gaza. With this another diversion: the main event takes place traditionally on a Saturday; the ultra-Orthodox are already trying to make sure that the Sabbath won’t be desecrated. This means that the event will most likely take place in the more liberal Tel Aviv or Haifa.

There’re, therefore, good reasons to heed Hartman’s words: “We do not need to take moral responsibility for the reality which is Gaza, but at the same time we cannot allow our humanity and moral conscience to be so inert as to sit down and drink, not to speak of dancing in our city squares, when we are causing, justifiably or not, death and chaos.”

Being paralyzed into silence may be psychologically understandable, but it’s morally reprehensible. We must speak, nay scream, even if those who should listen refuse to hear. The least we can do is to acknowledge the pain of the victims.

Rabbi Dow Marmur is Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He lives in Jerusalem.

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