Note of Introduction: The following is a letter from Jerusalem written by Rabbi Dow Marmur, the Emeritus Rabbi of Holy Blossom Synagogue in Toronto and a Past President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Dow’s piece offers insight into what the rockets from Gaza (now there’s a ceasefire) may have been all about.
There seem to be many reasons for the recent barrage of some 700 rockets from Gaza into southern Israel that have taken lives on both sides: *an effort to prevent performers and audiences from abroad to come to the Eurovision contest in Tel Aviv; *Israel’s Independence Day celebrations which Palestinians tend to mark as their Nakba, the anniversary of their displacement that followed the establishment of the State of Israel: *Ramadan, the sacred month in the Muslim calendar, a potential period of violence; *another attempt to please the Iranian paymasters wanting to punish Israel for its many attacks on Iranian installations in Syria; *the delay in the arrival of cash from Qatar.
All this also had the unintended consequence for the terrorists who rule Gaza of strengthening the ultra-right forces in the Israeli political system just as they’re engaged in negotiations about the composition of the next government. The rockets from Gaza may have strengthened those who don’t lose sleep over the terrible conditions under which most Gazans live.
Similarly, there’s no evidence that the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is troubled by the suffering of their kith and kin in Gaza. Over the years there have been many attempts at reconciliation but apparently without success. It may be difficult for Israelis to be concerned about the welfare of Gazans if their own people in the West Bank are not.
Gideon Levy, the Ha’aretz controversial columnist, described the events of the last few days as the Gaza ghetto uprising. He tends to put the blame on Israel. But it’s difficult to see how Israel can act in favour of Gazans as long as their leaders seem to be passionately committed to giving the Jewish state and its residents along the Gaza border as hard a time as possible.
Every concession that Israel makes seems to be perceived as a sign of weakness and an encouragement to attack it next time with ever greater ferocity. The Israel Defense Forces know how to fight and win wars, but it’s not clear that this fight can ever be won as long as Hamas and Islamic Jihad don’t want peace.
Though there’s now a cease-fire, allegedly brokered by Egypt and the United Nations envoy in the area, nothing much has changed. More clashes are bound to follow for it seems that of late the terrorists have made military progress: their missiles were remarkably effective, even in the face of Israel’s Iron Dome that tried to intercept them; their tunnels seem to protect them; the standing of their leaders has been enhanced by the recent attacks.
Yes, Israel is infinitely stronger than Hamas and Islamic Jihad, even with the military help they get from Iran and the cash that comes from Qatar. But this is a kind of war that military might doesn’t seem to be able to win. Though Israeli planes repeatedly attack military targets in Gaza, the war goes on. We may have a lull today but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
Of the little I understand about the situation I find it difficult to share the view of those that Israel alone can resolve the crisis, even though it’s possible that it could do things for the population in Gaza that would give the Gazans a greater stake in keeping the peace instead of allowing to be used as pawns. What seems to be needed is imaginative diplomacy which neither the Gazans nor the Israelis seem to be endowed with.
Jerusalem 6.5.19 Dow Marmur