A moral path toward Gaza

Q: In a statement Monday, Vice President Biden said the U.S. is consulting with other nations “on new ways to … Continued

Q: In a statement Monday, Vice President Biden said the U.S. is consulting with other nations “on new ways to address the humanitarian, economic, security, and political aspects of the situation in Gaza.” What are the religious and moral considerations in determining those “new ways,” especially in light of Israel’s raid on an aid flotilla from Turkey bound for Gaza.

Israel’s murderous attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has served to focus international attention on its longstanding, immoral siege of Gaza. Since the election of Hamas in 2007, Israel has tightened its hold on Gaza’s borders, blocking essential goods from entering and Gazan products from leaving, effectively destroying Gaza’s economy. Eight out of ten Gazans depend on international food aid to survive, and ninety-five per cent of its drinking water fails to meet safety standards for consumption. Seventy per cent of the population suffers from food insecurity. Thirteen per cent of the children of Gaza suffer stunted growth from malnutrition.

The blockade prevents Gazan patients who need specialized medical care from leaving, and stops students who receive scholarships from traveling abroad to study. Such harsh measures are immoral and illegal under international law, and in no way further Israel’s security. They endanger Israel by generating resentment, frustration and anger, and create precisely the conditions which favor fanaticism and violence.

I’m a practicing Pagan, but there are values I deeply treasure from the Jewish religion I was born and raised in. The first is the stress on justice as the core of Jewish teaching. The second is the understanding that the oneness of God means that all people are cherished and equal in God’s sight, that the same rules apply to all of us and the same rights are given to every person. By that definition, a “Jewish” state that persecutes and denies rights to another people is a heresy and a travesty of true Jewish values. A moral approach to the Gaza strip would be one that serves justice and assures the human rights of Palestinians, Jews, and everyone else.

From a Pagan perspective, we understand the deep, ancestral bond to the land that many Jews–and Palestinians—feel. But that bond does not need to be expressed through control or ownership. Attempts at control generally become devastating to land and people. Sovereignty, from a Pagan point of view, is contingent on responsibility, and a leader’s job is not to issue orders and demand obedience, but to safeguard the health of the land, the fertility if its soil, the diversity of its wildlife and forests, and above all, to cherish the children, all of them–not just the children of one tribe.

A simple moral test might be this: “If children are suffering because of your political ends or the means you choose to achieve them, do something else.” From both the Pagan and the Jewish points of view, actions that condemn children to a stunted life cannot be considered moral by any standards. Israel must lift the siege of Gaza in order to step back onto the beginnings of a moral path.

The Israeli government itself admits that the true purpose of the blockade is not security but economic warfare with a political aim. On June 9, the McClatchy newspapers obtained an Israeli document from Gisha, an Israeli human rights group which sued the Israeli government for information on the blockade. “A country has the right to decide… that it wishes to operate using ‘economic warfare,'” the government said. Indeed, it is hard to imagine what security concerns would be imposed by chocolate or children’s toys. Now, in the wake of international outrage, Israel has decided to allow in jam and cookies. The question remains–what possible security justification could there ever have been for keeping them out?

Organic gardeners know that if you respond to an attack by trying to kill the pests involved, you simply breed resistance while poisoning your own crops and soil. Instead, we ask, ‘What conditions are allowing this pest to thrive?” “How do we change them, to favor the beneficial bugs and strengthen the health of the soil and the plants?”

Palestinians are a diverse people–as are Israelis. In my time in the West Bank and Gaza, I met true believers who were fanatically devout–and others who swore at “f-ing Hammas–they’ve closed the cinemas again!” I met some who believed in armed resistance and others who were deeply committed to nonviolence.

A smart and moral policy, from Israel’s point of view, would be to say: “What are the conditions that would favor mutual cooperation and peace? What would give our allies a competitive edge, and undermine the hardliners?” Such policies would open borders, encourage of cooperative enterprises in commerce, learning, art and culture, foster a commitment to caring for and sharing the land and to create a opportunities for Palestinians to flourish and thrive.

Instead, Israel consistently employs a policy of force, collective punishment and intimidation that only serves to harden resistance. To treat all Gazans, all Palestinians, as if “Palestinian” were synonymous with “terrorist” is not only immoral, it’s self-defeating. Prejudice always makes us stupid, for it prevents us from seeing diversity and complexity. Repression backfires.

Israel’s decision to attack the Gaza Peace Flotilla with deadly force has squandered the world’s good will and put Gaza front and center on the international agenda. As a bare minimum, Israel should release the film and video–and the thousands of dollars of equipment and cold, hard cash taken from the protestors and support an open, international, impartial investigation of the flotilla attack. Until she does, her account and her intentions will be suspect.

My own accounts of my experiences in the West Bank and Gaza:

Israeli Government’s admission of ‘economic warfare”:

Ha-artez, statistics on malnutrition:

Food insecurity–from English Al-Jazeera

Uncensored video on Democracy Now

Uri Avnery, the great Israeli Journalist, asks the key questions:

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  • researchok

    What absolute and utter drivel.Why is it Ms Starhawk, et al, never seem take note at the state sponsored hate directed at Israel or Jews? Why is it the incessant hate, delivered 24/7 in Palestinian media, school curriculum and from many pulpit is never referred to as ‘disproportionate’? Why hasn’t Ms Starhawk noted that the lopsided voting record against Israel by the United Nations Human Rights Commission (an assembly that includes some of the most oppressive and failed nation-states in the world) is never referred to as ‘disproportionate’ despite the admonition of three successive United Nations Secretaries- General?Why isn’t any of the institutionalized hate and bigotry of the Arab world is ‘disproportionate’? Why is it Ms Starhawk would have you believe that Israel’s response to decades long calls to genocide is somehow unwarranted?On daily basis the Arab world reminds anyone who will listen that there are not enough calls to genocide and there is not enough hate and racism directed at Israel and Jews. In being an unqualified advocate for the Palestinians and not seeing fit to address state sponsored hate and bigotry, Ms Starhawk is tacitly condoning these racist attitudes as ‘proportionate’ and reasonable. Until Ms Starhawk addresses the realities of decades long state sponsored and institutional racism and bigotry, her opinions will be sorely lacking.

  • MrRealistic

    The Post has hit a new low with this crackpot blogging. What a joke this newspaper has become!

  • sonofthecucumberking

    Why does Israel have to justify inspecting the goods of six ships, or even one, from a foreign country entering its waters and bound for its shores? What country does less? What country today doesn’t have customs officers or the equivalent? What country allows anyone entry without a valid passport? What country in this day and age doesn’t have a responsibility to its citizens to protect them from harm, external or internal? The United States has a Coast Guard. And a Border Patrol. China built a Great Wall to thwart intruders from the north. Imperial Russia chose a wider gauge for its railroad tracks to prevent invasion via rail from Europe.

  • sonofthecucumberking

    According to a prior statement from the Gaza Freedom March, “A violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement….”

  • GIJoe3

    A simple moral test might be this: “If children are suffering because of your political ends or the means you choose to achieve them, do something else.” From both the Pagan and the Jewish points of view, actions that condemn children to a stunted life cannot be considered moral by any standards.Thank you for saying this.

  • ArthurBach

    Sonofthecucumberking, Israel has the right to inspect the goods coming into their country. They don’t have the right to attack on international waters, kill, kidnap people, and destroy evidence. Yes, the USA has customs and a coast guard, but we don’t go out in the middle of the night and attack ships that are making peaceful protests. The ship wasn’t armed and Israel still hasn’t been able to produce and arms or weaponry that they assumed was on the flotilla. Israel could have stopped the ship in the broad daylight with one of their military ships. They could have waited until the flotilla reached their waters or port and demanded an inspection. They didn’t need to shoot people in the head. Why do you think they’re refusing an impartial investigation?

  • researchok

    A question for Me Starhawk:For decades, the UN, the US, Israel, the EU, and the Quartet have all stated and agreed that peace in the Middle East can be achieved withDiplomatic recognition of IsraelWhich these terms are too onerous a burden for the Palestinians?With these terms, Palestine would become an independent state, the floodgates of world aid would open up and the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West bank would end.You have to ask yourself why the Palestinians would rather maintain the status quo.

  • gwlaw99

    First of all the all the boat was full of Islamist who would lock you away in a Burka and kill you the moment you walked unattended because of honor. Videos of them attackingthe IDF AS SOON AS they boarded shows they wanted a violent confrontation.Second over 10000 patients from Gaza including 400 emergency evacuations went to Israel for treatment in 2009 so you are just factually wrong.Third you moral test is absurd. Hamas times their rocket attacks with children going to school. I guess you would have let all the Jews die in the Holocaust because German children died defeating Hitler.

  • researchok

    ArthurBachFor weeks, Israel attempted to secure permission to inspect the cargo. They were refused. Those on board wanted a violent showdown and made sure to provoke the Israelis.It also bears recalling that there were no problems or violence aboard the other ships.

  • northernvirginia1

    With all due respect, but when you start your argument with “Israel’s murderous attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla”, this is not helpful. What happened is still a matter of discussion, and all the immediate condemnation before facts were/are out does not generate goodwill on either side.While like everyone and every state, Israel has its own shortcomings, peace will never come when the general philosophy is that it is all Israel and the Jews’ fault without taking any responsibility for one’s own shortcomings.You talk about “a moral approach to the Gaza strip would be one that serves justice and assures the human rights of Palestinians, Jews, and everyone else.”…yet, you do not mention that Egypt is also part of the blockade…yet you do not mention that Hamas does not observe the human rights of its own people (i.e. killing Fatah members, not accepting the flotilla aid sitting in Israel)…yet, you do not mention the rights of the Israelis and the Jews when Hamas is vowing to eradicate an entire state of the map.You speak of “Israel’s decision to attack the Gaza Peace Flotilla with deadly force”…NO, it was not their decision to attack…they tried to avoid the whole situation and for the most part it worked…for five ships and the Rachel Corrie…yet, this one ship was different…where is Turkey’s observance of human rights when they knowingly incite the course of action destined to put their own people in harm’s way.I will grant that Israel could and probably should do some things differently, but until you and other peace activists understand and highlight what Hamas’s shortcomings are and what they need to do as their fair share, it will be very hard to achieve stability…It is not just about what Israel must do or not do, it is about bringing the other party to the table.

  • Irreverent_inDC

    I applaud the Post for allowing your article to be printed. I’m tired of reading the pro-Israel articles that justify murder, piracy and cruelty in the name of Israel. The fact that 9 people were killed by Israeli commandos (with a combined total of 30 bullets to the head and torso) should not be whitewashed. Israel is a pariah state and the open-air concentration camp that Israel maintains by force and fear called Gaza and Palestine should end. Palestinians have a right to live free in their own nation. The United States has created and maintains a Frankenstein-like monster called Israel and is it is matter of time before it turns against its creator. Will the U.S. stand against the world, against reason, human rights and freedom to support the parasitic state called Israel? It is time to stop funding their murderous ways and let Israel fend for itself. The Jewish people are brain-washed and feed a daily diet of hate toward their Palestinian cousins and this is only going to lead to generalized war. I am hoping and praying that the world has learned the lesson of the Holocaust and prevent a Holocaust by Israel against the Palestinian people. Stop all aid to Israel and isolate the zionist monster before it’s too late.

  • chrisjerico

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  • yasseryousufi1

    researchok,Im afraid lies and treachery wont take you far ahead, specially in this age where people have access to media all around the world.Israel is not the Policeman of Mediterranian. Hence it had no right to send warnings to a ship floating in International waters lest attack it. “It also bears recalling that there were no problems or violence aboard the other ships.”Yea…..there was no problem on the other ships because the Commando’s had done their job prior, killing nine innocent HR workers and injuring 70 others with bullets. So they didn’t attack these ships in the middle of the night with stun grenades and air dropping commandos. Only the Israeli population, steeped in hatred of the outside world and some whacko bible belt yahoo’s of US are left to support your lies.You picked up the fight with the wrong guy this time. You’re only used to massacaring unarmed civilians all through your history. The Turks wont take it lying down. You’re only starting to see what they’re capable of with this outpouring of world condemnation.

  • northernvirginia1

    Yasser, “Yea…..there was no problem on the other ships because the Commando’s had done their job prior, killing nine innocent HR workers and injuring 70 others with bullets.”Are you suggesting that the Mavi Marmara was dealt with FIRST? If yes, you would know this exactly how?

  • jjoyce6018

    Moral ? It’s a joke a PR stunt that has found many who want to be complicit. Israel does not ALWAYS rule with an iron fist, in fact Gaza is FREE they can rule themselves.We have been around this circle too many times. Israel gives up land, prisoners, settlements, ans is replied to with rockets, and terrorist attacks, and war.If they destroy Israel, it will be a dark day for us all. We will have given terrorists the stamp of approval. After 40 years of murdering civilians, hijacking and blowing up commercial aircraft, 9/11,10’s of thousands of lives we say, we are cowards, it was the RIGHT thing to do- YOU WIN — SICK !

  • yasseryousufi1

    Yasser, Are you suggesting that the Mavi Marmara was dealt with FIRST? If yes, you would know this exactly how?——————————————-northernvirginia1,I suggest you read the news reports of that day. The other boats were indeed commandeered after Mavi Marmara, without stun grenades and without air dropping Commando’s and in broad daylight. This isn’t the first time Israeli’s have made the ‘mistake’ of killing unarmed neutral HR activists. They killed Rachel Corrie ‘mistakenly’, They killed Thomas Hurndall ‘mistakenly’, they have attacked UN safe houses, Red Cross enclaves, Hospitals, Schools ‘mistakenly’. Heck they drowned the USS Liberty ‘mistakenly’. Its just the way for the Israeli’s to tell the rest of the world to stay out of Middle-East and let them take on defenseless Palestinians by themselves. But as I said, this time they picked up fight with the wrong guy. The Turks havent sold their souls to Zionists like the US Congress did. They will not forget their fallen innocent people and their ship.

  • northernvirginia1

    Yasser, you seem to have access to a news source that is not available to most of the rest of us…I cannot find anywhere via Google what the order of the boarding of the ships…nor info on if and how the hips communicated with each other…so I cannot comment on your assertion that the other ships did not resort to violence because of the experience or history of the Mavi Marmara.News accounts seem to be relatively consistent though, that the Captain of the ship asked the 30 – 40 “militants” that boarded the ship elsewhere and by themselves to not start trouble. So while you claims lies and treachery, I am not sure that your facts support your statements.Further, you talk of the Israeli and some of the US hatred…but it seems that you have a lot of suppressed and not so suppressed anger and hate judging by the content and tone of your comments.Hatred on either side will not lead to a peaceful resolution…both sides need to give in a (little) bit.Peace.

  • victoriafalls100

    How dare you lecture Israel about needing a moral path regarding children? or anything else, for that matter? Where do you think that people are trying to get to for medical care? It’s to the Hadassah Hospital for free care, the same hospital to which a woman, brought weapons in a pillow designed to look like a pregnancy. If you want to lecture about child abuse, look to the “Palestinians” who teach children hatred and how to handle guns, making murder a life’s goal instead of, say, education. Better yet, ask what happened to the billions in worldwide aid to the Palestinians – other than Swiss banks and apartments in Paris for Arafat’s wife. Some interest in children shown them. Even better, ask why the homes and businesses that the Israelis left in Gaza were blown up instead of being used. No interest in children there. You should do some reading. Then go help the children in Darfur. Now that’s real child abuse. By Muslim to Muslim. No Israelis involved.