Madness continues to reign over Israel/Palestine, in the place they call the Holy Land. As I write this, over 4,000 Palestinians and Israelis have been killed and thousands more wounded in just over a week. My heart hurts, and I know yours are hurting too. There is a deep, bitter, and bloody irony to the fact that, when Hamas launched its attack on Israeli kibbutzim and towns by the Gaza border on October 7, many of the people murdered and kidnapped were Israelis on the Left, peace activists and their children. And as Israel continues its relentless retaliation with mass indiscriminate bombings and prepares to flatten Gaza, the mass of innocent Palestinians who are currently fleeing for their lives, the thousands who will lose their lives or be wounded in the carnage, have nothing to do with Hamas.
Israel’s birth was bathed in tragedy. As an idea, Zionism never really took hold among the Jewish people until the Nazi Holocaust. Survivors would not return to the lands of their death, the West did not want them, and so they came to Palestine, and a new state was forced into reality. As I wrote in a poem 55 years ago, “refugees creating refugees.”
The Israeli Occupation of the West Bank is in its 55th year. The Palestinians in Gaza have been living in poverty, under the control of Israel, in what is tantamount to an open-air prison, since 1948, when refugees streamed over the border in the wake of the birth of the Israeli state. As Haggai Matar, editor of the online journal +972 wrote in The Nation last week, “The terror Israelis feel right now—myself included—is a sliver of what Palestinians have been feeling on a daily basis under the decades-long military occupation of the West Bank.” A sliver indeed… fifty-plus years of an ongoing Occupation that has meant continually, as a matter of course, advancing an ethno-religious-nationalist project of apartheid, displacement, and ethnic cleansing: demolishing or stealing Palestinian homes; uprooting olive groves and farms; imprisoning men, women, and children; regularly, indiscriminately, stealing their dignity and their lives.
Nothing justifies the horrendous murders and kidnapping of Israeli civilians at the hands of Hamas or other resistance groups. Nothing justifies the vengeful Israeli response that has already killed thousands of Palestinian civilians and cut off food, fuel, water, and electricity for the 2.2 million people living in Gaza.
As a Jew, as someone who has worked for peace between Israelis and Palestinians for 50 years, my heart breaks and my soul is bleeding right now. I don’t want any of these people to die, I want the death to stop. And it will never stop so long as the Occupation continues.
Often in history the greatest tragedies open the greatest possibilities for a new kind of future. That has to be the case here, it has to be the case now, because this can’t go on. There is no future down this road, only death. If we are going to fight for and on the side of life, the answer, I think, is some configuration of One State, Two Peoples, Three Faiths.
I am with you all in this dark hour; the whole Real News team is with you. And today I light a Yahrzeit candle and burn some sage to honor those who have been killed.