Monday, January 12, 2009

An Open Letter to My Muslim Neighbors

I had hoped to publish a version of this letter in our local newspaper, but that never happened. I tried contacting my local Islamic Center several times, but they have not returned either phone calls or emails. Still I would like someone to read this, so you are it.

An Open Letter to My Muslim Neighbors

My heart is broken over the tragedy of Gaza. With you I am sickened by the mounting death toll and the rising number of wounded. And as a Jew who loves Israel I am sourly troubled by the fate of both our peoples.

I have friends in Israel living under daily threat of Hamas bombings, and yet I do not pretend to know the fear and anger that may be tearing at your hearts as well. I have been to Israel many times, and I take great pride in her creativity and democracy. I have also visited Palestine and feel deep sorrow over the harsh conditions imposed by Israeli occupation. I love my people and celebrate her accomplishments, but that cannot blind me to the pain and suffering her policies cause.

There is anger, frustration, and hatred running so deep in the fabric of so many lives in the Middle East that it is easy to excuse one side and demonize the other. But to do so only perpetuates the madness into which so much of the Middle East is spiraling.

The horror of violence, the injustice of occupation, the wickedness of terror, and even the faintest promise of peace and reconciliation should motivate Jews and Muslims to reach out to one another, to come together to share our fears, our grief, our anger, and our hope, and to discover in this sharing a common humanity that can provide us with a foundation for cooperation.

As children of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah Arabs and Jews are blood cousins, sharing a common call to justice. As Jews and Muslims we are spiritual cousins, sharing a common vision of Allah/Yah as The Merciful, and The Compassionate. Compassion is at the root of both our traditions because compassion is at the heart of God. Justice and compassion together are what Judaism and Islam are all about. It must be what we Jews and Muslims are about as well.

I am sending you this letter as a gesture of friendship. I extend open hands and not clenched fists. I ask that whatever insanity takes hold in the Middle East you and I maintain sanity; that whatever evil is perpetrated in the name of God you and I see such acts as blasphemy; that no matter what words are used to excuse injustice, violence, terror, and exploitation you and I will not be taken in by them and will continue to stand for justice; that no matter how hard hearts become, you and I will forever soften them with compassion.

The Prophet Moses (PBUH) taught, “Justice, justice you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). Let us pursue it together.

18 comments:

kat said...

I am a muslim
We are brothers/sisters in faith. We both believe in the oneness and unity of God ---(Shema -Judaism, Tawheed -Islam)We both believe in the inherent goodness and nobility of the human being, and that God will judge us on our intentions and our actions.

It seems to me, in the case of Israel/Palestine, we have lost our way and hate and tragedy prevail. We have forgotton the noble purpose for which we were created. I hope that Friendship between Jews and Muslims outside of Isreal/Palestine will create an atmosphere that will generate and encourage peace/shalom/salam

JudyOlson said...

You have just spoken my thoughts as well, Rabbi, so let me add an amen from a Christian. May we all walk together someday soon.

Rabbi Rami said...

Thanks to both Kat and Judy. I am heart broken by the madness of the situation. No one can win this way, but there is a way for all people in the region to win and it requires words not wars.

Aron said...

You reflect many of my thoughts on this matter, Rami. I think as long as we frame these issues based on Jew vs. Palestian, we will not find the peace everyone says they seek. Only when we find to work together and trust each other step by step, will we find peace.

Easy to say, harder to do, obviously.

JudyOlson said...

Rabbi, I am puzzled and worried at the lack of response to your articulate and heartfelt letter. One would think your fellow travelers would all chime in with agreement, support your effort, get behind you. Why would they not? If they do not agree with what you said, I think it would be helpful to know why.

JudyOlson said...

Of course I am thankful for Kat and Aron's responses I didn't mean to imply that no one commented.

AaronHerschel said...

Judy,

I don't think the issue is that the Rabbi's readers don't agree--though of course I can't speak for them all. Rather, I suspect the issue is that while the Rabbi's letter is heartfelt, it proposes nothing specific to get behind or decry. There are no policy recommendations, no community outreach goals, no protests or parades. What's to respond to? The ravrom's warning about demonizing either side is well taken, and I think we can all agree that compassion is needed, as well as a commitment to justice (though whose justice is a stickier question). But once we've all shaken hands and sat down at the virtual table together... well, then what? There are political and material issues to discuss, histories to rehash, futures to consider, hundreds of billions in arms and oil interests to navigate, etc, etc, etc.

To return to the Rabbi's letter, however, I'm interested that no local paper would run it as an op ed. That little factoid seems curiouser and curiouser. There are certainly discussions of the Gaza conflict going on in Nashville papers, and "peace protests" (featuring advocates for Palestine and Israel shouting at each other across police barricades) were held at the Capitol building on Jan 31. Indeed, the Rabbi's letter was prompted by the revelation that some local Nashvillians have relatives living in Gaza. So the issue is relevant here in TN as well as on the national stage. What gives?

Jordan said...

Shalom Rav,

You've once again unfortunately grouped the following together thereby granting a moral equivalence that ought not be made.

"I have friends in Israel living under daily threat of Hamas bombings, and yet I do not pretend to know the fear and anger that may be tearing at your hearts as well.... I have also visited Palestine and feel deep sorrow over the harsh conditions imposed by Israeli occupation."

"The horror of violence, the injustice of occupation, the wickedness of terror,"

An antidote to this is found below:

http://dennisprager.townhall.com/columnists/DennisPrager/2009/01/13/guess_who_cares_about_dead_palestinians_jews!

Biv'racha,
Jordan

Jordan said...

Shalom All,

The URL to which I referred should read:

http://dennisprager.townhall.com/columnists/DennisPrager/2009/01/13/guess_who_cares_about_dead_palestinians_jews!

Biv'racha,
Jordan

Jordan said...

Shalom All,

Sorry about the repeat posts. cut and past the URl as given then click on the link, "Who cares about the dead Palestinians.." to get to the article.

Biv'racha,
Jordan

AaronHerschel said...

Jordon

Why is it impossible to imagine that conditions in Palestine are harsh under an Israeli occupation? Or that Palestinians might feel fear and anger at the deaths of their families, friends, and neighbours? Why is it a mistake to acknowledge, as even Dennis Prager does, that there is at the very least a real tragedy on the ground in Palestine, which, perhaps, deserves some outreach work on the part of the world Jewish community?

Of course, Prager stops short here. He acknowledges the tragedy, but decries Jews tendency to "weep" for Palestinains. This he calls "moral disequilibrium." Does that mean that we ought to restore the moral balance by practicing the same xenophobia Hamas does?

Further, it seems absurd to argue, with Prager, that because "Hamas is on the same moral level as the two World War II enemies," Israel is justified in a WWII level military response. Or that Israel's invasion is justified by the pre-emptive logic of the Bush doctrine. Prager says:

"If Hamas had the same ability to bomb Israel as Israel has to bomb Gaza, would the number of Jewish civilians be in the hundreds? Or would there be the Holocaust in Israel that Hamas and its Iranian sponsors dream of? The answer is so obvious that this consideration alone renders moral Israel's war to destroy Hamas."

By the same logic, it would have been perfectly moral for the US government to preemptively fire bomb Bell, Tennessee in order to kill the skinheads who plotted to assassinate Pres. Elect Obama. Certainly these professed neo-nazis have the same long term goals the actual Nazi's did. So what's a little collateral damage?

Jordan said...

Shalom Aaron Herschel,
You wrote:

“Why is it impossible to imagine that conditions in Palestine are harsh under an Israeli occupation? Or that Palestinians might feel fear and anger at the deaths of their families, friends, and neighbours? Why is it a mistake to acknowledge, as even Dennis Prager does, that there is at the very least a real tragedy on the ground in Palestine, which, perhaps, deserves some outreach work on the part of the world Jewish community?”

None of my posts suggest that I can’t “imagine conditions in Palestine are harsh under Israeli occupation etc….” I do believe that they were better “under Israeli occupation” than they are under Hamas. There most certainly is “real tragedy on the ground in Palestine,” and responsibility for it is NOT one sided. You continued:

“Of course, Prager stops short here. He acknowledges the tragedy, but decries Jews tendency to "weep" for Palestinains. This he calls "moral disequilibrium." Does that mean that we ought to restore the moral balance by practicing the same xenophobia Hamas does?”

I won’t presume to answer for Prager. As for me, I’ll disagree with your characterization of the Israeli response as xenophobic. You continued;

“Further, it seems absurd to argue, with Prager, that because "Hamas is on the same moral level as the two World War II enemies," Israel is justified in a WWII level military response. Or that Israel's invasion is justified by the pre-emptive logic of the Bush doctrine.”

Please reread Prof. Dershowitz’s article for which I gave the link in a previous exchange with Rabbi Rami a few blog posts ago. He summarizes my point of view on your assertion.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123085925621747981.html



You continued:

Prager says: 

"If Hamas had the same ability to bomb Israel as Israel has to bomb Gaza, would the number of Jewish civilians be in the hundreds? Or would there be the Holocaust in Israel that Hamas and its Iranian sponsors dream of? The answer is so obvious that this consideration alone renders moral Israel's war to destroy Hamas."



Correct. You continued:


“By the same logic, it would have been perfectly moral for the US government to preemptively fire bomb Bell, Tennessee in order to kill the skinheads who plotted to assassinate Pres. Elect Obama. Certainly these professed neo-nazis have the same long term goals the actual Nazi's did.”

Neo Nazi’s as well as other fringe haters are just that: fringe haters who are all but marginalized here in the US. They have no real power. Yes once in a blue moon they’ll be exposed as plotting something of note but the frequency of such is next to nil. To make an analogy between them and Hamas, a terrorist organization that is well funded, well supported, and generally lauded and cheered by the majority of Muslims in the world strains credulity. You continued:

“So what's a little collateral damage?”

And as the Prager article noted, who cares more about the collateral damage they cause?

Shavu’a Tov,

Jordan

AaronHerschel said...

Jordan,

Putting morality aside, i simply am not convinced that a full scale ground invasion is the best solution to the problem of Hamas' rocket attacks. It's obviously a public relations nightmare and plays right into Hamas hands in that regard. israel seems locked into a script wherein overwhelming military force is used to fight a war that might be better prosecuted through other means. This didn't work in Lebanon, and I don't see how it can work now.

Jordan said...

Shalom Aaron Herschel,

You wrote:

“Jordan,

Putting morality aside,”

To do that, by default, plays into the thesis of moral equivalence which I won’t do. You continued:

“i simply am not convinced that a full scale ground invasion is the best solution to the problem of Hamas' rocket attacks.”

A schoolyard bully (Hamas) who need to be stopped, understands nothing else and interprets anything less as weakness. You continued:

“It's obviously a public relations nightmare and plays right into Hamas hands in that regard.”

Only time will tell if the “public relations nightmare,” was worth it or not. You continued:

“israel seems locked into a script wherein overwhelming military force is used to fight a war that might be better prosecuted through other means.”

Such as? You continued:


“This didn't work in Lebanon, and I don't see how it can work now.”

Hopefully Israel has learned and will not repeat the the lessons of Lebanon 2006, as well as others beginning with Oslo, Here’s another link that I posted in a previous exchange with Rabbi Rami, that represents my point of view on this.

http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2008/12/israels-war-on-hamas-a-dozen-thoughts.html

We’ll all know more in the fullness of time.

Biv’racha,
Jordan

AaronHerschel said...

Jordan

you asked what methods other than a ground war might be more effective at quelling Hamas' aggression. This, it seems to me, is the key question. I don't have a great answer for this, as I'm not a military strategist and am still a novice in Middle East studies. Nevertheless, I'll spitball a bit:

Some posts ago I suggested a covert war, involving funding Palestinian moderates (assuming they can be found... or created) to destabilize the Hamas government, along with exerting economic pressure on Iran to begin drying up Hamas' funding. I'd also suggest surgical strikes, involving ground troops when necessary, on smuggling routes and weapons caches (if they can be found--and yes I'm aware these are frequently located in people's homes, hospitals, schools, etc., and I further assume that the IDF is already doing some of this).

In addition, I think Israel needs to step up its propaganda war. During the Cold war, the US propaganda corps dropped thousands of tons of pro-Western literature on Eastern Europe, hoping to win hearts and minds; it further funded and distributed the work of local intellectuals sympathetic to Western Democracy. As you have pointed out, Palestine, and much of the Arab world, is inundated with anti-israeli, anti-jewish, and anti-US rhetoric. Something needs to be done to meet the ideological challenge. Part of that, I would suggest, might include letters like the Rabbi's, wherein Jewish writers reach out to Palestinians both in Palestine and in the West (remember, the Rabbi's letter was addressed to families in Tennessee).

Further, I would suggest that if and when Hamas is finally overthrown, Israel and the US alike, along with a coalition of Arab nations, needs to fund massive reconstruction projects in Palestine, building schools and hospitals and setting up a reliable infrastructure (including repairing roads, factories, whathaveyou). Japan after WWII is my model here--we need a Palestine whose economic and political interests are allied to ours, rather than Tehran's.

In any case, I think one of the lessons of Lebanon and Iraq is that terrorism cannot be successfully fought on a battle field. Daniel Pipes assertion that Israel should focus on destroying Hamas, rather than terrorism, seems valid, but then Hamas uses terrorist tactics--the IDF, not to mention the US, needs to develop a new model of decentralized warfare to meet the threat.

Jordan said...

Shalom Aaron Herschel,

Your suggestions are both practical and wise. Kol hakavod (all honor) to you. You wrote:

"I think one of the lessons of Lebanon and Iraq is that terrorism cannot be successfully fought on a battle field."

Perhaps a corollary to this from the Iraq experience is that things did not begin to really stabilize there until the Iraqi's themselves stood up to the schoolyard bullies (the militant terrorists among them), and began to take charge of the fate of their country. This lesson is akin to my suggestion to Rabbi Rami in a previous post that the only way the Israeli Palestinian conflict is resolved is for there to be a Palestinian civil war. That is moderate Palestinians stand up like their Iraqi counterparts
and face down Hamas and other terrorists among them.

Be well Aaron Herschel and thanks for your thoughtful responses.

Biv'racha,
Jordan

Patti said...

Judy,
I have been quiet because I have nothing intelligent to add. I have been reading along and trying to gain a better understanding of the situation. But still...nothing, blank, nada, zippo. And after reading Aaron and Jordan's discussion, the topic is so far outside of my understanding it would be like Michael Scott trying to say something intelligent about management. “I am an early bird and a night owl. I am wise and I have worms.” ;0)

Jordan said...

Shalom Patti,

I'd be happy to converse with you re any questions you may have about my exchange with Aaron Herschel, either in here, or offline.

My email is eashtov@aol.com

Biv'racha (with blessing),
Jordan