Op-Ed

August 3, 2014

Peace in Israel depends on peace for its neighbors

My heart goes out to the grieving widow of an Israeli soldier. May God comfort her and ease her pain.

My heart goes out to the grieving widow of an Israeli soldier. May God comfort her and ease her pain.

A 9-year brought into a Gaza hospital, soaked in blood, motionless, stared at the ceiling, barely alive. The medical staff stood quietly checking her vital signs. They covered her with a white sheet; she was gone. There were no relatives to grieve or give her name.

She was an innocent victim, as innocent as the three Israeli youths kidnapped and mercilessly murdered, or the innocent Palestinian boy randomly plucked by Israeli militants and burned alive. These two incidents were perpetrated by extremists on both sides, but the anonymous girl was the victim of a state — the state of Israel.

Israel escalated a conflict that has consumed almost 1,500 Palestinian men, women and children — also scores of Israelis — in the name of crushing Hamas.

The drumbeat is even louder in the United States, where one can understand politicians’ lack of a moral compass. But the media’s advice — “Crush them” — is unbelievable.

Advising the best trained military, air force and navy to unleash its wrath on defenseless people who have no air defense, army or armored vehicle is like recommending genocide. The advice is a shameful discredit to the noble profession of journalism.

Instead, Uri Avanery, former parliamentarian and Israeli journalist, raised the real question that American journalists are too tongue-tied to ask.

He asks, What happened to peace negotiations? “No return to the 1967 borders. No Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. No to even a symbolic return of some refugees. No military withdrawal from the Jordan River — meaning that the future Palestinian state would be completely surrounded by the Israeli armed forces. No negotiation with a Palestinian government ‘supported’ by Hamas, even without Hamas.”

In 2002, I visited Israel as a Project Interchange peace delegate. Those were rough times, but I was surprised by the yearning for peace by both Palestinians and Israelis. Each declared that there is no other way but peace.

I told an Israeli Defense Forces captain that I found Israelis more pragmatic, less hawkish than Americans. “Of course, it is easy for them to be hawkish, they only contribute dollars. When I put on this uniform, I not only kill, I can also be killed,” he responded.

Unfortunately, the extremists on both sides love to drag out this conflict because they believe that time is on their side. Unfortunately, time isn’t on anyone’s side except for those already six feet underground.

Gaza is one-fourth the size of Miami-Dade County, crammed with about 2 million people. When bombed and run over by Israeli tanks, there is no place to run or hide, even if they have received the warning.

The settlements and buffer zones around them have placed Palestinians in rings of camps; much of the arable land is unusable. “Gisha,” an Israeli advocacy group calls it — a tool of control over people’s lives. It is one of the elements of occupation that didn’t end in 2005.

It seems peace in the Middle East will not be negotiated in Tel Aviv or Washington; it has to be negotiated in the American public square, especially by the children and grandchildren of Holocaust victims.

It is a moral challenge for them to seek fair and equitable solution; ask: Does “Never Again” mean they will stand by a serial genocide in the making?

American Jews will be betraying the memory of those who perished in Holocaust if they let it continue on their watch. They must demand American media be transparent and truthful, not complicit.

They must use their intellectual and financial prowess to demand Washington and the Netanyahu administration not to emulate Hamas, but be more statesmanlike to find permanent peace.

Jews have a right to their own homeland, but Israel can never live in peace unless its neighbors also live in peace.

Mohammad Shakir is a Muslim peace activist in Miami.

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