Volume 34, Number 4

CeaseFire Now

Fred Schepartz

The first thing and the last thing I will say about the current conflict between Israel and Palestine is:

Ceasefire now.

I am a Jew. I have experienced Anti-Semitism many times in my life. That said, the events of the last month have been very painful to me. I knew I had to write about the conflict in this space, but found I was having writer’s block especially given the hostility toward expressions of anything less than 100 percent support for Israel and all its subsequent actions.

First, I have to say that the attack by Hamas was horrific and inexcusable. It was an attack of terror and extreme violence that should not be tolerated by anyone.

Yet, it needs to be understood that the attack did not take place in a vacuum. There is context.

I want to choose my words carefully. I don’t want to blame Israel for what happened. The level of violence is on Hamas. However, Israel is certainly responsible for an atmosphere of extremism where no one is safe.

You can’t essentially lock two million people in an open-air prison for 17 years without consequences. You cannot expect a lack of consequences for a failure to find a permanent solution to an untenable situation.

It also must be said that Israel’s response to the attack is also horrific and inexcusable. Thousands dead, whole neighborhood’s leveled. Civilians intentionally targeted. Humanitarian aid blocked. And we can only imagine how horrible a ground invasion of Gaza could be.

I do understand that the attack brought great trauma to the people of Israel as well as Jews all over the world. However, such a disproportionate response, leading to such a high level of death and misery in Gaza is not the answer, but it always seems to be what Israel does when attacked.

This is not the answer.

The Netanyahu Administration has failed the people of Israel. The attack represents an obvious intelligence failure. It was also a failure that the area near the border was not better protected. In addition, in the wake of the attack, Israelis have been very angry about a lack of adequate responses from what has proven to be an incompetent government.

Decades ago, people sometimes describe Israel as socialist. Israel certainly was a functioning social democracy, but those days are long gone. Netanyahu wins election after election, largely by allying with increasingly rightwing factions that has Israel clearly down the path toward autocracy.

This needs to change.

And the United States needs to alter its relationship with Israel. For too long, the United States has been complicit, has served as an enabler even when Israel surrendered to its worst impulses. I get that the United States will always view itself as a protector of Israel, but this nation must come to the conclusion that no one will be safe until there is a genuine homeland for the Palestinians.

But much must change.

I heard an interview the other day on Democracy Now! with Gershon Baskin, Middle East Director of the International Communities Organization. I can’t say it better than Baskin, so here’s what he had to say:

“Our leaders need to pay the price for bringing us here, Israeli leaders and Palestinian leaders. They all need to go. And we need a new generation of Israelis and Palestinians who are willing to stand up with new ideas, new visions, new hopes, new dreams, and the ability to lead us forward on the very basic principle that everyone living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea must have the same right to the same rights. That is the basic principle from which we have to start. And from there, we can decide if we want one state, two states, three states or 10 states, a federation or a confederation. But it begins with the mutual recognition that we all must have the same right to the same rights.”

A ceasefire must happen as soon as possible. Free the hostages. Mourn the dead and honor and respect their memories. And then may all parties work toward a lasting solution that will keep all of us safe and secure and prosperous.