Where do you start a story? If you begin the history of African-Americans
with manacles and chains on the shores of the "New World" rather than with
the immoral and imperialistic violation of a sovereign and tribal people a
half a world away, you get two different stories. If you start the story of
immigration reform with the narrative that details illegals jumping fences
in order to leech the public coffers of scarce resources needed for American
citizens, rather than with the capitalistic land-grab known as the
Mexican-American war, you get two different stories.
If you start the story of the crisis in the Middle East with the collapsed
attempts of Hamas and Hezbollah insurgents, fanatically militarized and
financed by Syria and Iran to spark a proxy war rather than with the 1948
displacement of thousands of Palestinians from their ancestral homeland,
however justified as necessary and legal, you get two different stories.
The spiral of escalating violence will not create peace for the Palestinians
or security for Israel. The flexing of military might around the globe —
from the rock-throwing teenager in Gaza, to the rockets' red glare in North
Korea, to the nuclear ambitions of Iran, to the occupation of Iraq by
American troops — make this world a dangerous place.
Violence is a tool of moral weakness and implants such trauma in each
generation that the desire for revenge trumps the human impulse to live as
neighbors in peace.
Israel holds prisoners without charge in the same way that America holds
suspects at Guantanamo Bay. The democratic ideal of both nations is
tarnished when the tactics for gaining security devolves into that of a
Israel's refusal to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah is an
intentional departure from an historical practice (last enacted in 2004)
that held a fragile peace. The bombing of civilian infrastructure such as
power plants disproportionately punishes an entire people for the acts of a
Iran and Syria do not lie outside our moral critique. Rabbi Michael Lerner
notes that they too have exhibited "a history of indifference to the plight
of the Palestinians in their own countries and failed to supply material
support to Palestine to build its economic infrastructure which suggests
that their assistance to Hezbollah comes more from seeking political
advantage and domination in the Middle East than from a genuine moral
solidarity with the Palestinian people."
All people who desire peace in the region stand with Israel in agreement
that U.N. Resolution 1559, that seeks to free Lebanon from Syrian occupation
and to disarm Hezbollah and Palestinians in occupied Lebanon, be enforced.
Yet it is hypocritical of the West and Israel to demand selective
enforcement of U.N. Resolution 1559 while ignoring scores of resolutions
that attempt to hold Israel accountable for their actions and intractable
behavior within the region.
Everyone shares in the blame, but blame offers no solution. A progressive
middle path that recognizes the rights of Palestinians and Israelis and
acknowledges their common humanity must be pursued in order to end the
cycles of violence and establish a lasting peace. Some components of this
radical re-visioning include:
Reparations to Palestinians who lost property and homes from 1947-67, and to
Jews who fled from Arab states during the same time.
Enforcement of all U.N. resolutions
Creation of a joint Israeli/Palestinian border patrol supported by
Return to the 1967 borders coupled with an understanding that Jerusalem be
shared so that Palestinians have access and control over the Temple Mount
and surrounding Mosques.
Empower a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (as in South Africa) to hear
grievances so that wounds, mutually inflicted, could begin to heal.
Now is the time for a new Narrative born from the wisdom of the ages
beautifully expressed by Lao Tze:
If there is no peace in the world
There must be peace in the nations
If there is no peace in the nations
There must be peace in the cities
If there is no peace in the cities
There must be peace between neighbors
If there is no peace between neighbors
There must be peace in the home
If there is no peace in the home
There must be peace in our heart
May we be so moved in our hearts that we demand a new bottom line of
nonviolence as we commit ourselves and our national resources not only to
peace in our homes, but peace in the home of every Iraqi, peace in the home
of every Israeli, peace in the home of every Palestinian evidenced by the
presence of justice enacted through compassion.
Jim Vacca is a member of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Social
Justice Co-chair of Open Circle Unitarian Universalist and teaches at
Boulder High School.