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Originally published in Tikkun Daily

I don’t cry.

It didn’t used to be this way – I was a somewhat sensitive kid growing up, and often wore my emotions openly, crying naturally when the world demanded tears. I’m now 40, and haven’t cried in 12 years. Maybe more. I admit that, during the past month, I’ve written the words “I weep” for the loss of life in Gaza and the loss of life in Israel. But such words have just been a metaphor for what, in reality, can no longer be conjured.

Why am I starting out by telling you this? Because in writing this letter, I can feel the faint hint of tears, can feel the sensation of what it feels like to cry. It’s a familiar feeling, but one which will spill out into words. Words of sadness. Words of love. And possibly, words of hope.

Many of you know me as an active member of the community. You are my friends and my colleagues. You are Jewish community leaders and community activists. You are Americans and Israelis. You are people I care about, and during this difficult time, some of our relationships are being strained. Which is why I’m writing and sharing some thoughts, hoping that in doing so, the distance created between myself and some of you might be bridged during this difficult time.

Like all of you, I wake each morning afraid to see names of Israeli soldiers who have died, and like some of you, that fear is amplified by knowing some of those currently serving whose lives are at risk.

Like all of you, I feel pain for mothers and fathers who must explain to their young children why they are playing cards in bomb shelters, and like some of you, I’m in touch with friends living in Israel who must do so daily.

Like all of you, I love the promise of Israel, wanting it to thrive as a democratic country, despite the inherent challenges, and like some of you, I still desire a two-state solution, however elusive or impossible such a reality has become.

Like all of you, I’m deeply invested in Israel.

However, for some during this time of conflict, to be ‘pro-Israel’ means to be binary. One either stands unequivocally by Israel’s actions, or stands in opposition to Israel. There is no in-between. And it is in that liminal space is where I and many others stand, a space that stands separated from the community.

And that saddens me.

I absolutely support Israel’s right to defend itself, but I cannot defend all of the circumstances which led up to, nor all of the actions which have been taken to execute, the current war in Gaza.

Like the thousands of Israelis who crowded Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, and like many of you, I mourn not just the over 50 Israelis who have been killed, but the over 1,000 Palestinians who have died. And like those Israelis who gathered after Shabbat to light candles for this conflict’s victims, I support a U.S.-led embracing of Palestinian unity efforts and a political end to the violence. I support those efforts out of a fear that this war, as history has shown, will not achieve Israel’s goal of permanent quiet along the border.

And like those Israelis who gathered, my investment in the country compels me to critique its geopolitical policies – the occupation and settlements – which are harming Israel’s long-term viability and the realization of its democratic promise, policies which have harmed Palestinians and denied them basic rights for too long.

These views are informed by a melding of my progressive politics and Jewish values extracted from years of textual learning. There is a foundational text that has always stayed with me from Chapter Four, Mishna Five in מסכת סנהדרין (Tractate Sanhedrin):

ללמד שכל המאבד נפש אחת, מעלים עליו כאילו איבד עולם מלא

Anyone who destroys a soul, it’s as though he’s destroyed an entire world.

Too many souls have been destroyed, too many worlds never to be seen again, both Jewish and Muslim. Too many parents are bereaved, too many families ripped apart by grief. When I stand in opposition to this military action, it is not to stand against Israel. It is to stand against more lives being lost due to military actions which I believe will not bring peace.

Some of you in my community are upset with me for these positions, intimating that at this current moment – during a conflict – having such views is anti-Israel. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I responded to this idea in an article I wrote on Friday, “Empathizing with Gaza does NOT make me anti-Semitic, nor pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. It makes me human.” The article has resonated widely, and since its publication, I have been overwhelmed by the responses which have flooded my inbox, most coming from committed, young Jews who crave communal spaces where they feel free to both support Israel and ask difficult questions. They don’t want to see things in binary terms. They don’t want play a zero-sum game where loving Israel precludes heartfelt critiques and vice versa.

As I wrote in that article, there is a ‘third way.’ A way to be invested in and care about Israel while viewing the conflict as one in which both sides can win.

Or lose.

My hope is that, in the end, it will be the former. And I sense that most of you feel the same.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Author's Note:

An earlier version of this briefly appeared on the Rec. List yesterday before I pulled it to revise and expand a text I wasn't completely happy with.

Originally posted to David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 01:45 PM PDT.

Also republished by Writing by David Harris Gershon and Adalah — A Just Middle East.

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Comment Preferences

  •  When the bombs stop (13+ / 0-)

    There needs to be compromise. My hope is that Israel will stop the blockade and flood the area with aid and goodwill. My other hope is that Hamas will pursue peaceful means and  the idea of a two-state solution.

    Obama 2012

    by jiffypop on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 02:02:08 PM PDT

  •  You are a beautiful human being (13+ / 0-)

    and if I believed in a God, I would wish he sent more prophets like you.

    Free Gaza! Free Donbass!

    by Diane Gee on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 02:30:28 PM PDT

  •  David, if it's any comfort, your article on Friday (22+ / 0-)

    was posted on my Facebook feed by several friends on Friday.  

    You are reaching people.  

    When I discuss the matter (and I'm not Jewish, for what it's worth--I have both Jewish and Muslim friends) I focus on some simple, irrefutable truths:

    - Palestinian population is growing at a faster rate than the Israeli population.

    - Taken as a whole, Palestinians now make up the majority of Israelis (a little over 50%).

    - The median age in Palestine is WAY younger than in Israel (about 17-19, I think).

    - The land space of Palestine has shrunk considerably with each action by Israel.

    Note that in none of these facts do I try to assign blame or judgment.  These are simply facts that both peoples must deal with.

    The Palestinian territories have become a sort of international playground.  Muslim nations enjoy supporting Palestinians because it is a convenient way to poke Israel in the eye without expending any of their blood and treasure.   But Israel takes the bait--hook, line and sinker.  Rather than acknowledging the predominantly Muslim presence in their nation and finding ways to fill the vacuum that ends up getting filled by organizations like Hamas, they try to destroy Palestinian leadership.

    Israel hasn't figured out that by destroying Palestinian leadership, you get replacements that are even more extreme and out of control.  ISIS, for instance, is fixing to destabilize all the nations of the Levant: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel.

    And when they get to Palestine, they will have a ready and willing force of young, idle, angry men to take up the cause.  Outnumbering Israel quite easily.

    This doesn't look good.

  •  i am not jewish. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lepanto, blueoasis

    i cant pretend to understand the feelings of Israel nor the jewish people. thanks for helping my understand a little better.

    i admit i feel bad about having to take sides in a conflict where neither side is worthy of any kind of loyalty or honor. but i am taking sides. im siding with the people who are being slaughtered for no reason.Israel has yet to provide a valid reason for any o f this. not that Israel cares about how i see their actions

    Gaza just doesnt have chance nor the arms. israel knows this. which just increases my anger.

    im not sure how this is going to end, but if it is like the previous battles.  a few weeks of destruction and then Israel calls it a day. the US sends money so Israel can rearm and Gaza can keep from starving. all until it starts up again. a truly vicious cycle.

  •  I don't know why but (5+ / 0-)

    I'm reminded of the words of Subotai (played by Gerry Lopez) in Conan the Barbarian, when Conan cremated the body of his lover Valeria:

    "He is Conan, Cimmerian, he won't cry, so I cry for him."

    There is much to cry about, for what's happening in Gaza. Maybe ... I don't know, maybe we can cry for David.

    This maybe is't coming out very elegantly. I'm just sad about it all.

    "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

    by raptavio on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 02:44:43 PM PDT

  •  Good, heart-felt post. (11+ / 0-)

    You are one of the people I most respect on these issues.  

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 02:46:07 PM PDT

  •  Sadly there are no good prospects for peace (9+ / 0-)

    This is how things are in Israel:

    ”Israeli fascist mob chant “There’s no school tomorrow, there are no children left in Gaza””

    ”Mainstream Israeli columnist Mati Golan calls for putting leftists in internment camps during wartime

    When a state run by open racists has freedom to commit war crimes how can there be any peace? There is a courageous minority of Israelis who are protesting the slaughter but they are being drowned out, and sometimes beaten, by the fascists. The international community won`t do anything - the killings will continue. In the long term BDS is the only available tool and it will gain more traction after this.

  •  sometimes the best friend (8+ / 0-)

    is the friend who will say: you're wrong.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 03:17:48 PM PDT

  •  Bushie Logic (11+ / 0-)
    However, for some during this time of conflict, to be ‘pro-Israel’ means to be binary. One either stands unequivocally by Israel’s actions, or stands in opposition to Israel. There is no in-between. And it is in that liminal space is where I and many others stand, a space that stands separated from the community.
    Is practiced by more than George W. Bush supporters.

    Bushie logic is also just as dangerous when non-Bushies take to practicing it.

    Every time the Bush crowd were challenged, disagreed with, or opposed there came the inevitable "Why do you hate America?" I remember how easily it was for some to accuse others of "wanting the terrorists to win". Because you opposed actions that didn't make any sense or were clearly things that could be seen as making things worse down the line.  

    It was one of the things I loathed the most about the Bush years in my very troubled nation.

    I believe that it is vital for Israel's survival as a nation for those who fundamentally disagree with this current government's actions, or any future government's actions, assumptions, and overreaches to speak out.

    Thundersticks are for people who watch and cheer while noble institutions and great experiments decline and collapse right before their very eyes.

    Israel, just like America, needs people who love it enough to be critical of it and who refuse to remain silent even in the face of withering excoriation and unfair and false attacks on their characters and motivations.

    Being critical of the current government of Israel, and critical of specific actions taken by that government, no more makes you a lover of Hamas than excoriating Dick Cheney means that you cheered for Bin Ladin wanted Al Qaida to destroy the United States because you would not buy in to the worldview of the previous administration.

    I watch the news and Doug Feith and John Bolton from ten years ago come to mind. Were they right? No. Did I want America to be destroyed because I disagreed with them? No. Was silence the answer? Was cheering and banging my Thundersticks in Houston the wiser choice or the better choice for my country because it was easier? No.

    Silence is a deadly form of corrosive permission to do more wrong and more harm.

    I did not want, and no other fellow traveler on the road I knew in those dark years wanted, America to be destroyed because I and they were strongly opposed to the actions of the Bush administration, and I refused to accept that attack as a valid reflection and summation of my beliefs. If I am outraged that innocent children playing ball on the beach are slaughtered, I no more want Hamas rockets to find their marks than I craved or desired another 9/11 because Dick Cheney implies that people like me do for not just buying in to their trite justifications for self-injurious madness.  

    The Bush years were a case study in how dangerous it is when people who cannot fathom the idea that they might be wrong are at the wheel, and dissent and criticism is easily equated with treason, treachery, and total betrayal.

    Your friends are the people who tell you things that you do not want to hear, when it's not easy to tell you those things that you do not want to hear, not the people who only tell you what you want to hear. Or who pour another round of drinks and smiles ignoring that one of their oldest and dearest friends has a problem that is harming them.

    What you do is heroic. Vital. Necessary.

    So many voices in Israel who agree with you are just not being focused on or paid attention to. But that doesn't mean they aren't there. It is very important not to forget those voices.  

    Thank you for all that you do and say. Truly. It's important work and some of the truest indications that you have a profound commitment to the survival of Israel as a viable nation that what you say sometimes enrages.

    "Real journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations." -George Orwell

    by LeftHandedMan on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 03:19:05 PM PDT

  •  My prayers, hest wishes are with you and all of (3+ / 0-)

    your fellow Jewish Americans, Israelis and Palestinians David.

    Please know you have many friends.  

    Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

    by HoundDog on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 03:48:08 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for re-posting, David (3+ / 0-)

    I saw this diary on the list the other day, clicked on it, and it was already gone.

    I believe that the current fighting is making Israel weaker, not stronger. As is the settlement policy on the West Bank, and the Gaza blockade. So many self-inflicted wounds, making a resolution less likely with every iteration.

    The hatred and bitterness in so many on both sides is soul-killing, which I find incredibly sad.

    As others have said, real friends tell friends when they're wrong.

    Thank you for sharing your well-examined insights. Your voice is valuable.

  •  Yesterday very good friend (7+ / 0-)

    who is a kind person and a good liberal and Jew, reposted and endorsed an ultimatum by an Israeli blogger to the effect that anyone posting against Israel at this time should unfriend him.  The video that prompted the blogger's ultimatum was of a distinguished British MP who was himself Jewish and the child of Holocaust survivors, speaking strongly against the current policy of killing "human shields".  And yes, he made the dreaded Nazi analogy.  Rhetorically, it was strong medicine, and not something I myself would ever presume to say -- but I felt he had some pretty impressive bona fides for himself saying it.

    So the very protest against the MP's view, led to me watching his speech, and mostly agreeing with it.  

    And then I had to wonder if my dear friend knew I liked that video -- even though I wasn't reposting it all up in her face -- would she expect me to unfriend her?  And was that REALLY what she wanted, even though she had endorsed this ultimatum?  And then I cried and cried and cried.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 04:21:51 PM PDT

    •  And I'm still too weepy to edit properly (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      capelza, marina

      I have not engaged with my friend about this.  I don't know if I will at a later date.  My spouse counseled me to keep quiet and let it go by because our friend is overwrought and saying things she doesn't mean.  But I think she does mean them.  

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 04:35:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I guess maybe at some point (0+ / 0-)

      I will write to her privately and ask for clarification.  If she truly does not wish to be in contact with anyone who does not believe that Israel's current actions are 100% justified, that can be her choice.

      I don't know, though.  If I keep my mouth shut, we can still be friends in other ways.  

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 07:30:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  to be honest, i'm sick of "nation's rights" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, Pilsner

    People have rights. One of those rights is to live where they are. Another is to leave when they want to. It seems to me that Israel is denying many people both of those rights.

  •  David, if as a lifelong Jewish teacher of the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beltane, history first

    Torah and beloved member many Jewish communities are having a hard time convincing your fellow Jewish Americans and Israeli' you are not an anti-Semite or anti-Israel, can you imagine how much harder it is for us liberal Democratic activists who feel compelled by the same values you hold that we must speak up for the underdog Palestinians who barely have many fewer competent voices speaking for them in their aspirations for food, water, shelter, electricity, a country of their own?

    When we say oh we are not anti-Semites, we are not anti-Israel, we are pro-rule of international law, and well, okay a little bit anti-Netanyahu in the same way we were anti Bush and remain anti-neocon.

    "yeah, right."

    And, pretty much the best we can do is say, "really, we're part of that 'third way' David Harris Gershon talks about .... oh but now he probably doesn't know who we are.

    This is lonely.

    As a radical liberal scientific humanist I am used to walking along. One of our gay, Jewish friends here wrote a post about how lonely it is to be gay and Jewish - excluded from society.

    I laughed sadly as I wrote in and confessed I always been envious of both my Jewish and gay friends who seem as if they can go as strangers to any city in America and immediately be welcomed with hugs, and support from their Jewish and Gay communities who seem to accept them as family even though they are strangers.  

    Alone, among 18 millions fellow Jews and 10% of the population who identifies as fellow GLBT, is a fantasy I've never even been able to imagine.

    While there may only be a few hundred gay Jewish liberals here, and maybe 600 to 1,000 active Jewish Americans, I sometimes think I may be the only radical scientific humanist environmentalist, liberal hound dog.  

    But, now many of us non-Jewish liberal Democrats are in a real pickle.

    I've greatly appreciated the tremendous  and vital contributions liberal Jewish Democratic Americans have made to the civil rights, women's rights, choice, GLBT, freedom of speech, and other movements in the United States.

    Jewish American are a vital voting block and key allies in our Democratic coalition.

    How do we communicate to these vital allies that many of us can no longer remain silent while arch-conservative neocon Benjamin Netanyahu persists in the illegal occupation of the West Bank announcing repeatedly this week he has not intention of ever accepting an independent Palestinian state or withdrawing the IDF for key military bases in the West Bank and Jordan Valley.

    Some "pro-Israel" here seem too ready to dismiss the legitimacy of these basic human rights of the Palestinians because some Hamas fighters who the vast majority of these 1.8 million innocent civilians do not know have fired rockets into Israel? These are war crimes and they should be arrested and prosecuted.

    Something that will be easier when we recognize Abbas and the Palestinian state and he can call for UN or international help for security.

    I am not supporting the recognition of Palestine immediately, as part of a possible last chance for the two state solution.  

    To vilify and bomb an entire population for the behavior of a few is not only wrong, it is spelled out as a war crimes in the Geneva Conventions - the war crime of "collective punishment."

    I am  also now prepared to support charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Netanyahu and many of his cabinet in the International Criminal Court just as I did against George Bush and Dick Cheney, et. al.

    The threshold of evidence seems to have been reach in five complete categories,

    1. The war crimes of disproportion use of force against a civilian population.

    2. The war crimes of collective punishment, not just against the Gazans but all Palestinians.

    3. The war crimes of ethnic cleansing going back to the Nakba, and destruction of homes and even over 30 Arab entire cities. (Which now with the murder in Gaza seemed to have reached the threshold of evidence required for indictment and conviction of Genocide as well.)

    4. The war crimes of force popuulation movements of civilians populations.

    5. The crime against humanity of apartheid.

    6. The war crimes and crime against humanity of Genocide.

    Sadly, many here see this as anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and may see me and other like me as their enemies now.

    This causes tears as well. I can not tell you how many of my recent posts and comments here I write in tears as I realize that after finally finding a community not of 18 millions Jews, of 30 million GLBT but maybe 400 kogs here, maybe a quarter  of them suspect I'm an antisemitic hater of Israel.  

    In retrospect we should have invested far earlier and more aggressively in nurturing and explaining this "third way" concept where one can support Israel, the Israeli people,  and the Jewish people,  but at the same time be angry as heck at what Netanyahu is doing against innocent civilians in the names of these great people and traditions. In my mind he is exploiting these people and traditions.

    I had thought J-Street was a solution but they turn out to be almost as neocon as Netanyahu and and the LIkud.  

    The Tipzi Livni's is purported one of the leaders of the Israel's left. The last plan I read from for the Palestinians  is the war crimes of forced migration of sending them to Jordan.

    The Israeli left seems to start somewhere to the right of Dick Cheney.

    Anyhow, you have many friends here who understand where you are coming from and understand what you mean when you say the third way.

    And even you Jewish community friends who you have really cheesed off with your compassion and sympathy for basic human rights for the Palestinians, know in their heart of hearts you are not an anti-Semite, or anti-Israel and once this is over, or once they "catch up" with your insights they will love you again and embrace you back into the broader Jewish communities.

    Like my other gay Jewish friend, I envy both of your for the vast loving community who understands, accepts, and even loves you.

    Please help the rest of you not so fortunate better explain we are part of the "third way" that appreciates and values Judaism, and the Jewish people, support you aspiration for a Jewish state, and can not stand Prime Minister Netanyahu who I sincerely believe is exploiting, and leading Israel in the wrong direction in a suicidal death march like Thelma and Louse in that movie many women like so much for reasons that are totally beyond me. (More loniness.)

    I wish I could find another radical scientific humanist environmentalist hound dog so we could have a special club, community centers, global network of night clubs, marches, parades, and special movies too.

    Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

    by HoundDog on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 05:01:45 PM PDT

  •  Chris Hayes is doing an in depth interview (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, Pilsner, blueoasis

    From Gaza reporter right now...huge explosions in the background...Israel lighting up neighborhoods with flares to see what's going on.

  •  My heart sank to the floor on Sunday in church (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, blueoasis

    when my pastor, after his sermon had concluded, proceeded to proclaim that anyone who did not support Israel needed to repent. That God would curse those who did not support Israel, citing Genesis 12:3.

    As David points out time and time again in his writings, one can support Israel and condemn their actions. These people support Israel while it commences to kill innocent civilians and say it's ok because the Jews are God's chosen people, you know? That makes no sense. No sense at all.

    "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." James Madison, Federalist #51

    by history first on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 06:55:00 PM PDT

  •  Thank you David. I also find your insight (0+ / 0-)


    Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

    by the fan man on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 05:16:36 AM PDT

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