We Hold All of these Truths

May 20, 2021Rabbi Rick Jacobs

The current wave of violence in Israel and Gaza is a heartbreaking human tragedy. The loss of innocent life (including that of children) rends the heart, destruction of homes and endemic fear defy the peace and security in which every human being deserves to live.

We call on Israeli and Palestinian leadership to declare a ceasefire as soon as possible.

It is also hard not to feel whiplash with the competing narratives of what caused this latest round of death and destruction. Too many people hold only the other side responsible while having little or no sympathy for their suffering and pain. But we Reform Jews believe that all of these truths can and should be held together at the same time.

Israel Must Ensure the Security of its People

  • Hamas has shot over 4,000 rockets indiscriminately at Israel and sirens have been sounding almost nonstop in certain parts of the country. No country would or should tolerate having thousands of rockets fired at their citizens without responding. We mourn the loss of life of every Israeli killed in this violence, no matter their religion or ethnicity.
  • Israel has the moral authority to defend its own citizens even if its military might is vastly superior to that of Hamas.
  • The launching of thousands of rockets at Israel’s civilian population and the effectiveness of the Iron Dome in substantially reducing casualties reminds us that US support for Israel is indispensable.

Palestinians' Rights are Essential

  • As Reform Jews, we support the human rights of Palestinians. They should be able to live in dignity and safety in their own country.
  • We mourn the tragic death of innocent Palestinians in Gaza.
  • Using stun grenades in the Al Aqsa mosque on the holiest night in the Muslim calendar harmed rather than enhanced Israel’s security.
  • Our North American Reform Movement has long opposed the military occupation of the West Bank, which humiliates Palestinians and causes much daily suffering. So, too, we have opposed the expansion of settlements and annexation in the West Bank and the eviction/displacement of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, elsewhere in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank. Ending the occupation through renewed negotiations between Israel and the PA is essential.

Hamas’s Control of Gaza Continues to Pose a Threat to Israel and to the Palestinians

  • Life in Gaza is oppressive for which Hamas’s authoritarian rule bears significant responsibility.
  • Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction.
  • Hamas intentionally shoots rockets from within heavily populated civilian areas in Gaza, in effect making the innocent residents of those areas human shields for Hamas and endangering them. 
  • If there were no restrictions on goods flowing into Gaza, Hamas and Islamic Jihad would have far more deadly arms to use against Israel.
  • Despite Hamas’s brutality, the U.S., the international community and Israel must act to expeditiously ensure humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.

Iran Continues to Abet Regional Unrest and Attacks Against Israel

  • Iran has called for the destruction of Israel and supports military operations with Hamas, their ally in Gaza.
  • Iran supplies Hamas and Islamic Jihad with weapons and delights in every rocket shot at Israel and every Israeli killed.

Fostering Healthy Democracies and Curbing Extremism Is Essential

  • With Palestinian elections canceled, Hamas is winning the popularity vote through its deadly violence.
  • The rise of extremism is infecting both Israeli and Palestinian political life, increasing violence (including the emerging internecine violence in some of Israel’s mixed Jewish-Arab communities) and weakening democratic norms. 
  • Israel must ensure that perpetrators of violence, Arab and Jew alike, be held accountable and ensure at long last, an end to discrimination against Israeli Arab citizens and communities that continues in too many areas of Israeli life, including providing fully equal government services.

Affirming Two States for Two Peoples and Comity between Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Citizens are Fundamental to a Peaceful Future

  • Decades of coexistence efforts between Jewish Israelis and Palestinian citizens of Israel have been challenged but not eliminated by the recent wave of violence.  We are proud of the role of many in our own Reform Jewish community who have built strong partnerships with their Arab neighbors including publicly standing together for peace and unity over these painful last days.
  • The current round of violence between Israel and Hamas, as well as in East Jerusalem and in Israeli cities, serves only to strengthen those who oppose peaceful co-existence between a Jewish State and a Palestinian State.

All of these complex realities are true. It is also true that we have a responsibility to work toward a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians, rooted in two states for two peoples, as distant as that goal seems today. The realization of that future has been delayed for too long. There must be sustained resolve to address the root causes plaguing this blood-soaked corner of land. We believe that we must fight for Israel’s security, the rights and dignity of Palestinians, and a peaceful future for all.

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