To my pro-Israel friends, to my pro-Palestinian friends

To my pro-Israel friends, to my pro-Palestinian friends

We cannot buy Palestinian liberation with Jewish blood. And we must not buy Israeli security with Palestinian blood, writes RAPHAEL MORRIS.

The slaughter of innocent civilians is an atrocity. It is ALWAYS an atrocity. No matter the allegiance of the perpetrators or the victims. No matter how noble the cause.

The massacre of Israeli civilians by Hamas is an atrocity. And the bombing of innocent Palestinians by Israel is also an atrocity.

To my non-Jewish friends who believe they are witnessing the heroic liberation of Palestine from occupation: you have been misled. Yes, the Israeli occupation of Palestine is real, and a great injustice. And let us grant for the sake of argument that violent resistance is sometimes appropriate in the service of liberation from oppressors, and that the liberation of Palestine may even be a cause that warrants violent resistance. Nevertheless, to portray current events as a blow for justice is a profound and dangerous error.

There are two key reasons for this. First, the massacre of Israeli civilians has no plausible chance of actually bringing an end to the occupation. On the contrary, it will lead to destructive and bloody reprisals. We Jews have seen this from the other side, when we took up arms against Rome two thousand years ago, and they retaliated by committing genocide. We are already seeing this. The Israeli government has made it clear that they are prepared to burn Gaza to stop Hamas. The blood of Jews cannot buy the freedom of Palestinians. And those who insist that it will are either lying, delusional, or victims of propaganda.

Second, even if the actions of Hamas did indeed advance the cause of Palestinian liberation, that alone would not justify them. War is too unpredictable for utilitarianism. And the justice of a cause cannot become an excuse to indulge our bloodlust. There must be lines that are not crossed, no matter how justified the struggle. The Haitian Revolution is an exemplar of justified violent resistance; who can deny the right of enslaved persons to overthrow their oppressors and claim their freedom by force? But the massacres of families, the torture and murder of thousands of innocents in the wake of Haitian independence remains an atrocity. A justified insurrection does not license the acts of terror we are seeing committed against civilians.

It is easy to tell ourselves that any act is acceptable for the sake of protecting the lives of our people. But we must resist this temptation.

Which brings me to the other side.

To my Jewish friends who in their grief declare their support for Israel’s right to defend itself “by any means necessary”: I implore you for compassion, for restraint. I grieve with you. But once again, no matter how noble the cause, killing civilians remains an atrocity. It is easy to hide behind excuses of self-defence and national defence, of loyalty and patriotism, and tell ourselves that any act is acceptable for the sake of protecting the lives of our people. But we must resist this temptation. We cannot ignore the harm we do in so-called “collateral damage”, the hundreds of innocent Palestinians who are killed in the name of “defence” or “security”. We cannot pretend that their lives are worth less than the lives of Israelis. Nor can we insist that killing a score of innocents for every aggressor is excusable. We cannot bomb homes and mosques and schools and hospitals.

In all likelihood, the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza will only escalate the cycle of violence in the long term, much as it has before. But if Israel does in fact permanently destroy Hamas’ military capacity, I am not so sure it would be worth the cost in Palestinian blood. The ends, however noble, do not justify “any means necessary”.

We cannot buy Palestinian liberation with Jewish blood. And we must not buy Israeli security with Palestinian blood.

I have been a pacifist since the 2014 Gaza War, when I was last in Israel. Judaism has the concept of a “rodef”, a pursuer – an aggressor who forfeits their own life by their violent intentions. This concept is the cornerstone of Jewish law around self-defence. But it also has the concept of “rodef shalom”, a “pursuer of peace”. And we are urged “tzedek, tzedek, tirdof”: “Justice, justice, you shall pursue!”

Don’t stand with Israel. Don’t stand with Palestine. Don’t stand at all, but instead pursue! Pursue justice. And above all, pursue peace.

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