by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
August 3, 2006
STOP FOR THE SAKE OF STOPPING
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- I couldn't believe it when President George Bush, talking about Israel's attack on Lebanon, said he was against "stopping for the sake of stopping."
Is he mad? How can stopping for the sake of stopping be wrong? How about stopping because people are being killed over there, Mr. President? How about stopping because one less dead person, one less dead child blown to bits, one less dead Israeli soldier or dead Hezbollah guerrilla fighter or dead anybody is better than continuing with this brutal insanity?
We live in a scary world led by madmen and fanatics, and I don't mean only in the Middle East. The British writer George Monbiot recently called Mr. Bush the "King of Fairyland" who, if he tried to put the brakes on Israel, "would be forced to come to terms with the consequences of Israel's occupation of other people's lands and of its murder of civilians; of his own invasion of Iraq and of his failure, across the past six years, to treat the Palestinians fairly. And this he seems incapable of doing. Instead... Bush is constructing a millenarian narrative of escalating conflict leading to the final triumph of freedom and democracy."
This is an extremely difficult time for American Jews. In Judaism we have an important tradition of "Tikkun Olam," or "perfecting the world." We're charged with healing, with trying to make the world a better place by working for peace and social justice.
I may be one of the most assimilated Jews on the planet, and I quote Jesus Christ (the Sermon-on-the-Mount Jesus, when he was still a Jew) more than I quote most rabbis, but when Israel becomes rabid, when Israel becomes a wild aggressor, when Israel bombs the hell out of Tikkun Olan, then it tears apart not only my heart's great love for the country itself, but also the part of my soul that feels empathy for the downtrodden, the victims, the innocents, the people in pain, the people in fear - whether they are Israelis, Lebanese or Palestinian.
Not all Jews are hard-liners, you know. There are many Jews in Israel and America who are screaming for the war to stop. Thousands of Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv on July 22 to protest the war, and rightly so.
And in America, 1,500 religious leaders, scholars, poets, cultural leaders, philanthropists and "citizens of the world" have signed a letter against the war written by Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of the magazine Tikkun and Prof. Cornell West. The letter (see it at www.tikkun.org) ran as an ad in The New York Times on July 31 and will appear in papers in Palestine and Lebanon - if there are any left - as well as across the United States.
The writers easily fault Bush's position, or lack of one: "By endorsing Israel's attacks and explicitly giving it time to do more damage to the people of Lebanon, the U.S. government has become a party to this violence, which, together with American military actions in Iraq, is sure to create enmity towards the U.S. and Israel in the Muslim world for generations to come."
In the light of America's diddling, the writers call for an immediate "international Middle East peace conference to impose a just, equitable and lasting settlement on all parties. In the name of our sisters and brothers suffering and dying in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, we, the undersigned, demand that the Israeli government, the leaderships of Hezbollah and Hamas, the U.S. Government, the international community and the United Nations immediately take the following steps to stop the war in these countries."
The steps? The Israeli government halts its attacks on Lebanon and Gaza now. Hamas and Hezbollah stop shelling and fighting against Israel now. The Israeli government immediately provides food, water, electricity, shelter and money "to repair the humanitarian crisis caused by its invasion of Gaza."
Then, this international peace conference must "impose a fair and lasting solution... Why do we say 'impose'? There are too many forces in each country in the region who are committed to continuing this struggle forever. Their provocations will continue until the international community stops the violence once and for all and imposes conditions of peace that will allow the peace and reconciliation forces in each country to flourish."
The "fair and lasting solution" will include two side-by-side nation states, reparations to both Palestinian and Jewish refugees, a peace-keeping force "to separate Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon and to protect Israel and Palestine from each other and from other forces in the region who might seek to control or destroy either state," and sanctions against any party that violates these agreements.
The writers are not fools. They know that hatred and violence just begets more hatred and violence. They recognize that the Tikkun Olum, the repair of this torn-apart piece of the world, must be accompanied by generosity of spirit, by a change of consciousness. It must include "an open-heartedness and willingness to recognize the humanity of the Other, and repentance and atonement for the long history of insensitivity and cruelty to the other side."
The signers suggest a joint authority of moral leaders who can help in this healing process, and later, possibly, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission such as Nelson Mandela used in South Africa.
To all of this I can only add a heartfelt Amen!
But on NBC News, Israel said it needs two more weeks of rampage before it can agree to a cease fire. And by the way, that day 71 more people died in Iraq.
And President Bush sees no reason to "stop for the sake of stopping."
Joyce Marcel is the only female op-ed columnist in Vermont. A collection of Joyce Marcel's columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through joycemarcel.com. And write her at email@example.com.