Jewish values and the Israeli attack on Gaza

In 1968, at the age of 16, I left Judaism, unable to reconcile the teachings of our enlightened religion with what I saw happening in Israel. A few years ago, I was introduced to the views of some “Torah-true” Jews who are opposed to a state of Israel. I’m not attracted to Orthodox Judaism but their teaching on justice and compassion convinced me to give Judaism another shot. I joined a Liberal/Progressive synagogue.  I’m trying to apply Jewish teachings to the events in Gaza.
My understanding is that “the dignity of created beings” is one of the fundamental values in Jewish tradition. Every person is created in God’s image and therefore we should not cause unnecessary suffering to anyone.  Jewish texts teach us to respect and honour those who are different from us. The Torah calls on us on 36 different occasions to “love the stranger.” Examples are: Leviticus 19.33 “And if a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not wrong him.” Exodus 22:21 “You shall not oppress a stranger for you know the heart of a stranger as you were slaves in the land of Egypt.” When supporters of Israel’s offensive in Gaza claim that “Israel cannot tolerate rocket attacks on its civilian population,” this seems to contravene these values. The people of Gaza are a civilian population living under Israeli rule. They are not exempt from our loving-kindness and compassion. I have met Muslim and Christian Palestinians in the West Bank. I received their hospitality, ate with them, stayed with them in their homes. They are not so different from Jews. Supporters of Israel say that no nation would tolerate rocket attacks on its civilian population. But there are other ways to respond. During the IRA bombing campaign on mainland England, the British government did not retaliate with aerial and ground attacks on civilian populations in Ireland. They could easily have targetted the nationalist neighbourhoods which are clearly marked with coloured pavements. Instead the government held secret negotiations with the IRA. Jewish law sets forth a detailed set of rules about how to behave. Self-restraint is one of them.


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