In the wake of the May 31st, 2010 Flotilla, we at JRF greatly regret the loss of life that resulted from the clashes between activists on the flotilla and Israeli forces.
We respect the complexity of the decisions facing the Israeli government in addressing Israel's security concerns while examining as well the plight of those living in Gaza who require additional humanitarian assistance. All of these considerations reinforce our hope for peace based on a two state solution and, therefore, that this event and events and actions that may follow in its wake not undermine that possibility. Indeed, it should lead to renewed efforts on behalf of that goal and we welcome the activism of the American government on this behalf.
As a service to our congregations, we are providing a broad spectrum of opinion on this very difficult situation, and welcome submissions of future resources connected to the humanitarian situation in Gaza and Israel's security.
See http://jrf.org/israel/statement-and-resources for more comprehensive resources.
The JCPA Israel Advocacy Initiative resource website. www.Jewishpublicaffairs.org/IAI/Flotilla
Jewish Federations of North America resource page on the Gaza flotilla incident, click here.
For a detailed analysis of the flotilla incident, including the legal aspects of it, by Marty Peretz, editor in Chief of the New Republic, click here.
For a detailed analysis of the Israeli naval blockade and the situation in Gaza by David Makovsky, Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and Director, Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, click here.
For a detailed analysis of the Flotilla incident by Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, click here.
For a list of pro-Israel and anti-Israel rallies across the country, click here.
For the most up to date resources from Israel's Foreign Ministry, click here.
An appraisal of the flotilla crisis from Rabbi Daniel Gordis: http://danielgordis.org/2010/05/31/facebook-meets-the-flotilla/
Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement about the humanitarian situation in Gaza: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wlWcNXzstI
MFA legal expert Sarah Weiss Maudi explains why the flotilla was not allowed to dock at Gaza:
Legal Backgrounder on maritime law and other related issues, from MFA:
Al-Jazeera report on the flotilla before they left that offers insight into who was on board. One says: "We are now waiting for one of two good things -- either to achieve martyrdom or to reach Gaza:" http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2489.htm
A brief history of the Gaza situation from the American Prospect: http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=a_brief_history_of_the_gaza_folly
Community Dialogue about Israel and Gaza: Guidebook published by Public Conversations Project/Jewish Dialogue Group
for single session - pages 104-113
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. http://www.conferenceofpresidents.org/index.asp
Jewish Telegraphic Agency Israel Update Page http://www.jta.org/bigstory
Union for Reform Judaism Statement: http://urj.org/about/union/pr/2010/?syspage=article&item_id=42360
Robi Damelin, Parents Circle - Families Forum Palestinian and Israeli Families for Reconciliation http://www.theparentscircle.com/NewsMain.asp?id=423
Americans for Peace Now http://peacenow.org/entries/israeli_raid_on_gaza_flotilla
Ta'anit Tzedek issued a rabbinic response to the attack. You can view the rabbinic statement here.
Click here for B'Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Territories
President Obama discussed the flotilla incident and urged all parties in the Middle East to use the crisis as an opportunity to advance the peace process. video and transcript of the interview.
President Obama's June 4, 2009 speech in Cairo http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/remarks-by-the-president-at-cairo-university-6-04-09/
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 4, 2010
Statement on the Gaza Flotilla by National Security Council Spokesman Mike Hammer
The Government of Israel has stated its desire to avoid a confrontation and a repeat of Monday's tragic events on the Mavi Marmara. It remains a U.S. priority to provide assistance to the people of Gaza. In the interest of the safety of all involved, and the safe transmission of assistance to the people of Gaza, we strongly encourage those on board the Rachel Corrie and other vessels to sail to Ashdod to deliver their materials to Gaza.
We are working urgently with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and other international partners to develop new procedures for delivering more goods and assistance to Gaza, while also increasing opportunity for the people of Gaza and preventing the importation of weapons. The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed. For now, we call on all parties to join us in encouraging responsible decisions by all sides to avoid any unnecessary confrontations and to ensure the safety of all involved.
Parshat Shlach Lecha (Numbers 13:1-15:41)
By Rabbi Rich Kirschen, Director, The Anita Saltz International Education Center of the World Union for Progressive Judaism http://www.wupj.org/Publications/Newsletter.asp?ContentID=314
By Toba Spitzer (Past-President of the RRA)
This week's events off the coast of Gaza are challenging for those of us who love Israel, who are frustrated with the lack of progress in the peace process, who are deeply concerned about the effects of Israel's blockade on the population of Gaza even as we recognize the challenge posed by Hamas and its actions. As rabbis, one of our roles is to help our constituents take the longer view, to look beyond today's headlines and foster a deeper understanding of what it will take to move towards peace.
This week's Torah portion, Shelach Lecha, deals with a catastrophic moment in the story of the Israelites' journey from slavery to freedom: the failure to enter into the promised land, setting the scene for 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
Like the Israelites, the state of Israel today stands at the edge of a momentous decision: to do what is necessary to make peace with the Palestinians a reality, or to lose the opportunity--perhaps forever--to establish two states for two peoples. The Palestinians, of course, are also standing at this border, but we are Jewish leaders. We must address our own people's hopes and fears, and hope that there are those on the Palestinian side doing the same for their community.
The Israelites' failure in Shelach Lecha provides some important insights into what can happen when moments of opportunity are not realized. In the portion, we can see two moments of such failure, and each is instructive.
The Israelites' first mistake can be framed as a failure of vision, an inability to affirm the possibility of a positive outcome. In listening to the 10 spies whose report emphasized the most fearful aspects of going into the land, the Israelites evinced a lack of faith not only in themselves, but also a lack of faith in the Godly potential that they were called to fulfill. Seeing themselves as "grasshoppers," the Israelites refused to take the challenging yet necessary steps needed to bring themselves to their desired destination.
In this context, we can think about what happens when we in the Jewish community--or in Israel--focus only on the problems and obstacles that stand in our way, rather than on the need for leadership that provides a positive vision of what is possible. We can continue to point out the lacks of the Palestinian leadership, to emphasize all that is problematic about Hamas, or we can strengthen our resolve to do what is necessary to bring about the two-state solution that majorities of both Israeli and Palestinian citizens say they support. The blockade of Gaza is an example of a misguided, fear-driven policy that deepens the problem rather than resolving it. It has increased the poverty and sense of despair of the citizens of Gaza, has allowed Hamas to blame Israel for its problems, and has ultimately strengthened their rule rather than weakening it. Policies driven by fear, like the scouts' fear-filled report, cannot lead to anything productive. The moment calls for leaders in Israel, Palestine, and America to address the possibilities for peace that still exist and to strengthen the resolve of the non-extremist majorities of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to have faith that there is indeed a solution to this conflict. More than anything else, we need faith that a two-state solution can be brokered and made to work. The longer that we delay, the more difficult it becomes.
The second failure of the Israelites' is equally instructive. Informed of their punishment for failing to enter the land, the people react rashly, making the hasty and ill-advised decision to go to war and to force their way into the land. This decision ends in disaster.
In the absence of vision and a faith in what is possible, rash decisions are made that lead to violence, confusion, and death. While the whole truth of what occurred aboard the boats of the aid flotilla remains murky, while the intentions of those who organized the flotilla are debated, and while recriminations fly about what the IDF could and should have done in such a situation, all can agree that an Israeli military action that ended in the death of 9 civilians, in the wounding of both Israelis and activists, and in the further isolation of Israel, is deeply distressing. But our concern should not only be with the particulars of this event, of who made what decisions and in what ways the soldiers were and were not prepared. Our deeper concern should be that such incidents will be inevitable so long as positive progress on securing a viable two-state solution is delayed. Without long-term vision, without a visible commitment to the possibility of peace and a faith that it is indeed possible, there will be more bloodshed, more pain and suffering, greater isolation of Israel and more heartache for those of us in America who so desperately seek a solution to this conflict.
As rabbis, we can raise up the possibility of peace, we can speak words that foster hope and compromise, rather than recrimination and fear. Commentators agree that the 10 scouts who sowed fear among the people did not lie about what they had seen, but in their report gave the people no reason to hope and failed to address the sources of strength and faith that the Israelites had on their side. As Jewish leaders, may we instead follow the example of Joshua and Caleb, neither exaggerating nor minimizing the scope of the challenges that lie ahead, but understanding the power of our words to either move those who listen to work for peace, or to add to the cacaphony of recrimination, hate and despair that forever pushes back the border which we so long to cross.