A perspective from Perth, Western Australia

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Israel and Lebanon: a rabbi speaks out

As the international community inches closer to a Security Council resolution on this matter, I found an interesting statement from a Jewish Reform rabbi in California. Religion I feel has a role to play in solving the crisis - unfortunately, religion has been used in many conflicts including that in my birthplace of Northern Ireland as a pretext to kill or dispossess people rather than affirm life.

The full text is quoted in the link, but the text from Lerner makes three demands, which he describes as only the minimum steps necessary to stop the disaster. It is a nice change to see someone who has thought this out and wants peace which does not favour either side but allows each to live in peace.

  • a halt to attacks on Lebanon on Israel - such attacks, he argues, will not provide peace or security for Israel - and for Israel to provide humanitarian assistance and funds to repair the damage it has caused.

  • a halt to attacks on Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas - attacks which he argues played a central role in provoking the crisis and harm the cause of Palestinian and Lebanese independnece and democracy by driving decent Israelis into the hands of "militaristic and paranoid political leaders".

  • for the US government and international community to call for an immediate ceasefire - he argues the US has become a party to the violence which, together with Iraq, are creating enmity towards the US and Israel.

Lerner then calls for an International Peace Conference to impose a 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." While I agree with him, I don't agree that imposing a solution from outside will necessarily help to solve the situation. One key emphasis is a viable Palestinian state and a return to the 1967 borders.

Lerner also calls for a "new spirit of open-heartedness and reconciliation", as each side needs to recognise the humanity of the other and stop demeaning the other in media, religious institutions and educational systems. He believes the fundamental "goodness and generosity" in humanity, led by those with the financial means to be generous, will ultimately fix not just this situation but wider world problems. For those who disagree or find this an unrealistic possibility, he answers his critics at length in this piece and I do suggest reading it.




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