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A Message on the War in Gaza
from Rabbi Aaron Liebman

These are trying times for Israel, Gaza, the United States and the American Jewish community. After the devastating blow that Israel suffered on October 7, voices rang out - in Gaza, around the world, and even in the US - celebrating the massacre as a victory for Palestinians and calling upon Israel to dissolve. Others, perhaps most, called upon Israel to refrain from responding fully, seeking to mitigate the human suffering of non-combatants that would inevitably result from Israel's reaction.

It's crucial to keep in mind: Not everyone who disagrees with you is evil. There is a wide range of views that might be seen as reasonable and moral, and sometimes it's necessary to understand why other people believe what they do before we cast aspersions on them.

Having said that, it's also important to note that compromise, while often prudent, can sometimes be stupid. Does anyone think we should split the difference between Nazis and Jews on the Final Solution?

What I'm trying to say is that, while I firmly believe in Israel's right to exist, and I believe that Israel should continue to move toward degrading (if not eliminating) Hamas as a continued terror threat, there is also a reasonable concern for the suffering of non-combatants in Gaza. People who argue for a one-sided pause in hostilities (i.e. that Israel should stop targeting Hamas in Gaza, even before the hostages are released and even while rockets continue to rain down on Israel from Gaza) are not necessarily bad people, even if they are - in my opinion - misguided.

Recent events have brought to the fore many opponents of Israel. Among them, some are antisemites who would like nothing better than to see the death of Jews and the destruction of Israel. It is impossible to negotiate or compromise with such hard-liners. On the other hand there are those who call into question Israel's current actions in Gaza, and for those I believe that a better education on the issues is in order.

On a separate note, it bears repeating that even while many opponents of Israel are Muslim and/or Arab, there is absolutely no justification for Islamophobia generally and for violence against Muslims or Arabs in particular. This is true for our communities in the US as well as the West Bank and elsewhere.

Many liberal Zionists have long argued that they are pro-Palestine at the same time that they are pro-Israel. There is no contradiction in this statement, because there is a world of difference between "Hamas" and "Palestine". Rather, it expresses hope for a just and reasonable two-state solution, which is a goal that not everyone has given up on yet.

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