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In Mourning over Gaza–a Zeek Editorial

For over a week, we have posted nothing on Zeek. That is my fault, as Zeek’s editor-in-chief. I couldn’t bring myself to post anything at all. I am in mourning over Gaza. I left Judaism behind at age sixten over … Read More

By / January 16, 2009

For over a week, we have posted nothing on Zeek. That is my fault, as Zeek’s editor-in-chief. I couldn’t bring myself to post anything at all. I am in mourning over Gaza.

I left Judaism behind at age sixten over my anger at the occupation. This was 1978. The Yom Kippur war was over and the arguments in play were around the status of Jerusalem. I remember the day I argued with my rabbi: "Why can’t they just share Jerusalem?"  He was appalled that I’d even consider sharing the holy city, and told me that my allegiance had to be to the Jewish people. Teens, of course, are our best exemplars of the law of physics that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Told to be loyal to Judaism, I quit.

Twenty years later, I returned. I realized that by running away from Judaism I was taking the easy way out, running away from the problems posed by two peoples who want the same land. Through the eighties, I contributed what I could to the peace process, working as an editor at Tikkun and attending various rallies and demonstrations. Like many Jews here in left-leaning San Francisco, I was shocked and dismayed by the Jews who had turned completely against Israel. I felt that we could find a middle way, a path to peace for both sides.

Then came the war in Lebanon, and now Gaza. I am watching the IDF blow up a UN school, UN headquarters containing much needed food. I am seeing small Palestinian children riddled with what appears to be burns from white phosphorus, a napalm-like agent. The IDF must have understood that civilians would be killed–Gaza is a 140 square miles, just three times the size of San Francisco (49 square miles) and one fortieth the size of the San Francisco Bay Area (4000 square miles). Shooting at anyone in Gaza is like shooting at fish in a barrel.

My despair is not only at the deaths of innocents. My despair is for the peace process. Hamas is no partner for peace. Fatah is corrupt. The Israeli government seems to have a deep disregard for Palestinian life–I can’t imagine that the Palestinians see them–us–as a partner for peace either.

The "facts on the ground" are even more depressing. Gaza is a miserable strip of desert with no resources and very little arable land. Unless Gazans are able to get complete access to the gulf for trade and tourism, there can be no economy there. The West Bank has been divided up into little cells of Israeli settlers and Palestinian towns. No Palestinian government could govern the area as it is now–the settlers will have to move or, miracle of miracles, accept Palestinian rule for the West Bank to ever become anything like a modern nation state.

It is easy, living in the United States, to step away from Israel. It is easy to ignore the tv, to refuse to read the posts. Life here goes on, with its own miseries. But I am no longer sixteen. We must find a way to peace because there is no other choice for either the Palestinians or Israelis. There is no other choice for the Jewish people.

Zeek’s main focus is culture–but culture means not just art and letters but the way we live. Right now, we cannot understand Jewish culture without grappling with what Gaza means for us. We are starting to run pieces on Gaza and Israel again today. I hope you will comment. I hope you will get involved.

Jo Ellen

 

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