In the language of 21st century social media, the conflict in Gaza may have reached a "tipping point," where the legitimacy of Israel's military actions to defend itself against rockets aimed at its civilian population has been become obscured by the 24/7 optics of almost 2,000 killed and many more wounded children and non-combatant adults in Gaza. The passions stirred by these events are reminiscent of those that occurred during the Vietnam War when anti-war and pro-war sentiments flared and were also the subject of a lot of print, radio and television media coverage.
In the current Israel-Gaza conflict, a new vocabulary has emerged. Words and phrases like "moral equivalency," "collective punishment," "Hamas propaganda," "Israel's right to defend itself," "Hamas or terrorist apologists," have become common communications currency.
"Walking where angels fear to tread," we believe it is appropriate to ask whether or not Israel, in its pursuit of a military solution to problems ultimately requiring a POLITICAL solution, MAY, and I repeat MAY, as a result the disproportionate irreparable civilian damage to hospitals, schools and UN facilities in Gaza, have precipitated UNINTENDED consequences, POTENTIALLY arising to a level of international immorality? No amount repetitive statements about Israel's right to defend itself from rockets fired by Hamas may be an appropriate moral response to the potential immoral consequences of Israel's military actions in Gaza.
During the Vietnam War so many "good people" in our country were silent, as they read and watched on television, day after day, about the "rolling thunder" of B-52 bombers dropping tons and tons of explosives on hundred of thousands of innocent people, many women and children in North Vietnam in pursuit of a military "victory" which ultimately also required a durable political peaceful solution.
Why the silence of so many "good people" today, in the face of the unprecedented devastation of Gaza's infrastructure by Israel with American made and supplied weaponry?
In response to our concerns expressed above, a recent email from a very dear friend said:
"Imagine Israel is Texas and Mexico terrorists and gangs were shooting rockets. What would Texas do -- is it a political or military problem of Texas?" She continued by asking, "What about the tunnels built by Hamas in Gaza to enable it to attack Israel?"
"Why is no one condemning Hamas for using cement to tunnels instead of rebuilding Gaza when they got, I believe $10 billion to rebuild? They by their actions do not want their people to prosper or a two State solution. Why no discussion of that. Supporting Hamas by staying silent to their objectives is like supporting Syria."
The "deafening silence" by leaders of the Palestinian Authority to the firing of rockets upon Israeli into communities, so obviously unrelated to any Israeli military target, is also immoral and inexcusable.
So, what is to become of these argumentative discussions about Gaza and Israel, and other issues such as the crisis on our southern border caused by child refugees, continued existential gun violence, instances of apparent police lawlessness in several attempted arrests of African-American suspects, and the numerous legislative initiatives in several states to curb and restrict women's reproductive rights and African-American, Hispanic and young people's rights to register and vote?
Are we entering a phase of "spectator politics" -- where we sit, listen and watch but don't do a damn thing about the POTENTIAL immoral consequences of Israel's actions in Gaza and/or about the other issues mentioned above?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in one of his most controversial, but profound, speeches about the war in Vietnam, "A Time To Break The Silence," on April 4th, 1967, at Riverside Church in NYC, spoke words that are still relevant today. If we substitute his reference to Vietnam to Gaza and his reference to North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front to Hamas, his words are prophetic.
"l come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation."He continued by saying that his speech was not:
"an attempt to make the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides."
For many years we have supported and continue to support the State of Israel, as well as the rights of the Palestinian people to their own self-determination in a nation State of their own. Accordingly, we are dismayed to see how years of deeply committed support for Israel can be summarily dismissed merely because we hold a point of view contrary to those who completely support Israel in its current military action in Gaza.
This is also painfully reminiscent of those people who had previously supported Dr. King and his leadership, but who criticized and stopped supporting him after his speech criticizing President Johnson's conduct of the war in Vietnam.
It is poignant and especially painful to observe and experience differences of opinions and points of view about Israel's actions in Gaza with several American Jewish people and organizations on this 50th anniversary, August 4th, 1964, of the murder of two young Jewish boys from New York. They were killed because of their efforts, jointly with James Chaney, an African-American from Philadelphia, Miss., to register eligible blacks to vote for the first time in the state's history.
Recalling their deaths should inspire all of us to be the very best that we can be toward one another -- especially, in commemoration of that historic coalition that existed during our civil rights movement between the African-American and Jewish communities. This should endure, notwithstanding current differences of opinion about Israel's actions in Gaza.