J Street Statement on the Current Crisis

July 11th, 2014

These are harrowing times for all of us who care deeply about Israelis and Palestinians and yearn for security and peace for both peoples.

Many of J Street’s leaders and supporters have been in Israel this week, and we could not be more acutely and personally aware of the present dangers.

Rockets are flying, bombs are falling and troops are massing on the Gaza border. A ground invasion could be coming in hours or days.

Contrary to those saying the United States should stay on the sidelines because there’s nothing we can do, we are heartened that President Obama expressed American willingness “to facilitate a cessation of hostilities.” We encourage the US to work urgently with partners in the region to find a way out of this round of violence.

Whether you are a child in Gaza or in Israel, tonight you go to sleep (if you can) in fear. A terrorist rocket fired with the intent to kill civilians in Israel may strike your home; a bombing run intended to strike terrorists in Gaza may go astray and kill your family that has no shelter in which to hide.

We at J Street feel deeply for the people of Israel tonight. Our staff, colleagues and friends are running to shelters at the sound of alarms; our family members are being called to reserve duty; our parents and children are in harm’s way.

So we condemn in the strongest possible terms Hamas, its mission to destroy Israel, and its brazen use of instruments of terror to carry out its agenda.

We recognize Israel’s right to respond to the rocket fire and to defend its soil and its citizens proportionately while making every effort to minimize civilian casualties.

And….

Too many communal and organizational reactions to the present crisis stop there, however, and fail to express the “ands” that complete those thoughts.

And… we grieve for families in Gaza whose innocent children are dying – as many as 15-20 children under age 15 are among the Palestinian fatalities according to the latest news reports.

And… as we weep for the families of the three Israeli teenagers – Naftali, Gilad and Eyal – whose lives were so brutally ended by kidnappers, so too we weep for the Abu Khdeir family that lost a son to a racist murder and saw another relative – an American – beaten mercilessly by the police.

And… as we condemn the rockets, the terror and the incitement from the Palestinians – we also condemn the incitement, racism and calls for vengeance that have become far too prevalent not simply on the Israeli street but among some of the Israeli and the Jewish people’s leaders.

And… as we agree that those who use terror, fire rockets and seek to destroy Israel must be rooted out and defeated, we acknowledge that past Israeli operations in Gaza in 2008 and 2012 have fallen short of this goal, with Hamas growing stronger and its rockets reaching farther.

And… there is ultimately no military solution to the underlying conflict between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples – rooted in a century of conflict, decades of occupation and the fundamental desire of both peoples for one land.

To fail to acknowledge the conflict’s complexity, to fail to recognize human loss on both sides and to offer “you’re either with us or you’re against us” as the only acceptable response no longer reflects where a good portion of Jewish Americans and other friends of Israel stand today.

We strongly disagree with those in the American Jewish community who believe our reaction at this moment should not incorporate these “ands” as well. We take issue with those who say that discussing how to end the violence in the long run is not pro-Israel. Incorporating these thoughts and nuances in our communal reaction will only strengthen the American Jewish community’s relationship with Israel in the long-term.

It was the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who famously said that Israel must fight terror as if there’s no peace process and pursue peace as if there is no terror.

This was the message as well on Tuesday at the Haaretz peace conference from both Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog. They talked clearly of the need to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure of Hamas and then to boldly pursue a two-state solution to the deeper Israeli-Palestinian conflict through diplomacy.

Ever more in this moment of danger and crisis, J Street remains committed to the principles of Yitzhak Rabin and to our core belief that the only way out of this death trap is a final status agreement that ends the conflict and occupation.