The Need For Palestinians And Israelis To Be Freed Of Hatred And Suffering – OpEd


Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the USA Senate’s most liberal members, said that progressives’ call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas conflict is unrealistic, declaring “Hamas has got to go.” “I don’t know how you can have a permanent cease-fire with an organization like Hamas, which is dedicated to turmoil and chaos and destroying the state of Israel,” Sanders said. 

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib says that, “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.” We can make it truly aspirational by making it focus on people first and land second. “From the river to the sea Palestinians and Israelis will be freed of hatred and suffering by sharing the land peacefully.

But the Hamas’ 2017 charter states that in principle, it “rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.” In a 2012 speech, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said, “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on any inch of the land.” 

On the one month anniversary of the Hamas-Israel War an Israeli security official said the Israeli military had destroyed large portions of the two Hamas brigades that are defending Gaza City. Hamas’s armed wing has an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 fighters, divided into six brigades, the official said. Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Britain, Canada and Japan. Hamas characterizes its armed activities as resistance against Israeli occupation.

Hamas opposes a two state solution,  wants all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan, and violently opposed the Oslo peace accords negotiated by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the mid-1990s. Yet if the war ends with Hamas eliminated, and with a new Israeli government elected; there is the hope that the miracle of the Yom Kippur War may be repeated. 

On October 27, 1978, only five years after Egypt started the Yom Kippur War with a surprise  attack on Israel, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin were named winners of the Nobel Peace Prize for their progress toward achieving a Middle East accord. The Yom Kippur War was followed six years later by a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel. 

Could the same process follow the defeat of Hamas, and its opposition to a two state solution?  Not if Hamas has leaders like Ghazi Hamad, a senior member of Hamas, who hailed the systematic slaughter of 1,000+civilians in Israel on October 7, vowing in an interview that “if given the chance, Hamas will repeat similar assaults many times in the future, until Israel is exterminated.”

The only possible chance for avoiding more wars is the two state solution. To establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. That will not be possible with the current leaders on either side. Extremists, both Israeli and Palestinian, will do all they can to sink the idea, as they have done since the 1990s. If this war does not deliver enough of a shock to break deeply-held prejudices and to make the idea of two states viable, nothing will. And without a mutually-acceptable way of ending the conflict, more generations of Palestinians and Israelis will be sentenced to more wars.

Although it might seem impossible now, I do believe that within a decade or two Muslims will visit Jerusalem and pray together with Jews as Prophet Isaiah states: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. On that day Israel  will join a three-party   alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.” …(Isaiah 19:23-5) And then “Nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)

For more than seven decades political nationalist leaders in Israel and Palestine have failed to find a way to end the conflict between their two peoples. Perhaps it is time for religious leaders who understand the religious importance of repentance, humility, forgiveness, compromise and hope for peace in overcoming more than seven decades of pain and anger. As the Qur’an states: “Perhaps Allah will put, between you and those to whom you have been enemies among them, affection. And Allah is competent, and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”  (60:7) 

The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas was started on October 7 when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists attacked Israeli military bases and farming communities. Some 1,400 people were killed, most of them civilians, and at least 245 people were taken hostage, with 240 still held inside Gaza. Esmail Qaani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is in Lebanon trying to stimulate a wider attack on Israel. According to the UK-based, Qaani arrived in Beirut one day after the Hamas October 7 assault on Israel.

There is much about the Gaza war that we still don’t know: how long it will last, what the death toll will be, how many hostages can be rescued or returned, and how successful Israel will be in its declared objective of destroying Hamas.

But so far the most important fact is that Iran isn’t getting what it wanted from the war. Iran’s objective in arming, training and encouraging Hamas wasn’t solely to cause Israel pain. The real goal was to disrupt the gradual deepening of the strategic ties between Israel and its most important Arab neighbors. Iran’s rulers, believing that controlling the Middle East’s energy resources and religious sites would make the country a world power, want to establish themselves as the dominant force in the region.

Tehran’s support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria is responsible for many times more deaths and refugees than all the Israeli-Palestinian wars combined. Iran’s support for Hezbollah converted once-prosperous Lebanon into a poverty-stricken Iranian satellite.

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou, a Professor at a university in Rabat, Morocco writes: “After the current (Hamas-Israel) war, Israel’s ultra-nationalist coalition will undoubtedly be undermined by public opinion, and probably by a commission of inquiry. If the Palestinian Authority were to agree to take over Gaza – backed by the international reconstruction aid that would inevitably arrive – and if a centrist coalition government were to emerge in Israel, everything would once again be possible. Two difficult “ifs”? Perhaps, but there is no serious alternative.”

The Qur’an refers to Prophet Abraham as a community or a nation: “Abraham was a nation/community [Ummah]; dutiful to God, a monotheist [hanif], not one of the polytheists.” (16:120) If Prophet Abraham is an Ummah; then fighting between the descendants of Prophets Ishmael and Isaac is a civil war and should always be avoided. And prior to the 20th century Arabs and Jews never did make war with each other. Even the surprise attack by Egypt and Syria of the Yom Kippur War was followed six years later by a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel. Could the same process follow the defeat of Hamas?

If all Arabs and Jews can live up to the ideal that ‘the descendants of Abraham’s sons should never make war against each other’ is the will of God; we will help fulfill the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. On that day Israel  will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”…(Isaiah 19:23-5)

Prophet Muhammad said: “Should I not tell you what is better in degree than prayer, fasting, and charity.” They (the companions) said: “Yes.” He said: “Reconciling people, because grudges and disputes are a razor (that shaves off faith).” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, and At-Tirmithi)

This is an excellent guide to dealing with the three-generation old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather than focusing mostly on what the other side did to us, we all should focus on how the conflict has hurt all of us, and how much better our future would be if we could live next to each other in peace. 

If the descendants of Prophet Isaac and Prophet Ishmael negotiate a settlement that reflects the religious policy that “…there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them – and settlement [reconciliation and peace] is best.” (Quran 4: 128)  

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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