From River To Sea Palestinians And Israelis Should Be Freed Of Hatred And Suffering – OpEd


The number of civilian casualties in Gaza has been at the center of international attention since the start of the war. The main source for the data has been the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, which now claims more than 35,000 dead. Israel estimates that at least 12,000 Hamas fighters have been killed so far. 

If that number proves to be even reasonably accurate, the ratio of noncombatant casualties to combatants is remarkably low: at most 1.4 to 1. By recent standards of urban warfare, where combatants are embedded above and below civilian population centers, this is a remarkable and successful effort to prevent unnecessary loss of life while fighting an enemy that protects itself with civilians.

The Hamas controlled health ministry said on May 12 that the death toll in Gaza since Oct. 7 had topped 35,000 ignoring the fact that the UN had just reduced its Estimate of Women and Children Killed in Gaza by half, said the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. 

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) revised its child fatality figure in Gaza sharply downward, reporting more than 14,500 deaths on May 6 but 7,797 on May 8. OCHA also revised downward its figure for female fatalities from more than 9,500 deaths to 4,959 deaths. 

The Gaza Ministry of Health admitted it did not have names for more than 10,000  individuals it claimed to be deceased under the rubble. The U.N.’s World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva on May 14 that the WHO believes thousands of those missing could still be buried under the rubble in active combat zones.

But almost all dead bodies were recovered in a few weeks after the recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria and Gaza Muslims also would not be lax in recovering dead bodies. The UN also said that 40% of identified fatalities were men, children were 32% and women were 20%. This ratio is similar to the ratio of deaths in the civil war in Syria. 

 In a U.N. Security Council report titled, “Protection of civilians in armed conflict”, the U.N. examined the rate of civilian casualties in populated areas during conflicts in the year 2021. It found that 89 percent of deaths in urban areas were civilians. In non-urban areas that year, the civilian death rate fell to 10 percent.

The Kan public broadcaster and Channel 12 both published surveys showing over two thirds of the Israel public want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign after seven months of ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. Half of the country also wants earlier elections for the Knesset. Regarding performance in handling the war, 68% said Netanyahu is not doing well, compared to 29% who said he is, and 3% who said they don’t know.

National polls by Israel’s Channel 12 news indicated that the current opposition, along with Benny Gantz’s National Unity party (previously in the opposition but now a member of the emergency government), could secure 75 of the Knesset’s 120 seats if elections were held now, with the bloc loyal to Prime Minister Netanyahu far behind at 45. Israel will be ready for a two state solution if the Palestinians desire an honest peace; meaning a total Peace to end the 83 years of conflict. 

Gaza peace activist Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib has embarked on a one-man social media campaign to draw attention to the human plight of the majority of Gazans who are not involved with terror, and call for mutual recognition between Palestinians and Israelis in the hope that the two peoples will someday be able to share the same land in peace. He has laid out his vision for peace on his blog in The Times of Israel. His dovish advocacy efforts gained him a following of 33,000+ on X. 

“There’s a reason why the Palestinians have no state 75 years after the establishment of Israel,” he said. 

“It’s their awful leadership that goes back to the pan-Arabism of the Nasser days, and that has adopted different ideologies – the secular PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], the Marxist PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], or Islamist Hamas – to sell different versions of the same narrative: We’re going to liberate all of Palestine.” In Arabic, the word Jihad is a noun meaning the activity of “striving and/or persevering.” 

According to Prophet Muhammad there are two types of Jihad: minor and major. Once when Muslims were returning from a military expedition, which for Prophet Muhammad was a minor jihad. He said to the fighters that now they had to go through the major jihad. When Prophet Muhammad was asked what he meant by major jihad, he said it was the spiritual jihad. On another occasion, he said the real mujahid is the one who declares jihad against his/her carnal soul. (Tirmidhi). 

Exercising self-control and using willpower and reason to overcome one’s anger is described by Prophet Muhammad as “the major jihad.” Overcoming our own feelings of hatred, revenge and anger is much more difficult than overcoming our enemies.

In today’s world of fanaticism and extremism the words of Al-Ghazali, a 12th century Persian Muslim theologian, need to be repeated by all the world’s religious and political leaders: “Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see – Egoism, Arrogance, Conceit, Selfishness, Greed, Lust, Intolerance, Anger, Lying, Cheating, Gossiping and Slandering. If you can master and destroy them, then you will be ready to fight the enemy you can see.”

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib says, “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.” I say she can truly make it aspirational by making it focus on both peoples first and the land second. “From the river to the sea Palestinians and Israelis should be freed of hatred and suffering by ‘a two state for two peoples sharing of the land peacefully’ solution.'”

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.” 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. If the war ends with Hamas weakened, 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?  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. 

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 Zechariah predicts: “Then everyone who survives from all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths.” (Zechariah 14:16)

For more than eight 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) Then the words of the Qur’an will be full-filled “From the depths of Darkness into the Light; for Allah is very kind and merciful to you.” (Qur’an 57:9)

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 almost 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 weakening of Hamas?

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)  

The Nakba (catastrophe), the displacement of Palestinians during the 1948 establishment of the State of Israel and the War of Independence, could have been totally avoided if the Palestinian leadership had accepted the UN two state solution. 

Indeed, if the Palestinian leadership had accepted the British 1937 two state solution; millions of Jews would have been able to escape the Holocaust (catastrophe). Hopefully, the Palestinians will not make an all or nothing mistake again.

If we all can live up to the ideal of following the will of God we will help fulfill the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “On 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)

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.

One thought on “From River To Sea Palestinians And Israelis Should Be Freed Of Hatred And Suffering – OpEd

  • May 19, 2024 at 4:34 pm

    Ironically, the human faults that you say are the focus of the Islamic major jihad were first identified by Christ and Christianity (a religion definitely grounded in principles of peace) several centuries before Mohammed showed up. So you should be emphasizing Christian sources for your article. Jesus definitely pointed to peace infinitely more than Mohammed, whose followers spread his religion at its inception by violence.


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