Thursday, August 28, 2014

Did the attack on Gaza meet the criteria of a just war?

What has happened in Gaza reminds me of what happened when I moved to West Philadelphia in 1986. Soon after moving in, I was shocked to learn that police had dropped bombs on a nearby community of black radicals, killing eleven people. Here’s the story as told in Wiki:

In 1981, a radical community of black activists called MOVE relocated to a row house at 6221 Osage Avenue in the Cobbs Creek area of West Philadelphia. Neighbors complained for years that MOVE members were broadcasting political messages by bullhorn at all hours and also about the health hazards created from piles of compost. On May 13, 1985, after the complaints as well as indictments of numerous MOVE members for crimes including parole violation, contempt of court, illegal possession of firearms, and making terrorist threats, the police department attempted to clear the building and arrest the indicted MOVE members. This led to an armed standoff with police. The police lobbed tear gas canisters at the building. MOVE members fired at the police, and the police returned fire with semiautomatic weapons. A Pennsylvania State Police helicopter then dropped two one-pound bombs made of FBI-supplied water gel explosive, a dynamite substitute, targeting a fortified, bunker-like cubicle on the roof of the house.

The resulting fire ignited a massive blaze that eventually destroyed approximately 60 houses nearby. Eleven people (John Africa, five other adults and five children) died in the resulting fire. Ramona Africa, one of the two survivors, claimed that police fired at those trying to escape the burning house, while the police stated that MOVE members had been firing at police.

Mayor W. Wilson Goode soon appointed an investigative commission called the PSIC or MOVE commission. It issued its report on March 6, 1986. The report denounced the actions of the city government, stating that "Dropping a bomb on an occupied row house was unconscionable." No one from the city government was charged criminally.

In a 1996 civil suit in US federal court, a jury ordered the City of Philadelphia to pay $1.5 million to a survivor and relatives of two people killed in the bombing. The jury found that the city used excessive force and violated the members' constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Philadelphia was given the sobriquet "The City that Bombed Itself."

Note that in this case, the city didn’t justify its actions based on the argument it “had the right to defend itself.” Certainly the illegal activities of MOVE (like the behavior of Hamas) was a threat that justified some kind of defensive and/or punitive response. The city investigated itself, and found itself guilty, but imposed no penalties. Then a relatively impartial outside agency, the US federal court, investigated the city’s actions and determined that the city used excessive force and needed to compensate the victims.

I think similar argument could be made about Israel’s response to Hamas. Gazan rockets and mortars have killed 40 Israelis in 14 years. That’s 2.8 Israelis per year. During the recent attack on Gaza, Hamas rockets killed 4 civilians. This is tragic, since every life is precious, but hardly an existential threat to Israel. In response to this threat, Israel has killed thousands of Gazans (most of them innocent children and civilians) and inflicted billions of dollars in property damage. By the principle of proportionality, Israel or any country is required to do the least amount of  force in order to counter a threat.

In fact, under just war theory (as espoused by the Catholic church, not the Quakers), a country engaged in a defensive war is obliged to meet the following requirements:

  • It is necessary that the response be commensurate to the evil; use of more violence than is strictly necessary would constitute an unjust war.
  • Once war has begun, there remain moral limits to action. For example, one may not attack innocents or kill hostages.
  • It is obligatory to take advantage of all options for dialogue and negotiations before undertaking a war; war is only legitimate as a last resort.
  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated (the power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition).
Did Israel’s attack on Gaza meet these criteria? Was Hamas’ response to Israel’s actions legal or morally defensible? These are questions that should be answered by an international court of justice. It seems clear to me that both sides bear some measure of responsibility. Outside parties (such as the UN) need to help put this conflict into perspective and help both parties do what is necessary to bring about a just and lasting peace.
As a citizen of the US, I feel I need to do my part to insure that my country does not take sides, but does what it can to enable both parties to live together with dignity and justice for all. I believe that FCNL’s positions would go a long way toward making an enduring peace possible. As Kate Gould writes:

No one—Israeli or Palestinian—should have to live under constant threat of death. The U.S. must call for an immediate ceasefire to stop the killing. That will require engaging not only Israel but also Hamas. But the U.S. must also call on Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza that causes unnecessary suffering for civilians. Without an end to the blockade, the ceasefire will not last.

Violence and military force will never bring peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Military aid to Israel amounting to more than $3 billion per year creates a heavy moral obligation for the U.S. to ensure that this aid is not used in violation of U.S. law and fundamental human rights.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Who do you trust to investigate alleged war crimes in Israel/Palestine? The IDF or the UN?

Recently I was asked my opinion of video produced by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) justifying its massacres of innocent civilians because Hamas allegedly uses Gazans as human shields. See

My first response was that this slick two-minute youtube video is mere propaganda. It's as if the police created a video justifying why it killed a youth  and used excessive force in Ferguson. How credible would that be?

But perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe the allegations in this video have some truth to them.

If Israel really believes that Hamas uses its citizens as human shields and has therefore committed war crimes,  it would support an impartial investigation that would prove its allegations. And who is more qualified to do a credible investigation than the UN?  

Well, maybe that’s the problem.  Israel believes that that the UN is biased. Instead, Israel wants to investigate itself, much like the police in our country when accused of brutality. Can the police police themselves? Can a country at war credibly investigate war crimes that it has allegedly committed? Ask the blacks in Ferguson, or New York, or virtually any other city in the US if they trust the police to investigate themselves...

Is Israel unbiased? Would the world accept the results of its self-investigation?
In comments made to Governor Cuomo, Netanyahu made clear that the world is divided between the evil doers (Hamas, Isis, the Muslim extremists) and the righteous (Israel and the US).

“This is the kind of moral divide that is evident today in the world, and on one side you have Israel and the United States representing democracies committing to human rights, committing to a real future for our people; and on the other side, you have the likes of ISIS and Hamas, Islamist tyrannies that have no inhibition and pursue their grisly creeds and their grisly deeds.”
For Netanyahu, there is no “moral equivalency” between the two sides. It is hard to imagine how Israel can do a fair and impartial investigation with this attitude.

Netanyahu also claims that UN doesn't condemn Hamas’ rocket attacks and is therefore biased, but this is untrue. The UN chief rights investigator Navi Pillay has stated publicly that Hamas and Israel have both committed acts that may be war crimes:

"There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes," Pillay told an emergency session on Israel's Gaza offensive at the UN Human Rights Council, citing attacks that have killed Palestinian civilians, including children.

She said Israelis also had a right to live without constant fear of rocket attacks.

"Once again, the principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups," she said.

Pillay has made it clear that the actions of both sides need to be investigated.

Just as we sometimes need a civilian review board to hold police accountable when there have been allegations of police brutality, nations need to be held accountable by an international tribunal when war crimes have allegedly been committed.

I’ll say more about the alleged use of human shields in a later blog.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Christians of Gaza and Israel/Palestine are Crying Out for Justice

It is infuriating to read the lies that Tim Rutten publishes in mainstream newspapers about the situation in Israel/Palestine. For example, Rutten alleges that Muslims in Gaza have engaged in “ethnic cleansing” of Christians and that the decline in the Christian population in Israel/Palestine is the fault of Muslims: “The Palestinians, in whose cause so much of Europe now speaks with such vitriol toward Israel, are as guilty of ethnic cleansing as the rest of their Islamic brethren.” ( ) The truth is that most of the 1,500 Christians currently living in Gaza have a close relationship with their Muslim neighbors and Palestinian Christians see Israeli occupation and blockade, not alleged Muslim ethnic cleansing, as the biggest threat to their lives and livelihood.

According to reliable sources, the Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza has become a haven not just for Christian but also hundreds of Muslim families seeking shelter there as the offensive drags on.“The church has been our hosts for the past two weeks, offering food, clothes and whatever we needed, their loss is our loss, their pain is our pain,” says 45-year-old Abu Khaled. At the memorial service for a Christian mother named Jalila killed by Israeli attack, Archbishop Alexios said: “Another human being, an innocent one, has lost her life." In something that surprised local journalists, Jalila’s body was carried by both Muslims and Christians to the grave. It seems the shared wounds, mourning and rage are bridging past divides in war-ravaged Gaza. Last week, Gaza’s Greek Orthodox Church also sustained damage by Israeli artillery shelling. Fifteen graves were damaged and damage was also caused to the Church’s sole hearse, says Kamel Ayyad, a parish member.“The world must realise that Israel’s missiles don’t differentiate between Christians and Muslims,”said Abu. See more at:

George Ayyad, a relative of Jalila, rejects the idea that Christians will leave Gaza after this incident. “This is exactly what the Israelis want, but where should we go?” he questions, before he continues “This is my homeland and we are Christians here in Gaza for more than 1,000 years and we will remain.”

The same is true throughout the West Bank and Occupied territories. Palestinian Christians feel they are being driven out of land by the inhumane treatment they receive from Israel. They cry out to the United States and the international community, asking for justice and an end to the occupation.

Sabeel, an organization of Christians in Israel/Palestine, is committed to nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation. In his statement on behalf of Sabeel, the Rev. Dr. Naim, expresses the views of many Palestinian Christians:

1. The international community needs to empower the UN to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine. We have been caught in a destructive cycle. Every few years the situation reaches its boiling point, warfare begins, and thousands of Palestinians are killed and injured, mainly civilians – women, children, elderly, and disabled. The international community has been lethargic, impotent, and unwilling to implement its own resolutions on Palestine.The international community has the responsibility to resolve this seemingly intractable conflict. The UN needs to be empowered to do its work.

2. International law unequivocally gives occupied people the right to shake off the yoke of the occupier through various means including the armed struggle. While this is true and needs to be remembered in considering this situation, Sabeel has always stood for the moral right of liberation through nonviolent means.

3. The Palestinian rockets from Gaza have an important message that Israel refuses to understandand the western powers, especially the United States,are unwilling to comprehend. The message of the rockets addresses the core issues and the root causes of the problem – STOP THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION AND FREE PALESTINE. If this does not happen, the war will occur again and again and again, and the casualties will be mainly women and children. This conflict will continue to flare up, despite anyone’s best efforts to contain it, unless the systemic injustice of occupation is dismantled. A recent statement from Israeli academics cuts straight to the point: “Israel must agree to an immediate cease-fire and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement”(

4. Our plea is to all people of conscience in Israel. You need to become engaged. The present political course is driving Israelis and Palestinians further apart and is leading us to an impending disaster worse than we are witnessing today.We all must stop nurturing extremism. Israelis and Palestinians have to live together in this land. God has put us here, we need to share it. The alternative is untenable.

5. A stable peace can only be realized when justice, in accordance with international law, is achieved for both Israel and Palestine. (See

If we want to help the Christians of Israel/Palestine, we need to listen to what Palestinian Christians are asking for: an end to the siege of Gaza, an end to Israeli occupation, and equal rights for Palestinians and Israeli Jews.


 PS My friend David Albert wrote the response below, with which I agree. The problem for Christians (and others) in the Middle East has been caused by US invasions that have fueled sectarian violence. The more violence we use, the more anti-American and anti-Christian feeling grows. If we want peace in this region, we need to  drop food, not bombs--humanitarian aid, not weapons. And we need to show concern for Muslims as much as for Christians victimized by war.

Nice, but why should we particularly care for Christians there? In Iraq, there had been 1.3 million Christians living peacefully (and the Deputy Prime Minister was a Christian) until the America (Christian) invaders go there. Now there are fewer than 200,000. Where did they go? They went to Muslim Syria, where Assad provided them with homes, food, schools, and opportunities for employment (with no help from so-called "Christians".) They went to Muslim Jordan, which had already taken in 2.5 million Palestinian refugees, including hundreds of thousands of Christians. They wen to Muslim Kurdistan. They even went to Muslim Iran (which has three permanent Christian members of their Parliament.) They were rescued by the Syrian Muslim Peshmerga. No Christian country took them in in any signficant numbers.

We need to be providing support for Palestinian MUSLIMS. They are the only real hope that Christians really have.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jailed for Justice: Taking a Stand Against the Slaughter of Innocents in Gaza

I have just returned home from a night in Van Nuys jail, where I was booked along with three other peace activists: Jerry Stinson (a  retired UCC pastor and lifelong activist), Edie Pistolesi (art professor at Cal State Northridge), and Estee Chandler (LA organizer for Jewish Voices for Peace and hostess on a KPF radio show). We were arrested for overstaying our welcome at Senator Feinstein’s office, where twelve of us showed up at 10 am with a letter calling on the Senator to stand up for justice in Israel/Palestine (see text below).
                 The Senator’s aides wanted us to fill out a form requesting a meeting with Feinstein, but we insisted on having a phone meeting since she was one of the 100 Senators who unanimously supported a resolution giving $225 million in additional military aid to Israel (which already receives over $3 billion in military aid). We felt that giving extra  military aid to  Israel at this time was tantamount to supporting Israel’s merciless attacks on Gaza, which have so far killed over 2,000 Palestinians, 80% of them civilians, and 500 children. Israeli supporters claim these killings were in self-defense, but Israeli military strategists cynically call these periodic bloodbaths "mowing the lawn."

We disregarded the request that we follow protocol and arrange a meeting through the usual channels (which could take place, at the earliest, in the fall) because we felt that the atrocities taking place in Gaza are so urgent we needed to speak to the Senator immediately. After meeting with the Senator’s aides, we refused to leave. After four hours, her chief staff person lost patience and called the police. When the police arrived, eight of us left, and four of us decided to stay and commit civil disobedience.  We were arrested and handcuffed at 2 pm.
Estee Chandler
This kind of confrontational meeting is not what I, as a Quaker, am used to, or comfortable with. I prefer respectful dialogue with our elected officials. But I also resonated with Estee Chandler’s insistence that things have gotten so bad in Israel/Palestine we need to resist the status quo and put our bodies on the line, to show that we don't want innocent people killed in our name, and with our tax dollars. 
 While in jail, I thought about others who have served time for reasons of conscience: the apostle Paul, George Fox, Quaker war resisters like Bill Lovett, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, the Barrigans, Martin Luther King. What a glorious crowd of witnesses!
I thought and prayed about my fellow inmates, what hard lives they live, many of them growing up in neighborhoods where gangs and jail seem almost inevitable (like going to college when you grow up in affluent suburbs). Some were suffering from mental illnesses, others from substance abuse issues. Most were black or brown--victims of the New Jim Crow.....
 I was grateful to be serving time with amazing people of conscience and courage like Jerry Stinson, Estee Chandler and Edie Pistolesi--people who, like me, who have been given many privileges and are trying to give back. And I was grateful for our team captain, Shakeel Syed, who stayed up past midnight to support us and doggedly worked to get us released. Bail was set at $5,000, but we were supposed to be released on our own recognizance after twelve hours. We were admitted at 6:00 pm, but when 6:00 am  rolled around, others were released to go to court or to go home, but we were left behind in a nearly empty cell.  We waited and waited, and finally called our bail bondswoman who seemed nonplussed by what was happening. At 10 am, Jerry was told he had a visitor, and it turned out to be Shakeel, who informed us he was getting the run-around but was determined to get us released. An hour later, a police officer called our names, unlocked our cells and told us to pick up our bedding and leave. 
What rolled through my head at this moment were the words of Jesus: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me....I come to preach good news to the poor, give sight to the blind, and release to the captives..." Thank you, Jesus, and thank you, Shakeel!
These prophetic words have never seemed so meaningful and powerful, My hope and prayer is that all those held captive in Israel/Palestine will be set free, set free from bondage to hate and prejudice, set free to reconcile and love mercy and do justice....
While we were in jail, the fragile ceasefire broke down, and bombs began raining down on Israel and Gaza. Gaza’s rockets are so ineffective that there were no Israeli injuries (thank God!), but two Palestinian mother were killed, along with a two-year-old child. The heart-breaking slaughter goes on.
We are convinced that this carnage will continue until the status quo changes and the blockade of Gaza is lifted, the occupation is ended, and Palestinians enjoy the same rights and privileges as Israeli Jews. We are calling for an impartial UN investigation of alleged war crimes on both sides, and demand that Americans and Israelis donate the billions of dollars needed to rebuild Gaza and give the Gazans a chance to live a producive life. There can be no peace without justice, and mercy. This is what people of conscience all around the world are calling for. It is time for our elected officials to heed these outcries of conscience and do what God requires....

For more see:

For the courageous statement of Quakers on Israel/Palestine, see:

August 18, 2014

Senator Diane Feinstein
11111 Santa Monica Blvd., #915
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Senator Feinstein,

As interfaith people of conscience, we are deeply disappointed with your unconditional support of Israel’s ongoing and increasingly violent occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, and of the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza.

You have continuously supported providing Israel with over $3 billion of annual military aid and recently you voted for Senate Resolution 498, which expressed support for Israel’s attack on Gaza and made no mention of Palestinian deaths and the disproportionate use of force against Gaza’s civilian population.
We are shocked by the brutality of Israel’s assault on Gaza. We are appalled by the massive destruction of homes, mosques, schools and hospitals. Israel has already killed close to 2,000 people in Gaza – an estimated 80% of them civilians. Of these, nearly 500 are children who comprise 25% of those killed by weapons you have voted to give Israel. More than 10,000 people are seriously wounded. Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are homeless and living in fear.
  • We call upon you to support the international commission of inquiry appointed by the United Nations to look into possible human rights violations and war crimes committed during Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
  • We call upon you to condemn violence on both sides and to stop justifying Israel’s use of disproportionate force and killing of innocent civilians because of “its right to defend itself,” which leads only to an escalation of violence.
  • There is no military solution to the political issues dividing Israelis and Palestinians; therefore, we urge you to demand that Israel immediately end its blockade and siege of Gaza and commit yourself to joining an international effort to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
  • We call upon you to support genuine peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian unity government. If the Israeli government will not participate in talks with that unity government, then no further American aid of any sort should be provided to Israel.
  • We call upon you to support the United States providing immediate humanitarian aid and supplies to Gaza. Our tax dollars have played a significant role in the destruction of Gaza; now our tax dollars must be used to rebuild Gaza and aid the civilian population.
There can be no peace in the Middle East until there is genuine peace in Israel/Palestine and that will only come with equal rights and justice for all who live there.
Estee Chandler, Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles Organizer
Taher Herzallah, West Coast Regional Coordinator, American Muslims for Palestine
Shakeel Syed, Board Member, American Muslims for Palestine
Rev. Jerald M. Stinson, United Church of Christ
Rev. Darrel Meyers, Presbyterian Church USA
Rev. Ann Schranz, Monte Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Montclair*
Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Cohen
Edie Pistolesi, Ph.D., Professor of Art, California State University, Northridge
David Klein, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics, Director, Climate Science Program
California State University, Northridge
Anthony J. Litwinko, Friends of Sabeel, Los Angeles
Sam Blan
Dennis Kortheuer
Anthony Manousos
Karin Pally, member, Women in Black-Los Angeles
Shaheen Nassar
Sarah Thompson, Executive Director, Christian Peacemaker Teams
*affiliation for identification purposes

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What Happened with the Anti-Drone Minute Approved by Orange Grove Meeting?

What ever happened to the minute opposing drone warfare approved by Orange Grove Meeting and by Southern California Quarterly Meeting in 2013? See and

U.S. Air Force photo/Lt. Col Leslie PrattA truncated version of this minute was approved by Pacific Yearly Meeting. However, the text of Orange Grove Meeting was approved almost verbatim by Fifteenth Street meeting, New York Quarterly Meeting, and Kendal Monthly Meeting and posted on the FCNL website along with a letter to President Obama calling for an end to drone warfare from Iowa Conservative Yearly Meeting. These prophetic Quaker voices lent needed credence and support to the anti-drone campaign of FCNL and AFSC.

Opposing drone warfare is clearly an issue that Friends care about, and many are willing to take action. In 2013 forty Friends showed up at an interest group sponsored by PYM PSO Committee and all strongly supported approving a minute calling for an end to drone warfare. Noted Quaker activist David Hartsough was arrested along with others protesting drones in Northern California. Jim Summers helped to organize an anti-drone protest with Veterans for Peace in 2013. Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (which Orange Grove and Santa Monica Meetings support) has an anti-drone campaign. AFSC prepared a study guide on drones to be used by Meetings and peace activists. FCNL’s annual youth lobby day in 2014 focused on ending drone warfare. Articles on drone warfare appeared in Friends Journal and in Western Friend. A Quaker went with Medea Benjamin to areas of Pakistan where drone warfare is being conducted—an area considered dangerous and “off limits” by the State Department. She and other Americans were warmly welcomed by Pakistanis who are being terrorized by drones and happy to see Americans who cared about them and their children. I am glad that Quaker bodies like FCNL, AFSC, and New York Yearly Meeting have shown that we care, and are petitioning the government to end this pernicious practice. Here are some of the responses to drone warfare by Friends:

§  Friends in Britain YM oppose drones.  See

§  British Friends had a letter-writing campaign and demonstration against drones:

§  FNCL web page on drones includes NY Yearly Meeting’s minute plus Iowa YM’s letter to President Obama:

What You Can Do to Curtail Drone Warfare

Anti-drone efforts by Quakers and peace movement have had some effect on Congress. On April 2, 2014, Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Walter Jones introduced legislation which would require the President to report to Congress on civilians injured and killed by drone strike. FCNL joined several human rights organizations on a statement in support of this bill. Ask your Representative to co-sponsor The Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act H.R. 4372   

The campaign against militarized drones is ongoing, a small but important step in efforts to “end endless war.” We need to continue to do what we can to stop making war “cheap and easy.”

Monday, August 4, 2014

Truth and reconciliation in Israel/Palestine

“Truth is the first casualty of war,” wrote the Greek tragedian Aeschylus. The facts about the situation in Israel/Palestine have been so badly distorted I feel led to do my part to tell the truth, as I see it. I am not an expert on this region, but I have traveled to Israel/Palestine as part of a Compassionate Listening project and feel great sympathy for  Israeli Jews as well as for Palestinians. I have listened to Palestinians and Israelis, some of whom have lost children and family members to this ongoing conflict, and have come to appreciate the complexities of their stories. There is deep hurt and trauma on both sides that has touched my heart. It is important that we try to recognize that neither side is completely right or completely wrong. Blaming doesn’t help. We need truth and reconciliation. Here is my effort to dispel some of the lies and provide some balance in the way we address this terrible conflict.

Israel is justified in wreaking havoc on Gaza because Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction of Israel. It is true, and deplorable, that the Hamas Charter makes such statements. However, Hamas lacks the means to do what it says, and not all members of Hamas support this part of the Charter. Certainly not all Gazans agree that Israelis need to be driven to the sea. Some would simply like to see a referendum in which all residents—Palestinian and Jews—could vote on the future of this region. Most would simply like to see the blockade lifted and be able to live a normal life.

Israel, on the other hands, has the means to destroy Gaza (through high tech weapons, including atomic bombs) and seems to be mustering the political will to do so. For example, in 2008 an Israeli defense minister warned Palestinians they may face a “shoah” (holocaust) if they continue using rockets. A right-wing rabbi recently justified killing of civilians in Gaza and called for the extermination of Palestinians. These are not mainstream views, but 95% of Israelis polled apparently support the massacres taking place. Hatred of Arabs among Israelis has become so virulent that many Palestinians fear  a “shoah” may be imminent. Given this reality, it is not surprising that Hamas and the Gazans are doing what they can to defend themselves against ongoing attacks and threats by Israel. Under international law, Gazans have the right to defend themselves, just like the Israelis.
Violent self-defense is not the only or best option. There are many peace-loving Israelis and Palestinians who are seeking nonviolent solutions. I strongly believe that both sides would be better off if they refrained from violence and seek a political settlement.

Hamas took over Gaza by violence.  This oft repeated lie overlooks the fact that elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the legislature of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) were held on 25 January 2006. The result was a victory for Hamas, who won with 74 seats of the 132 seats, while the ruling Fatah won just 45. After this election, Israelis invaded Gaza and arrested duly elected officials, throwing them into prison, where many still remain. A dispute arose between Hamas and Fatah, fueled by Israel and the US, which led to violent clashes and the death of around 600 Palestinians. Fatah and Hamas have tried to resolve their conflict ever since, and finally came to an agreement in 2014, much to the chagrin of Israel. An April 2014 agreement between the two political groups to hold elections and form a compromise unity government finds the Palestinian Territories' future in flux, with elections to be held in late 2014. This agreement so infuriated the Israelis that they have been seeking ways to punish and divide the Palestinians. The kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers provided Israeli with an excuse to harass Hamas’ supporters, provoke a Gazan rocket attack, and invade Gaza.
Extremists on both sides know how to push each other's buttons and provoke violence. That's why there needs to be an embargo on arms to both sides until they agree to refrain from violence and commit to  a serious peace process.

Israel is justified in attacking Gaza because its rockets are a threat to Israel. There is no question that Gazan rockets are frightening and cause psychological harm, but they are not a serious “existential” threat. Since 2000, 40 Israelis have been killed by Hamas rocket and mortar fire. That’s 2.8 Israelis per year. To put that into perspective, 4 Americans are killed each year from fireworks. In contrast, nearly 4,000 Gazans have been killed since 2008 by Israel’s high techs weapons. Over 70 % of these deaths have been civilians—many women and children. In 14 years, Gazan rockets have killed 23 civilians and 17 soldiers. See Given the nature of the threat, Israel could and should  have taken a more measured response, like negotiating with Hamas to end the siege in exchange for international inspectors who insure that its rockets are destroyed.

It has been reported that Hamas’ tunnels were intended to be used to kill thousands of Israelis during the High Holy Days. This is mere speculation, not a fact. During wartime, such allegations are common, like the widely circulated lie that Iraqi soldiers were throwing babies out of incubators in Kuwait. The allegation about an impending attack by Gazans on innocent Israelis seems intended to distract from the reality that real Palestinian children are being killed by real bombs, many of them manufactured in the USA.

Apologists for Israel also point out that Hamas could have used the money it spent on tunnels to build schools, hospitals, and other much needed facilities. This argument overlooks the fact that Hamas and the Gazans have been under almost continuous attack by superior Israeli forces since 2008. This argument could also be turned around and used to apply to Israel, which has made life as miserable as possible for Gazans in the vain hope it would reject Hamas. See  This strategy failed in Iraq, where the US imposed sanctions caused the death of half a million Iraqis, many of them children, but did nothing to oust Saddam Hussein. Sanctions have also not worked in Iran. What would the situation in Gaza look like if instead of making life miserable for Gazans, Israel took half of the money it spends on "defense" and used it to build hospitals, schools, etc., so that their quality of life in Gaza was comparable to that of Israeli Jews? Would Palestinians hate and fear Jews if the Jews made a serious effort to insure that Palestinians had the means to support themselves and live with dignity? What would the situation in Israel/Palestine be like if Jews took to heart what God commands repeatedly in the Torah?

"You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." (Lev. 19:34)

This assumes of course that Palestinians are "strangers." In fact, many of them have lived in this land for many centuries and have just as valid a claim to the land as the Jews who migrated here in the 20th century. I believe that for peace to prevail, both sides need to treat the other as God commands in the Torah. (And we Americans need to take this passage to heart in our treatment of immigrants!)
Why are we criticizing Israel when worse atrocities are occurring in other parts of the world? For a very simple and compelling reason: as Americans, we have a moral obligation to speak out when we believe our tax dollars are being used to fund massacres and war crimes. We aren’t funding the atrocities in Syria or Africa, so we don’t have the same moral obligation we have in the case of Israel. The same is true about the UN.  Israel’s bombs are falling on UN facilities, killing UN staff as well as innocent women and children This isn’t happening in other parts of the world. So it is understandable that the UN is condemning Israel for its behavior.

Israelis are being forced to kill innocent Gazans. One of the most morally perverse and infuriating lies told by Israelis and their apologists is that Palestinians don’t love their children, and Israelis are somehow forced to kill them. This lie dehumanizes Palestinians. Anyone who knows Palestinians knows they love their children. If you doubt this, I recommend talking to a Palestinian or watching the documentary like “Tears of Gaza,” that shows the effects of Operation Cast Lead on Gazan kids. No one is forcing Israelis to drop bombs on UN facilities, hospitals, schools, etc. Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth, and the Gazans have nowhere to hide. Under these circumstances, Israel does not have the right to use overwhelming force. In fact, under the terms of what is called “just war” theory, violence must be a last resort, and any act of war must be proportionate to the threat it is trying to counter. Under these circumstances, Israeli has the obligation to have face-to-face talks with Hamas to see if their conflicts can be resolved nonviolently before resorting to violence.

In order for there to be peace in Israel/Palestine, there must be truth and reconciliation. The blockade of Gaza must end. There must be face-to-face negotiations between the Israelis and Hamas. There must be an end to arms shipments to both sides. And there needs to be an impartial UN investigation into war crimes on both sides, with penalties for perpetrators.

There cannot be peace in this region until Palestinians and Israelis have the same rights, and everyone can live in dignity and security.