We are deeply saddened by the deaths of at least 52 Palestinians in Gaza today.
Our core belief in the creation of every single human being b’tselem elohim does not permit us to mourn only the losses among our own people, but also those among other peoples.
Israel certainly has a right to defend its borders. However, even in military conflict, attempts must be made to avoid unnecessary loss of life. The Talmud enjoins us to do everything in our power to avoid loss of life, even in cases considered self-defense. It relates a biblical episode in which Avner, the commander of King Saul’s forces, kills a man named Asahel. Avner insists that he killed only in self-defense, as Asahel was pursuing him to murder him. Ashel’s brother Yoav presses him, “You could have saved yourself by wounding him in one of his limbs!” Avner insists that he was unable to do so. Yoav insists, “Since you were able to aim at his fifth rib (a particularly sensitive spot), could you not have hit him in one of his limbs?” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 49a)
As we celebrate this 70th anniversary of Israel’s establishment, we call for a renewed commitment to ending the occupation and to creating a long-term solution that will protect the human rights, dignity, and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.
It is clear that the Hamas government shares significant blame for the situation in Gaza, as a result of their repression, corruption, terrorism, and continued violent rejection of the existence of Israel. So does Egypt, which has largely closed its border with Gaza. But the vast majority of Gazans alive today never voted for Hamas, and should not be subject to collective punishment simply for living under a repressive government.
But Israel, which continues to control Gaza’s borders, air space, and population registry even more than a decade after the official disengagement, maintains major responsibility for the humanitarian crisis there. Israel must begin by taking positive steps that will help both Jews and Palestinians: In the short term, Israel must play an active role in ameliorating the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The closure of the borders with Israel and Egypt severely limits the import of needed goods as well as the exports necessary to allow for economic growth. The people of Gaza have limited access to electricity, clean water, and medical support.
We encourage Israel to deploy all of the creativity of the start-up nation to ameliorating this crisis, refraining from escalating violence at the border, and ultimately working toward a two-state solution that will keep both Israelis and Palestinians safe.