Response to the Gaza Violence

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie 
For the past three weeks, Israel has lived under an increasing barrage of rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. More than 80 missiles landed on a single day.  Israel’s first responsibility, like that of any nation, is to protect her citizens.  The military action that Israel launched Saturday morning was clearly intended to do just that. 

Israel’s action is as tragic as it is necessary and predictable.  While we mourn the loss of life, no democratic nation in the world would permit a hostile force on its border to target its civilian centers with constant missile attacks.  Israel has demonstrated extraordinary restraint as nearly 8000 rockets have been launched at Israel’s cities in the last 8 years.  When Israel withdrew every civilian and soldier from Gaza in 2005, the attacks did not stop for a single day. 

We believe that military action must always be the last resort.  But more and more Israeli cities are now in range of Hamas’ rocket-firing army of terror, and we know that the traumatized children of Sderot and neighboring towns can no longer be expected to live in constant fear. 

Hamas chose to end the existing cease-fire.  Hamas has cynically chosen to use Palestinian civilians as cover for its military operations.  Hamas openly declares its commitment to destroy Israel.  Hamas, therefore, must bear responsibility for the bloodshed.  Hamas, and only Hamas, can make the decision to move beyond this bloody conflict by stopping, once and for all, all attacks on Israel from the territory it controls.

We welcome the words of Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak that every effort will be made to limit casualties among the civilian population of Gaza.  We welcome as well the words of the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who emphasized in her statement that “while confronting Hamas, Israel continues to believe in the two-state solution and remains committed to negotiations with the legitimate Palestinian Authority in the context of the peace process, launched at Annapolis.” 

We note, with sadness, the predictable chorus of those in the international community who call for Israeli “restraint.” These critics offer no solution to the suffering of Israel’s citizens, and in the face of rockets terrorizing their own children, would not be talking of restraint and proportionality. They would be demanding that their governments put an end to the attacks.

We share concerns expressed by our government and by others that food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance be allowed to reach Gaza.  We note that Israel has permitted humanitarian aid to pass through the Gaza crossings, and we call upon Israel, western governments, and international aid groups to do everything possible to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

We thank the Government of the United States, which has been a voice of reason in responding to Israel’s actions. We hope that the Palestinian leadership will demand an end to missile fire and a return to the path of peace and the negotiations begun in Annapolis.  And we pray that the Palestinian people will strengthen the hand of all who are prepared to make peace a reality.

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Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie

About Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie is president emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism. He speaks and writes frequently about Israel, religious life, social justice, and other topics of interest to the Jewish community. Read his full bio and writings on the URJ website.

38 Responses to “Response to the Gaza Violence”

  1. avatar
    David A.M. Wilensky Reply December 28, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Rabbi Yoffie, shame on you for claiming that this administration has been a voice of reason on Israel.

  2. avatar

    It is an odd sensation for me to agree with the Bush administration…but in this case I do. Israel has shown great restraint in tolerating constant rocket attacks and civilian casualties for so long. And when Israel responds, it makes a concerted effort to target Hamas and avoid civilians casualties (not that this is entirely possible in war, particularly when the other side likes to use civilians as human shields).
    Hamas makes zero effort to differentiate between military & civilian targets. It openly advocates genocide against all Israelis (and sometimes against Jews in general). Even in the midst of conflict, Israel tries to emphasize that their enemy is the Hamas leadership that perpetrates terrorist attacks against Israelis, not the Palestinian people. It tries to ensure deliveries of humanitarian aid to civilian populations, the same populations who support Hamas terrorism and genocide.
    I wonder if, God forbid, the shoe was on the other foot, how much restraint Hamas would show and how much help would be forthcoming to Israeli innocents. Answer: None.
    Israel has a right, no, an obligation to protect its citizens from terror attacks. Hamas has been bombarding Israeli towns without a break, not even when Israel withdrew from Gaza. It used to be that the Palestinians said they were attacking to end occupation…well, how much peace did Israel buy by leaving? None. Hamas is determined to attack Israel no matter what. Israel has to deal with that horrible reality. How do you make peace with those who advocate genocide? I pray for Israel and for the Palestinian civilians who will be caught up in this terrible mess. But Israel must protect itself.

  3. avatar

    This unfortunate war was predictable, indeed. With over 8000 rockets being fired into Israel since 2005 (when Gaza was given over to the Palestinians), exactly how long should Israel not protect itself?
    Last week’s demise of the weak ceasefire by Hamas (which has declared its desire to wipe Israel to the sea in any case) combined with an upscale in rocket attacks warranted action, pure and simple.
    Israel has been warning for weeks that it would not tolerate regular rocket attacks launched from Hamas controlled Gaza. Obvious, like any country placed in the same situation, it had been laying the groundwork for a new offensive to stop the aggressive attacks
    Is this war especially ferocious? From what I have read, many of the 2006 Lebanese mistakes have not been made. Israel needs to protect its citizens. Who would expect otherwise?

  4. avatar

    I support the IDF action of protecting citizens from Gaza attacks. Israel must protect herself from terrorists who want the country erased from the map. It is the responsibility of the Israeli government to provide its citizens with protection. Hamas and all terror groups must not be allowed to attack civilians and advocate genocide. I am sad and frustrated that Arabs around the world are protesting Israel’s actions at Israeli Embassies, while no one has mentioned protesting at Arab Embassies regarding the barrage of rockets into Israel and Israeli casualties. All citizens of Israel (Jewish, Arab, Christian) have the right to live in peace.

  5. avatar

    Military action has not and cannot solve the problems between Israel and the Palestinians. And the costs are enormous: in lives (both Israeli and Palestinian), tragedies, money, and harm to Israel’s soul.
    The United States must play a leading role in brokering, and probably in monitoring and funding, a genuine peace agreement. Peace must include, at a minimum, an end to rocket attacks from Gaza, an end to Hamas’ sponsorship of terrorist acts, and Palestinian self-government within agreed borders. Without the last, no peace agreement will hold. But a true cease-fire (including a complete cessation to rocket attacks) is needed first, to create a climate in which true peace becomes possible. The unfortunate reality is that internal political forces, both within Israel and among the Palestinians, will not permit necessary compromises without effective leadership and prodding from the U.S.
    The American Jewish community must play a key role in encouraging U.S. leadership. In particular, we need to tell our elected officials that we will support, not condemn, leadership which calls upon both Israel and the Palestinians to make hard compromises. This, not blind support for policies which perpetuate the cycle of violence, will truly benefit Israel and express our love for Israel. This will also be a true expression and application of our highest Jewish values and ideals.

  6. avatar
    Rabbi David JAY Kaufman -Temple B'nai Jeshurun, Des Moines, IA Reply December 30, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Shalom All,
    Many of us will encounter those charging Israel will worsen the situation between the Palestinians and Israel by attacking Hamas. They will demand an immediate halt and condemn Israel for its use of “violence against civilians.” Please look at my blog at for comments on the use of violence and civilian casualties specifically.
    I look at it this way : Hamas is , functionally , a tumor on the peace process. It is growing in size and strength and has done extreme damage to both sides of the process. Attempts have been made to reduce its size and ability to do harm through various forms of therapy: political isolation, economic isolation, closing OF borders… None have worked and the tumor threatens to kill both sides of the process, causing extreme pain to both. It seems to me that surgery is the option that makes the most sense, especially if the patient would certainly die anyway without it. Is there surgery without pain? Not when surgery is done on the battlefield. There is no easy way for this to be done.
    The argument that Israel’s use of force will only increase the hatred is simply misguided and naive. Why? That is like saying that a bully who has been beating you for months and whom you finally get up the courage to hit won’t like you after you hit him. Except in this case , the bully has been trying to KILL you. Please let me know who among the Arab and Muslim world calling for “Death to Israel” and “Death to the Zionists” were friends of Israel prior to these strikes?
    The response below was sent to someone who was arguing that Israel needs to cease the violence immediately and negotiate.
    First, Hamas is willing to fight to the death to accomplish their goals which means that negotiation is impossible since they will never compromise.
    Second, Hamas has vowed never to make peace with Israel, but only to occasionally agree to cease – fires, during which they increase their arms capabilities, bringing in new and more deadly rockets from Iran, such as the Grad rockets they fired during this event. Israel has said that it knew the locations of other longer – range rockets and targeted those locations during the initial phase of the attack, which is why there has not been more use of them.
    Third, the Arab world is being bullied and threatened by their own militants. Several Arab governments have blamed Hamas for these events which , considering their anti-Israel stance is tantamount to jumping for joy. They cannot possibly come out in favor of Israel because militants would wreak havoc in their nations.
    Peace and Justice cannot come by allowing an anti-peace military dictatorship to threaten violence and use violence rather than negotiate. They cannot come from exploitation of those desiring peace in which every overture is meant with an handshake in which one side pulls the other in and stabs them. They cannot come through insisting on concessions that will destroy your negotiating partner and they cannot originate from a position of “We’ll only talk peace when we’re on the losing end,” unless the other side is more than willing to help them reach that place.
    Violence between Israel and Gaza has increased multi-fold since Israel withdrew from Gaza, you can offer your reasons for that, but the reality is that violence has increased. Life for Palestinians in Gaza has dramatically worsened since Oslo in 1993. Clearly the current Palestinian leadership cannot lead, neither Hamas nor Fatah. Israel is far less secure than it was pre-1993 with the exception of the invaluable security wall.
    From what I can tell right now, the interim step toward a functioning Palestinian state, if there ever is to be one, is for Gaza to return to the control of Egypt and for the West Bank, excluding part that will remain under Israeli control to return to Jordanian control. That would end any question of humanitarian issues and allow the reality on the ground, namely parties hostile to peace with Israel at any cost, to be addressed. I believe that , were Palestinians willing to have a nation-state in the West Bank alone with secure borders for Israel, that peace could be possible soon.
    I believe that the problematic borders of Gaza and the West Bank are their Eastern and Western borders, but with those in reverse of their normal conception. Gaza’s Western border needs to be open into Egypt, not its Eastern border into Israel. The Eastern border of the West Bank needs to be open into Jordan, not its Western border into Israel, at least not more than it currently is. This will bring humanitarian aid and freedom, while providing security for Israel. The one thing that it would not do is allow Israel to be blamed for the failings of either territory, nor would it put pressure on the existence of Israel.
    I believe that the peace movement’s continuing blame of Israel for the suffering of the Palestinian people is not remotely accurate, nor helpful, and that placing responsibility upon the Palestinians for refusing to agree to any reasonable peace, something that includes Fatah, needs to become a much greater part of the aims of peace groups. Telling Israel to give in and make peace with murderous extremists simply because Israel has morals and ethics that prevent it from utterly destroying them, rather than demanding that the murderous extremists stop being murderous extremists first, is wrong-headed.
    If you saw someone standing at your door holding weapons and threatening to kill you, your wife, your daughter, and demanded to be let in, how would you respond? If others said, “You need to let that person in?” Would you react differently? If that person started throwing bombs into your house, what would you do? Eventually you have to either call for help from the police (in this case the police = UN and the UN would help the prospective intruder in his efforts to harm you) or you can yourself strike out at the one threatening you. If they have a knife and you have a gun, the solution is very simple. Israel can act no differently.

  7. avatar

    I don’t like war. I served in two, WWII and Korea. It is a last resort, but we cannot expect the Israeli’s to sit there day after day being subjected to hundreds of rockets raining down on its villages and towns killing, wounding, and threatening its citizens. Remarkably, the world sits by in silence, the UN is quiet, and Hamas goes on about its acts of terror un challenged. There was nothing else for Israel to do, but to counterattack the source of the rockets in order to silence them that way. It is the only way it will work. Maddeningly, the world was quick to criticize Israel before the first bomb fell on Gaza. Enough is enough! Israel must look to itself for its own defense. RAE

  8. avatar

    There is a time for peace and a time for war, says our Holy Torah. This is clearly a time for war and for Israel to defend its citizens. There is no justification for not being pro-active and killing the cancer which hamas is.

  9. avatar

    As much as I love Israel, I am sickened by the Gaza bombing. Also I fear for the price the Israeli people will pay as the Palestinians mobilize for another intifada. The situation in Gaza and the West Bank is untenable. No Israeli government has dared to alienate the right wing by making a serious commitment to ending the West Bank occupation or creating a viable two state solution. This is why Palestinians will not give up their attacks on Israel, no matter how brutal the Israeli reaction. See Tom Segev’s article:

  10. avatar
    Rabbi Henry Jay Karp Reply December 30, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Once again violence has broken out in the Middle East and once again there are those who are all too quick to point the accusing finger at Israel as provocateur and bully. Sadly, the media only began its serious coverage of the current hostilities with the recent Israeli air strikes against Hamas installations in Gaza and has sorely neglected covering the preceding massive rocket and mortar attacks that Hamas directed, and continues to direct, against civilian population centers in Southern Israel; attacks which ultimately left the Israeli government with little or no alternative but to take their current actions.
    Since 2001, over 4,000 rockets and mortar shells, launched from Gaza, have rained down upon these communities. The vast majority of those attacks have taken place since Israel conducted its complete withdrawal from Gaza in August, 2005. For the last six-months, contrary to a popular misconception, there has been no formal cease fire between Hamas and Israel but rather an informal lull. During that time, Hamas still launched 215 rockets against Israel. Then, on December 21, Hamas – and not Israel – unilaterally announced an end to that lull. Since that time, and before the Israeli air strikes, Hamas launched well over 140 missile and mortar attacks targeting Israeli civilians. Also, prior to Israel’s counter attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued an appeal to the Gaza Palestinians urging them to stop all rocket attacks. With that appeal came a warning that a failure to do so would result in a Israeli military response. This appeal was ignored as the attacks continued.
    A decent government’s primary responsibility should be to protect the lives and well being of its citizens. As Americans, it would be nothing less than intolerable if our government sat passively by, allowing missiles to fall upon the homes, schools, and workplaces of our countrymen. We clearly would expect our government to respond promptly and forcefully. Should not Israeli citizens expect equal protection from their government? It would be one thing had the Israelis not attempted over and over again to sit down with the Palestinian people and resolve their differences peacefully, but they have done so and they are still willing to do so. Indeed, Israel has made it abundantly clear that it is most certainly open to a two-state solution to their conflict with the Palestinians and that they far prefer a peaceful resolution rather than a military one. Yet in the face of continual terrorist attacks, Israel’s hand has once again been forced to take up the military option.
    Once again there is a great deal of concern expressed about civilian casualties. Such concerns are legitimate. Indeed, Israel shares them. Israel has made, and continues to make every effort, short of complete military restraint, to limit as much as possible the death and injury inflicted upon civilians. Their targets have been Hamas military and administrative ones. They have issued repeated advance warnings to civilians to distance themselves from such targets. To this end, they have been largely successful with the overwhelming majority of Palestinian fatalities being Hamas operatives. Yet it is a painful and tragic fact of war that civilians may be injured or killed along with combatants. This possibility is all the more likely because Hamas insists upon conducting is military activities from within civilian population areas, using their very own people as human shields. In the face of such barbaric practices, only the greatest of cynics would attempt to attribute the responsibility for civilian casualties to someone other than Hamas itself.
    Once again Israel has been accused of using disproportionate force in its response to the Hamas attacks. Those who make such claims point to the dramatic differences in casualty figures. However, two years ago Alan Dershowitz correctly pointed out that “Proportion must be defined by reference to the threat proposed by an enemy and not by the harm it has produced.” Waiting for a Hamas rocket to fall on an Israeli school, he notes, would put Israel in the position of allowing “its enemies to play Russian Roulette with its children”. If we were talking about the safety of American school children, would there be any question as to how we would respond? The weapons supplied to Hamas by Iran have been increasing in potency and range. On December 28, Hamas conducted its first rocket attack against the coastal city of Ashkelon. With such increased range, the number of Israelis under threat from Hamas missiles has grown from 200,000 to half a million. Left unchecked, that number will only grow. It would be grossly rresponsible of any government, Israel included, to allow such attacks to continue until such a time that their severity “justifies” in the minds of some the severity of Israel’s counter measures.
    Yet it is never too late for peace to prevail. I pray, as do so many others, that the people on both sides will quickly come to realize that neither Palestinian independence nor Israeli security can ever be fully attained through bloodshed and force of arms. Only when the rockets and mortar shells stop flying and the bombs stop dropping, and reasonable people are willing to sit together, in a spirit of good will, to negotiate their differences, recognizing that each side must make concessions, for an “all-or-nothing” attitude will avail them naught, only then will they be able to fashion a mutually acceptable and enduring peace. I believe that the time can and will arrive when Palestinians and Israelis will embrace each other as neighbors and kindred. I heartily pray that time may come soon.
    Rabbi Henry Jay Karp
    Davenport, Iowa

  11. avatar

    Rabbi Yoffi are you serious? I love Israel very much and I pray every day for the safety of my friends there. But over 300 Palestinians are so far dead and this is just beginning. We mourn the 4 deaths on the Israeli side but don’t these Palestinians count as well? I agree that the children of Sderot have lived in fear for too long, but so have the children of Gaza. It is possible to be pro-Israel and pro-peace. Of course Israel must protect her citizens – but do you honestly think this onslaught is protecting anyone?

  12. avatar

    The reportage of the international media is, as always, so obviously biased against Israel whenever it is put into the position of defending itself militarily. Barely mentioned throughout the years is the number of rockets sent by Hamas as it attempts to reach its goal of obliterating Israel. Seldom are analyses presented as to how the self-serving leadership of Hamas has perpetuated the victimization and degradation of the residents of Gaza. Never is Israel respected for showing months and years of restraint, but condemnation of Israel’s defense of its people comes quickly. As Jews, our support of Israel’s right to protect its citizens must be unyielding. Am Yisrael Chai v’Medinat Yisrael Chai.

  13. avatar

    I am sorry but I respectfully do not agree with Rabbi Yoffie. I fear that this violence will just beget more violence. It will not stop the rocket attacks. It will unify the Palestinians in Gaza BEHIND Hamas not AGAINST Hamas.
    My heart breaks as I watch the situation in Gaza unfold. As a committed Jew and a Zionist, I cannot help but view the Israeli reaction as frenzied and disproportionate. I cannot watch all those Palestinians suffer and not shudder that “my people” have done this.
    I beg the Israeli government to be “frenzied and disproportionate” in their pursuit of diplomacy not war. I do NOT agree that we have done everything possible on the diplomatic front.

  14. avatar

    It is always painful to watch innocent civilians, most especially young childen, caught in the horrors of war. Nevertheless, I don’t really see how Israel had any choice but to fight back with a strong show of force. It is most unfortunate that Hamas chooses to put military strongholds in areas of civilian population. They obviously are more interested in creating martyrs than they are in protecting their own citizens.
    I pray for peace in Israel daily, and I also pray that enlightened leaders will appear on both sides who can secure a more lasting peace.

  15. avatar

    A simple question to those who question Israel’s response to 8 years of rockets and mortars being launched from a Gaza from which Israel has withdrawn: What response (if any) is appropriate, now that there is evidence of better and more powerful rockets being brought in to the area? What evidence is there that ANY action by Israel would reduce the number, frequency or seriousness of these attacks? Should Israel pull back from Sderot and Ashkelon as well?

  16. avatar

    The naive comments disagreeing with Rabbi Yoffie are disturbing. Having returned from Israel this summer I enjoyed a stay there with a sense of calm. Now those who would want Israel destroyed are re-deployed and attacking our home. Their target…civilians. The IDF is attacking military installations.
    Of course every human life is precious, yet these people are the ones who send their children out with bombs strapped on their bodies. When one deals with an enemy who holds no respect for any life, drastic measures must be taken. I believe the Israeli measures are not drastic, merely crucial to shalom!

  17. avatar

    Remember…every Hamas missile destroyed is one less to be shot at our homeland. Now the problem is preventing their replacements!

  18. avatar

    Somehow I was shanghaied onto this list. I have tried to unsubscribe and hope it works. But since I’ve been harassed with this jingoism, I’ll note the following (knowing that no one pays attention to what she or he doesn’t want to hear): On both sides (if they are really only 2 sides), as Malcolm X said of JFK’s assassination, the chickens are coming home to roost–and in the case of the Middle East have been doing so all along. (Or to quote a less controversial, Westernized source: a plague on both [all] their houses.) Self-righteousness, pride, intransigence, religious warmongering, claims of geographical ownership and the inferiority of one’s enemies, goading by supposed allies: all of these have going on for years for Israeli governments and supporters, Palestinean militants and their suffering followers, fanatical Moslem spokespeople and those who listen to them. Everybody wants to simplify an incredibly complex historical, religious and political heritage. “Terrorism” and religious/ethnic hatreds are as old as humanity, and our reactions have changed little in that time. So long as peoples react to external hostility mainly with war and propaganda instead of tackling root causes (such as ruination of economies and social infrastructures by political and economic imperialism–especially but not uniquely Western) that allow the crazies to rally desperate, ordinary people, for that long will we continue to be victims of outrages; we victimize ourselves even more than we are victimized. This applies to Hamas rockets, Israeli (official) terrorism, US reactions to 9/11, the frequent genocides we have witnessed and acquiesced to regardless of our experience with the extermination of 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews under the Nazis…. This message itself is only a desperate sequence of sound bytes to voice my incredible frustration and outrage at the “simple” answers and questions so many people offer or demand–my version, I suppose, of what theists claim as “prayer.” How sad to have to be a Jew (I remain one only because I cannot spit in the face of those murdered in the holocaust) in the face of so much modern Jewish chauvinism and saber-rattling.

  19. avatar

    Fox News has been very suportive of Israel. ABC the first night of the news was more inclined to say poor Hamas is being attacked by Israel and giving biased coverege. CBS was objective in their reporting of the conflict . As a Democrat I was surprised that my Republican friends where more supportive of Israel than are the Democrats.
    At the begining of the Democratic debates Obama was very supportive of Hamas and Palestine. Later when he was speaking to the Jewish coaliation he was in support of Israel. Obama returned contributions received from several radical Arab groups after he was confronted about their contributiions. Obama is the one that worries me more than anyone else.
    At a Republican mens Clubmeeting that my husband attended here in Arizona this morning, a member said he had received an e-mail from a fellow retired American policeman now living in Jerusalem saying that only Arab reporters are now inside the Gaza Strip, that Israeli reporters are being attacked and that much of what is being seen on media TV reporting from that area is often staged for visual effect then spread widely among Arab viewers. I’m wondering if this is true?

  20. avatar
    Michael Lee Robins Reply December 30, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    The Hamas have been using crude rockets to antagonize and disrupt the lives and economy of southern Israel since they defeated the Fatah and have controlled the Gaza.The Palestinians were given a chance to govern themselves,their self proclaimed hero Arafat stole some 5 billion dollars from his own people and deposited it in swiss bank accounts.The Palestinians have failed to procure and support leaders which could develop a sound infrastructure with which a modern nation might be created,instead they have fought with Israel,and between themselves.Egypt has aided and abetted them via allowing tunnels to be built between the Egyptian and Gaza border.The Israelis have shown more restraint than any other country in the world regarding endless rocket barrages into its borders.Over 3ooo rockets this year alone.The media has not given much press to this fact.They are quick however to cover Israels much delayed response to the Hamas rocket barrages.The media talks now about proportions of Israelis response as if they are over reacting.Quite the opposite has occurred.The Hamas have evolved to the point where the rockets are becoming more sophisticated .They have longer ranges,and are more accurate.Still the Hamas seems content just to lob them into Israel with no apparent military targets as a goal.The Hamas interweave themselves amongst the civilian populations,In spite of the difficulty of separating The Hamas militants from the civilian population,the Israelis are trying their best to diseminate between the two.Olmert pleaded with the Hamas to desist in the rocket attacks and come to the table of peace.The Hamas has rejected such a proposal,The Hamas charter dictates the eradication Of Irsael and all the jews as well as nonbeleivers.They train children and women to strap suicide vests full of plastics explosives to their bodies and go into civilian populations and blow themselves up with 100’s of innocent people be they Jews,Christians,or moderate Moslems.This is happening around the world,not only in Israel.When the moderate Islamic countries control the radical fundamentalist Moslem militants they helped to create the world will be a better place,When countries such as Israel show restraint and then say enough is enough and respond to stop the threat to their security,They should be commended,and supported by the world and the media,who in my opinion have portrayed them as over reacting,which is pure hogwash.Radical Islam is harsh in its nature towards everything around it,we only have to look at the plight of single women in Afghanistan to see this is true,we only have to look at the destruction of the art and archeology of afghanistan to see the intolerant views that fundamentalist Islam exacts upon all it touches,The Hamas militants do not want peace or tolarence.They want to foment war and destruction of the fabric of not only Israel but anyone who does not submit to their draconian tenants.If mankind is to persist in this world we must either help our Hamas cousins evolve from their state of hatred or annihilate them,they have been given the opportunity for many years to evolve,govern themselves and make a productive nation, they have refused to follow that path,thus they must be eliminated as a threat to the rest of us,Israel is protecting itself but what the media has failed to underline is that Israel is protecting the rest of the world as well.the sooner the world helps and supports Israel the hat is off to Ehud Barack,and Ehud Olmert for standing up to the Hamas threat,the sooner France,and Britian ,Egypt,Jordan,Saudi Arabia, and other major players in the world show support the better.
    Michael Lee Robins
    2501 east Nichols rd
    Hartsburg Missouri

  21. avatar

    Loss of life in the current conflict provoked by the hamas is tragic. The frequently repeated (and hardly veiled) criticism of the Israelis – that their counter attacks represent “disproportionately” aggressive responses to the rockets launched toward their soil has me puzzled. I’m wondering what an appropriately proportionate tit-for-tat-like response would look like.
    It also provokes the following question: was the US bombing of Tokyo which killed perhaps 100000 civilians a proportionate response to the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor that killed about 4000? I’ve not heard much criticism of that.

  22. avatar

    Israel needs to not only use military force, but to find some way to make the lives of the Palestinians better through projects that can clearly be attributed to Israel. In this way they may be able reduce support for Hamas and start the process of creating a more positive image for Israel. This is not easy, but for example they could send food and medicine to Gaza with clear “donated by Israel” labels. This idea does sound naive, but possibly people closer to the situation may be able to come up with other projects that may work.
    You can’t expect to make peace with the Palestinians, if they cannot anticipate a benefit or improvement in their lives as result.

  23. avatar

    What is happening in Gaza is nothing new. Anti semitism is alive and well. I have only been to Israel once and that was in 1975. There is nowhere else that I have seen, that exhibits the comaraderie that exists in Israel. Israel is our extended family.
    Jews, having been prosecuted throughout history, and still considered a scapegoat, must continue to do what is necessary to survive. I for one am very leary of our so called friends advising our Jewish State how to behave and react. A forced peace will only serve to strengthen our enemies. I do not trust the US Government, as they have demonstrated their lack of skills to manage our own country.
    I think Israel should do what their people and leaders deem correct to protect and prosper. After all they know what they must do better than any outsideer telling them how to behave.
    Let’s all work to help Israel by trusting that they know best.

  24. avatar

    I believe that Israel is indeed obligated to defend itself against her increasingly violent neighbors in Gaza. How long must Israel tolerate the rocket attacks that have devastated Sderot and other towns and cities? The unilateral withdrawal from Gaza by the Israelis in 2005 was supposed to aid the peace process, but from my point of view, it has done anything but. Let’s face it, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Arab intifada want nothing less than to hurl all Israelis and, in fact, all Jews into the sea. I say: “Go to it, Israel. Defend yourselves and your borders in any way that you feel it is necessary”.
    I have been in Israel 5 times and look forward to going again in the next couple of years and want to feel safe as I travel around the country and connect with my people and my spiritual homeland.

  25. avatar

    Our “interfaith partner” – ISNA – is making the fantastical claim that Israel is making war on Gaza.
    At what point do the leaders of Reform Judaism who advocated this interfaith union say something? Why isn’t Rabbi Yoffie noting with sadness that our “interfaith partner” shares the views of “those in the international community…..”. Does our union require him to ignore ISNA when their statements against Israel are tantamount to antisemitism?
    In this week’s parsha, after Judah reports to Jacob that Pharaoh’s minister (whom they do not yet know is Joseph) wants Judah to bring Benjamin
    back down with him, Jacob says “Go back and buy us some food”. We can understand Jacob’s non sequiter response as denial – he is a grieving dad who does not wish to lose another son (and his youngest one at that!). Jacob just will not hear of it and we can understand. Why doesn’t Rabbi Yoffie hear his interfaith partner’s antisemitism? This we cannot understand.

  26. avatar

    Just my opinion:
    Democracy and humanity are great but they can turn into the fatal failure with far-reaching consequences when used towards the merciless and fundamentalist enemies. It can be very dangerous to apply advanced civilized political and social tools of current West culture when facing terrorism. I can see, mostly you U.S. people, are shocked and condemning but I am afraid such a WEAKNESS in this case could have really lethal fallout. In our case so far all accommodating and conciliatory acts lead to nothing but another attack. What other options are available then? So please back up and support Israel, our Eretz. Let us help Israel. Let us pray for Israel.

  27. avatar

    It is sad to see that year after year, war after war, the URJ blindly backs Israel’s “right to protect itself” without fully taking into account the human rights violations Israel commits in the process.
    We need to reclaim out Jewish values of Peace and Non-violence – and start criticizing all war perpetrators, including those who are close to our hearts.
    We can love Israel and still love peace — but we should never abandon peace in the name of supporting Israel.

  28. avatar

    Well .. lots of folks.. with varying opinions.. some resonate with me.. some quite frankly don’t…
    Rabbi Yoffie is to be commended for ‘provoking’ this long string of comments.
    I agree with those urging a new approach to making peace with Palestinians. One has to remember that Hamas won the 2006 election ‘fair and square’. We may not like some aspects of their program but there has to be a nonviolent solution to making peace with them and other Palestinians.
    I have looked over their Charter and some of it is downright awful. This makes me quite uncomfortable. But it still should be possible to deal with these folks.. after all they do control the ‘politics’ of much of the Occupied Territories.
    A new approach (not bombing and incursions) must be found. A two state solution must be realized. If we don’t work for a two state solution with the painful compromises it contains, I fear for the future of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

  29. William Berkson

    What worries me most, and why I find it difficult to have an opinion on the current war, is that I can’t envision the end point.
    Israel was in an impossible situation between two horrible options: it couldn’t tolerate regular random bombing, but also didn’t have any option but an ugly, brutal war to try to stop it.
    I just don’t see how a better political situation is going to follow the military action, though, and that is crucial.
    I fear that only involvement of other Arab countries, such as Egypt, against Hamas, will result in a better outcome. But the moderate Arab governments are also rotten, and vulnerable to radicals on the street who are more anti-Israel than they.
    Can the US stitch together a US-Arab plan that will help both Israel and the moderate Arab governments?

  30. avatar

    Rabbi Yoffie’s comments are “spot on”. His willingness to put the interests of the Israeli people over sectarian disputes between us Reform Jews and the Chief Rabbinate makes me proud, again, to be a member of a Reform Temple. Kol Ha Kavod!

  31. avatar

    What is apparent is that extremists on both sides strongly believe their positions, and will “find” “proof” no matter what. A hungry dog may bite a hand offered in friendship, and a once-bitten person will strike out at a hungry dog if it approaches. The struck dog will now bite first even quicker and associate people with pain. History shows that peace will not be found in destroying the dog house, beating the dog, OR ignoring it. And this particular dog can not be killed. Even as we take these actions to ensure our short term safety, we should accept that these actions are admitting our failure to resolve the issue, and should strengthen our resolve to try harder. We should not pretend this is the ONLY action, nor that it will ultimately bring peace, nor we should glory in it’s usage even if we feel it is necessary at the moment. We are all His children.

  32. avatar

    In Israel you have 2 options. Ultra orthodox or atheist. Reform, reconstructionist, karaite, and conservative jews are not welcomed. Why must liberal and moderate jews like us support a country that is either atheist or fanaticlly religious when we are neither. Honestly non orthodox judaism is rare in Israel and is not tolarated by the government or society.

  33. avatar

    W A Ford unfortunately does not know what he’s talking about. As a liberal, albeit immoderate, Reform Jew, I consider Israel central to my Judaism, and I am unwilling to concede it to the ultra-Orthodox nor to the “atheists.”
    Assisted by the efforts of people like me, and the tens of thousands of members of ARZA, the supporters of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, and myriads of others, we have achieved over two dozen Progressive congregations in Israel, several of which have received buildings from the government.
    I would rather light a candle than curse the darkness. And be the light of my candle, I se many more options than WA Ford’s two.

  34. avatar

    I have gone from patriotism to peacenik and back again. I read what I can, and like most of us am swayed by what is presented on television. Now as an 85 year old psychologist, I recognize that we are all victims of the public relations industry and the self-serving interests of those who write for and publish in the media. The truth is deeper and more convoluted than that which meets the eye.
    Looking back at the 60 years of turmoil in the Middle East and the complete and consistent failure of negotiations, there is only one fact that lies at the heart of the problem– a fact that is indisputible. Namely, that for two nations (or two peoples) sharing the same neighborhood, the primary prerequisite to successful negotiation and accommodation is that the intrinsic hatreds, misconceptions and organized distortions of truth must first be put to rest. There is absolutely no chance for a permanent peace between neighbors when hatred and mistrust are perpetuated, and passed on to children in successive generations.
    Of course my personal belief is that the Arab States, the ‘Palestinians’, Hamas, Hezbollah etc. are more guilty of this than are Israelis. But that is hardly the point. The stark reality is that peace CANNOT come about if the condition exists on either side, and that no piece of paper will ensure peace when such distrust and hatred are commonplace.
    So what is the answer? The answer must be that a) peace is not possible today. This is NOT the time for negotiations; b) peace will not be possible until the social, economic, educational and cultural conditions are such as to replace hatred with education, compassion and understanding; c) were we to put as much effort and money into bringing this about as we have put into fruitless negotiations and warfare, much progress could be made; d)because attitudes and prejudices stamped into us from childhood and sustained by culture are not easily stamped out within the span of a single generation, we must recognize that the effort may take an additional 30-60 years to be achieved.
    Yes, there is an answer. It is not to be found in an instant tonic or a cleverly crafted piece of paper with all of its inherent ambiguities. It is to be found instead when all sides come to recognize and accept the scope of the undertaking, and cooperatively plan the steps needed to bring about fundamental changes in the nature of human attitudes. When that time comes, all sides will see intrinsic value of healthy interpersonal relationships between peoples living in different adjacent neighborhoods.
    It may be argued also that despotic leaders maintain power over their constituencies by nurturing fear and encouraging war-like acts. Yet education, economic assistance and the reduction of prejudice will eventually be seen by them as useful to their own personal ambitions as well as to the future of their country, as their growing populations struggle to overcome their tragic circumstances.
    Realists will see this as a 30-60 year pipedream, for which no one has time. Yet we can point to our own experience as a nation scarcely 235 years old, where prejudice and discrimination were until very recently so indelibly stamped into our psyches that few considered any other form of relationship to be possible. Were it not for the genius of the First Amendment of our Constitution, we would never have evolved to respect the need for a clear separation of Church and State, and religious as well as racial antagonisms might well have engulfed our young democracy. The fact that Countries of the Middle East do not now accept the separation of Church and State is an argument that leads to an abandonment of hope; yet the possible recognition of the concept of disestablishment might very well prove to be a starting point for intelligent discussions between many nations desperate for peace yet forever entrapped by their own fears, memories, misinformation and hostilities.

  35. avatar

    Thanks to Paul Hoffman for his eloquent and compassionate statement on the matzav (situation) and how it might be remedied.
    I do take exception, however, to his exaggerated view of the power of the public relations industry. As a member if that industry, I think we must distinguish between the power of public relations and the power of the PR industry — a distinction that is more than pilpul (Talmudic nit-picking).
    As an industry, our job is to act in the interests of our clients. Our moral obligation is to take as clients only those whose interests are compatible with our own beliefs, and while we may “spin” our messages, we hopefully do not depart from the truth as we understand it in doing so.
    I am not so naive as to suggest that everyone in the industry follows that guideline — just as I’m sure that Hoffman knows that not all psychologists practice their profession at the same level of integrity as he does.
    Now, having defended my own industry, I suggest that Hoffman’s condemnation should be applied not to the PR industry for verbalizing its clients’ messages, but to the media for not fulfilling their obligation to unpackage the spin from the facts. I may differ from Hoffman in believing that one can be a patriot (I interpret this to mean a supporter of Israel) and a peacenik at the same time; but we clearly share our hope for a just and lasting peace. Achieving such a peace may indeed be fostered by an approach like Hoffman suggests — but it still requires an acceptance by all parties of Israel’s right to exist.
    The crime of the media (not the public relations industry) is in masking that Hamas does not accept that right, and until either they do or they are driven out of existence, there can be neither a military nor a political nor a humanitarian solution.

  36. avatar
    Lawrence R Hamilton Reply January 25, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    It is very hard for me to be a Reform Jew when my denominational leaders are making public statements of the sort that Rabbi Yoffie has made.
    Rabbi Yoffie’s statement (and the statements of his cheering section on this blog) are deficient both factually and ethically.
    First, the factual deficiency. Rabbi Yoffie, you speak as if the rocket attacks on Israel have occurred in a vacuum. Logically, then, one of two things must be the case. If you think that the rocket attacks have occurred in a vacuum, then you are woefully uninformed, probably willfully so. If you know that the rocket attacks have not occurred in vacuum but nevertheless speak and act as though they have, then you are being dishonest. Which is it?
    In case you hadn’t noticed, or would prefer not to notice, Israel has imposed a longstanding blockade that has deprived 1.5 million already impoverished Gazans of food, water, medicine, fuel and electricity, not to mention an ongoing and increasing dispossession of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
    As for your focus on the Hamas charter, you ignore the fact that the political leaders of Hamas, after being democratically elected by the Palestinian people in 2006, publicly announced that they were willing to enter into a “hudna” or long-term truce with Israel based on the several year-old Saudi peace plan (endorsed by the entire Arab League), which would entail a complete return by Israel to the 1967 borders. Israel has ignored this offer and so have you, Rabbi Yoffie. Care to explain why?
    Second, the ethical deficiency. Our Talmud is clear that the right of self-defense does not include the right to kill anyone other than the actual perpetrator. Even assuming that Israel’s sadistic bombing of 1.5 million caged Palestinians counts as self-defense (as opposed to retaliation for prior conduct, which even a novice legal scholar should know is not self-defense), we are not permitted to kill innocent noncombatants, even to save our own life. Says the Talmud: “For who knows that your blood is redder?” (Sanhedrin 74a).
    For those who want to hear an ethical rabbinic statement on the subject, I commend to you the statement at
    The inclusion at the top of the webpage of a photograph showing Dr. Martin Luther King, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Torah shows a lot of chutzpah. Rabbi Yoffie’s pronouncements are a disgrace to all three.
    Lawrence R. Hamilton, Member of Beth Emet Congregation, Evanston, Illinois

  37. avatar

    I will not debate the arguments put forth by my fellow congregant at Beth Emet, Larry Hamilton, but I will point out that, at a well-attended congregational meeting to discuss Operation Cast Lead, which Larry was unable to attend, no-one present expressed sentiments similar to his.
    The full name of the congregation, by the way, is Beth Emet – The Free Synagogue, chosen to assure freedom of the pulpit, and extended to the pews, where every member has the right to be wrong.
    The gratuitous reference to the photograph which currently heads the blog pages identifies the Reverend Martin Luther King, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and the Torah, but fails to identify the personage carrying the Torah. He is Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath, who eventually passed the job of carrying Torah to Rabbi Alexander Schindler, who in turn passed it to Rabbi Yoffie. I would consider it chutzpah-dik to speculate about how King, Heschel, or Eisendrath might feel about being pictured in this environment — but I am inclined to believe that all would recognize Rabbi Yoffie as a worthy carrier of Torah to a generation that he both leads and reflects.

  38. avatar

    Reform was against zionism and the state of Israel officially until 1970…I find it odd that only now reform seeks recognition and comments about Israels actions whilst sitting for generations in safety in America….who cares what America saysor evil europe? Try living here for a while and see for yourself….look whats happening in evil europe(again).God forbid if America turned on us…where would we go? Where we belong…Eretz Yitzroel..Shalom

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