Friday, January 27, 2006

An Article I Agree With

The Tikkun Community and the Network of Spiritual Progressives
have to look at the Middle East in a more sophisticated and
complex way than the ideologues on both sides. The Hamas elec-
tion challenges us--and yet it was something we consistently

News Release: On the apparent Electoral Victory of Hamas

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine: A bimonthly Jewish
Critique of Politics, Culture and Society, and national director of the
Network of Spiritual Progressives, issued the following statement upon
hearing of the electoral victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections:

Just as the election of previously Israeli terrorists Menachem
Begin,Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon set the backdrop for the
possibiliy of peace negotiations with Israel's enemies in the
past thirty years,the election of the murderous terrorists of
Hamas may ultimately make it more likey that a peace agreement
entered into by a Hamas dominated government would actually
amount to something lasting and substantial.

We at Tikkun have no sympathy for Hamas' terrorism, and we are
distressed that the new government of the Palestinians will be
a govrnment collaborating with those whose hands are drenched
in blood.But this does not distinguish them, for example, from
Ariel Sharon's government or George Bush's government, which
have both been responsible for the deaths of more innocent
civilians than Hamas (though always excusing themselves because
these deathw were "only collateral damage").
So Israel and the U.S. ought to get off of their moral outrage
at Hamas and recognize that this election provides them, in the
long run, with opportunities to make peace with their enemies.
But that will only happen if Israel and the U.S. stop using the
lame excuse that they won't negotiate with terrorists, a position
that would have led the U.S. to remain in Vietnam to this day,
refusing to talk to Vietnamese terrorists.

We'd be even more distressed if we believed that the vote for
Hamas represented a rejection of a two state solution and endorse-
ment of "endless war till Israel is destroyed." But there is little
evidence of that. That was not the central idea put forward by
Hamas in its electoral bid. Rather, it challenged the corruption
in the Palestinian Authority and its failure to have made real pro-
gress in improving the life conditions of the Palestinian people.

Hamas would not have won without the conscious decision of Ariel
Sharon to foster that possibility. From the moment that Sharon
rejected negotiations with Arafat, who had explicitly
recognized the existence of the State of Israel, and ended the
Fatah call for Israel's destruction, Sharon was strengthening
the credibility of Hamas. If Fatah was too radical to be nego-
tiated with, what would the Palestinian people be losing by
voting for Hamas? And then when Arafat was replaced by a Pale-
stinian president Abbas who implemented an end to the Intifada
and preached non-violence and negotations, and he too was rejected
as a viable partner for Israel by Ariel Sharon, and Sharon
instead went ahead and unilaterally withdrew from Gaza
(as opposed to withdrawing in coordination with the Fatah's
Palestinian Authority government) he was clearly sending the
message that the Palestinian Authority could deliver nothing for
the Palestinian people. Some in the peace movement argue that
this was exactly what Sharon was aiming for a victory of terror-
ists that would relieve pressure on Israel to make serious
territorial compromises.

Had Israel wanted a peace-oriented party in control in
Palestine, it would have joined with the Palestinians in a
massive effort to rebuild Gaza and end the near-starvation
faced by close to 60% of the population there, and it would
have dismantled some of the roadblocks in the West Bank to
signal its willingness to ease the life conditions of
Palesitnians. Without being able to provide any reason to
believe that it could deliver an improvement in the condit-
ions of life of the Palestinian people, the Fatah party seems
according to early reports) to have been decisively rebuked
by the Palestinian people. But this was not a vote for
endless war with Israel, but repudiation of the non-performing
government of Fatah.

We continue to believe that a solution is easily at hand--an
accord along the lines of the Tikkun Resolution for Middle
East Peace or along the lines of the Geneva Accord. But, as
we've argued in two recent books (Healing Israel/Palestine,
and The Geneva Accord and other Strategies for Middle East
Peace, both published by North Atlantic Books), no political
arrangement will ever be sufficient unless it is accompanied
by a reconciliation based on a recogntion that both sides
have been unnecessarily cruel and hurtful to the other and
both sides need to do real repentance and atonement.

We believe that such a recognition could be fostered by a Truth and
Reconciliation commission working inside both countries, but that may
require first a withdrawal of Israeli troops to the pre-67 borders with
minor border adjustments outlined in the Geneva Accord. Till then, the
most we can hope for is that both sides stop posturing, and stop
believing that they can teach the other side a lesson through violence.
Such a commission would undoutedly expose not only the immoral acts of
the Israeli government, but those of both Fatah and Hamas as well.

The only way to peace is through non-violence, and we urge that on both
sides of the conflict. Deeply committed to the survival and flourishing
of Israel, Tikkun recognizes that the only path to peace is one that
actively helps secure fore the Palestinian people the same well-being
that Israelis seek for themselves. Indeed, the only way this world will
ever be secure is when we in the countries with greater military and
economic power recognize that our interests will best be served by
ensuring the well-being economically and politically of everyone else
the planet as well. WE ARE ONE should no longer be the slogan of the
Jewish people alone, but of all people on the planet--and from that
recognition, and policies that stem from that recognition, we will
achieve peace and social justice for all. Our prayer is that the human
race quickly comes to this recognition, and a beautiful place to start
would be for a transformation in the consciousness of both Palestinians
and Israelis so that both sides could recognize the humanity of the
other. Whatever contributes to that transformation we welcome; whatever
undermines it must be challenged. We pray that the Divine Spirit
becomes the shaping force in our political consciousness and in the
consciousness of all.

P.S. on Hamas' Electoral Victory
There are three good reasons to bewail the victory:
1. If it leads to greater violence
2. If it leads to an Iranian-style repressive regime for women and for
culture and politics. This is not inevitable--Islamic states like
show a very different and more liberal possibiity within the framework
of Islam. It is not yet clear which tendency will predominate in
3. If it leads to Hamas becoming more closely aligned with Iran and
becoming a vehicle for Iranian visions of politics and culture, certain
to produce greater resistance within Israel to making an accommodation
with Palestinians. We are deeply troubled by the Holocaust-denying,
anti-Israel government of Iran, and we wish to see it isolated rather
than duplicated on the West Bank. Hamas rhetoric of the Iranian sort
would almost certainly lead to Israel being harsher toward the
Palestinian people, the opposite of what is needed to build peace.

None of these are inevitable. If the U.S. and Israel act on the
assumption that the Hamas political leadership might be flexible and
shift in relationship to their new power, that might provide a prod for
liberalization. As Palestinian Hanna Siniora, an independent
newspaper publisher told the Jerusalem Post after the election:

"Now that they are in power, Hamas will have to take responsibility for
the future. They will have to become more moderate. Now they are part
the democratic game and they will have to play by the democratic
Siniora said.

"Once they are in power, the Hamas will have to pay salaries, create
jobs and provide health and education services. They know that to do
of this, they need stability. In order to be in charge of the
government, they will have to become responsible leaders, if they want
to stay in power," he predicted.

Siniora said that Hamas has already begun this process of moderation.
"Hamas was responsible during the cease fire with Israel - in fact,
they were in better control of their people than Fatah was. And they
moderated their rhetoric, especially the positions that were anathema
to the United States and Israel, such as calling for the destruction of
the State of Israel."

"Hamas, which was elected fairly by the Palestinian people, has the
legitimate right to lead the Palestinian national council."

The international community and Israel, he continued, can help to
determine Hamas' future directions.

"There are two models of Islamic ruling parties - the radical Iranian
model and the moderate Turkish model. I want to send a message to the
United States, to Europe and to Israel: You have the means to shape
Hamas in a constructive way.
If you act correctly, then Hamas will move in the direction of
moderation. But if you push Hamas into the corner, they will act
irresponsibly and become violent."

In order to make themselves more acceptable to the international
community, Siniora predicted, Hamas will make use of prominent
independent political figures, such as Salam Fayad and, he hopes,
Siniora himself.

Siniora called on Israel to put a stop to unilateral disengagement and
to negotiate directly with the newly-elected Palestinian government. He
called on the European parties to help to normalize relations between
Hamas and Israel.

In order to achieve the stability it needs to rule, Siniora observed,
Hamas will have to confront the militant armed groups that currently
undermine stability in Palestinian society. He fears that some groups,
such as disgruntled groups allied with Fatah, who will now lose their
power, will most likely resort to violence against the Hamas-led

"Abu Mazen was afraid to disarm the Hamas and the other groups,"
observed with irony. "Now, Hamas will have to do the disarming. Hamas
will have to show that they can control the extremists. They will have
to use the big stick that Abu Mazen was afraid to use."

We at Tikkun are not so optimistic about Hamas--their legacy of
violence is deeply troublesome. But then again, we tend to be very critical of
anyone who relies on violence, including the Israeli government and the
United States government, and also the gangsters now running Iran,
China, the Soviet Union, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan
and the list goes on and on and on. It is without compromising our critique
of these governments that we simultaneously support steps for peaceful
accommodation rather than military escalations.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine: A Bimonthly Jewish
Critique of Politics, Culture and Society and author of The Left Hand
of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right
(HarperSanFrancisco, Feb, 2006).

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