Saturday, January 3, 2009

Israel and Gaza

In this posting, I will restrict myself to raising some questions growing out of Israel's attacks on Gaza, without attempting to answer them. This is not because I don't have strong feelings on the subject, but because I have so many, and mixed, feelings, and because conversations on this topic so rapidly degenerate into heated impasses. Of course, my own views will be manifest in the way I pose questions, but the format may nonetheless promote thoughtfulness, in myself and others, better than a point-counterpoint format. I also believe that there is value in disentangling some of these questions from each other, because I believe they get conflated in many discussions/arguments. In future postings I will set forth some of my views more explicitly.
1. Does Israel have a right to exist? Subsidiary questions: in what form and at what cost? Does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish state, even if Jews were to be outnumbered by non-Jews? What does Israel have a right to do to ensure that Jews are the majority within its boundaries? What, if any, are the limits to Israel's right to use violence to address immediate or long term threats to its existence?
2. Do the Jewish people have a right to exist? Is the existence of a Jewish state the best or only way to ensure the survival of the Jewish people?
3. Do the Palestinian people exist? Do they have a right to exist? Is a Palestinian state the best or only way to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people?
4. How does one reconcile the commandment not to murder, with war? Is there an exception for self-defense? Who decides what is self-defense, and what is unjustifiable murder? Can these always be distinguished? What if they can't be?
5. How does one value a Jewish life in relation to the value of a Palestinian life, and vice versa? 6. Is it ever justified to respond to the murder of a single person, or a small group of people, by killing a large number of people? Is it ever justifiable to kill innocent people as "collateral damage"?
7. Do Jews in the diaspora have the right to criticize, or second guess, the Israeli government?
8. Is it desirable to make public space to think about such questions? Does thinking about such questions disable the capacity to take action as needed?