It’s hard to know what to say about the situation in Gaza.
First off, I’m here. I’m not there. But there is tremendous interest locally in what’s happening in the Middle East. The news in Gaza is of immediate concern to many New Yorkers, for all sorts of reasons.
We all know this.
Over the years, I’ve written many “local reaction” stories about the Middle East — you know, calling Jews, Muslims/Arabs, maybe some others, to get their feelings about the latest bad news. It’s a trying exercise because everyone always says exactly what you expect them to say.
Nothing every changes. It often feels pointless.
In a way, it’s like writing about abortion. The two sides have entrenched positions. They demonize each other. Nothing really changes.
But the abortion debate is important. People care. And the war of words continues.
As far as Gaza goes, I’ve come across a few revealing points of view. Among them:
Jewish Week editor Gary Rosenblatt captures well the internal debate that many American Jews are probably having about Gaza — and worries about a growing divide between Israel and the diaspora. He writes:
I suspect that the majority of American Jews are somewhere in the middle, supportive of Israel’s effort to protect its citizens, but uncomfortable with the IDF campaign, and the painful images they see of the results of the bombings. “Can’t you find another way?” they might be asking of Israel, as if the government and people had not endured years of attacks and provocation before striking back?
“We’d love to, but this is the Mideast, not the Midwest,” would come the reply.
Muslim scholar Hussein Rashid, a native New Yorker, writes about how difficult it can be for a peace-seeking, mainstream Muslim American to criticize Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism. He asks:
What home now for the Muslim who believes that religion does not divide, but is a force for peace?
And Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori makes the case that Israel’s attacks are “disproportionate” to Hamas’ shelling of southern Israel (certainly a popular position in the mainline world):
We are deeply saddened by the first-hand reports we are receiving from Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza about the casualties they are treating under the most horrific circumstances. Not only do they lack basic medical supplies, but with windows blown out they are even struggling to keep patients warm. The high number of civilian deaths and injuries, which continue to include noncombatants, women, and children, will only prolong the violence years into the future. Israel’s disproportionate response to the rockets being fired into its cities may well encourage violence beyond Gaza and Israel. The first steps toward peace will only come if all parties unite behind an immediate ceasefire. Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded the world that “an eye for an eye soon leaves the whole world blind.” May we seek to end this blinding violence.