Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Hamas”

Israel’s Election – A Path To Peace?

Israel went to the elections last month. Democracy is a beautiful thing to behold, especially in the Middle East. At the time of writing the parties are swiftly forgetting their pre-election promises and shamelessly bartering to be in the ruling coalition or in the vanguard of the opposition. It is a depressing process fit more as a soap opera than the establishment of a government.

Friends here in the US  ask me what the outcome of the elections might have on the peace process? It is difficult to answer because this election was never about foreign policy. There is a general consensus in Israel that there is no one to negotiate with, that every initiative is snubbed before anyone sits around the table. The instability in Egypt and the dreadful civil war in Syria (both border-sharing neighbors) do not add any sense of urgency to move the peace process forward. There is a sentiment that if a peace treaty is negotiated with one body, will they still be responsible for it six months later? After the recent campaign against Hamas in Gaza, the question isn’t whether they will return to launching missiles into Israel, but when. Partners for peace?

Israel’s economy has suffered in a similar way to the US. They saw an Occupy Movement emerge before it happened here in the US and the economy was the focus.

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I understand the need to shore up the economy. Israel suffers from a huge gap between richest and poorest. At some point when I was living there, it was greater than anywhere in Europe.

Benjamin Netanyahu has two options: a right wing government that includes many extremist elements and there is no peace process, or a coalition with the center and moderate left. While Netanyahu is perceived to have lost considerable ground to the center and left as a rejection of his tight fiscal policy, there is one important glimmer of light in all this.

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A right wing hawk with the help of the left and center signed peace with Egypt. If Israel can find a stable Palestinian leadership to negotiate with, perhaps there is a window of opportunity for peace.

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Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Palestine next?

With the world’s eyes focused on Libya, one string of events last week went under the radar. Led primarily by students, peaceful demonstrations were held throughout the West Bank. Most exciting, they began in Gaza, where mainly young people demanded that Fatah and Hamas stop the internal war and join together to build a state for Palestinians.

Last Week's Unity Demonstrations

Hamas violently seized control of Gaza, publicly executing and murdering Fatah employees and civilians. Fatah, in return, has cracked down on Hamas supporters in the West Bank. The violence and denial of basic human rights for those who support openly one side or the other, is bad enough.

But it has repercussions beyond their own border. Israelis, even the most left-wing, admit that they cannot imagine negotiating a final settlement with one side without the agreement of the other. Any comprehensive peace agreement would include an implicit agreement to cease violence and the destruction of the other people. With both countries so small,  everything is of strategic significance. The stability of a Palestinian government is vital to any validity of a peace agreement. Not everyone in Israel agrees with this, however.

Last Week's Unity Demonstrations

 

The world should pay more attention, offer more encouragement, and help bring about the stability of a Palestinian government. It is probably the biggest obstruction to final negotiations. The Palestinian youth should be praised for their resilience and their vision. It is encouraging to know that true peace partners are out there on the streets.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Festival of Freedom – Gilad Shalit

Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas over three years ago. His captors have not allowed him to be visited by family or the Red Cross.  Hamas control the Gaza Strip, taking over in a wave of violence against the elected Palestinian Authority after Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, uprooting its settlers as it left.

With thousands of Kassam missiles being fired at Israel, the military incursion, and the blockade on Gaza, Shalit is seen as low on anyone’s agenda. The fact that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are talking peace, does not really influence Gaza as Hamas refuses to become a player in the peace negotiations.

Shalit has medical issues, though in a video bought with the release of 20 Palestinian prisoners, he says he is being treated well. For a more personal update, follow this blog. Israel has offered 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for his release, but has stopped at the insistence that it include about 450 who were convicted for violent acts.

As Jews all over the world light the 4th light of the menorah (ritual candlestick), I feel a need to step away from politics. My first-born son was born on the 4th night of Chanukah. I cannot image what it is like for Gilad’s parents, and the parents of all political prisoners around the world. I believe the support for Gilad is so huge and sustained in Israel because of fabric of our society are strong family bonds. Pictures and posters are prolific throughout the country.

(The poster reads: Gilad is still alive).

On this night, my thoughts go out to the parents, spouses, and children of all political families. Family outweighs politics and ideologies. Perhaps if it always did, we would not suffer so much strife.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

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