Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) are deeply saddened and concerned following the deaths of approximately 18 Palestinians, and the wounding of many others, by Israeli army fire during last Friday’s Palestinian-led marches near the border fence between Gaza and Israel.
As is often the case, conflicting reports are emerging about what happened. Spokespeople for the Israeli authorities assert that their aim was to secure Israel’s border and that Israeli soldiers took appropriate action in response to violence, rioting, and serious danger. Palestinian spokespeople claim that the demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful, posed no threat to Israeli troops, and that the use of live ammunition and the high number of casualties indicates an intentional decision on the part of the IDF to use unethical levels of lethal force. These issues are being vigorously debated in the Israeli government and by the Israeli press. Internationally, harsh words risk an escalation into bigger crises.
As this news arrives, we stand in the midst of a week of spiritual and moral focus on the great themes of Passover: oppression, liberation, freedom, struggle, and hope. Our prophets and sages tell us that we have a duty to seek those blessings for ourselves and for all others. Torah teaches us to ensure the safety of our own people, yet it simultaneously demands that we be scrupulous in the way that we treat others, especially others who also have suffered loss, degradation, and hopelessness.
With these values in mind, we call on all parties with the power to affect the situation to move swiftly to deescalate the likelihood of more violence, and to guard against the ways in which moments like this may trigger new rounds of war. If there is to be a formal inquiry, we urge that it be organized in a way that gives people on all sides of the conflict good reason to believe in the integrity of its findings. We call on governments with influence on the region to renew their efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiating table, to finish the work that remains to be done to create and secure a future of co-existence, peace, and justice for all in the region.