Rabbi Arthur Waskow : The U.S. Must Stop Israel’s Drunk Driving

Image from Peace World Journal.

Don’t let your friends drive drunk:
U.S. must do more than wring its hands

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow / The Rag Blog / March 18, 2010

“Cursed be he who moves back his neighbor’s territory-marker. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ “ (Deut 27: 17)

Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times and a stodgy middle-of-the-roader, says that the Israeli government has become a drunk driver, addicted to swallowing up more and more territory at the cost of any decent peace with Palestine.

The Torah did not know about “drunken drivers.” But it did know that some people might thirst to swallow up their neighbors’ land and houses: “Cursed be he who moves back his neighbor’s territory-marker. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ ” (Deut 27: 17)

And of course it knew the most profound alternative to that kind of greed: “When a stranger lives with you in your land, you shall not wrong him… He shall be to you as one of your citizens. You shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the Land of Narrows. I YHWH, the Breath of Life, am your God.” (Lev. 19:27)

Until now, U.S. governments have firmly opposed only those Palestinians who have been addicted to violence, but not an Israeli government addicted to land-grabs and to wronging their neighbors.

It seems that the Obama administration may at last be ready to confront the drunk drivers in the Israeli government as well as the violence-addicts among some Palestinian leaders. May be.

What we — the American people — do is crucial. The White House will back down if it sees little public support. It might stay firm if it hears public acclaim.

Friends, it is said, don’t let their friends drive drunk. Will you back up a decision by the White House to stop drunk driving by our friends?

If you will, The Shalom Center has prepared a model letter to senators, urging them to support firm action for peace. You can add your own words and sign it by clicking here.

The basic issue is simple:

  1. For Israel to have peace and security, there must be a viable, free, and secure Palestine alongside Israel, along with a peace treaty between all Arab states and Israel.
  2. For that to happen, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the blockade of Gaza from receiving civilian goods must end.
  3. There cannot and will not be a real Palestinian state unless East Jerusalem is its capital — for economic, cultural, and political reasons. In such a peace settlement, West Jerusalem can and will be recognized as the capital of Israel, but the annexation of East Jerusalem must end if there is to be peace. The Israeli government must end all efforts to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, to force Palestinians to move out, and to settle Israeli Jews there.

Now back to the drunk driver. So far all the U.S. government has done is wring its hands about the deadly results of the drunk driving. What could the U.S. do?

If you have been paying about three billion dollars a year for your friend’s gasoline AND his alcohol and you decide that his drunk driving is endangering your own life and the lives of many many people who live in your city, maybe you just cancel the credit card you gave him, and let him start going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings until he gets his head screwed on right.

Now what does it mean to cut off the credit card for gasoline and alcohol, while making sure nobody takes advantage of your friend while he’s going through rehab?

In 2002 and again in 2007, the Arab League proposed a regional peace treaty that would give Israel peace and security with all Arab states, in exchange for the Israeli recognition of a new Palestine on approximately the 1967 boundaries. The Arab League proposal included unclear references to the rights of Palestinian refugees, but also made clear that the package could be negotiated. The Israeli government, with the approval of the Bush Administration, ignored the proposal. Now the Obama Administration seems (see above) to be moving toward supporting it.

Only the U.S. government has the power and influence to work with the Arab League and its proposal for a regional peace treaty; with the Palestinian leadership, including those elements of Hamas that have said that if the Palestinian people vote for a two-state solution, they will accept it; and above all with the government of Israel, whose military policy depends on U.S. military aid.

That aid amounts to at least three billion dollars a year. Imagine the U.S. saying that it will put its aid in escrow, dollar for dollar for the cost of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. The U.S. announces that the money will be made available only to pay the costs of resettling the 400,000 Israelis who are now living in Palestinian land beyond the 1967 borders, and will be paid in one-fifth sums when (a) the blockade of civilian goods from entering Gaza is restricted to preventing only actual weapons from being imported into Gaza; and (b) chunks of 100,000 settlers at a time have left the West Bank and returned to Israel proper.

Meanwhile, the U.S. should be offering aid to a nascent Palestine on condition that leaders from at least some of Hamas and Fatah join in a government of national unity, take vigorous steps to prevent attacks on Israel, and agree to take part in a regional peace conference with the goal of achieving peace with Israel within approximately the 1967 boundaries.

This is a policy to protect and affirm the real Israel, while ending its government’s addiction to wronging its neighbors.

Can we build public support in the U.S. for this policy?

As I have written before, I think that depends on whether local and national coalitions can be built of Jews, Christians, and Muslims to that purpose.

And please consider the possibility of inviting rabbis, ministers, priests, and imams where you live to meet quietly to discuss what they can and cannot agree to do for peace, either together or individually, publicly or privately. Their conversation might be eased if they read together some writing from the Abrahamic communities (e.g. The Tent of Abraham from Beacon) and used it as a framework for conversation.

Ask them to listen to each other first as they say what their sense of God’s will and desire is for the Middle East and for American efforts to help achieve peace there. Of course this requires care for each others’ hopes and compassion for each others’ pain. So after each person speaks, hold silence for a full minute to share the Breath of Life. If these conversations help people move forward, try to arrange meetings with your Congressperson or Senator.

Blessings that you be able to take some firm and gentle steps toward making peace for the families of Abraham, Hagar, & Sarah.

Shalom, salaam, peace,


[Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center; co-author, The Tent of Abraham; author of Godwrestling: Round 2, Down-to-Earth Judaism, and a dozen other books on Jewish thought and practice, as well as books on U.S. public policy. The Shalom Center voices a new prophetic agenda in Jewish, multireligious, and American life. To receive the weekly on-line Shalom Report, click here.]

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3 Responses to Rabbi Arthur Waskow : The U.S. Must Stop Israel’s Drunk Driving

  1. Anonymous says:

    amen, amen (what a lovely photo)

  2. Madelon says:

    The rabbi has what Israelis sarcastically call a beautiful soul, which means totally unrealistic with one’s head-in-the-clouds. I take it that he doesn’t live in Israel.

    To cut to the chase: the Gaza strip is controlled by Hamas and they have thousands of deadly rockets in hand which, for the moment, are not being fired. Until Hamas and its rockets are gone, Israel would have to be crazy not to blockade Gaza. Worse, the possibility of the West Bank being taken over by Hamas means that Israel has to insist on a totally disarmed and Israeli controlled West Bank. Religious Islam has awakened from sleep. Israel having created itself in the wrongest part of the world to have a Jewish state is not going to commit suicide.

    Mike Eisenstadt
    Austin Texas

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree with this last writer. Israel has always been willing to trade land for peace when the other party agrees to a real peace. The Rabbi speaks about an Arab League proposal that Israel disregarded. That proposal was a non-starter as it incorporated the Right of Return for the Palestinians which would have led to the destruction of the Jewish State.

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