The USA's Largest Jewish Denomination Speaks Out on Gaza War

The largest Jewish denomination in the U.S.A. issued a statement on January 30 calling the Israel-Hamas war “a just war” of defense, but reiterating its support for a two-state solution to the conflict.

The statement, signed by more than a dozen U.S. and Canadian leaders in the Reform Jewish movement, conveyed a resolute support for Israel while offering a critique of the Netanyahu government proposals for the war’s aftermath.

Last week, in the midst of renewed international calls to revive a two-state solution, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flatly rejected an independent Palestinian state while thousands of people, including several ministers of Netanyahu’s government, called for Jews to resettle in the Gaza Strip. Israel withdrew its troops from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and forced Jewish settlers there to evacuate their homes.

The Reform movement’s statement opposed both Netanyahu’s stance and the new move to establish an Israeli presence in Gaza. It was issued by the Union for Reform Judaism, which represents almost 850 synagogues, as well as the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which represents 2,000 Reform rabbis (including me). About 37% of American Jews identify as Reform Jews according to Pew reach.

But the two Jewish organizations maintained their support for Israel’s ongoing retaliation for the October 7, 2023 Hamas massacre of one thousand two hundred people in Israel, saying: “Israel’s goal of eradicating Hamas’s military capabilities is “a just war” because of Hamas’s ongoing commitment to Israel’s total destruction.” The war on Gaza has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, 9,000 of them Hamas fighters, and displaced nearly 85% of Gaza’s residents.

On October 27, 1978, only five years after Egypt started the Yom Kippur War with a surprise attack on Israel, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin were named winners of a Nobel Peace Prize for their progress toward achieving a Middle East accord; which only one year later became a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel that has lasted to this day.

Could the same process follow the defeat of Hamas in the Hamas-Israel War and the defeat of Israel’s far right ultra-Orthodox coalition government in the next election.?

I think the same process that followed the Yom Kippur War, could now follow the defeat of Hamas and the defeat of Israel’s far right coalition government. Although it might seem impossible now, I do believe that within a decade or two Muslims will visit Jerusalem and pray together with Jews as Prophet Isaiah states:

"And the foreigners who join themselves to the (monotheistic one) Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast to my covenant, these I will bring to my holy mountain (Zion), and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." (Isaiah 56:6-7)

And then "Lo yisa goy el goy kherev velo yilmedu od milkhama"

"Nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)"

As Dr. Mohamed Chtatou, a Professor at a university in Rabat, Morocco says: “After the current (Hamas Israel) war, Israel’s ultra-nationalist coalition will undoubtedly be undermined by public opinion, and probably by a commission of inquiry. If the Palestinian Authority were to agree to take over Gaza – backed by the international reconstruction aid that would inevitably arrive – and if a centrist coalition government were to emerge in Israel, everything would once again be possible. Two difficult “ifs”? Perhaps, but there is no serious alternative.”

The Qur’an refers to Prophet Abraham as a community or a nation: “Abraham was a nation/community [Ummah]; dutiful to God, a monotheist [hanif], not one of the polytheists.” (16:120) If Prophet Abraham is an Ummah then fighting between the descendants of Prophets Ishmael and Isaac is a civil war and should always be avoided.

If all Arabs and Jews can live up to the ideal that ‘the descendants of Abraham’s sons should never make war against each other’ is the will of God; we will help fulfill the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”…(Isaiah 19:23-5)

As the Qur’an states: “Perhaps Allah will put, between you and those to whom you have been enemies among them, affection. And Allah is competent, and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (60:7) Then the words of the Qur’an will be for-filled “From the depths of Darkness into the Light; for Allah is very kind and merciful to you.” (Qur’an 57:9)

And we all will benefit from “Righteousness is not in turning your faces towards the east or the west. Rather, the righteous are those who believe in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Books, and the prophets; who give charity out of their cherished wealth to relatives, orphans, the poor, ˹needy˺ travelers, beggars, and for freeing captives; who establish prayer, pay alms-tax, and keep the pledges they make; and who are patient in times of suffering, adversity, and in ˹the heat of˺ battle. It is they who are true ˹in faith˺, and it is they who are mindful ˹of Allah˺” (Qur’an 2:177)

Prophet Muhammad said: "Should I not tell you what is better in degree than prayer, fasting, and charity." They (the companions) said: "Yes." He said: "Reconciling people, because grudges and disputes are a razor (that shaves off faith)." (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, and At-Tirmithi)

This is an excellent guide to dealing with the three-generation old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather than focusing mostly on what the other side did to us, all of us should focus on how the conflict has hurt all of us, and how much better our future would be if we could live next to each other in peace.

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