War Crimes 

Acts of courage

Supporting Gush Shalom against war crimes. A letter from Arthur

Dear Chevra,

Gush Shalom, the Israeli " Bloc of Peace, " is one of the strongest, clearest, and most consistent voices in the Israeli peace movement. Many of us have met its founder, Uri Avnery, and been moved by his courage and commitment. (I first met him in 1969, when the Occupation was only two years old and he was already clear about the dangers it posed to Israel.)

Today, Israeli authorities are threatening Gush Shalom with prosecution for treason -- because they have warned Israeli soldiers that it is illegal under international as well as Israeli law to comply with military orders to commit acts that are manifestly illegal and that such acts might lead to their being charged with war crimes.

(The group's catalog of such acts routinely committed by specific persons in the Israeli security forces includes execution without trial, preventing medical help from reaching the injured, shooting at ambulances and medical teams, allowing populations to starve, dropping bombs onresidential areas, wholesale destruction of houses, penalizing families for the deeds of one of their members by expulsion and home demolition.)

I very much remember the years when I and others with me were accused by US authorities of violating the law through our firm opposition to the Vietnam War, when it was the US government itself that was violating international and domestic law.

Today Israel is certainly caught in a much more difficult situation than the US was then. We did not have to contend with Vietnamese suicide bombers in our cities, for example. It is clear that some among the enemies of Israel are themselves committing war crimes.

Yet as Torah, Israeli law, and international law -- the contemporary equivalent of the " Seven Mitzvot of the Children of Noah " -- make clear, there are acts we are forbidden to do even in time of war, and some Israeli soldiers under orders from the current Sharon government seem to be committing such acts.

The Sharon government has claimed that such actions by Israeli forces are necessary in order to prevent and deter the war crimes of our enemies. Far from deterring, however, these acts by Israelis have served to inflame still more outrageous attacks against us. It is not surprising that every act that shatters the agreed ethical and moral standards of the human race makes likely the commission of more such acts by others.

Indeed, the teaching of our own tradition that we must " love our neighbors as ourselves " can be understood not as an admonition to be nice but as a prediction of reality, to mean: The ways in which we fail to love our neighbors will recoil upon our own heads, often in worse form than the unloving actions that we take.

Or to put it in the words of the first ethical teaching that we give our children, simple and profound: Two wrongs don't make a right. So I have decided to join with others in making clear to the Israeli public my own personal and individual support for Gush Shalom's courage and tenacity, by signing and helping to purchase a support ad in the Israeli d aily Ha'aretz. (This initiative is being coordinated by Chicago's Not in My Name, but participation in the initiative does not require support for any of NIMN's other work.)

To see the text of the ad, learn more about the issue, add your name, or contribute to the cost, log onto


(Please note that you don't have to contribute in order to sign the ad, and conversely you can contribute to publishing the ad without adding your name as a signer.)

Shalom, Arthur