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Maurice A. Salth
Shabbat Morning Reflections on the Flotilla Incident

Maurice A. Salth  |  June 5, 2010

Often times, there can be more than one thing that is “true.”  We are generally conditioned in our culture to believe that a variety of viewpoints is good.  We value diversity of cultures and ethnicities primarily because we believe that will lead to diversity of opinion and therefore a deeper understanding of truth.  But there are times when we need to say that not all opinions are right.  There are opinions within the spectrum that are simply wrong.  And sometimes it’s even the majority opinion that is wrong. 

This is among the essential truths that we draw from the world’s reaction to events off the coast of Israel earlier this week.  My hope this morning is to illuminate just a few of the essential truths that seem to be emerging.

1. Even though the world jumps to condemn Israel’s actions, it doesn’t mean they are right.  It is not a surprise that Israel is isolated and marginalized.  But it is sad.  And it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is right. 

Our ancestors in this parasha made the mistake of following the majority opinion, which was full of pessimism and distrust, and were left to wander for 40 years until that pessimistic generation died out. 

In contrast, those who continued the line of the Jewish people have always been the minority and we are proud of it. 

Yes, we are a people whose very existence is predicated on the idea that a minority can be right.  Our numbers have always been small, our values have always been unique and our way of life has often made us different. 

We are a people who value optimism.  Even a cursory glance at our long and painful history leads one to conclude that a pessimistic people should have given up a long time ago.  We will never succumb to such pessimism.

2. Gaza has become even more of a threat to Israel because it has linked up with other powers in the region, such as Syria & Iran.  Now Turkey has joined them.  The majority opinion simply does not recognize the direct and serious threat that Hamas and a range of other militant anti-Israel groups pose on a daily basis. 

That threat is heightened when linked with regional powers Turkey, Syria, Iran.  At the same time, I believe that Israel takes its responsibility toward Gaza’s residents seriously. 

For example, a number of flotillas and individual ships have attempted to approach Gaza in recent months.  All of them, including one that approached this morning, have been peacefully diverted to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where their cargo has been unloaded and inspected.  If the cargo was indeed found to be humanitarian aid such as food and medicine, the Israelis have transported the goods themselves to the Gaza border and ensured that the supplies reached residents in need. 

3. Israel’s leaders do not always make the right decisions.  Many of us have watched the IDF video of the incident.  It is painful to watch Jewish soldiers get beat up and attacked, to be sure.  But within the wide swath of public opinion in Israel and the United States this week, many have questioned whether the tactics used with the ship were correct. 

Like other organizations, the IDF sometimes makes mistakes or acts too impulsively.  This may have been the case and it may have resulted in injuries and loss of life.  Could the ship have been diverted as others in the flotilla were?  Possibly.  The good news is that we can rest assured that the navy’s actions will be thoroughly investigated.  Israel is nothing if not self-critically reflective. 

4. Finally, while the blockade of Gaza is justified, it is not tenable.  The blockade is a holding pattern, not a solution.  Israel has officially endorsed and worked toward a two-state solution.  But it is impossible to make peace when there is not a trustworthy partner on the other side. 

Nonetheless, Israel has the responsibility to do everything it can to lay the groundwork for a peaceful and successful Palestinian state.  Israel must make sure that its actions are always directed toward that long-term goal, despite the short-term distractions that might come its way.

The deeper truth is that meaningful interaction with and commitment to the State of Israel is absolutely essential to developing an understanding of what it means to be a Jew in the world today. 

And sometimes the more we understand the more uncomfortable we become.  But even though Israel may sometimes frustrate or disappoint us, even though its struggles may seem insurmountable, we will not turn our backs. 

We will remain strong in our conviction that Israel, with our care and help, will become a society in which all citizens enjoy the same opportunities, will one day live peacefully with her neighbors, and will serve as a beacon of light to the other nations of the world. 

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