Dear J Street Member,
Twenty-four hours ago, Israeli Defense Forces struck the Gaza Strip, leaving hundreds dead and wounded - pushing the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict further down a path of never-ending violence.
I felt immediate pressure from friends and family to pick a side. Did I think that Israel's actions were fully justified or disproportionate? Did Hamas bring this on itself by firing rockets and provoking Israel or are the strikes an act of aggression against a people trapped in misery and poverty? Couldn't I see who's right and who's wrong?
At this moment of extreme crisis, J Street wants to demonstrate that, among those who care about Israel and its security, there is a constituency for sanity and moderation. There are many who recognize elements of truth on both sides of this gaping divide and who know that closing it requires strong American engagement and leadership.
Click here to sign our petition demanding an immediate and strong U.S.-led diplomatic effort to reinstate a meaningful ceasefire ending the violence, including the rockets aimed at Israel, and lifting the blockade of Gaza.
Israel has a special place in my heart. I lived there last year while my wife was studying to be a rabbi. But I recognize that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong. While there is nothing "right" in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing "right" in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them.
And there is nothing to be gained from debating which injustice is greater or came first. What's needed now is immediate action to stop the violence before it spirals out of control.
The United States, the Quartet, and the world community must not wait - as they did in the Israel-Lebanon crisis of 2006 - for weeks to pass and hundreds or thousands more to die before intervening. There needs to be an urgent end to the new hostilities that brings a complete end to military operations, including an end to the rocket fire out of Gaza, and that allows food, fuel and other civilian necessities into Gaza.
The need for diplomatic engagement goes beyond a short-term ceasefire. Eight years of the Bush Administration's neglect and ineffective diplomacy have led us directly to a moment when the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hang in the balance and with them the prospects for Israel's long-term survival as a Jewish, democratic state.
Following a renegotiated ceasefire, we urge the incoming Obama administration to lead an early and serious effort to achieve a comprehensive diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts.
This is a fundamental American interest. We too stand to suffer as the situation spirals, rage in the region is directed at the United States, and our regional allies are further undermined. Our goals must be a Middle East that moves beyond bloody conflicts, an Israel that is secure and accepted in the region, and an America secured by reducing extremism and enhancing stability. None of these goals are achieved by further escalation.
Even in the heat of battle, as friends and supporters of Israel, we need to remember that only diplomacy and negotiations can end the rockets and terror and bring Israel long-term security and peace. American politicians are already hearing from those who see only one side. Help us give voice to the large number of Americans who recognizes that justice will only be served when the rights and grievances of both sides are recognized and a peaceful two-state solution to this long-running conflict is put in place.
We know that many policy makers agree with us privately, but hesitate to express their views publicly because they hear only from the partisan extremes. This is our moment to show that there is real political support for shedding a narrow us-versus-them approach to the Middle East.
The situation in Gaza could not be more urgent. Who knows how many more lives will be lost before this round of violence is over? When it ends, will we look back and say if only we had spoken out sooner, more lives could have been saved, more damage avoided?
As far back as I can remember, those who see the world in black and white have overwhelmed those of us who see the shades of gray. I hope that you'll help us to change that dynamic by forwarding this message to everyone you know - after you've signed our petition.
Thank you so much for joining our efforts at this difficult time. Together, we can achieve an end to this round of violence, a resumption of the ceasefire, and a serious move toward peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.