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Casualties of War: Shared Truth and Empathy

by Gene Rothman --


If you do not feel genuine empathy for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, especially civilians on both sides, I invite you to stop reading now. This is not for the politicians, the “freedom fighter/terrorist” on either side, or the mainstream media commentators. It is for the Palestinian mother in Gaza, already freezing and hungry, who knocks out the plate glass on her window to spare her children from flying glass, the inevitable result of the next bombing raid from Israel. It is for the Israeli mother huddled with her children in a bomb shelter, while rockets fall from the sky from the latest Hamas salvo. Spanish painters like Goya or Picasso would understand: they do not want this!

We—you and I—have failed these civilians. We must find a way to return the parties to the negotiating table: NOW! Israel has sustained rocket attacks over an extended period of time that no nation in the world would tolerate. Israel also commands overwhelming power over a Gaza they unilaterally relegated to an open-air prison under conditions of malnutrition, a lack of medical care, a destroyed power station, and more.

No people in the world would tolerate this without resisting. If you don’t find this viewpoint “balanced”: fine. Draw your own lines. But can we not agree—each and every one of us—to demand an immediate cease-fire and an end to military quick fixes instead of the hard, but necessary, work of a meaningful diplomatic solution and a lasting peace based on real justice?

On December 31st, 2008, I was able to join some 160 participants in a teleconference town hall meeting with Rabbi Marc Gopin’s Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace in Jerusalem to address the issues facing Gaza and Israel. This article will provide a link not only to this particular conference call, but also to other Jewish and interfaith organizations committed to a just solution for both peoples. I hope it will provide convenient access for you to explore these and other peaceful alternatives. A few organizations representing Palestinian/Arab/and Jewish groups with a more secular viewpoint--more critical of what they see as a failed policy of Zionism—are also listed. They are not a focus of this report, nor are the more traditional Zionist organizations, two of which are also listed. I would again urge each of us to attempt to empathize with and to try to learn from each of these perspectives. Empathy does not imply agreement, and none of us has a monopoly on truth.


Will this provide a way to peace? Absolutely not. As A.J. Muste said: “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

Jewish and Interfaith Peace Groups

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Gene Rothman

Gene Rothman, DSW, LCSW, is a retired social worker who worked with homeless and incarcerated veterans. He is active with Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles (PDLA,) Families to Amend Three Strikes (FACTS,) and an interfaith group. He also writes an occasional monthly editorial for the Social Action/Social Justice Council published in the “NASW California News.”