The Baal Shem Tov (founder of Chasidism) urged his followers toward hishtavut, equanimity or levelheadedness. He recognized that powerful emotions of others will sway us in directions that lead us away from emet or truth. As we are assaulted by media messages about the Gaza Flotilla, let us strive for hishtavut (levelheadedness) in our response to the onslaught.
Here’s what is known: A flotilla of 6 ships moved toward Gaza with the stated purpose either of delivering humanitarian supplies or of breaking Israel’s military blockade of Gaza. After repeatedly rejecting Israel’s request that the ships turn back or land at the Ashdod port for offloading supplies (which would be transferred by Israel to Gaza with the other humanitarian supplies Israel sends in almost daily), and after previous entreaties of the same by the European Union, the ships sailed forth toward Gaza. We know Israeli troops peaceably boarded 5 ships and turned them back. We know that on the 6th ship, soldiers were attacked and beaten. We know people died and many soldiers were injured.
- It is too easy to throw hands up and blame Israel for making this happen.
- It is too easy to fall into the trap of accepting the news coverage accounts of a supposedly peaceful non-violent action by the flotilla to help the Gazans.
- It is too easy to dismiss this as another way Israel embarrasses itself and our people.
Hishtavut, levelheadedness, demands that we learn more so that we do not jump to conclusions. Why?
There is ample evidence:
- That this flotilla was set up to be a media event.
- That the soldiers, prepared for non-violence, were attacked with knives, lead pipes and perhaps guns.
- That some organizers of the flotilla were deeply connected to Hamas and possibly other terrorist groups.
Five steps to begin to judge for yourself:
- Watch this video of how the soldiers were beaten as they boarded the boat.
- Examine this history of the flotilla and peaceful attempts to turn it back.
- Read this Jewish Journal article addressing concerns on the flotilla but also on the blockade.
- Explore the legality of a blockade in times of war.
- Consider this Haaretz Israeli newspaper critique, appropriate but balanced.
Finally, remember, both knee-jerk condemnation of Israel and blind rejection of any critique of Israel fail the test of realism. One may critique Israel from a place of love (see the Haaretz article above). Too often, however, Israel has been on the receiving end of condemnation of supposed massacres which later turn out to be overblown propaganda. So read Israeli newspapers leaning right (Jerusalem Post) and leaning left (Haaretz). And with patience, come to determine the facts.
Pay attention as the story unfolds over the coming weeks. Being a friend or lover of Israel is like being a friend or lover of anyone. It is a lifelong complex relationship. If you care enough (and we Jews should), then we will continue to engage in learning and understanding with openness to both supporting and when necessary sharing disappointment. We do both from love as we are guided by a hishtavut, levelheadedness.