Needed: Israeli and Jewish Efforts for Gaza Victims

Amjad Atallah suggests that the United States needs to engage in a high-profile effort to assist civilians in Gaza; King Abdullah promises $1 billion for his own effort (although Saudi promises, like US promises, have a way of not materializing).

Now: where is the Jewish and Israeli effort?

Israel insists that it tried not to harm civilians and regretted all the loss of civilian life. These sentiments will have more credibility if the nation uses some of its wealth to provide humanitarian relief. Maybe all the money used to build West Bank settlements would be a good source.

The worldwide Jewish community also needs to step up to the plate in a big way. Whenever Israel is threatened, millions of e-mails are sent and tens of millions of dollars are raised. There’s no excuse not to make a similar effort here.

Those who believe that Israel was at fault should have little compunction in donating to such an effort; those who believe that Israel was in the right should have none, either: even if the destruction in Gaza was a necessary evil, it was still an evil, and all should be done to ameliorate it.

The challenge, of course, is a delivery system: even if Jewish charities are allowed into Gaza and not shot at, it would surprise exactly no one if victims refuse to take the money. So there would have to be an MOU with other reputable organizations to use the money. But that could be done.

“By your tensions shall you live,” the Talmud says. In modern Judaism, perhaps the central one is that between parochialism and universalism. We’ve had nearly a month (at least) of parochialism: it’s universalism’s turn.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.