Updated October 31, 2023 — A Statement from Lexi Reese
At this moment, we need a structured pause during which we stop the killing of innocent civilians, deliver needed aid, establish safe zones, release hostages, increase international pressure on Hamas / explore alternative paths to demilitarize it, and build momentum for long-term two state solution.
I suggest this as part of the approach I would be applying if I were in the Senate right now which would follow this framework:
First, learn as much as I can in consultation with experts (acknowledging I am not an expert) and people impacted. Study the issues deeply with respect for diverse and representative perspectives. The history of the Middle East and the US Involvement in the Middle East is complex and deserves significant contemplation and reconciliation before jumping to definitive action.
Second, start with the end in mind and state goals for what we’re trying to achieve.
Third, evaluate alternatives against those goals.
Finally propose a path forward knowing no path is perfect, but some paths are better than others in achieving stated goals.
Note: as more information comes in, the path may be updated.
Context (Learning from Research and Experts):
Israelis and Jews – all over the world – feel hurt, scared, and existentially threatened now. Justifiably.
Palestinians and Muslims – all over the world – feel hurt, scared and existentially threatened now. Justifiably.
Israel has a sovereign, inalienable right to security. They have a right to defend themselves and to be supported in that defense. Hamas – the organization and the ideology that denies Israel this right – must be destroyed.
Palestine has a sovereign, inalienable right to security. We cannot support leaders who believe otherwise.
Israel had the right to defend itself in the wake of Hamas for the savage attack inflicted on Israeli men, women, babies and grandparents and the obligation to protect its citizens from future attacks.
Reminder to everyone: the region was operating under a ceasefire when Hamas attacked Israel, though Palestinians claim with good evidence that the power dynamics never rendered them truly free.
Palestinians have the right to demand an end to the killing of innocent Palestinian men, women, babies and grandparents.
Hamas and the people that fund Hamas, including the governments of Iran, want to terrorize the world and create chaos. This is not justified.
They’re holding Israelis and PalestinIans hostage to do it.
I do not mean only the Israelis unjustly and barbarically taken on on October 7th. I mean all Jews and Muslims being subject to antisemitic and Islamophobic hate everywhere, including across the United States.
By the numbers, Jews are at a huge disadvantage given the size of the Jewish population and relative to the size of the Muslim population.
In fact, we are all being terrorized by an information war on social media that continues, shockingly, to not be regulated by Congress who knows so little about technology that they haven’t disarmed this powerful weapon.
I suggest four goals:
- Ensure security for the state of Israel and the Palestinian people
- Fight the rise of hate crimes against Jewish and Muslim people in the United States
- Minimize loss of life – especially for innocent families
- Create a long-term, viable path for peaceful, if uneasy, coexistence of Israel and Palestine, acknowledging what has worked
Evaluation of Current Proposed Alternatives:
Continued ground invasion, without pause, into Gaza does not accomplish these goals; it does the opposite, playing straight into the hands of Israel’s enemies and undermining regional stability without fundamentally solving any of Israel’s strategic dilemmas. We cannot give leverage and momentum to Hamas, Iran and collaborators and put other regional Arab governments on the defensive.
A blanket ceasefire with no structure and specific next steps does not answer the question of Hamas long term. We cannot validate the group’s ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist.
Proposed Path Forward:
Here is my proposed path for the US in pursuit of those goals and durable peace:
- Support a structured pause
- Demand immediate unconditional release of all hostages by X [REASONABLY SHORT AMOUNT OF] time.
- This cannot be contingent on a blanket release of all current Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, as they have been jailed for committed crimes and many are Hamas Terrorists.
- The Gaza population and other Arab countries will have to pressure Hamas to release them.
- This cannot be Israel and the US doing this alone.Take that time to set up the requisite safe zones and refugee camps, deploy humanitarian aid, and evacuate greater numbers of northern Gazans.
- Work with an international group of countries who will accept refugees daily at 7am with ships at Gaza port.
- Think harder about the best way to neutralize Hamas military infrastructure and leadership so it has no political control of Gaza while minimizing the deaths of innocent Israelis or Palestinians.
NOTE: It is crucial to eliminate the tunnel infrastructure and all the weapons within
- Demand immediate unconditional release of all hostages by X [REASONABLY SHORT AMOUNT OF] time.
- Revisit tactical strikes only after structuring the ceasefire to allow for these things and only if Hamas does not surrender their weapons and hostages.
- Support Israel in expressing a clear commitment to seek a two-state solution with the Palestinian Authority and end Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank. That is not a message Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now conveying, given the shock in Israel and the makeup of his government. But it is one Israel’s partners in the region need to hear — and soon. One-state only leads to three outcomes: constant fighting, apartheid, or genocide. Israel’s political leaders need to clearly and publicly emphasize they will leave Gaza and lift the siege after Hamas has been defeated and disarmed.
Note: Israelis had left in 2005, removing 8000 Israelis and were not governing, but were controlling the border; perhaps with a peacekeeping corps from other Arab countries or international forces and the Palestinian control , this will work better)
- Work with allies to support an interim administration in the West Bank and Gaza to prevent a vacuum and begin the enormous task of negotiating an uneasy peace and reconstruction. Hamas has expressed no interest in peace negotiations. The only way to prevent further attacks of this kind is to render Hamas incapable of executing them. Some believe the only way to do this is through more violence. I believe we must try hard, but viable, alternatives for what to do on this in partnership with our Arab and European allies here. This must include cutting off funding to Hamas, Hezbollah and their supporters. Immediate sanctions on any country collaborating with Hamas leaders (e.g. Qatar, Turkey, Lebanon, Iran).
- Disarm social media. Our social networks have been weaponized, polluted with misinformation and images of death and destruction that viewers are ill-prepared to absorb – all moving at warp speed (example: here). Three steps here: 1) create a war feed separate from the regular “social feed” (imagery of death and destruction side by side makeup ads in insane) that is not monetized 2) create trigger warnings for violent imagery and label content verified, unverified, editorial 3) if social media companies do not comply, all revenue collected until the breach is corrected goes to humanitarian relief. Join me in this call >
- Create a country-wide learning journey that involves Truth and Reconciliation about US Involvement in the Middle East and the origins and manifestations of anti-semitism and Islamophobia in our country. Starting in elementary school and continuing through post-secondary, augment or add anti-violence and anti-hate curriculum including a focus on antisemitism, Islamophobia and the connections to the systems of oppression and violence that play out in BIPOC communities in the US. Violence against Jews is the #1 (!) hate crime category by the FBI. Islamophobic violence is on the rise. And gun violence continues to rise across the United States. This is all being fueled by hate, mistrust, and misinformation without basis in history and that is a reflection of an incomplete curriculum and lack of facilitated reflection, especially after our most recent pull-out of Afghanistan after a 20-year war.
Earlier, I said inhumanity as a defense against inhumanity will only lead to more inhumanity.
I realize now that this statement creates false moral equivalence (see Sam Harris on this) when we characterize the inhumanity of surprise terrorist attacks on October 7th on Israeli civilians as somehow comparable to the casualties of war arising from attacks with clear and necessary military objectives (i.e., destroy Hamas tunnels and weapons and Hamas masterminds who put their operations within civilians purposefully to create chaos and confusion).
We still need to do the courageous thing that is right, but hard: pause killing innocent people in the name of defeating terror. Shutting the tunnels down and removing Hamas weaponry and leadership is an imperative, but we need this pause to give a chance for Palestinian civilians to get to safety.
Continuing the strikes without this pause begets more terror. We are seeing it in Gaza. We are seeing around the world in vicious acts of antisemitism and Islamophobia. Everyone feeling justified in their violence and outrage only leads to more violence.
No path is perfect, but the path I am proposing, in partnership with brave and courageous Muslim and Jewish thinkers, is the one that I believe best enables us to stand in unity against terrorism and take first steps to long-term security, dignity, humanity and peace.