My thanks to Professor Becker, Eileen Hochstadt, and Pastor Judi Elia for bringing us together with so many good friends for peace and justice. My thoughts are with Ron and his family as they are directly affected by the heinous Hamas attack on Israelis on October 7. By this vicious massacre Hamas gave up its claim to governing and deserves the military retribution it will suffer. Here is the letter I sent this morning to Editor-in-Chief Aluf Benn at the Haaretz Newspaper:
Someday peace will come for Israelis and Palestinians. It must. And sooner than later. But my comments today are directed toward the Israeli military poised at the edges of the Gaza Strip and now in Northern Gaza.
Fellow Israeli soldiers, fellow brothers and sisters, I served as a captain in the Marine Corps that included a tour in Vietnam, and later as an A-Team commander in the Green Berets, participating in the quelling of the Attica State Prison uprising in 1971 that left 43 people killed and 180 wounded. I’ve experienced the immorality and stupidity of war and seen firsthand the brutal treatment of American citizens as well who were not considered as human beings, just prison scum.
What happened at Attica State Prison is analogous to what is occurring now in Israel and in Gaza. Law enforcement state troopers and deputies as well as prison guards committed crimes including murder based on racial hatred and false rumors of inmates harming hostages. Dozens of hostages were killed not by inmates but by those going to rescue them. My men and I spent most of our time carrying the bodies of the dead and wounded out to medical care, and trying to prevent more inmates from being beaten, tortured and killed. It wasn’t enough. I chose to testify at two federal trials about the indictable crimes I saw committed on helpless inmates by law enforcement and prison guards. It resulted in a $12 million-settlement for inmates. Still, it is not enough, and I am still doing penance for not doing more there, and in Vietnam as well.
So Israeli soldiers, learn from my experiences and the experiences of the United States, eager for revenge after the 9/11 vicious attack. We attacked Iraq which had nothing do with 9/11 and had no weapons of mass destruction until we invaded and occupied it. The result? Years of fighting that left more than 4000 of our military killed, more than 30,000 severely wounded, and an estimated 300,000 to 1 million Iraqis killed. Al Qaeda was badly wounded, yet from that slaughter ISIS emerged, occupying territory in several Middle Eastern nations.
So Israeli soldiers, have the courage to say no if your military action endangers or harms innocent Gazans and Palestinians in the West Bank. These are your cousins in the faith of the Good Book. They deserve respect, and the foremost virtues of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith: justice, compassion and mercy. They deserve life. They deserve a sovereign nation on their own soil. And you deserve peace of mind, soul and body when the fighting ends and you return to your homes.