Monday, August 11, 2014
The current crisis between Israel and Gaza has certainly stirred up a tornado of emotion and strong opinion worldwide, and has become a polarizing force among American Jews. Caught between their cultural identity and the horrific images of dead civilians, including children, it's easy to understand how many have become sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians.
To be sure, no one wants to see dead children. It's hard to support any military action that kills kids. But I think there's a critical perspective being lost in this war. And that is that it is war. War is horrific, brutal and ugly. Soldiers die. And war kills innocent people. Even children. Which is why governments typically go to war as an absolute last resort, when all other options have failed, because very, very bad things happen during war.
War is typically fought to the death. There are no gentlemanly courtesies afforded the enemy. They try to kill you, you strike back with deadly force as well. It's kill or be killed. It's not, "Hey...you're trying to kill me, but you're a lousy fighter with crappy weaponry so I'll just slap ya down a little and let ya live so you can keep on trying to kill me." Because one day, they might succeed. And then you're dead.
Which is precisely why I'm having a very hard time understanding how some of my fellow American Jews can be so supportive of Gaza and the militant group Hamas which governs it. How they can excuse the actions and atrocities caused by this genocidal Jihadi organization, whose charter calls for the annihilation of Israel and it's people?
Contrary to the rhetoric and radical Islamist propaganda surrounding the current conflict, the battle is not about Israel occupying Gaza (a more fact-base case can be made that it began in response to the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers from the West Bank). Israel withdrew from its occupation of Gaza in 2005 amid intense and violent protest by, and forced removal of, the area's 8500 settlers. Every building, with the exception of synagogues and greenhouses, was demolished. This painful struggle, pitting Israeli against Israeli, civilian against soldier, including daily images of troops dragging screaming and sobbing settlers out of their homes, was played out on television screens all over the world that controversial Summer.
And what did Israel get in return for handing over the region to the Palestinian Authority? Two years later Gaza's citizens went to the polls and in a "democratic" election gave control of the territory to Hamas. And we're now witnessing its colossal failure as a governing body. Rather than build schools, hospitals and mosques, it's been using these locations as launch pads for the thousands of rockets that have been fired towards Israel since their victory.
Hamas has also diverted critical funding and resources--concrete, for example--to build terror tunnels into Israel through which its militants can abduct and murder both soldiers and civilians. And its main defensive strategy is to cowardly use its citizens as human shields, while subsequently crying foul when those citizens get killed in return fire.
Let's be clear: Hamas's rockets have a very specific purpose: to kill Israelis. Not just Israeli soldiers, but innocent men, women and yes, children. And they're being fired to also cause destruction to Israel's cities, its infrastructure and its nuclear facilities. These are not warning flares that Hamas militants are firing towards Israel. They are deadly weapons launched with an intense, venomous hatred, and with a desire to kill and maim Jews.
Israel's critics charge that its aggressive response to the rocket attacks has been "disproportionate." They cite the death toll, which has almost 2000 Palestinian civilians in Gaza being killed, while just three Israeli civilians have died. But does the fact that most of these Hamas rockets have been shot out of the sky by Israeli's incredible Iron Dome air-defense system, before they do harm, mitigate their intent to blow innocent Israeli civilians into bloody pieces? Would the "score" not be much closer if Israel was less capable of defending itself?
Perhaps Israel's American Jewish critics could answer a few key questions: Should Israel be excoriated and condemned for having more sophisticated weapons, and for minimizing its civilian casualties as a result? Should Israel, because of its successful defense against these deadly rockets, not be firing back at the terrorists launching them because they're being launched from residential areas and schools? Should Israel be treating Hamas like a bunch of petulant teenagers incapable of causing real harm, or as the murderous terrorist organization it is, hellbent on its death and destruction? Must Jewish blood and body parts fill the streets of Israel's cities before its armchair critics in the U.S. and elsewhere can justify its aggressive response? Before American Jews can support such retaliation?
The pro-Gaza, hashtag-fueled cries from American Jews is misguided and, quite frankly, shameful. Whatever happened to "Never Again," the promise by Jews to never again let themselves fall victim to genocide? It's easy to sit in a Starbuck's on Manhattan's Upper West Side and spread social media gospel about how Israelis are "overreacting." I suppose 5600 miles gives one both a safe perch to preach from as well as a false sense of security. But just imagine how these same people would be acting if a bomb exploded on the #1 subway train. And another the next day, and then others in a mall, supermarket and cafe. I wonder if there'd be the same cries for restraint and "proportionate" retaliation.
American Jews seem to be forgetting the thousands of innocent Israelis that have been blown to pieces since 1948 in synagogues, restaurants, nightclubs, on buses, in schools and elsewhere by Palestinian suicide bombers and other acts of terrorism. They're forgetting the horrific images of dead Israeli children being dragged lifeless from the rubble, who died a horrible death simply because they were Jews. How can they forget? This conflict did not start last month.
We must remind ourselves that without Jewish arrogance, naivete and complacency, the Nazis may not have been able to murder 6-million of our people seventy years ago. A failure to recognize the enemy's goal of ultimately exterminating their entire population helped lead Europe's Jews onto the trains and to the concentration camps without a fight. And, while the rest of the world did little to stop it either.
So against that historical backdrop of genocide, and with chilling acts of anti-Semitic vandalism and violence spreading across Europe once again, the message from Israel is clear: American Jews can think and say what they want, and be naive, complacent or pretend the enemy's sole reason for existence is not to brutally destroy theirs. But Israel vows...never again.