Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Where I Stand on the War in Gaza
The simple fact is that my country is at war. We are fighting a deadly battle with terrorists - terrorists who seek to kill as many Israelis as they can and who don't hesitate to fire rockets and crawl through tunnels to prove that this is indeed their intention. As an Israeli, I believe my country is fighting a just war to protect and defend our homes, to ensure our very right to live.
Unfortunately, most of the world doesn't see things the same way. Israel is castigated by the media and violent riots have broken out all over Europe. Even the United States and the United Nations, while acknowledging Israel's right to self defense, declare that Israel must cease its fire because too many Palestinians have been killed.
It is in the context of this war, and the world's criticism of my country, that I feel obliged to state where I stand, to tell the truth about what is happening, and to let readers know what I believe. With these words, I speak only for myself, but I believe many other Israelis feel the same way.
Let me start by saying that I abhor the violence, and am incredibly saddened by the loss of life = on both sides. Violence and terror will never, ever lead to a peaceful solution. I have long been a supporter of peace talks, but unfortunately, they have never progressed far enough to suggest a long-term solution. Hardliners, both Israeli and Palestinian, refuse to go the extra mile to bring peace.
It is very sad that innocent civilians are dying. The only way out of this mess is to sit down, talk, negotiate, and make compromises. Our children deserve better.
I believe coexistence is possible. I live in a small Jewish community that is located a few minutes away from an Arab village (mostly Muslim, with some Christians). Also nearby is an ultra-Orthodox (very religious) Jewish neighborhood. On the top of a hill near my house is the Church of Notre-Dame de l'Arche d'Alliance.
My wife and I shop for fruits and vegetables in the Arab village, and we frequently dine there for the best hummus in the area. I have worked alongside Muslim employees. I believe that Jews, Muslims and Christians can live together peacefully. I live in the Jewish State of Israel, the ancestral homeland of the Jewish People. I believe that Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) are entitled to their own independent state. Relations between the two states could be peaceful.
Unfortunately, the Middle East is a bad neighborhood, and religious extremists on all sides are making life miserable for everyone. The same Islamic extremists that are running havoc in Iraq and Syria are entrenched in the Gaza Strip as well, threatening Israel's very existence. Hezbollah, up in Lebanon, has a rocket collection more significant and powerful than what Hamas has been firing out of Gaza.
Israel is now fighting a war, but I need to clarify one important point. The Palestinians are not our enemy. Our enemy is Hamas, an organization declared to be "terrorist" by all major western governments. I truly believe that Hamas is endangering Palestinian lives and destroying Gaza. I hold Hamas responsible for everything that is happening.
Israel is at war with Hamas, and I cannot find any moral comparisons between the sides. The Israeli army warns Palestinian civilians to leave their homes before bombings. Israel allows humanitarian relief into the Gaza Strip. Israel has accepted and implemented humanitarian cease fires. Israel has set up a field hospital outside the Gaza Strip to treat injured Palestinians.
Israel does not target Palestinian civilians, but unfortunately, and regretfully, they are being killed and injured and losing their homes in the conflict.
Hamas, on the other hand, is firing rockets towards Israeli cities, trying to score as many victims as possible among civilian populations. Instead of using the international financial aid it receives to build hospitals and schools, Hamas has invested in the construction of tunnels under the border, so that its militants can go on killing sprees in Israeli kibbutzim. Hamas positions its rockets in residential neighborhoods, so that civilians will serve as human shields. Hamas tells Palestinians not to leave their homes, knowing full well that they will die, becoming horrific images in the media that will serve its cause.
Okay, Palestinians rightfully say, "We have nowhere to go". This is true. However, they are in the line of fire, while Hamas commanders hide underneath hospitals, safe from Israeli bombardments.
Is this collective punishment? I would not call it that. I say that Hamas has launched an all-out war against Israel via rocket attacks and tunnel infiltration, and as a result, has endangered the entire Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip.
To protect its citizens, Israel's government and army have no choice but to respond in force to the rocket attacks and tunnel infiltrations. What government in the world would allow such attacks on its cities? Israel has a right to self defense. Most Israelis openly state that Israel should not stop fighting until all Hamas rockets and tunnels are destroyed.
The loss of one human life is too much to accept, but I don't think that Israel is responsible for what Hamas has brought upon the Palestinians of Gaza.
I don't have solutions. I can only pray and hope for better, more peaceful days.