Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where I Stand on the War in Gaza

I really didn't want to write this article. I prefer to blog about why people should visit Israel, and how beautiful and peaceful the country is. I prefer to write travel reports, book reviews and articles offering advice to my fellow aspiring writers. But today, things are a bit different and I feel the need to tell readers where I stand.

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.


  1. Praying and hoping with you.

  2. The 'ancestral home' of the Jewish People isn't exclusively theirs: it is also the ancestral home of Arab peoples including the Palestinians who, as recently as 1900, represented well over 99% of its population. The foundation of the state of Israel was - as transcripts of the UN debates on the issue at the time confirm - supported by European states in particular as a convenient means of exporting what they clearly felt was their own Jewish 'problem'.

    The roots of this conflict are in the determination of the mandate countries - France and the UK, to retain influence in a region that was a source oil, then becoming a key fuel and the effectiveness and narrow focus of Zionism as a political movement. As Weizmann himself observed at the time of the Balfour Declaration, meetings with Balfour indicated the latter's
    ignorance and carelessness about the Jews and Arabs and their respective ways of life and beliefs alike. Such features characterised the responses of other countries, too, and paved the way for Zionism to develop an ideology whose aim wasn't the right to create 'a home for Jewish people in the Holy Land' as per the Declaration, but an exclusivist state of Israel.

    The shrinking civil rights of Palestinians, the confinement of many of them in an embargoed Gaza Strip, the repeated decisions of Israel to support illegal settlements on their land and the construction of the wall - as much a veiled means of sequestering access to water as for Israel's protection, mirrored by Israel's disproportionate sequestration of water sources once shared with Jordan - represent a pattern of aggression against Palestinians and their interests that dates back to well before Hamas was founded.

    If the existing inhabitants of any country found themselves victims of occupation by others and all of the types of decisions outlined above, it is inconceivable that they wouldn't resist and in some cases via extreme means arising as much from desperation as anything else.

    It is the responsibility of BOTH sides to negotiate - and however unpalatable it may be to Israel, this has to mean accepting that agreeing ceasefire proposals with the UN, the Arab League and the USA - all third parties - rather than with Hamas - is a recipe for, if not actually intended to invite Hamas to reject whatever they propose.

  3. Here. Let me be plain. Did anyone care about "the Palestinians" before Israel's founding? If it weren't for the Israelis would anyone care about them today?

  4. What is that supposed to mean? Did anyone care about the Jews then - other than to use, abuse and terrorise them? If it weren't for (a)the diaspora and (b) the effectiveness and ruthless single-mindedness of Zionism as a political movement - which many Jews regard as blasphemous Israel (c) the betrayal of their agreement with the Arabs by the British (c) the wish among particularly European states to export the inconvenience of having Jewish populations they didn't really want Israel would never have been founded at all.

    As regards people caring per se - I think most people with human instincts care about other people, whoever they are, being attacked and killed: those who don't define themselves in rather unpleasant terms.To give the Israelis' occupation, repression and shelling credit for any feelings people have for the Palestinians is the last card in the deck, Rex.

  5. How would I react to terrorist tunnels under the streets? By not blowing innocent people to dust. That's how. Simple.

  6. The situation is very simple:
    Hamas religiously believes that Israel doesn't have the right to exist and all the jews must be killed. Hamas is trying now to execute this plan and is quite successful in it.
    Israel tries to stop the Hamas. It is very difficult.
    If we won't stop the Hamas, there will be no Israel and no jews in the Middle East (Frankly, no one will care).
    The moment Israel is done, Palestine will return to the stone age as no one will no longer care about them.
    They don't have any natural resources like other Arab countries to be able to produce electricity or drinking water (Israel is currently providing all these to the Palestinians).
    The Palestinians will start an internal war similar to Syria and will eventually kill each other in huge numbers. No one will care as no one cares today about Syria.
    Sorry for this sad truth...

  7. Ed - So what WOULD you do?

    Ian - you are correct that the Palestinians in Gaza have very difficult lives, and yes, often due to the actions of Israelis. And they have every right to be upset. However, their anger is misdirected. They should be upset at those whose life's mission is to kill Israelis. Israel needs to take every precaution possible to stop terrorism. PERIOD. Therefore, the civil rights of the Palestinians ARE violated. They are restricted from moving freely, they are subjected to tremendous scrutiny at checkpoints, etc. What other choice is there? To leave them alone and hope for the best?

    Everyone is very quick to blame Israel for its actions. The question is... if you are living under the threat of constant terrorism, what better idea do you have?

  8. I am neither Palestinian nor Israeli. I've had nightmares about this conflict. I cannot work in peace, thinking of the women and children being caught in this fruitless battle.

    I admire both sides; it is highly likely you are family, cousins perhaps.
    When are we going to learn that violence be-gets violence?

  9. An effective summary of the conflict, thank you Ellis.

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  11. I tenderly feel for your situation and the plight of your region. I've worked, and lived, in several terror zones, including Pakistan, and while the situations are certainly different they are, to some extent, congruent - at least within the domain of understanding. However, dear sir, there is, in my view, a universal: killing is wrong. It's a simple universal, almost trite and therefore overlooked, easily dismissed, and subject to believed deltas and perspectives on destiny and providence. I’ve seen evidence, verified by the IGO with which I work, that for every one Israeli child killed since 1999, over 14 Palestinian children have lost their lives. The ratio holds into the thousands. While I trust the quantitative, it is my job to verify such with research and report, I admit I know little about the qualitative. I do not know with qualitative certainty who launched each salvo. I know not who loaded each flesh tearing shell. But, to me, it matters not. I don’t look to assign forensic responsibility or plot vectors that approach blame. Neither blame or responsibility will return those killed. Life lost to idealism, religious intolerance and / or supremacism, life lost to military superiority, is murder. Murder is wrong. Israel could lead the region through tolerance and peace. America could lead the world through tolerance and peace. Hamas could lead the region through tolerance and peace. None do. I fear none will. As an individual, I find footing in the Torah and Leviticus 19:34: love the stranger as thyself. Therefore, I must reject your stance. As a citizen of the world I’ll stand on कारुण्य, kAruNya, g'milut chasadim, الحب والخير, agape, metta. There I’ll stand firmly, until I can stand no more.

    Your friend in peace, DJWorsham

  12. The whole conflict is heart-rending. No Palestinian child should lose their life JUST because of politics. No Israeli child should lose their life for the same stupid reason. It is wrong, the war is wrong, but I clearly see if your country is attacked (as it was attacked this time) every governement which wants to stay in power have to defend their citizens in the most efficient way. If you don't want to see your children killed then don't attack another country, full stop.

  13. Jew hatered in moslims and delusion of superiority followed by the perceived right to rule in Jews are mistakes of two religions that were supposed to be for peace but will to power and politics underlies allways. civilization must be based on control of predisposed inhuman instincts. intellectual dishonesty has also many kinds and its also to be considered tut whi count realities and whose realities counts. hate is not a solution of hatered. we must understand and work for coexistence. mujahid shah @bias_free

  14. The UK tried fighting a war with the IRA. It failed to achieve a result apart from entrenching both sides. The idea you can win by killing the enemy is one that only has credence in movies. War just creates new generations of enemies. So talking was the answer. Our peace is not perfect but its been a long time since innocents were blown to bits by car-bombs. Splinter groups still operate. Friction still exists between the Republican and the Loyalistist communities. The UK has committed atrocities as have the 'terrorists'. Many innocents were killed on both sides. Yet still, peace came not from a gun-barrel.

  15. Every night when I see the horrors of war, I think of you and hope that you are safe. The saying from the 60's is still true, "War is not healthy for children or other living things." Please take care.