BACKSTORY: So a Jew, an Atheist and a Born-again Christian walk into a college dorm room. It’s not the opening to a joke, it’s actually my roommate situation my second year of university in California. Ironically, in all the attempts to convert me, the Christian roommate made me more connected and supportive of my own religion. As a result of that connection, I became more connected with Israel as well (which led to Taglit, an ulpan trip, and Aliyah). He challenged my beliefs constantly, which made me very good at responding to and defending the things I believe in. Well, over 10 years later, he’s done it again, and given me the story for this blog post. After posting a story about the difference between Israel and Hamas just through a Google search, he commented that he feels that part of the problem with the situation is an attitude of exceptionalism among Jews. Now, while some of us may be in charge of many large industries, founders of high tech companies, win a hell of a lot of Nobel Prizes and get special meals on airplane flights; we play by the same rules and the same values as everyone else in society. We don’t even have the attitude of exceptionalism that comes with a heaven and a hell and who gets in based on beliefs. -We fight for the lives of our people; we make sure that every soldier gets home. -We are working towards equality for all regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation; we still have some ways to go in these but we are trying, and we are getting there. -We celebrate peace, not death, not war. -Those who commit criminal acts are not given a pedestal to stand on and are not honored. -We have freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom to protest actions of our government. -If someone decides to not be religious, that is all right too. -We do not mix our military operations with our civilian ones. These are values we do not share with our enemies. When dealing with Hamas, Hezbollah and all those like them, they do not share the values we, and the rest of society, consider standard. -The line that Hamas uses so commonly, “We love death like our enemies love life.” This is their words to show the difference in our values. -They have an entire “industry” that revolves around faking news (Pallywood). -They do not have equal rights by gender, race, religion or sexual orientation, in fact women, non-Muslims, and gays are treated as lesser peoples in their society. -They use their civilian infrastructure for military purposes. -They do this because they know we value human life, even theirs, and will show restraint when faced with the potential of civilian casualties. -They honor those who commit acts of murder and violence against civilians in Israel. They name streets after them; murderers are paid salaries for being in our prisons. I could go on for a while, but we know all of this already. What I am trying to firmly establish is that we have two completely different sets of values and that the exceptionalism is on their side, they feel that they are the exception to the rules the rest of us play by. When it comes to the debate, arguments, and the whole Israeli/Palestinian conflict; there are two sides and when it comes to criticizing one or the other, most people pick Israel, and it is because of our values. We receive some of the harshest criticism from those people who actually share our values because we share the same values. When you take someone who isn’t involved in the conflict and doesn’t have an opinion and you present them with the two sides they will look at them and their first reaction may be that Hamas is to blame. So lets say that person goes to Hamas and tells them, “It is wrong what you are doing. You shouldn’t be attacking civilians, you shouldn’t be using your civilians to protect your military targets, you shouldn’t be using all your resources to build weapons when your people need them more.” At that point you would have Hamas respond with (if they respond at all) indifference and threats. Criticism is met with violence and indifference because they don’t have the same values. This is why they won’t go to the ICC for crimes they say Israel is committing, because they would be judged in return on OUR values, not theirs. If you go to an Israeli and accuse them of war crimes and tell them what they are doing is wrong and tell them that they are killing civilians in our fight, we know that war is terrible. We know that all killing is bad and we feel bad that we have been put into the position where we have to choose between letting our people get killed and live in fear of death or killing our enemies and as a result of that having innocent people die as well. We know this is terrible, but our enemies have put us in this position, and while war is a terrible thing, it is necessary for the sake of our people. To most of those who want to pick a side in this conflict, they do so by simply choosing the easier fight to win or just the one that’s not hopeless. You can’t defeat Hamas with words.
Now if you take that one person who is trying to choose who to target with their criticism of this conflict and they need to choose to target Israel or Hamas, they will choose Israel because they get a reaction in line with their cause to end the fighting. Now take that one person and multiply them by a thousand, a million, or more. Now take another person with fresh eyes. They see the conflict with millions of people criticizing Israel, and instead of even checking what the situation is; they just hop on the bigger side. There are millions of them too, those who just think they are joining the winning team. Now take all the people who genuinely support Hamas. They will give these people as much material as they can to criticize Israel even if it isn’t true or fake. I’ve seen dozens of photos of dead children from Syria used with captions that say Gaza. I’ve even seen a picture of the Fogel children with a caption that they are Gazan children killed by the IDF. Now take the news media, if they want more viewers, if they want more support; they’re going to air news and support for the larger audience and perpetuate the situation. Now this mob genuinely starts to build feelings of hate and pass it on to the people who come next to subscribe to their cause. Some news media you will see them holding debates and panel discussions on the conflict, but what you will never see, not even in debates on Al Jazeera, is a member of the debate panel that is from Hamas. The will bring someone from the UN or a Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, or someone from Fatah/PLO; anyone who shares their values. They won’t bring someone who won’t debate who doesn’t think war is terrible because it only hurts their cause. We do not have an attitude of exceptionalism. We have the same values as everyone else. We sometimes even get pushed to stand to higher and stricter values, but we are not above them. Our enemies feel they are exceptional, that these rules don’t apply to them; they do that while still pushing us to our own values. We get held to a higher standard because of our values. That’s why when someone innocent dies as a result of our actions it is so horrible and when Hamas doesn’t try to kill anyone by obeying a 24-hour cease-fire it is such an amazing thing. War is a terrible thing. We would much rather live in peace. By making us choose between the lives and livelihoods of our own people and going to war with them, Hamas has made a horrible mistake. They have made this mistake three times in the last six years, and we have finally said enough. By continuing this conflict now, they may not live to regret it, and putting us in the position to continue this war until its natural end is a horrible thing to do. The moment Hamas decides to no longer make war and violence against us, they will have a paradise to give to their people and they will be able to enjoy the same kind of prosperity that we have here in Israel. To my Christian friend who inspired this post: This was not meant in any way to criticize you or put any negativity into the time we were roommates. We had a lot of fun and you helped me to get to the place I am now. Thank you.