Although I’m not religious, I attended a very religious Hebrew school in Los Angeles. One day, maybe in the 2nd or 3rd grade, our teacher was explaining to us how Israeli fighter pilots react to shooting down an enemy. I remember asking if they were happy and she explained thoughtfully that instead of showing jubilation, the loss of life caused Israel’s fight pilots sadness and remorse. After all, it was against the Jewish value system to celebrate a loss of life; even if your enemy’s death correlated to your survival. Apathy, and especially malicious elation based on emotions like, “They don’t want peace, so they deserve their fate,” was taught to me at an early age as being contrary to a Jewish value system.
Ironically, I know many people (who would shutter at the thought of heaven forbid eating a cheeseburger) who say things like, “Hamas’s charter calls for the destruction of Israel,” therefore anything Israel does to protect itself, including bombing hospitals and schools, is justified and in the name of survival. In the minds of some people, Israel is still a tiny country surrounded by enemies and it’s the Arabs who started everything and don’t want peace. Then of course, there are phrases like “There is no such thing as a Palestinian” or “You can’t trust them” to legitimize the belief that Israel is always right while Palestinians are always wrong. Sorry, but there’s never been a conflict in human history where one side is always right and the other side is always wrong and the Gaza war epitomizes this reality.
All these attempts at circumventing responsibility for the serious moral dilemmas and consequences associated with the war in Gaza don’t absolve anyone of the heinous death doll among Palestinian civilians and especially children. “But Hamas is sworn to remove Israel off the map!” As for the rationale behind bombing civilians and any other endeavor performed in the name of “survival,” the fact is that Hamas’s charter is written on paper and they have no way of eradicating Israel or any other country. This is a reality, and the paranoid notion that a terrorist group with no standing army or tanks and planes could ever destroy the most powerful military in the Mid-East is a nightmarish fantasy rooted in denial. It feels good to think that your enemy deserves his fate, and that his children, if they perish, deserve their demise as well.
These vapid, emotional defense mechanisms absolve any guilt associated with a tremendously asymmetric conflict. Over 1800 Palestinians and over 373 children have died in one month compared to 64 Israelis, mostly soldiers battling Hamas. Those soldiers should be home with their families and I’m saddened at their loss fighting terrorists. However, I’m also appalled by not just the death of Palestinian civilians and children, but the callous way many Israelis and Jews justify such losses as if these people had written the impotent Hamas charter themselves. If the death toll were reversed, I’m certain some hysterical people would be advocating nuclear weapons, blind to the knowledge they’d of course kill all parties involved.
I say this with full support of Israel and love for Israel, but support doesn’t mean blind acceptance of everything. Support and love don’t mean I cheer the death of innocent children because some insane terrorist stored weapons in the garage of their apartment building. However, if you believe the IDF claim that around half of the deaths in Gaza were militants (and even that is not an acceptable ratio), then don’t forget to explain how airstrikes in civilian areas differentiate between terrorist and innocent child and old lady. The missile is guided, but it doesn’t decide who and what to blow up and certainly doesn’t say, “Excuse me young boy, yes, you on the bicycle, yeah you, the ten year old, watch out, I’m about to hit this building!”
A recent CNN World article titled, “Why are so many civilians dying in Hamas-Israel War” highlights exactly what many supporters of the any means necessary philosophy choose to ignore:
The Palestinian death toll in Gaza stands at more than 1,800, with nearly 10,000 wounded, Gaza’s Health Ministry said Sunday. More than 300 children have died, the ministry has reported, as the United Nations repeatedly raises concerns about the high number of deaths in Gaza. On the Israeli side, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died since fighting began more than three weeks ago…
“Civilian casualties in Gaza have been too high,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said in Washington on Thursday. “It is clear the Israelis need to do more. We want them to do more.”
…More than 1.8 million people live in Gaza, which is 139 square miles in total land area. That makes for very cramped living. When airstrikes happen, when shells land, having more people in a small area often means higher death tolls.
And even if Palestinians receive and heed warnings to change locations before an airstrike hits, it’s likely they’ll have nowhere safe to run. There are no bomb shelters or warning sirens in Gaza. And it’s practically impossible to leave. There’s a barrier fence around the perimeter of Gaza. Israel controls all air access to Gaza and land access along their border. Egypt controls access on the southern border and that crossing is also closed.
Therefore, when a Colonel in the Pentagon states that America wants Israel to do more to ensure that 1.8 million people in a cramped location (with nowhere to run from bombs) aren’t endangered by airstrikes, this says something about the nature of the Gaza war. This is not a traditional military conflict and shouldn’t be seen as two enemies fighting one another. The truth is that innocent human beings, children who deserve to live even if Hamas hides weapons near their homes, are being killed by the hundreds. This should cause even the most ardent supporters of Israel at least a certain amount of sadness and reflection, but sadly, it has the opposite effect. Everything is seen through the lenses of “They deserve it” rather than “How did we get to this horrifying chapter in our history?”
If the tables were turned, we wouldn’t be so quick to justify the killing of our children because a terrorist group hid weapons in our neighborhood. Jewish values dictate that human beings must never revel or disregard the death of other people, especially their children. This issue alone, in addition to the myriad of other factors in the conflict, should give all people, especially religious people, a moment of thought. The guy upstairs cares more about how you react to the death of your enemy’s children rather than the food you eat.