I am ferociously a Zionist. I believe that Israel has every right to defend itself against terrorist insurgency and rocket attacks against its civilian population. I know that Hamas deliberately hides behind civilians in order to deter Israeli strikes against their military infrastructure. They hide in basements below their own wives and children, siblings, nieces and nephews, and order their own population to disregard evacuation notices delivered by Israeli officials. I know that we have a humane army, as much as any army can be humane in wartime. I know that every strike is measured against strict standards of proportionality. The unintended double effect of killing civilians is only justified by the extreme circumstances created by Hamas’ incessant refusal to stop attacking us while subjugating, terrorizing and murdering their own people. I know that the world’s condemnation of this operation is cynical and ignorant and biased, to say the least.
Yesterday, however, that did not matter to me. Four little boys, four cousins, four little best friends, were gunned down by our army as they ran playing on a Gaza beach. They were playing near a Hamas facility. They had been told to stay away from the beach. And now they are gone. No amount of justification or appeals to proportionality, no abuse by Hamas, makes these deaths any less tragic. I am devastated by these deaths, as I am devastated by the death of every single innocent victim of this conflict. Nothing would make me happier than to finally achieve a true lasting peace between us and our neighbors to the South. I do not want revenge. I truly believe that the Palestinians have a right to freedom, self-determination and security. We tried to give them that in Gaza. Hamas destroyed that possibility. They still have that right, and when their leadership is truly ready to exercise that right on behalf of their citizenry, I will be the first to congratulate them.
Israel is waging a war against Hamas, not the Palestinian people. We live side by side with Arab Israelis, both Christian and Muslim, and even now our malls and schools and parks are filled hijab and galabiya and shtreimel and bekashet. Our entire Israeli population enjoys the same freedom of movement, access to education and healthcare, and freedom of speech. Even when we are at war. Even when some of our own citizens celebrate Hamas and rejoice at every rocket being launched at us.
Many of us want nothing more than to see Palestinians pull it together, leave their call for jihad behind and start building a sustainable environment for their own people. They need schools, hospitals, public spaces, electric and water purification facilities. They need self-sufficiency. Their leadership needs to stop stealing humanitarian aid in order to sponsor terrorism and pad their own pockets. I firmly believe that the path to peace is paved with economic success. As soon as the Palestinian leadership begins allowing its population to flourish, build economic ties with Israel and the West, get educated (without Holocaust denial), I suspect the desperate desire for resistance will wane. Until then, however, we are trapped and so are they. We are all prisoners of Hamas. While our government strives to protect us from this abominable enemy, the people of Gaza are being sacrificed at the altar of jihad, placed in front of the Israeli army who at every moment must decide to shoot or withhold fire – even as Hamas rains down rocket fire upon us. Even as their operatives try to infiltrate our borders in order to murder and maim our civilian population. Even as they fire at us from beaches where Gazan children should be free to play.
When I heard the news that these four innocent boys were killed by our forces yesterday something broke inside of me. The pacifist that I used to be rose up from under the rubble of 12 years of living in a war zone. Why can’t we just stop? Why can’t Hamas just wake up in the morning and say: “No more. Our children are not worth this conflict. Nothing is worth more than our children. This stops here”. We would find a way to make this work. We would find a way to build two successful nation states, side by side, with shared economic endeavors and secure borders. We don’t want this. None of us want this. Only Hamas wants this. Only Hamas.
Those four boys died and my self-righteousness died with them. This was a tragedy. Another tragedy in a never ending cycle of tragedies. My heart breaks for their families, for the Palestinian people who are being held captive by their own psychotic government, for us. For all of us who abhor violence, for all of us who understand how sad it is that these children were caught up in such a pointless war. Just as our own children were murdered by Hamas, these children too were victims of Hamas’ unrelenting thirst for violence and destruction. For all of us who want security for both of our peoples. My heart is broken, again.