Ethan Eisen

An American-Israeli’s response to Antonio Guterres

John Paul Jones was a naval commander during America’s War of Independence, and on September 23, 1779 his vessel was locked in battle with a British vessel.  Thinking that Jones had been struck, the commander of the British ship offered Jones to surrender, to which legend has it that Jones responded with the timeless words: “I have not yet begun to fight.”   I believe this sentiment best sums up the mood of Israelis.  For friends in America, I offer the following to explain why Israelis I know, every last one of whom despise war, understand that the coming fight, just like all that proceeded it, is necessary for our survival.

The media and international so-called leaders have provided a constant stream of statements that defy reality.  However, the recent statements by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres distills into its purest form the distorted worldview that buttresses and emboldens Hamas and its shockingly large group of supporters around the world.

“It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.  The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation. They have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled; their people displaced and their homes demolished. Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing.”

Let’s walk through why this statement is so perverse.

Mr. Guterres says that the attacks did not happen in a vacuum, in past tense.  But the attacks have not ceased.  They continue each moment, as Hamas still holds over 200 hostages.  It is baffling that the head of the U.N. can make a statement that ignores the active hostage imprisonment, casting the Hamas aggression as a historical event.  Other members of the media or foreign leaders who discourage Israel from fighting Hamas seem to think that it is Israel’s responsibility to negotiate their own surrender in order to restore the captives.  Such a perspective rewards Hamas for its kidnapping and torture of Jews.  It should be obvious to anyone that it is Hamas’s responsibility to return every single one of the hostages, and that Israel should take any steps necessary to secure them. By attempting to restrain Israel, the world is incentivizing Hamas’s barbarism, in this instance demonstrated by using hostages as human shields.  There is no context, vacuum or otherwise, that is consistent with the values that the civilized world espouses.

Similarly, rocket attacks from Hamas and Hezbollah that target civilian populations are ongoing daily.  These attacks rarely receive much media attention, even though residents of border cities and towns have seen consistent rocket fire for many years.  At this point, these attacks are not reported at all by most outlets.  Israelis wonder how, by the U.N.’s and media’s own standards, when targeting civilians violates a sacred code, Hamas seems to get a pass.  Tens of thousands of Israelis are displaced from southern towns because of the constant rocket attacks from Gaza, and from northern towns due to the threat of Hezbollah’s sophisticated weapons aimed at Israel.  The widespread sentiment in the media seems to be that this rocket fire is not relevant because Israel is largely able to defend itself.  But in reality, Israelis understand that something else is going on—Mr. Guterres, the media, and many people around the world are actually Hamas sympathizers, even if they publicly condemn the specific tactics employed by Hamas on October 7.  They believe that Israel’s existence deserves to be resisted because Israel is a colonizing force oppressing an indigenous people, and as such, the indiscriminate rocket attacks are a legitimate form of resistance.  They seem to believe that it is unfair for Israel to respond with any force that would actually deter these rocket attacks, and Israel should simply absorb and tolerate these strikes.  From what I can tell, Israelis are done with tolerating the constant attacks from their border.

The content of Mr. Guterres’s argument is similarly depraved.  He implies that the unfortunate life circumstances faced by the people of Gaza are attributable to Israeli aggression.  This perspective ignores Hamas’s pillaging of Gaza’s resources to build weapons designed to kill Jews.  It ignores how Hamas stores these weapons near schools and hospitals in order to maximize risk to its own civilians should Israel respond to an attack.  But more importantly, this perspective ignores something more fundamental, that anyone with any interest in history can clearly observe.

Israel has made peace with Arab and Muslim states that, within the last generation, tried to eradicate it. Israel has surrendered land to governments that sought Israel’s destruction in order to establish peaceful relations.  Israel has a large Arab population that lives side by side with the Jewish population at all levels of society.  Israel has tried to make peace multiple times with the Palestinian Arabs, only to be rejected by the Palestinian Arab leadership.  And yet, Mr. Guterres and many in the media cannot seem to discriminate between Hamas, an organization whose charter calls for the extermination of Jews, and Israel, who consistently put their own soldiers and population at risk to uphold their commitment to protect their enemy’s civilians.  Hamas celebrates the butchering of Jews on livestream broadcasts, and then restricts their civilians from fleeing when Israel begs the Gazans to flee before Israel dismantles terrorist infrastructure.

And yet, somehow, Mr. Guterres can’t figure out that the misery of the Gazan population should be placed squarely on the shoulders on Hamas.  He and the complicit media contort their brains and distort their perceptions of reality to reach a conclusion that despite Israel’s unprecedented and unparalleled efforts to protect Gazan civilians, what’s really at play is some sadistic and oddly specific racism toward the Arabs in Gaza.  They somehow have convinced themselves that despite all the evidence to the contrary, Israelis derive a sick pleasure from the suffering of the people in Gaza or in the so-called West Bank, and would rather the Palestinians suffer than obtain a peaceful existence within their borders.  With this perverse way of seeing the world, the security measures, largely adopted after suicide bombers regularly blew themselves up on Israeli buses, are not actually because of security, but instead designed to deliver collective punishment to a wide population.  All this, even though Israel spends a great deal of its military budget on developing weapons that minimize civilian casualties; and even though Israel supplies fuel, water, electricity, and medical supplies to the Gazan population led by a government committed to the destruction of Israel; and even though Israel has gone to greater lengths to protect Gazan civilians than Hamas has. The notion that the barrier to peace is a strangely precise racist attitude of Israelis toward a particular Arab population in the Gaza strip defies reality and defies logic.  The sad reality is that historically, Israel has cared more about the Arabs in Gaza than the governments of Gaza ever have, and Israel has tolerated terrorists on its border specifically because Israel does not want to harm civilians.

Mr. Guterres also seems to be ignoring the fact that given the opportunity, Hamas and its allies still intend to brutalize, murder, and butcher as many Jews as possible.  It’s hard to believe that they actually think an Israeli ceasefire (read: surrender) would reduce the potential for an expanded regional war, or somehow make Israel or Jews safer.  It must be obvious to them that Israel is not only threatened by Hamas, which deserves to be destroyed due to their actions, but is also threatened by Hezbollah in the north, Syria, Iraq, and Iran in the east, and Yemen in the south.  Everyone knows that weakness toward Hamas will only encourage these evil actors to try their hand at genocide.  Nobody honestly believes that Iran’s chants of “Death to America; Death to Israel” is because Israel has built peaceful communities in Gush Etzion.

The Israeli population, left, right, and center, knows who they are up against, and they know that Israeli passivity is not the pathway to survival.  Hamas has no interest in a two-state solution, they do not even have interest in protecting the civilians of Gaza.  They have devoted decades-worth of resources and international aid to the specific goal of destroying Israel and all its inhabitants.  For the first generation since the destruction of the Second Temple, God has blessed the Jewish people with the ability to live within the borders of our holy Promised Land, and to defend ourselves from enemies who wish to eradicate us.  And to Mr. Guterres and the chorus of Hamas sympathizers calling for Israel to surrender, I can tell you we have not yet begun to fight.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Ethan Eisen is a licensed clinical psychologist who practices in Jerusalem and Bet Shemesh. He writes and lectures on topics of psychology, mental health, and halacha, and is the author of the upcoming book "Talmud on the Mind: Exploring Chazal and Practical Psychology to Lead a Better Life."
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