An Open Letter to Ilhan Omar about BDS

Dear Ilhan Omar,

We have read with dismay the recent headlines concerning your comments regarding AIPAC and Israel. Unfortunately, as a People we have heard this all before, the antisemitic tropes about Jews using money to gain control. In this case, it would be controlling congress by channeling money to politicians to advocate on behalf of Israel. Since then you have apologized and have pledged to work together toward peace in the region, including both Jews and Muslims.

While much of the media attention has been on your comments themselves, I wanted to focus on a different aspect entirely, which is part of a much bigger and broader picture, namely your continued support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against the Government of Israel, and by extension, the People of Israel. The movement itself is hypocritical, as it claims that Israel collectively punishes all of the Palestinians with some of its policies, as BDS does the same, collectively hurting all Israelis by trying to sanction the Israeli government. However, even with this blatant double standard, there is a much bigger problem with BDS which needs to be addressed.

Since there is no mention on BDS’s platform of any rebuke or sanctions on the Palestinian People, it can only be assumed that BDS’s mission believes that Israel is the one completely at fault in the current conflict. I wanted to present just a few basic facts regarding the long and difficult struggle between Israel and the Palestinians. Facts which you may not be aware of but are extremely relevant to the problem at hand.

One is the unfortunate mindset of the Palestinian People themselves. While many are quick to say that the vast majority of Palestinians are not Hamas, polls suggest otherwise. According to recent polls, nearly 40% of Palestinians support terror against Israel, and only 25% support a peaceful resolution. That’s 40%! Even in the supposedly more “moderate” Palestinian Authority, streets are named after the so called “martyrs” and billboards glorifying them are to be found regularly in Gaza and the West Bank.

It is this mindset that has led to many of the difficult but necessary precautions that Israel must enforce to ensure the safety of its People. The most well known of course, is the Border Walls surrounding Gaza and the West Bank. The statistics speak for themselves, and they speak loudly. In the year before the Wall was built, nearly 300 Israelis were killed in terror attacks, in the year construction started it was down to 64 killed, and by the time the wall was completed in 2010 it was down to 9 Israelis killed. The walls continue to this day to help thwart countless numbers of terror attacks against innocent Israelis. These barriers are ones that Israel did not want to have to make because of some of the difficulties it placed on the Palestinians. But this is the sad and painful reality of living next to very hostile neighbors. As your fellow democrat Hillary Clinton once said, who voted in favor of the Wall, “This is not a vote in favor of apartheid, but rather a vote against terror.” How would you feel if your 40% of your neighbors supported terror against your citizens? Would you still be in favor of open borders? This is also why Israel needs to keep some military presence in the West Bank as well as monitor closely what goes into Gaza and the West Bank. When Israel once allowed thousands of tons of concrete into Gaza for the purpose of building homes and schools, it was later found that the very same concrete was used to build terror tunnels to attack innocent Israelis.

One of the other constant criticisms of Israel’s policies had been its supposed disproportionate amount of force in the recent Gaza wars. Here again, while on a surface level this appears to be the case, if one were to only dig a little deeper, one would see a different story entirely. Firstly, it must always be remembered that it is Israel responding to increased rocket fire from Gaza that begins each conflict, not the other way around. Every sovereign nation has a right to defend itself from attacks. How would you respond if your neighbors plummeted your cities with thousands of rockets loaded with explosives? Can you think of a different way to respond? Perhaps a polite text to Hamas to kindly stop shooting rockets would have been sufficient? And it goes much further than this. Israel does what virtually no other country, including the US, does in modern warfare; it drops leaflets asking the civilians to leave the areas that will be in harms way. The Prime Minister of Israel himself went on national TV and pleaded with the civilians of Gaza to leave the area. As you can imagine, from a strategic perspective, this is disastrous, but it is the length Israel goes to to try to protect the innocent. It is Hamas, who chooses to use it’s own people as human shields, who asks its People to stay.

Furthermore, the numbers of civilians that are killed by the statistics that the UN presents is determined by the Gaza Health Ministry. And who controls the Gaza Defense Ministry? None other than Hamas! As such, Hamas consistently exaggerates the number of innocent killed in an attempt to win the propaganda with Israel. In a detailed person by person analysis of the 1,598 Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge, it was determined that 55% of them were combatants and only 45% were non-combatants. This percentage is almost unheard of in modern warfare, especially considering that Gaza has one of the most densely populated areas in the world. It is also important to mention that Hamas twice broke the attempted ceasefire during the recent Gaza war, not Israel. This of course led to continued fighting and more civilian deaths.

When presented with these facts a very different narrative emerges of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. You have said in your recent remarks that you want to try to help bring resolution to the ongoing conflict and “make the hard choices against our allies who have aggressive policies.” Are you willing to make the same hard choices and call out your fellow Palestinians and their government for their many poor choices against the People of Israel? Sure, Israel, like any country is not perfect, and there is always room for improvement. But unless you are also fully willing to take a hard look at these facts and call out the many wrongs on the Palestinian side, no honest negotiations or peaceful resolution could ever take place. I suggest you begin to look at the broader picture of what is happening.

Sincerely Yours,

Yisroel Juskowitz

About the Author
Yisroel Juskowitz is most well known for his two best-selling books on Jewish topics "The Hidden Path" and "For Every Season, both of which has received widespread critical acclaim. He is involved in many creative projects to inspire, educate, and entertain the Jewish people. He has two albums of his music, which was received very warmly, he has performed to Jews of all walks of life and ages, and has also given many classes on many Jewish topics. He draws and paints Judaica art as well. Yisroel's passion is to use his many creative outlets to further help the Jewish people and Jewish causes.
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