Hayim Herring

Don’t Fall Into the Moral Equivalence Trap

Comparing Hamas’s Barbaric Attack on Innocent Israeli Citizens with Israel’s Defensive War in Gaza is like Claiming that Jaywalking and Murder are Comparable Offenses.

The moral equivalence squad comparing Israel’s defensive war against Gaza’s main terrorist organization, Hamas, is in overdrive. Justice advocates and, maddeningly, some elected representatives have redoubled their efforts to equate Israel’s bombing of Gaza to Hamas’s brutal slaughter of over 1,300 Israeli citizens and foreign nationals and wounding over 3,300 in just 48 hours. Here’s a quick guide to refuting such contemptuous and misleading comparisons. The primary principle is to make these horrific events personal and more relatable when advocating for Israel. For example, imagine:

  • It’s 8:30 AM on Saturday morning in your neighborhood. Pet lovers are walking their poochies, parents are pushing strollers with their beautiful babies, and elderly men are schmoozing on a park bench. You and your friends meet at your favorite coffee shop when suddenly, gunmen dressed as police aim their AK-47s and anti-tank missiles directly at you and your friends. They tear babies away from their parents, behead them, and make older children witness the death of their parents before they’re killed. You barely escape and hide in an inconspicuous space at home, only to hear gunshot fire in your friends’ homes. These terrorists break into your home, and when they finally leave, do you ask, “I wonder what I’ve done to anger them,” or do you demand that your government protect you from future threats against you and your family, a basic duty of government?
  • You live on the edge of a neighboring state only 600 yards away. The neighboring state is “red,” and your state is “blue.” The leaders of each state have been unsuccessfully negotiating shared water and electricity rights for years. One state delegation becomes so frustrated with years of stalled discussions that it drops negotiations and unleashes its police force, National Guard, and volunteer militias on citizens in its neighboring states. They attack with fury and slaughter anyone in sight. Again, how would you react if, God forbid, that happened to you?
  • My state, Minnesota, shares a border with Canada. The closest Minnesota border town is Ranier, only .5 miles away. My wife and I decided to vacation there because it’s so lush and beautiful. Canada had begun to sporadically fire rockets across the border in the past several years. But it had been relatively rocket-free, taking just several a week, so we decided to chance it. Had we been vacationing in a lodge in Ranier when a never-before-seen rocket barrage rained down on us, and Canada threatened thousands more to follow, I would expect my government to take defensive action immediately.

Remember, you don’t have to agree with current or past Israeli governments, just like we don’t have to agree with our country’s choice of a president. In a democracy, voters frequently change their elected officials, but defeating groups like Hamas, Jihad Islami, and al Qaeda must persist regardless of administration.

There will be a time to examine Israel’s policies for a future independent Gazan state. We should demand equal time to examine Palestinian policies like indoctrinating young Palestinian children with hatred of Jews and of Israel and eliminate the famous “pay to slay” policy that awards a stipend to Palestinian families whose children die as “martyrs” by gunning down Israeli civilians.

Many Americans are honestly confused about the complexities of Israel and its immediate neighbors. They don’t even realize Gaza has been a sovereign state since 2005, governed by Hamas. Israel has blockaded Gaza’s port because instead of importing goods and materials to raise the standard of living of impoverished Gazans, Hamas’s preferred cargo is munitions and rockets that they stash in underground tunnels and underneath schools and hospitals. (Egypt, Gaza’s other immediate neighbor, has a naval blockade because it fears that Hamas’s extremists will team up with Egyptian religious extremists and destabilize its government.)

But don’t let anyone lure you into the numbers game and make you defend Israel’s actions by comparing the number of Gazan and Israeli deaths. Israeli noncombatant civilians celebrating Shabbat and the end of the Jewish festival of Sukkot never saw how brutally their lives would end. Nor did Israelis expect to see Holocaust-like images of dead Jews mowed down by machine guns, beheaded babies lined in rows, and naked, raped women paraded before Gazan masses as victory symbols.

Would any rational person compare the criminal offense of jaywalking to mass murder? That’s how misleading and contemptuous the analogy is between Hamas’s depravity and Israel’s defensive war.

About the Author
Rabbi Hayim Herring, Ph.D., is a national thought leader, organizational consultant and author on the American Jewish community with a specialty in synagogue life. He is President & CEO of the Herring Consulting Network.
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