Yaakov Fisch

Good for the goose and not good for the gander

Amid the fog of a brutal war, there was a military attack on aid workers working to bring assistance to civilians. The military mistook these civilians for terrorists, and their lives came to an abrupt end. The attack took place in Afghanistan on August 29, 2022, and the forces that committed this tragic mistake were the United States Military. 

The targeted victim was 43-year-old Zemari Ahmadi, who died with nine members of his family, including seven children, when a missile from a US Air Force Reaper hit his family and struck his car as he arrived home from work in a residential neighborhood of Kabul. The United States most senior General, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair, initially called the attack a “righteous strike.” Later, the General acknowledged the action as a “horrible tragedy of war.” Unless I missed it, I don’t recall the President ordering fundamental changes in the way its forces allow aid workers to reach innocent civilians trapped in wartime. It seemed to be understood that although tragic, this attack was not a reflection of the moral standing of America or its values. 

The grace accorded to America after this incident was not offered to Israel after a tragic mistake in which Israel killed seven members of the World Central Kitchen in Gaza. The attention given to this story is nothing short of remarkable. The celebrity chef who runs the aid organization is reportedly putting pressure on Washington to change its policy of support to Israel. It’s hard to digest the hypocrisy in watching the President and his most senior advisers publicly upbraid its supposedly greatest ally, Israel, in a strikingly similar incident. The outrage was communicated in a public manner, and America made clear to Israel that unless it fundamentally changes how it fights an existential war against an enemy committed to destruction, it will withhold vital military assistance. 

What is good for the goose is obviously not good for the gander. In the wars that followed 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan, the  United States killed over 400,000 civilians and displaced over 38 million people. The number of civilians killed in these wars was actually higher than military fighters. (These figures are from a comprehensive report conducted by Brown University.) I don’t recall America remotely having the sensitivity to civilian lives in the wars it waged to the sensitivity it demands Israel accord the civilians in Rafah. 

Meanwhile, the most righteous cause that many have embraced is the “Free Palestine” movement. These enlightened people preach to the world that the root cause of the conflict is the lack of a state to the oppressed Palestinians. One can reasonably ask why the Tibetans and  Kurds who have aspirations for a state are not accorded the same seriousness for their legitimate desires of statehood from America and its allies. 

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that all the outrage associated with the plight of the civilians and aid workers in Gaza is for one simple reason. The entity, in this case, embroiled in the conflict is Israel. The selective outrage is once again directed at Israel from countries that would never think that these standards should apply to themselves.

If there is a silver lining to the unfolding series of events, it is that we are getting clarity on who our friends are and, more importantly, an opportunity to reflect on our status as Jews in the modern world. It would be a worthwhile exercise of personal reflection to contemplate our people’s mission and destiny and the role that the ultimate Guardian of Israel plays in the saga that continues to unfold.

About the Author
Rabbi Yaakov Fisch is the Senior Rabbi at Etz Chaim of Jacksonville, Florida. In his tenure of over 20 years, he has focused on building bridges to the wider community through his projects such as founding an outreach kollel, forming the first kashus organization in the area and hosting a podcast where he sends out Torah messages geared to all.
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