I think of myself as a moral person. I believe, deep in my heart, that I want what is best for people, and I hurt when I see pain and injustice. That is why I struggle so much with the pictures coming from Gaza this week. I believe conceptually that I should feel for the Palestinians who were killed and injured this week, but it’s hard. No matter how much I try, I can’t generate moral outrage on behalf of people who absolutely refuse peace with Israel and insist on doing everything they can to destroy it, even if it means getting themselves killed.
Anyone who studies the Middle East knows that its history is filled with ambiguity, yet often driven by people fueled with absolutism. There is historical validity to both Arab claims and Jewish claims. With one exception (the Temple Mount), it is not difficult to develop a compromise that furthers each side’s aspirations, yet fully satisfies none. That is the nature of compromise. Indeed such a plan was developed at Camp David in 2000, yet rejected by the Palestinians.
While the Palestinian Authority has never fully stated whether or under what conditions it will make a full peace with Israel, Hamas has no such ambiguity. It does not and will not accept the possibility of a Jewish State in the Land under any circumstances, and it will do everything it can to destroy Israel.
To further that goal, Hamas will impoverish the Gazan people, divert concrete that could be used for schools to construct attack tunnels, and otherwise use its funds for the singular goal of killing Israelis. Gaza is not blockaded by Israel – who only borders it on two sides – and Gaza is not under Israeli occupation. Given its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, mild climate and industrious people, Gaza could be flourishing, if only its people would allow that. They don’t.
Instead, they prefer to throw themselves on the world stage as victims, while they do everything to prevent that status from changing. It’s an odd form of blackmail. Support our efforts to kill Israelis or we’ll commit national suicide.
I was on the National Executive Board of the Jewish National Fund of America when Israel withdrew from Gaza, and I saw some of the plans being developed for hothouses, free economic zones and other forms of cooperation that would turn Gaza from an economic basket case to an economic power. Nothing came of them. The Palestinians themselves destroyed the hothouses that already had been built by Israelis, much as they set fire to their own gas line two weeks ago. They would not permit themselves to better their own children’s lives, lest it mean compromise with another people who had their own claims to the same land.
I can’t feel sorry for that. I try. I remember that I also am a human being, and one should never be ambivalent to another’s pain. But I cannot feel much for people whose only driving force is the destruction of my people’s one independent nation, as imperfect as it may be.
I don’t know if the IDF used excessive force on Monday. If it did then it should be held accountable. But I do know that not a single Palestinian should have died that day, because no attempt to rush the border fence should have been made. Whatever barrier separates Israel from Gaza should be a way station for trade and vitality. That it’s not is entirely the desire of the Palestinians. As for Israel, given the choice of allowing the nation to be overrun or shutting off that part of Gaza that borders Israel, I’m glad the Israelis chose the latter. The world can convulse all it wants, I’ll choose the safety of Jewish lives.
It’s graduation season here in the United States. In 1963 at American University, President John F. Kennedy, reflecting on the recent Cuban Missile Crisis, noted that like the people in the Soviet Union, “we all breath the same air, we all cherish our children’s future, and we are all mortal.”
When the Palestinians start cherishing their children’s future I’ll start feeling empathy and sympathy for them. Until they do, I have little to offer.