Ignorance is Not Bliss

Earlier this week, I participated in a celebration marking the 100th birthday of a Holocaust survivor who was held captive in Auschwitz. Four generations of his family and a handful of close family friends were there, too. Even United States Attorney General Merrick Garland joined the affair via Zoom to offer complementary words to this centenarian who inspired him years ago. Yet with each passing day, celebrations like this decrease and, realistically, over the next decade or so only memories and stories of survivors and liberators of Nazi Germany will remain. The opportunity for future generations to meet these heroes face-to-face will be gone forever.

Today marks the 161st day since Hamas slaughtered roughly 1,200 Israelis in the worst massacre against the Jewish people since the Holocaust. Over 100 Israeli civilian hostages, several holding dual citizenship with other countries including America, remain in Gaza – some dead, others tortured, many raped, and all suffering. And with each passing day, our opportunities to hear directly from these captives diminishes. One doesn’t need to be an expert on the Middle East or the conflicts among Israelis and Palestinians to know who is at fault for these atrocities. However, the western world seems more confused than ever, and the conflation the Palestinian people with the internationally recognized terrorist organization Hamas appears “normalized” not only among our college students and pro-Palestinian sympathizers, but even among many world leaders.

That said, there are a few basic facts that all of us, including the horrifically confused, must keep in mind when it comes to differentiating between Palestinian civilians and Hamas, as well as the efforts made by Israel to bring peace to the region.

  1. Hamas commits heinous war crimes as defined by the Geneva Convention of 1949. They transform schools into arsenals, hospitals into armories, and heavily populated Palestinian civilian residential and business neighborhoods into munition sites all of which are “occupied” by innocent men, women, and children used as human shields despite multiple warnings from the Israelis for civilians to leave targeted areas. Hamas gives them no choice.
  2. Beyond the use of human shields, Hamas uses torture, rape, beheadings and the taking of civilian hostages as viable tactics for war all of which are international war crimes.
  3. Hamas is an Iranian-backed Sunni Islamist terrorist organization that has been in the Gaza Strip since 1988. Hamas represents a radicalized and perverse religious ideology that implores terror, glorifies death, vilifies Jews, demonizes the State of Israel, and destroys anyone and everyone – no matter if they are Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, including men, women, and children – who gets in their way.
  4. When it comes to discrepancies between the humanitarian aid that Israel is helping to facilitate and the actual aid reaching the Palestinian people in need, don’t immediately blame Israel, but rather question Hamas. Why is there a lack of fuel for hospitals but plenty of fuel for rockets? Why do Palestinians live in poverty and Hamas leadership live in plush million-dollar homes? How did Hamas build hundreds of miles of tunnels some of which have electricity, water, and means to survive indefinite periods of time when any semblance of a Palestinian economy is in shambles? Or, better yet, ask the Palestinian people themselves who are brave enough to speak the truth about Hamas and the unthinkable conditions that Hamas forces them to endure.
  5. And like all sovereign countries, Israel has the right to defend itself by itself.

Israel will never be able to secure a lasting peace with any group determined to destroy them. History provides us with too many instances to list. After the dark days of the Holocaust, the civilized world vowed “never again” but too much silence and misinformation are rampant again. And while today might be March 15, 2024, for some it is still October 7, 2023. Our collective goal must be to ensure that tomorrow is not November 9, 1938.

About the Author
Rabbi Morris Zimbalist is the Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Judea in Long Grove, IL.
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