Israel, a safe haven for all moderates

At the moment of writing, the whole world is expressing its condemnation of the barbaric murder of three boys kidnapped by Hamas: Naftali, Gilad, Eyal were returning home from school at night. For more than two weeks, Israelis have searched high and low for the boys and maintained the hope for their safe return.  Soldiers scoured the Gush Etzion under the sun, without leaving a stone unturned; the people of Israel have gathered around the parents in support, and who in turn have been an example of strength  and dignity to both lay and the religious alike.

The murder of the boys is the fulfilment of the worst outcome that anyone could have imagined; found murdered by the same Islamic extremist forces that persecute Christians and Jews, kill homosexuals and segregate women. Israel has, however, found itself, its determination and its strength of survival, its unity and its sense of balance. The hope is that the legacy of our three murdered boys may represent a better understanding of what is happening in the Middle East today, a more serious analysis of the forces at work and a more lucid proximity with Israel will prevail.

Israel is the defense shield against Al Qaeda and Iran, not only for the Jews, but also the Christians in the Middle East, the Palestinians of Abu Mazen, and all the moderate Arab countries,  first among them Jordan, and for the Kurdish people on their road to independence. Today, Israel is the shelter against the tumultuous dark storm that has gathered and threateningly looms over the region. Whether it is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an immense geographical extension which Al Qaeda is fighting to establish, or in the case of the waxing moon of Shiite Islam led by Iran, which includes Iran itself, Syria, and Iraq, and that is contending with the other faction Lebanon, Jordan, the border with Turkey, Libya, Sudan and others.

The cultural prism of the kidnapping and the barbarous murder of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal have revealed the true face of Israel and its singularity. The boys were killed without mercy only after ten minutes they were kidnapped from a hitchhiking point. In this, as in many other extreme circumstances, Israel is safeguarding reason, in the maelstrom of ​​ murderous madness which is the Middle East; it has called on its army to find the three teenagers in an appropriate and practiced manner, while it is facing Syrian gunfire to the north and a rain of rockets from Gaza in the south.

In this phase of broken world order, and while throughout the region borders are crumbling under the wave of murderous conflicts, Israel remains the only refuge for the Jewish, Christian, and Arab peoples, but also for the logic where the certainty of law, human rights, and respect for the individual prevail. Even though some of those who have been stopped in these days in Hebron or Halhul – where the murdered boys were found – are terrorists released in exchange for Gilad Shalit in 2011, and have not fulfilled their pledge to cease their involvement in terrorist activities.  One by one by, they have become the subject of a specific decision made by Israeli judges.

The gap between Israeli logic and all that is taking place beyond its borders is so vast, its role as a “safe-haven” for moderates and the clear social advantage that it involves is evidently obvious, that the continuous ideological persecution of Israel is incomprehensible and mystifying. It is clearly one of the many cognitive chasms in which Europe has fallen in recent years: in the mist of the murderous rampage that is consuming the region, the fact that in recent days the foreign ministers of several European countries, including Italy, have asked entrepreneurs not to invest in Israel beyond the green line, with everything that is happening in the surrounding area, looks like a clear sign of insanity, or ignorance.

The three boys were kidnapped while returning home from school; two were 16 years of age, the other a little older. For 18 days, an entire Country has been forced to live through a nightmare where hatred is the main protagonist, to imagine, to exorcise, to suffer with three young children who were eventually found dead. Meanwhile, the United Nations, the European Union and other institutions that should protect human rights, were worried more about asking Israel to exercise restraint during searches, instead of aiding the recovery of the boys.

The kidnapping is not only a very obvious act of blackmail (and Italy may remember all to well the time of the Red Brigades), but it is humiliating, a sneer at an organized Country that has a devoted and brave army. The aim is ignoble: to release convicted murderers from prison, many of whom serving a life sentence, with a history of criminality, to see them rise as martyrs, as icons, to bring a proud people to its knees, to terrorize parents and to scare children.

But again, as in the days of the Second Intifada, the popular reaction to this new act of terror has been entirely different from the one that Hamas had hoped for: we saw the boys’ parents, decent people who were even able to smile and be grateful, surrounded by a huge crowd of supporters, religious or lay. Words of hope were those most commonly uttered; no expression of hatred was ever used; not even in this extreme case did Israel show signs of racism, or a warmongering attitude, or of ethnic or religious discrimination, despite the all too significant manifestations of joy that were witnessed in Palestinian streets and the media following the kidnapping. But the possibility of a disordered reaction – inflated by those who love to write and read in the newspapers that the extremist Israeli soul is always prevailing – has not even surfaced.

While conducting house to house searches for the kidnapped boys, in the middle of the night and in the heart of the most militant Hamas areas, the Israeli soldiers have been forced to react against their will, and this has unfortunately cost three lives on the streets. But they have worked with extreme patience, meter by meter, stone after stone, pit after pit, walking under the Israel sun for miles in their heavy uniforms, carrying arms, and without sleep, until this most dramatic and fearful of conclusions.

I heard the Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, saying: “Look for them in the same way you would look for your brother, but do not forget that, in the homes you are searching, not everyone is a Hamas supporter, and so behave yourselves”. When people say that the IDF “has not left a stone unturned” that was not a merely expression: in fact each stone has been unturned with bare their hands.

The people have prayed: Israel is also a religious country. But, while a large demonstration was being held at the Wailing Wall calling upon God for help, another was filling Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, the sanctuary of the secular world par excellence.

Even at the time of the Second Intifada, it took a long time, and a lot of patience to halt the wave of terrorist attacks that literally flooded Jerusalem with blood. What finally won was the perseverance of faith in Israel itself. The people remained united even though then, as today, the cries of pain went hand in hand with criticism of the government. Years have passed, and yet too often the focus on political antagonism has prevented us from seeing reality, of a small, strong, dignified Country, which, like the boys’ parents, is determined to live among an ocean of people worshipping dead.

Israel is the only refuge for moderates in the Middle East, whoever they are. I wonder if any of the readers have had the stomach and the patience to watch a long video posted by ISIS, whose tanks have beaten Shiite government forces in Tikrit and Mosul, and which are closing on their next target of Baghdad. Their black flags have already been seen in demonstrations on the Temple Mount, at the Mosques. The Syrian rebels of the same organization are fighting now on the same front as Hamas’. According to the ISIS fundamentalists – and they say this in their videos as if they were Middle East experts – the Sykes Picot agreement, the 100 year old boundaries of 1916 set by the colonial power must be abolished. In their view, it is time to go beyond: Syria and Iraq have now become a single prophetical entity of the next caliphate.  Their leader today is Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who they often exalt while performing the massacres they proudly display in their videos. According to them, the conquest is destined to broaden widely: Jordan is under siege. Even beyond the Muslim world, Andalusia and Rome have been declared necessary prey in the achieving of the worldwide caliphate.

But those who watch are stunned more than everything about the modality the conquest will assume: with unrestrained satisfaction, the film shows the viewer a vast region reduced to a blood stain. They invade, shoot, dismember, decapitate, they drag innocent civilians from their houses in the middle of the night, and kill them and their families, guilty only of being Shiites and proclaiming a sacred right to their blood.  In desperation, many dig their own graves to abjure their entire life. The face of a local official, an honest man, remaining decent and upstanding while he is executed, is the symbol of the trashing that the Arab world is doing to itself.

On the other hand, their opponent is not only Al Maliki, supported by Assad. Iran and Hezbollah, which from the outset have been protagonists in the war in Syria, and that today have a new and broader field of action. The Iranian Al Quds Brigades are present on Iraqi territory, Gen. Qassem Soleimani leads them, and they also divulgate videos in which combatants swear in the name of Allah that their enemies will be destroyed. Lebanon is obviously wound up in this conflict, for within its borders, Hezbollah Shiites tend to establish a supremacy that is connected to the survival of Assad and that of Maliki, and the Sunnis attack them. All are playing all out for victory; Iran aims to increase its territorial hegemony.

Both the two forces aim to conquer Jordan, beyond which there is the grand prize, Israel; all the while,  Turkey’s borders are straining; Sudan, Yemen, Libya have each been affected in their own way by the deadly and bloody confrontation in which there is only other slaughtering and spilt blood to come.

It appears that Hamas political leader, Khaled Mashal, gave the order to abduct the boys from his exile in Qatar, the area that from the outset has been subsidizing and organizing much of the Sunni sedition of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is a part.

Amidst all of this, the most paradoxical fact is the U.S. choice to try to keep Maliki in power, exactly as the Iranians would like, and that the two parts are seeking a partnership on this goal.

In all this, especially since Jordan is under siege, it is to be thankful that the determination of the Israeli government has not succumbed to the temptations to leave the Jordan Valley or the Golan Heights. Today, if we consider what kind of conclusive strategic danger the Jewish State would be facing if it did not control those areas; if we think about how essential the need is to interpose a strategic space between a balance and the madness, between peace and war, between the rule of law and the massacre, everyone, absolutely everyone, including Palestinians, surely feel more confident in the current state of affairs.

Israel has placed its future and its strength to react to the murder of its three children, in its unwavering passion for democracy, in its dedication to the preservation of life which, even in these terrible hours, is celebrated in the squares throughout the Country. This is an opportunity for Obama, the European Union and the rest of the world to stop their incessant de-legitimization of Israel, and instead accept the indisputable findings emerging from the analysis of the regional geopolitical situation: as the only safe-haven left in the Middle East, Israel has the right to protect itself with the necessary means.

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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