Anyone who denies the truth of the Hamas massacre of 1400 people in southern Israel and Hamas’ hostage taking of 210+ women, children, men, babies, and elderly Jews on October 7, and shifts the narrative, as so many are now doing, from Hamas’ atrocities against the Jewish people to accusations against the Jewish State that Israel is committing war crimes, is morally compromised.
Yes – Palestinians are suffering greatly in Gaza, but not because of Israel; rather, because of Hamas. Over the 17 years of Hamas’s extremist and brutal rule, it took hundreds of millions of dollars of aid from UNRWA and Arab nations to build a fortified underground labyrinth of 300 miles of tunnels, and doing little to assist Gazans in developing their lives and communities, establishing an economy that provides jobs for Gaza’s 50 percent unemployed, and building schools and hospitals to educate and care for its citizens. Hamas could have done well for its people during that time with such vast financial resources, but instead it built an elaborate and complex infrastructure to attack Israel and murder Jews. That truth ought to be clear since October 7.
Again, Hamas is to blame for the state of Gazan life, not Israel. Despite legitimate criticisms that can be lodged against Israel in its treatment of Palestinians living under Occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, nothing excuses the Hamas atrocities on October 7 or Hamas’ consistent abuse of its own people.
The attack against Israel, the cruelty and savagery of Hamas’ assault, hit Israel very hard. Hamas was temporarily victorious and, at least in the short term, succeeded in provoking rage in the Arab street throughout the Middle East and setting back years of diplomacy aimed at bringing peace to Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Hamas did something else as well. It unified Israel and the Jewish world that had been fractured during a year when pro-democracy activists feared a civil war might erupt in the Jewish state as a consequence of PM Netanyahu’s coalition government’s efforts to diminish the authority of Israel’s judicial branch and compromise Israeli democracy.
In America, I’m hearing that many Jews (especially young Jews) who before October 7 did not identify strongly with Israel, Zionism, and Judaism have been awakened to who they are as part of a unique people that contributed much to western civilization and who often have stood alone against antisemitic hate and violence.
Even more significant than these consequences of Hamas’ attack on October 7, Hamas dealt a serious blow to Israel’s deterrent capacity and international image. What now worries so many of us who love Israel and are concerned with its long-term security and viability, is that unless Israel eliminates Hamas’ capacity to attack Israel again, Israel will be on the road to being a failed state. That would be an intolerable consequence and contrary to what the Zionist movement and the establishment of the State of Israel were meant to do, provide safe haven for the Jewish people against pogroms and violence and be a center for the development of the Hebraic spirit.
Israel has no choice except to go into Gaza on the ground, to root out Hamas leadership and its 20,000+ terrorists, and destroy Hamas’ underground tunnel system and the armaments that are stockpiled there. The risk of failure is an existential one to the Jewish state and Jewish people. Not completing this effort successfully will encourage Hamas to strike again, and for Hezbollah and Iran to fortify the ring around Israel and one day attack all at once.
The future between Israel and the Palestinians and the moderate Arab world need not be necessarily dark. There can be in time a peaceful negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will bring to Israel security and peace, and to the Palestinian people the fulfillment of their national aspirations in two states for two peoples. It is hard to imagine this in the current situation. After the Yom Kippur War it was difficult to imagine that Israel and Egypt and then Israel and Jordan could make peace after its history of deadly conflict. But it happened.
I believe that peace is possible because there are thousands upon thousands of Palestinians living in Israel and under Occupation who want peace and a state of their own, just as there are thousands upon thousands of Israelis who want it too, despite their suspicions of Arab and Palestinian intentions.
We Jews here in America are different from our Israeli brothers and sisters, and we have to understand what our differences are, though I think October 7 brought us closer together. We American Jews have been acculturated to want to be liked and loved by others in America, to be respected by different religious, racial, ethnic, and political groups. We learned early on in our history in the United States that to get along means to go along, to assimilate into the American mainstream, and to contribute to our society to protect ourselves against antisemitism. We American Jews succeeded beyond the wildest expectations of my grandparents’ generation. We are, according to polls, the most respected religious group in the United States.
In Israel, however, Israelis are surrounded by potential enemies and they care less about being liked than being safe. Despite that, the impulse of Israeli Jews has been to improve the world. Israel has contributed an enormous amount to the betterment of humankind in every conceivable discipline, but Israelis don’t worry so much about being loved. They worry about being secure, and if they can be secure without being loved, that’s enough.
Perhaps this war against Hamas has taught us American Jews something new; that though it’s adaptive for us to get along with everyone, if the “other” doesn’t understand us or empathize with us, then perhaps the alliances we have nurtured over so long need to be revisited and hard conversations need to be had with those who, whether they realize it or not, harbor deep-seated animus and distrust towards Jews, or ignorance about Jews and our identity and relationship with the people and State of Israel.
Polls, thankfully, indicate that the vast majority of Americans side with Israel against Hamas in this war. Peoples of faith throughout Christendom are expressing their solidarity with the Jewish people. The Congress of the United States is overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, though there are a few Members on the far left who side with the Palestinians against Israel, and there are those in the MAGA Right who are no doubt antisemites.
Never before has a President of the United States ever spoken and acted towards Israel with the depth of support and understanding than Joe Biden. He will go down in history as the greatest friend of Israel ever to occupy the Oval Office, and there have been other pro-Israel presidents going back to Harry S. Truman.
The young American stand-up comedian, Drew Michael, posted this past week on Instagram words that unveil a morally questionable reality spreading among some in the young adult progressive non-Jewish population in the United States as well as among university students, faculty, and some presidents of colleges and universities. He wrote:
“Last Saturday [October 7], Jews everywhere were deliberately dehumanized through an act of terror, traumatized by some of the worst images imaginable, and then re-traumatized by the antisemitic discourse that followed.
The gist: when Jews are murdered, raped, and kidnapped on camera, it’s the Jews’ fault; when Palestinians die, it’s the Jews’ fault. When Jews say something antisemitic, we are lying.
And this isn’t coming from MAGA neo-Nazis; it’s coming from the left. Any other form of bigotry, liberals accept the narrative of the people most affected by it: racism is defined by people of color; homophobia is defined by queer people; but antisemitism, when Jews try to define it, people question us, refute us, gaslight us by telling us we are trying to manipulate them (which is double antisemitism).”
We Jews are forced to recognize in these days who are our friends and allies, and who are not. Not recognizing which is which is not good for our sense of Jewish identity and well-being.
It is my hope that Israel prosecutes this war decisively according to the highest ethical standards and rules governing warfare. And it is my fervent hope that innocent Palestinians will be spared from death and injury because of the hell that Hamas has unleashed upon them, and that every Israeli soldier and every hostage will return home to their families and friends whole.
May peace come to Jerusalem.