David Brog
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Israel’s three options in Gaza

To those who say Israel has the right to defend herself and is killing too many civilians

As Israel’s battle against Hamas drags into August, a new narrative is emerging here at home. From the White House to Fox News, self-proclaimed friends of Israel are invoking a similar illogic. Yes, they say, Israel has a right to defend itself. And yes, Hamas is aggressively using human shields in a cynical effort to pile up Palestinian civilian casualties. But, they complain, we’re now seeing evidence of something completely unacceptable: Palestinian civilian casualties! So Israel – that’s right, Israel – had better change its tactics immediately.

“The prolonged killing of children and women in Palestinian territories,” an indignant Joe Scarborough told his MSNBC audience, “will only serve to weaken Israel and strengthen Hamas.” He’s absolutely right – provided that people like Scarborough continue to mislead their audiences into believing that Israel could be doing more than its already doing to protect civilians. It cannot.

Given Hamas’ aggressive use of human shields, Israel has only three options. The first option is to crush Hamas regardless of the civilian toll. This is how the Nazis took care of business. This is also how Vladimir Putin defeated the Chechnyan separatists in 1999. This is also how Hamas would behave if they ever had the military might to do so. For all who value innocent human life, however, this option is unacceptable.

A second option is surrender. Since Israelis value innocent human life, and since Hamas has ensured that any Israeli efforts to defend themselves will result in the taking of innocent lives, then Israel’s hands are tied. Well played, Hamas. You have exploited Jewish morality to paralyze the Jewish state. To preserve its soul Israel must wave the white flag and seek terms of surrender.

But here’s the problem. Hamas’ terms of surrender require Israeli suicide – both national and individual. Hamas doesn’t want an end to the occupation of Gaza – Israel pulled out every last soldier and settler from Gaza in 2005. And Hamas doesn’t want a Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel. The Hamas Charter specifically rejects any compromise or even negotiation with the Jewish state and adopts instead a rather more hostile goal: Jewish genocide.

Gandhi’s non-violence worked only because he was fortunate enough to confront an enemy – the British – who valued human life. Had Gandhi fought ISIS or Hamas, his tactics would have done nothing more than facilitate a Hindu genocide. If you hear hyperbole in this claim, please look at what is happening to Christians today in ISIS-controlled Mosul. For all who value their own lives, surrendering to Hamas is unacceptable.

This leaves Israel with one final option: to fight the terrorists while simultaneously doing everything in its power to spare innocent civilian lives. This is the option Israel has chosen. And by all practical measures this is exactly what Israel is doing. Using leaflets, phone calls, text messages and humanitarian pauses, Israel does more than any other army on the planet to ensure that civilians leave a targeted neighborhood or building before it strikes. The Israelis know that by giving up the element of surprise they’re more likely to find booby traps and bombs instead of the terrorists they seek. But such is the price of morality.

Confronted with Israel’s efforts to spare civilian lives, Hamas has developed enterprising new strategies for engineering their deaths. Hamas fired thousand of missiles into Israel and then rejected repeated ceasefires in order to ensure that Israel would come down to Gaza to fight. Hamas has then repeatedly forced civilians fleeing Israel’s warnings back into the danger zone. And Hams fires mortars at Israeli troops from shelters and schools knowing that, to save their own lives, these troops may have to fire back at the source of the mortar without the opportunity to warn and wait. Simply put, Palestinian civilians die when Hamas’ efforts to endanger them overcome Israel’ efforts to spare them.

We who support Israel know that a Palestinian life is every bit as precious as that of an Israeli. We are no less outraged by Palestinian civilian casualties than Israel’s critics. The only difference is that we stop and think before we point our finger in blame. We remember which side tries its best to avoid civilian casualties, and which side strives so diligently to create them. We understand that while we might wish it, Israel has yet to invent the perfect weapon by which it can both defend itself from Hamas and spare all of Hamas’ human shields.

If those in the media who blame Israel for these civilian deaths would take the time to examine the chain of causation, they would see that Hamas is the engine behind these horrors. And if these personalities looked down the chain of causation further still, they would see that by blaming Israel for these deaths, they are rewarding – and thereby encouraging – the very Hamas tactics that killed them. If these critics actually thought about it, they’d see that they are all accomplices in the deaths that so outrage them.

About the Author
David Brog is the executive director of Maccabee Task Force, an organization that combats the spread of antisemitism and the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) Movement on college campuses. He previously served as executive director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) for its first 10 years. Prior to CUFI, Brog worked in the United States Senate for seven years as chief of staff to Senator Arlen Spector, and staff director of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A recognized Jewish thought leader and advocate for Israel, Brog is the author of “Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State,” “In Defense of Faith: the Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity” and “Reclaiming Israel’s History: Roots, Rights, and the Struggle for Humanity.” In 2007, Brog was listed as one of The Forward newspaper’s "Forward 50" most influential Jews in America. He is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
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