Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

It All Began When Israel Responded


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My wife and I made a whirlwind trip to the United States at the end of May to participate in some family smachot and see some grandchildren (children too, but the knowledgeable will understand).  It was a good trip.  A beautiful Bar Mitzvah weekend.  A joyous wedding uniting two lovely people and families.  The obligatory visit to Target to stock up on items that are absolutely essential to former Americans living in Israel. A heartwarming New York Israel Day parade.

And, for the first time in years, I watched my beloved Celtics play playoff basketball on television.  Of course, they won every game I watched.  How they must miss me!

Now, upon my return to Israel, I find that I am unable to escape sports analogies.  I trust that it is a passing phase because I fear that it makes me sound adolescent and shallow, or, more accurately, even more adolescent and shallow than usual.  I compared Caitlin Clark to Israel.  I analogized Hamas to a sports team that does not follow rules.  I worry that I am on the way to becoming a one-trick pony, or a flash-in-the-pan Preakness winner.

And, after this blog, I am going to stop.  I am going to try to stop.  I am going, so to speak, to exit the arena.

But today, the day after the Israelis rescued four hostages from cruel captivity, I find myself unable to escape a single image, one that is familiar to every serious sports fan.  You’ve seen it on the replay.  The protagonist is a cheap-shot artist, one who carefully times his or her transgressive behavior to occur when the official’s attention is directed elsewhere.  As soon as the coast is clear, the offender commits the foul, as surreptitiously but viciously as possible.  A shove or punch in the rear.  An elbow thrown into the midsection as the players make their way back to the huddle or up the court. A leg or knee extended to trip the unwary.

The shocked victim, usually a self-selected, highly competitive type, like most athletes, reacts with outrage and  fury, and, often, retaliates.  Too often, by this time, the attention of the referee has returned to the scene, and the retaliation of the victim is seen as unwarranted and unprovoked.  15 yards penalty.  Technical foul.  Ejection from the game.

Life is not always fair and justice does not always prevail.

So . . . here’s what happened in the real world. In a miracle of planning and execution, or maybe just a miracle, plain and simple, Israeli forces, in broad daylight, entered a Gazan stronghold and rescued four prisoners who had been kidnapped and held hostage.  They had to enter the residential neighborhood in which Hamas had chosen to keep them, infiltrate the buildings, rescue the hostages, and fight their way out under heavy fire.  The hostages had been held in a densely populated civilian neighborhood.  Their Hamas guards were heavily armed and used, among other things, rocket propelled grenades to try to stop the escape, callously and heartlessly firing into crowds of their own people.  There were many casualties, including the Israeli commander of the mission, h”yd, and scores of Palestinians.

There was great joy in Israel, and great outrage throughout the Jew-hating world.  How dare they attack the peaceful encampment of Palestinians, who were just minding their own business, sheltering terrorists, and concealing hostages?

Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur for Palestinian-controlled territories, was livid.  Israel’s actions were “perfidious” and motivated by “genocidal intent.”  She purported to feel relief that the hostages had been–wait for it–”released”–but was disgusted that the operation came at the expense of so many Palestinians.

She did not say a single god-damned, blanking word about how the hostages came to be in Gaza in the first place.  As in the sports analogy, the story starts well after the foul is committed.  Israel began the hostilities by, you know, retaliating.

She did not mention the savage, ruthless, inhuman kidnapping of babies, women, pensioners, and the disgusting conditions in which they were held. She has not a word of opprobrium for the rapists and kidnappers, the feral bestiality of the original perpetrators.  Nothing about the pain inflicted on the grieving, ravaged families.  No.  She saves her abusive criticism for the brave rescuers, who put their lives on the line for their endangered brethren.

Albanese said, “Israel could have freed all hostages, alive and intact, eight months ago when the first ceasefire and hostage exchange was put on the table.”  That itself is a damnable lie, but, once again, it focuses on what Israel could have done, not on what Hamas did.  Hey, Francesca! Get this.  There should not have been any hostages.  Kidnapping is evil.  Where is your hostility to the perpetrators, the instigators, the initiators?  Nowhere, but Albanese is willing to assert, falsely and meretriciously, that Israel refused to free all the hostages, alive and intact, “in order to continue to destroy Gaza and the Palestinians as a people.”

Francesca Albanese may be the single worst human of the female persuasion in the entire universe.  I rarely wish evil to befall others.  Enough said.

Her male counterpart, the euphoniously named Balakrishnan Rajagopal, who is the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, tweeted to vilify those who “celebrate the release of four Israeli hostages without saying  a word about the hundreds of Palestinians killed and thousands held in arbitrary detention by Israel.”  He fails to note that the thousands held in “arbitrary detention” are terrorists, suicide bombers, murderers, rapists, criminals.  The Israeli hostages were innocent victims of a brutal crime.  But if you willingly close your eyes to the first foul, you miss the essence of the story.  Injustice follows.

(In case you were wondering, special rapporteurs are appointed by the unfunny joke known as the UN Human Rights Council.  Applicants must hate Israel and surrender all claims to fairness and morality.  Any deficiencies in the rapporteur’s resume may be compensated for by a deep, abiding, and single-minded anti-Semitism.)

Now here is where my sports analogy falls apart.  In sports, the deluded referee has been deceived by the cheap-shot perpetrator.  All he sees is the retaliation, which he takes to be unprovoked.  He may be a sucker, or incompetent, but he is not a soulless piece of garbage, or rapporteur.  He may be the victim of deception, but he does not willingly perpetrate the fraud.  The people who criticize Israel for retaliating to attacks know full well that Israel was responding to the strongest of stimuli–the brutal and vicious onslaught, the rapes, the rockets, the kidnapping.  As is occasionally the case in the sports analogy, the original sin has been captured on videotape.  The world has seen the film.

Everyone knows who is to blame.  Everyone knows who took the hostages and could end the carnage by releasing them.  Everyone knows who committed the initial transgression.  They have deceived no one.  On the contrary, they have trumpeted their iniquitous behavior.

Everyone knows–and no one cares.

When you begin the narrative with a critique of Israel’s response, disregarding the evil perpetrated by Hamas, you reveal your dishonor, your shameless hatred, your disqualification from any level of human respect.

When you know the truth and purposely reject it to advance your own prejudice and tribal animus, you are both in league with and worse than the original offender.

God bless Israel for having the courage to do the right thing.  And shame on those who seek to deny her the justice and praise she deserves.


About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.