We know what’s coming. We’ve seen it before. Each time that Israel has been forced– this word is deliberately chosen– forced to defend itself, regardless of the circumstances leading to the absolute need for self-defense, Israel has been vilified.
Israel will win this war with Hamas. It will not be “victorious” or “triumphant.” Jews are a people who eschew reveling in another’s misfortune. We are exhorted by our religious traditions, “If your enemy falls, do not exult; If he trips let your heart not rejoice.” Even when we smite our enemies, we must never forget that they too are human beings whose lives cannot be taken with impunity.
And yet pundits, like Thomas Friedman in his column, “The 9/11 Lesson That Israel Needs to Learn,” counsel Israel “not to embark on a journey of revenge” or “act out of blind rage” in its goal of “wiping Hamas from the face of the earth.”
Friedman and other Americans who have issued similar warnings would be hard pressed to find an Israeli leaving for battle with anything but a heavy heart, a heart filled with sorrow for their own country and the knowledge that in order to defend it they will be taking innocent lives. The IDF is filled with sober soldiers who know they will pay a price with their own souls, that they cannot take another person’s life and be untouched by it. The “gung ho” revenge-filled warrior eager to make his first kill is an American “ideal” of “bravery.” Superimposing this Hollywood fantasy on Israeli soldiers simply doesn’t fit.
We have seen Israelis interviewed about the war: IDF spokesmen, officers and foot soldiers. We have seen Israeli families whose loved ones have been taken hostage by Hamas. Have you heard any of these family members express a desire for revenge? You would think the hostage families would be first in line. No, they just want the hostages to come home.
Israel has no choice. No matter how much they’d prefer to simply go about their lives and ignore Hamas, and to their peril, they did just that for too long, sooner or later the enemy will force their hand. What happened on October 7 can never happen again. That is why Israel is at war. In the Middle East, if you allow your enemy to defile your home without retaliation, you are asking for a repeat performance. Indeed, Hamas has promised exactly that.
One of the criticisms against Israel as articulated by Friedman and others is that Israel rushed into war with Gaza. In fact, at the United States’ urging, Israel waited three long weeks after October 7, knowing the hostages were being well hidden, knowing Hamas was using the time to better hone their murderous preparations. Meanwhile Israel used this time to offer Gazans multiple opportunities to flee before the war began. Not exactly the rash behavior of a blood thirsty mob of revenge seekers.
What warnings did Hamas issue to Israelis before they began their barbaric rampages?
There are complaints that Israel has not formulated an end game for this horrible conflict. So far, no one — no world leaders, diplomats, media wonks — has proposed any solutions. Neighboring Arab states have made it clear they will not accept Gazan refugees.
Israel, despite having been hideously assaulted, and while still under daily air attacks, is expected to somehow fight this war in a manner never expected of any other country on this planet. Although Hamas is willing to sacrifice its own Gazan “civilians,” Israel is expected to protect them. And to do so while, at the same time, finding and rescuing Israeli hostages.
Furthermore, Israelis are expected to conduct war “surgically.” The entire Hamas war machine is wrapped around schools, hospitals, homes and mosques. No one has come forth with a single example of a “surgical” method of warfare.
The world demands Israel allow “humanitarian aid” to Gaza. Israel is reeling from October 7 and ongoing attacks. It too is a country of refugees. Over 200,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, suffering psychological and material deprivation. The economy is shaking, people are losing jobs, the crops are rotting.
Who is demanding “humanitarian aid” for Israel?
The International community, the UN, the Red Cross, the International Criminal Court, quick to blame Israel on multiple false charges, all are turning their backs on Hamas’s atrocities. The Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, held a meeting at U.N. Headquarters to “highlight the hypocrisy and double standards of UN Women and other UN agencies that completely abandoned Israeli women assaulted by Hamas.” The hashtag #Me Too Unless You’re a Jew accurately summarizes the betrayal of Israeli women by the women’s movement.
If this despicable, dehumanizing violence against women is met with silence because those women are Jewish, and if we are watching a rising tide of antisemitism engulfing even the best minds, supposedly, at our “elite” universities, what can we expect after the war?
The world hates Jews most when they are victorious. And yet Jewish survival depends upon solving this puzzle: how to defeat our enemies and still retain our values…while turning a deaf ear to the world’s vilification.