“Woe to those who speak of evil as good and good as evil;
who make darkness into light and light into darkness;
they make bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter!”[i]
There is a view being promoted by some in the media that Israel’s response to Hamas’ attack on civilians in Israel is based on “rage”.[ii] In the dictionary, rage is defined as “violent and uncontrolled anger.”[iii] Rage is a word that implies being unjustifiably out of control, like a wild animal. Using this word to describe Israel’s war against Hamas is not only inflammatory, but it is also grossly inaccurate.
As one who was in Jerusalem the morning of October 7 when the air sirens sounded, I had a first-hand view of how Israelis reacted to the attack by Hamas. I did not see rage. Certainly, there was anger, but even that was not the primary response. Instead of rage, I saw shock, sorrow, and then resolve.
Shock is not the same as awe. We are not in awe[iv] of evil. Evil is inevitably hateful and malicious. It is boringly predictable in its inhumanity, cruelty, and depravity. Throughout our history, we have seen expressions of evil in many shapes and sizes. However, as people of deep faith in HaShem Who has created all people in the Divine image, our shock[v] is that there are still humans in the 21st century who are willing to dehumanize themselves to the point where they can brutalize others. Who are their teachers? Where is their basic humanity? Have they learned nothing from past wars and conflicts?
Combined with shock, there is a profound sorrow over the loss of life. When my wife and I attended a Shabbat service in Jerusalem on October 14, several people were sitting on the floor crying, while others leaned on each other during the time of prayer. We prayed, and we cried, because that is the normal healthy human response to loss of life. As Jews, we do not revel in death. We celebrate life, and hence, we mourn when innocent people die.
However, our shock and sorrow did not result in paralysis and fear as Hamas had hoped would happen. Rather, it quickly evolved into a deep resolve to respond to this evil with appropriate and necessary action. While the atrocities committed by Hamas were on par with those of the Nazis, the historical situation is significantly different this time. Israel has the capacity to respond in such a manner that Hamas will never be able to attack from Gaza again. This is the motivation behind Israel’s response. The response is one of trying to protect Israeli lives from a jihadi movement intent on killing Jews as it attempts to create an Islamic state in place of Israel.[vi]
All the death and destruction that has happened since October 7 is directly the responsibility of Hamas and those who have supported them. Hamas set in motion a ripple effect that has rebounded and is now crashing upon them and those around them. They could have used the billions of dollars given to Gaza by various resources over the years to build hospitals, schools, and businesses, which would have resulted in a culture of peace and prosperity. Instead, they built tunnels and rockets, resulting in a culture of violence and death. Now, they are reaping what they have sown.
Yet, using a banal “blame the victim” paradigm, certain commentators justify the initial attack by Hamas, while they chastise Israel for “overreacting”. After reading through the various editorials that are opposed to Israel’s response to being attacked, one gains the impression that the opposition to Israel has more to do with Israel’s enormous capacity to respond versus its actual response. Clearly, Israel is not using every means at its disposal to respond nor is it killing civilians indiscriminately like Hamas did.
Instead of finding fault with Israel’s reasonable response to Hamas’ wicked assault, journalists should investigate on what basis Hamas justifies using Palestinian children as human shields as well as their rationalization for killing Israeli children. Journalists should investigate the origin of Hamas’ philosophy of child sacrifice and how it is taught and promoted within its extremist culture, so that it can be exposed, condemned, and eliminated. Failure to address Hamas’ paradigm will have dire results.
In a recent vote at the United Nations, 153 nations out of 193 voted against Israel, calling for the cessation of war before Hamas has been eliminated.[vii] This is a terrible mistake. Judgments about matters of good and evil have far-ranging implications. If evil is called good and good is called evil, then darkness comes. The global community is on the edge of a great darkness which can only be dissipated with truth.
The plain reality is—it was Hamas who acted with animalistic rage in killing innocent men, women, and children while Israel has responded the only way it could and should. It is justifiably destroying Hamas. To make Israel the aggressor and Hamas the victim is not only absurd and ridiculous, but also it is a perversion of the truth.
[i] Isaiah 5:20 from The Stone Edition of the Tanakh.
[vi] I want to thank my friend Nancy Coren for reading an earlier draft of this article and for providing several recommendations for improvement which I have incorporated into the final draft, including the addition of the last two sentences of this paragraph.
[vii] “The vote in the 193-member world body was 153 in favor, 10 against and 23 abstentions, and ambassadors and other diplomats burst into applause as the final numbers were displayed. The United States and Israel were joined in opposing the resolution by eight countries — Austria, Czechia, Guatemala, Liberia, Micronesia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay” (UN General Assembly votes overwhelmingly to demand a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza (msn.com)).