Ready, Set, Defend!

This past summer, I worked in a Modern Orthodox camp on Philadelphia’s Main Line. When camp began in the middle of June, Israel was in the process of locating Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, the boys who were kidnapped in Gush Etzion and subsequently murdered. As camp came to a close, Israel was involved in Operation Protective Edge against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. While many of the campers were aware of what is going on, I find myself wondering, “do these kids know that they will soon be at the forefront of Israel’s intellectual defense?”

Israel is a country that has consistently been at war since its independence in 1948. This current conflict with Hamas is different than the other wars Israel has been involved in. When Israel was at war with Egypt or Syria or Jordan, they were at war with a country. When Israel was at war with terrorist groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the whole country was not under attack. Now though, in its current battle with Hamas, all of Israel is under fire. Hamas terrorists are among some of the best-trained terrorists Israel has ever had to fight. These terrorists will stop at no cost (even the deaths of the people they are supposed to govern in the Gaza Strip) to threaten Israel and its citizens. Despite its terrorist mindset, Hamas faces little condemnation from the global community, which instead is vibrant in its anti-Israel rhetoric.

One day over the summer, I was sitting with some campers when their conversation shifted to what was taking place in Israel. These campers (14-16-year-old boys) had varying viewpoints. Some advocated right wing stances on dealing with the situation while others were more center in their thoughts. The element of the conversation that was most eye opening to me was when these campers began to discuss why the world does not like Israel. While some said it’s unfair that a country could be under attack and the United Nations blames the attacked country for everything, others said that Hamas is bringing the destruction of the Gaza Strip upon itself. A few noted that when the United States has come under attack, it has never been slow to respond. The theme in their thoughts was clear: Israel is not viewed fairly in the global arena.

When I was 16, Israel had just finished Operation Cast Lead. At the time it looked as if Israel had seemingly defeated a group of guerilla terrorists. However, the world was quick to condemn Israel and their “war crimes,” while choosing to ignore the reasons Israel had to use military force. Fast-forward five years. That group of guerilla terrorists now has paramilitary capabilities. Despite Israel’s best attempts to limit the destruction, there were casualties on both sides. Why? Because Hamas terrorists had no intentions of ending the conflict and wanted to inflict as much damage as possible, irrelevant of where it was going to occur. Much of the global community chose to ignore this fact and instead focus their blame on Israel.

It is time to begin writing our own storyline. The Jewish people and Israel supporters alike need not stand idle anymore and allow others to decide what is fair and what is not. When the Jewish State comes under attack, it has every right to defend itself and its citizens. The campers mentioned previously and their peers will soon be at the forefront of this intellectual battle against those who blame Israel, regardless of the situation. The task may be challenging, but asking the right questions and maintaining an unyielding desire to pursue justice will enable Israel to successfully continue forward for many generations into the future.

About the Author
Joshua Z. Lavine is a second-year MALD candidate at The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University, concentrating in International Security Studies and Southwest Asia & Islamic Civilization. Prior to Fletcher, he worked at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for three years. Following his first year at Fletcher, he spent the summer interning at the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations. Josh is from Scarsdale, New York and holds a BA in Hebrew & Judaic Studies and Journalism from New York University.