Raymond M. Berger
Real Bullet Points

Should My Jewish Community Demand that Our Board of Supervisors Condemn Hamas?

I want to ensure that Jewish community leaders make the smartest decisions possible for the survival of the Jewish community.

On October 7, 2023, Hamas, the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, launched a stunning and deadly attack on Israel. Armed Hamas thugs, with the help of other Gaza terrorist groups and ordinary civilians, invaded several Israeli communities near the border with Gaza. They murdered 1,200 Jews, including women, children and the elderly. They carried out atrocities such as deliberately killing children in front of their parents, mutilating and burning their victims alive, and committing mass gang rapes. It was the worst orgy of Jew-killing since the Holocaust.

As of this writing, only a few of the displaced residents have trickled back into these communities. Many homes and other infrastructure were destroyed. It will take years to restore these communities. It may take years longer to restore Israelis’ confidence that the Israeli Defense Forces will keep them safe.

How should my local Jewish community respond?

Recently two members of my local five-member County Board of Supervisors introduced a resolution to support Israel and condemn Hamas. In a two-to-three vote, the Board voted against the resolution.

In response, leaders of my local Jewish community sent an impassioned letter asking the Board to reconsider. But was that a good idea?

I supported my Jewish community’s petition. It was a moral act. But I worry that the petition may bring about consequences that will not benefit our community. Here is what I worry about.

  • The Board does not have the knowledge to intervene.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex and long-standing. Is it reasonable to expect this group of individuals to make an informed judgement about the conflict? It is certainly not part of their job, which is to set policy and supervise programs and services for the county.

  • A decision by the Board—-in our favor or against us—-could come back to harm us in the future.

If the Board intervenes on our behalf today, that will legitimize the idea that it is appropriate for the Board to intervene on a foreign policy issue that has nothing to do with its mandate to provide local governance. Once the Board’s foreign policy role is legitimized, it may make future decisions on foreign policy that may not favor the Jews. That could happen if the opposing side makes arguments that are more appealing to the Board than ours.

Would it not be better for the Board to confine itself to its local mandate?

  • The likely best outcome of a Board resolution is an anodyne statement that seeks to “balance” two opposing constituencies.

Such a statement would condemn violence on “both sides.” It would urge cessation of hostilities, negotiation and compromise. This would be of little use to the Jewish community.

  • If the Board favors the Jewish community with a resolution in our favor, that will animate the “pro-Palestinian” groups to spring into action with their own proposal.

Who is to say that in a future Board session, Board members will be swayed by these groups to issue an anti-Israel resolution?

  • The Jewish community has little public diplomacy capital. Should we expend the little capital we have in this unique moment on a resolution that will have little effect on the local Jewish community and no effect on Israel? We certainly want to avoid a “boy cries wolf” situation in which repeated protests by Jews are perceived as unjustified complaints.
  • Where should we put our energies? Would we be better off if we put our time, efforts and money to use helping Israel directly? For example, we could do this by donating to Jewish organizations that provide direct aid to victims and rebuild destroyed communities.
  • The Jewish community could also put our energies into educating the local population about the conflict. People should know more about Israel, its 3,500 year-long history and its international legitimacy. That would have lasting benefits beyond a single county resolution.

The Bottom Line

Instead of encouraging government officials who have nothing to do with foreign policy to enter the Israeli-Palestinian fray, Jewish leaders should tell these officials to attend only to activities within their purview—-that is, to the governance issues that are their job.

About the Author
The author is a life-long Zionist and advocate for Israel. He believes that a strong Jewish state is invaluable, not only to Jews, but to the world-wide cause of democracy and human rights. Dr. Berger earned a PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has twenty-seven years of teaching experience. He has authored and co-authored three books as well as over 45 professional journal articles and book chapters. His parents were Holocaust survivors.
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