The current crisis in Israel is disturbing on many levels. While there’s nothing new about Hamas raining rockets down on Israeli civilian centers, the heightened levels of sophistication of the rockets, combined with the distressing outburst of inter-communal violence in Israeli cities have added to the stark challenges facing Israel as it moves into the second week of conflict with Hamas.
Undoubtedly, the beginning of this current conflict was full of complexity. Finding the cause that set the tinder box that we see ablaze is no easy task. Was it the threat of possible eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood before Israel’s Supreme Court, or the incitement that came out from Al Quds day, or the growth of Jewish extremist groups? In this always combustible situation, it is clear that the crisis facing Israel is more complex than ever and could have enduring consequences.
The violence and hatred displayed between Arabs and Jews in the streets of Israeli cities such as Lod and Jaffe and beyond has much history behind it. Such violence must be condemned wherever it appears, but it also reveals the imperative for attention to Israel’s many social challenges. Ironically, the general sense in Israel, both on the Jewish and Arab sides, was that of greater movement toward integration. Symbolic of this was the openness of both the political right and left in Israel to include the Israeli-Arab Islamic party in a possible governing coalition.
What is not complex is the assault on Israeli civilians by a terrorist group committed to Israel’s destruction. In the case of Gaza, Hamas has been engaging in this kind of terrorist activity for 15 years. What is different now is the level of weaponry and skill they have been able to obtain with support from Iran.
Israel has had no choice but to defend itself against this unceasing onslaught of thousands upon thousands of rockets.
Israel has, with US assistance, developed the Iron Dome system to intercept missiles, which has saved many lives, as have precision-guided weapons provided by the US. Had the Iron Dome not been in place, one can only imagine how much higher the toll on life could have been. Still, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have yet again been through a week of fear and trauma, as have the innocent civilians of Gaza.
We cannot ignore all the victims of this avoidable conflict. The death toll and images of suffering from Gaza are indeed horrifying. The loss of innocent Palestinian human life is a tragedy and must be mourned.
All this is going on with an important backdrop. Hezbollah, another terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction but with even closer ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran, poses a far greater threat to Israeli civilians. Because it is a surrogate of Iran, Hezbollah has been able to build up a huge array of missiles that can reach distant areas with far greater devastation than anything Hamas is capable of.
As Israel seeks to restore deterrence with Hamas after the barrage of missiles launched at Israeli population centers, a future threat from Hezbollah is always on the minds of Israeli political and military leaders.
The big question in all these developments is where is the international community? Many are quick to condemn Israel for alleged human rights violations, yet over these many years, there has been hardly a peep or any international action to contain the threats coming from terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction and building up weapons through the Iranians.
This international silence is not only immoral – everyone supposedly understands the threat to us all from terrorists – it inevitably leaves everything up to Israel to deal with these challenges. Inevitably, it leads to the loss of life on both sides because no one took seriously the destructive activities occurring on both Israel’s northern and southern borders.
Let’s be clear: the response needed to confront Hamas and Hezbollah is not the same thing as addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whenever a ceasefire is reached, there will be no choice but for Israelis and Palestinians to re-engage and find common ground to resolve the conflict and find solutions leading to two states for two peoples.
In contrast, the story of Hamas and Hezbollah is one of negating Israel’s existence and should be seen clearly in that light. It is time the Security Council denounces both the ideology and the terrorism of both parties. It is time for the international community to prevent the delivery of missiles to these terrorist groups. It is time the international community recognize that no society on earth could tolerate the deliberate targeting of civilians by a terrorist group.
The failure of the world to recognize that Israel is being targeted as no other state leaves confusion about the situation in the minds of millions of people and invariably guarantees that the next conflict is coming at higher levels of technological warfare.
The terrible events of this past week should be a wake-up call. A wake-up call for Israeli Jews and Arabs that they need to continually work harder to ensure that society can hold together. A wake-up call for Israeli leaders to resolve the political stalemate that has so paralyzed the country. A wake-up call for Israel to recognize that Hamas, and not the Palestinian Authority (even with all the challenges that the Palestinian Authority presents to Israel) is the enemy of the Jewish state and that intensive efforts must be made to reach accommodation and peace.
And most of all, a wake-up call to the international community to end its inertia and indifference in the face of the violence and extremism coming from these avowed terrorist groups.
In the final analysis, the Jewish state, like every state on earth, will protect its people when they are under deliberate and willful assault. The world needs to start to act now if we are to avoid an even worse conflagration down the road.