Why More People Support Israel This Time Around: An Open Letter From An Open Optimist

In the current war in Gaza, everyone is focusing on the death and destruction. How many youth have died in the protection of their homeland; how many missiles have been fired and hit their mark; how many civilians have died. It makes sense. War is tragic and its desolation is all-consuming. War flies in the face of all that is good in this world. And civilian deaths are inexcusable, for life is a cherished and fragile thing.

So, in the midst of the atrocities resulting from this current conflict, I cannot help but think what all of this is for. Why must young soldiers lay down their lives? Why do countless civilians in Gaza continue to perish in a conflict over which they have no control? Helpless in the comforts of our homes—with our running water, our electricity, our lack of constant danger to our very lives—all we can do is point a finger and hope the world goes after the culprit. Innocent people are dying and someone is responsible. Someone must be blamed so that that someone can be punished.

Israel has never been a frontrunner for prom queen at the international ball. A lot of people don’t like her. It’s no secret. In fact, there are many who would see her crying alone in the bathroom stall at lunch.

Maybe in the past she has deserved it and maybe she hasn’t. But with Israel once again well in the spotlight in Gaza, something is different. In 2012, during the last major conflict in Gaza, Israel was chided and abused by the media and the international community alike. As far as the facts on the ground, not much has changed between then and now. Both then and now, Hamas fired (and continues to fire) thousands of missiles at Israeli civilian populations, while hiding behind the human shields of their own civilians in Gaza. Both then and now, Israel initiated operations to take out Hamas’ missile-launching capabilities (in 2012 it was Operation Pillar of Defense, now it is Operation Protective Edge). Both then and now, the Palestinian civilians in Gaza take the brunt of the consequences of these conflicts.

But in 2012, the world and the media blamed Israel for the civilian deaths in Gaza. People said that since Hamas was using human shields, Israel simply shouldn’t have engaged Hamas. Intuitively, we want to blame the people dropping the bombs. For without the direct actions of the bomb-dropping Israeli military, a Palestinian civilian would be living in his or her own home, rather than lying dead in its rubble. But the problem is that the home is also the site from which missiles are launched at Israeli civilians. It is a storage facility for weapons: machine guns, grenade launchers, missiles, drones, and other tools of death and destruction. The walls of these Gaza homes (and schools, hospitals, and mosques) are made of rocks and hard places. So, unlike in 2012, now the general consensus seems to be that more people are finally starting to get why Israel is doing what it’s doing. In fact, most people even support Israel and say that Israel’s actions are justified. So why are the same catalysts that we saw in 2012 bringing about different reactions in 2014?

Finally, this time around, the world sees Hamas for what it is. Hamas is a terrorist organization whose actions, whose very raison d’être, is motivated by hatred. The Hamas charter states: “The Zionist invasion is a mischievous one. It does not hesitate to take any road, or to pursue all despicable and repulsive means to fulfill its desires. It relies to a great extent, for its meddling and spying activities, on the clandestine organizations which it has established, such as the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, Lions, and other spying associations. All those secret organizations, some which are overt, act for the interests of Zionism and under its directions, strive to demolish societies, to destroy values, to wreck answerableness, to totter virtues and to wipe out Islam. It stands behind the diffusion of drugs and toxics of all kinds in order to facilitate its control and expansion.” Replace “Zionist” with “Jew” and you have a statement a little too eerily reminiscent of the Nazi propaganda which brought about the extermination of six million Jews.

The Hamas charter opines: “The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!” Hamas’ actions are not rational and they are not noble. They will not rest until Israel is no more and they will not stop until every Jew is dead.

It was for that reason that Hamas rejected three cease-fire proposals—one from Egypt, one from the UN, and one from the Red Cross wanting to bring humanitarian relief to the citizens of Gaza—while Israel immediately accepted all of them. Hamas’ murderous actions are motivated by one thing: hatred.

Hamas says that it will cease the violence against Israel once Israel and Egypt end their blockades against Gaza. Egypt and Israel implemented a blockade against Gaza at the same time, in largely the same fashion, and for the same reason: to prevent the mass importation of weapons into the hands of Hamas. Both Israeli and Egyptian blockades were not implemented against Gaza until Hamas took power from the moderate Fatah and openly declared war against all Jews and Israelis. Moreover, international law does not prohibit the blockade. Chapter 7, Article 51 of the United Nations Charter says that member nations (like Egypt and Israel) have the inherent right of self-defense if an armed attack occurs against them. Such self-defense may include the blockade of the attacking nation in order to prevent the importation of weapons which will be used to continue the conflict. It is counterintuitive and blatantly duplicitous for Hamas to claim that it will stop firing weapons against Israel once Israel and Egypt let Hamas import a massive amount of weapons into Gaza.

Hamas’ hatred of Jews and Zionists supersedes everything. Hamas is directly responsible not only for the inexcusable Palestinian civilian deaths in the current conflict (as it was in 2012), but also for the intolerable suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza on a daily basis. The suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza is due to the negligence of their own government, Hamas. Hamas would rather wage a war against Israel than provide its citizens with running water. And the sad truth is that Hamas knows it can afford to do that because Israel will supply the Palestinians the water in its place.

Finally, the world is starting to see Hamas’ ugliness in full light. Finally, the world is starting to understand that the plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza will not end until ends Hamas’ reign. Hamas is the cancer of the Palestinian people that prevents them from achieving true national independence. Hamas is the primary barrier to achieving peace between Israel and Palestine. Finally, the world knows the truth.

The world recognizes that Israel has no good options as its civilians live in constant danger from missile attacks. Israel’s missile defense system, Iron Dome, while impressive, isn’t perfect. There are a lot of reports floating around as to Iron Dome’s success rate. But whether it stops 5% or 90%, it isn’t stopping all of them. Moreover, the missiles that Iron Dome does intercept simply become fiery shrapnel that rains down on the citizens of Israel. And all it takes is for Iron Dome to eventually miss just one missile aimed at an elementary school.

Hamas, in its willful apathy towards its own citizens and its blatant hatred of Israel, has given Israel only one choice. Israel cannot simply sit back and let Hamas continue to lob thousands of rockets at its citizens. No country in the world would be held to such expectations. Israel cannot pack it in and send its six million Jews into a new age of exile after several generations of rebuilding their ancient homeland. Israel is fighting for its very existence. But that’s not all Israel is fighting for. Israel is fighting for something more this time, and the world can sense it.

In 2005, as a sign of good will in the pursuit of peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. Not only did the Israeli military withdraw, but so too did all Jews living in Gaza. Thousands of Jewish families that had been in Gaza for generations were uprooted. Their businesses were dismantled. Not a single Israeli remains in Gaza. It was a bold move that significantly undermined Israel’s ability to protect itself from terrorist organizations in Gaza. Terrorist organizations like Hamas, which had been steadily gaining power over the last twenty years. As a countermeasure to the increasing power of the radical and militant Hamas, Israel and the United States both donated millions of dollars and weapons to the moderate Fatah, in the hopes that Fatah would be able to fend off Hamas if it ever staged a coup. Such countermeasure efforts were ultimately ineffective.

Primarily through intimidation tactics (such as murdering those with dissenting opinions), Hamas won control of the Gaza government in a popular election. In 2007, in what has become known as “the Battle of Gaza,” Hamas’ military wing captured and executed the top leaders of Fatah in Gaza. As a response to Hamas’ coup and its clear war-mongering policies, both Egypt and Israel implemented blockades against Gaza. Hamas could not and cannot be allowed to import weapons freely. And though Hamas has been able to smuggle weapons in from Qatar and Iran through its massive multi-billion dollar tunnel system that it built under Gaza, the present situation would be much more deadly but for the blockades by Egypt and Israel.

The world has seen the suffering of the people in Gaza. And the world is finally starting to understand who is to blame for that suffering; who has been to blame since 2006. The world is finally starting to grasp the utter depravity of Hamas. So, in the midst of all the suffering in this current conflict—in spite of the daily tragedies, or perhaps because of them—the world senses a silver lining. That silver lining could very well be the glistening silhouette of peace, which is now eclipsed by the shadow of Hamas.

Fatah now comprehends the crucial role it must play for the Palestinian people and for the stability of the whole region. Fatah has openly criticized and condemned Hamas’ actions since the start of this conflict. Hamas’ tactics have not worked, nor will they ever. Because of the nature of the newly formed unity government between Fatah and Hamas, with the virulent Hamas out of the picture, the moderate Fatah can finally retake control of Gaza. The Palestinian people will be united under a single government.

With the radical Hamas gone, Fatah must seize this opportunity to juxtapose its own policies with those of Hamas. Fatah will have to distance itself from the violent and hate-filled ideals upon which Hamas stands. If Fatah can demonstrate that the Palestinian people are committed to a peaceful coexistence, rather than the current state of things, then Israel and Egypt will finally lift the blockades against Gaza.

If the blockades on Gaza are removed, then the Palestinian way of life in Gaza will immediately significantly improve. If the Palestinians see that peaceful coexistence with Israel is their key to a better life, then they will support Fatah as it pursues an independent state through peaceful channels. If Fatah is committed to pursuing Palestinian independence through peaceful channels, then Israel will be committed to the same goals of Palestinian statehood and peace.

Israel has shown time and again that it is prepared to make real political and geopolitical sacrifices in the name of peace with countries that were once its bitter enemies. Thirty-five years ago, Israel gave Egypt the entire Sinai Peninsula—which was then more than half the size of Israel and rich with oil—in order to create a lasting peace. The peace has held. In 1994, Jordan and Israel made a lasting peace after generations of war and tragedy. The same can be true with the Palestinians. There is hope.

It all begins where Hamas ends. Hamas cannot continue to exist. With Hamas gone, the war will come to a close, the blockades will lift, the lives of the people in Gaza will improve, and the major barriers to peace will topple.

This war cannot end until Hamas is dismantled and no longer capable of inflicting harm against Israel or its own people. With Hamas gone, the Palestinians and the Israelis have a long and difficult road to peace ahead of them. Negotiations will be tough and the politics will be contentious. But they will be worth it. All of this will have been worth it. The world can feel it in its bones. It is for that reason that more people support Israel this time. The world must support Israel and the world must condemn Hamas for the evil that it is. The stakes are too high not to do so.

They say the night is always darkest before the dawn. Hamas has cast a pitch-black night upon the region. But the glimmer of peace spills through. Hamas’ dark reign soon will end. A new day of peace is on the horizon.

About the Author
Erez is a third-year law student at UCLA School of Law, and is president of the UCLA Jewish Law Students Association.
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