Yoni Leviatan
How to be Jewish: Be good. The end.

You’re All Wrong

I’m guessing I’m in the same boat with most people who read the Times of Israel, having been online way more than is healthy since the start of the current flare-up between Israel and Hamas. Aside from constantly checking news sites to get the latest updates, I’m also checking social media, both to see what my friends are saying, and to say more than a few things myself. Part hasbara, part opinion (as if mine matters more than anyone else’s), and part humor, which is definitely the most fun part.

But that’s where the shared experience ends with most of you, because I can only be amazed from the sidelines by how many intelligent people out there have such narrow-minded views about what is going on. From the maniacal to the “are you living on this planet,” and either of those can apply to a variety of thought on the right or the left. But let’s do it the Hebrew way and start from the right.

To all those who view Gaza as simply a splat on the map that we can redraw, revise or reconsider to exist, are you aware that Palestinians are human beings? Do you realize that although we have every right to strike back at those who strike us, if we simply carpet bomb Gaza, then it will be us – not them – who will cease to be human? I don’t mean according to the judgment of the international community, who for the most part I consider members of the group that resides on another planet. I’m talking about losing our humanity from within, and if you’re religious, from above.

When it comes to the IDF, the only thing I’m more proud of than the rockets being deterred by the Iron Dome batteries are the airstrikes that have been called off for the realization that the loss of life would be too big. No, we’re not a perfect army that consists of perfectly moral individuals, but we are as moral a military force as there has ever been in the history of warfare (if not more, as Business Week attested to recently), and frankly, there should be a medal for that, not disappointment.

Having a reasoned strategy to fighting Hamas is not capitulating to terrorism, it’s capitulating to reality. Those of you that are calling for the IDF to go “all out,” without any consideration for what “all out” means to all sides, and are not considering what the results of a Gaza without any ruling body would look like, belong exactly where you are, sitting in front of a computer posting comments on social media, most likely not even from Israel, where you and your kids will not have to suffer the consequences of going “all out.”

I really should write an entire blog article just for that sentiment, but I don’t want to waste all my ammunition on the right, since it’s the left that would get me killed far sooner and far bloodier.

Just as those on the right need to learn how to separate the average Palestinian from the terrorist group that is Hamas, so, too, do those on the left need to distinguish between the ruthless cruelty of Hamas and the people who suffer at its hands, Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Do the people of Gaza have a legitimate gripe with Israel? Right now, I don’t really care. Firing rockets at innocent civilians is not the way to get my attention. To tell me “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” only says to me that I have a right to call him a terrorist and treat him as such. Being in favor of defending yourself against Hamas does not disqualify you from wanting peace with the Palestinians, and the sooner we can all agree on that the sooner we can succeed in achieving both.

To not acknowledge the difference between the deliberate targeting of civilians, and the casualties that occur as a result of trying to protect them, is to ignore the most basic definition of what terrorism is. It is not complicated. You define terrorism by intent, and Hamas’s intent is to kill civilians.

You can empathize with the Palestinians. In fact, you should. They are suffering terribly, and it’s ok to recognize that even if they don’t reciprocate the notion. Empathy does not need to be mutual in order to exist, but to sympathize with Hamas is no different than firing the rocket yourself. It doesn’t necessarily make you an anti-Semite, or even anti-Israel, but it does make you anti-peace, no matter how much you may convince yourself otherwise.

I see the posts from the left and I ask myself what I am sure everyone who doesn’t agree also asks themselves: what exactly should we do? Please don’t tell me to make peace with the Palestinians. I said “exactly.” And don’t tell me how we got here, either. Tell me, exactly, what we should do right now, today, as the sirens refuse to be silent. Do we not respond to the rockets? Open up Gaza and let larger ones in? Allow free passage of Palestinians into Israel so they can return to blowing up the buses and cafes that the rockets have so far failed to reach?

I’m a reasonable guy. Tell me, please, somebody, how does this end if we don’t take immediate action to stop the daily disruption of life in Israel? Are we supposed to live with the situation simply because so few Israelis are getting killed? People love to throw around the word “disproportionate,” whether talking about Israel’s response or the number of casualties. So if more Israelis died then it would be a more acceptable situation, like what’s going on in Syria? Because clearly, we know how the world reacts (or more accurately, doesn’t) when the number of casualties is at a draw.

I’ll never understand this “peace at all cost” point of view any more than I do the “kill them all” strategy of urban warfare. All I keep thinking is “You’re All Wrong.” And like most things in life, pragmatism – and survival – lies somewhere in the middle.

About the Author
Yoni Leviatan is a British-born, American-raised, Israeli-blooded musician, content producer and writer. His songs have been licensed to MTV, CNN, ESPN, PBS and others while receiving nationwide airplay on over 200 American radio stations. His production work has led to projects with Warner Bros., Waves Audio, Abbey Road Studios, YouTube and Spotify. Originally from Coral Springs, Florida, he's been living in Tel Aviv since 2009 where he spends his free time writing about Israel and politics with articles featured in Newsweek, Times of Israel and The Forward.