As a rabbi I’ve always tried to stay away from politics. In my sermons and even in private discussions with students I generally refrain from sharing my own personnel opinion on political issues. But I draw the line when issues of morality and ethics are raised and the media’s coverage on the current war between Israel and Hamas has moved this issue from politics to morality. Again and again, Israel is accused of human rights violations, of acting disproportionately in their bombing of Gaza and of being insensitive to the plight of innocent Palestinians caught in the middle. Since the issue has been re-framed as a matter of right and wrong, we the Jewish people, who have introduced so much morality and ethics to the world, must respond to these allegations of immorality, even at the expense of pointing out the obvious. To me and maybe to you as well, much of what I say may be obvious but I believe still important to be said. Each charge below is an accusation that I have heard in one way or another over the last few days expressed in the mainstream media. Still trying to stay out of politics, I will limit my responses to the moral issue levied in each charge: Charge: Israel is just as morally responsible for this “cycle of violence” as is Hamas. Response: When it comes to morality it matters who attacks first as the object of the initial aggression has the moral right to self-defense. To be clear, this war began with the kidnapping of three Jewish boys coming home from school. In an effort to find the boys and bring them to safety Israel arrested many of Hamas’ leaders. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel, which was then followed by Israeli air strikes on terrorist positions to stop the rocket attacks on Israel. The media speaks of a “cycle of violence” but every cycle has a beginning. And this one clearly started with Hamas. Charge: Israel’s immoral occupation of Palestinian territory is ultimately responsible for the current crisis. Response: First, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza strip only after winning those territories in a defensive war thrust upon Israel and therefore the whole question as to who is morally or legally entitled to these lands is not simple. However, for the purposes of this war, the issue of occupation is irrelevant since Israel pulled out of Gaza and handed it over to the Palestinian people. The world has somehow forgotten the painful evacuation of close to 8000 Jews who were living in Gaza. And so the claim that the Israeli occupation is ultimately at fault is baseless as Israel no longer controls or occupies Gaza, Hamas does. Charge: Both Israel and the Palestinians cultivate a culture of hate and vengeance as evidenced by the kidnapping and killing by both Israelis and Palestinians of innocent teenagers. Response: There is no moral equivalency between these two heinous crimes since the crime committed by the Israelis is an anomaly denounced by everyone in Israeli society, both by the public and the leaders. Contrast this to the Palestinian kidnappers and killers who continue to receive the praise of their people and leaders. Further, Israel arrested the Israel suspects who await prosecution in a court of law (as they should) whereas the only ones looking to bring the Palestinian suspects to justice is Israel. Palestinian leaders and schools still educate their society and children in Jew hatred while Jewish leaders and teachers do not educate or incite Arab or Palestinian hatred. Charge: Israel’s bombing of Gaza is indiscriminate targeting schools, hospitals and mosques. Response: Israel targets and bombs Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists and their rocket launching sites. It does not target innocent civilians. It is well documented that Hamas has purposely placed rocket launching facilities under schools, mosques and hospitals using the children, patients or worshipers in those locations as human shields. If Israel wanted to kill civilians it could have killed hundreds of thousands but it has no such desire which is further evidenced by the IDF’s sending of leaflets and making phone calls to clear out as many innocent civilians as possible when targeting a rocket facility or a terrorist. Contrast this to Hamas’s rocket attacks which specifically target Israeli population centers. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked: “We are using missile defense to protect our civilians and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles”.Rabbi Mark Wildes
Posts Tagged ‘cycle of violence’
The arrest of six Israeli Jews for the murder of an Arab teenager last week has largely let Hamas off the hook for its campaign of terrorism.
The aberrant act of an isolated group that has been condemned by every sector of Israeli society has reinforced a narrative of moral equivalence. But Hamas’s confidence that it is profiting from the crisis that began with its kidnapping and murder of three Jewish boys last month is illustrated by the barrage of missiles it is firing on southern Israel.
The torrent of rockets, with hundreds being fired from Gaza in the last few days, is more than a routine statement about Hamas’s desire to show its belligerence to Palestinians who can always be counted on to applaud terror. The Islamist group was in dire straits when it decided in April to go into partnership with the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority. At the time, many commentators believed this would allow PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to tame the terrorist group and forge an alliance that would create room for both Palestinian unity and peace. But the events of the past month demonstrate just how foolish that hope was.
Far from anyone influencing Hamas to support peace, the Islamists have shown that they are the ones calling the tune. When a Hamas cell kidnapped three Israeli teens, Palestinian society didn’t recoil in horror. Nor did Abbas and Fatah drop Hamas from the PA government. While the PA leaders made a belated though welcome condemnation of the crime, Palestinian social media delivered the verdict that Hamas had hoped for as the atrocity was cheered with a popular three-fingered salute. Instead of supporting measures to isolate a movement that was determined to oppose peace, Palestinians took to the streets with rocks and violence to obstruct and harass Israeli troops searching for the lost boys.
Nor was there any outpouring of regret or soul searching about this behavior once the bodies of the three Israeli teens were found. After the body of Palestinian youth was discovered, the crime was used as an excuse for more Arab rioting. With Hamas now raining down hundreds of missiles on southern Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu finds himself in a quandary, as any action ordered to silence the terrorist enclave in Gaza will be seen as an escalation of the situation rather than a needed effort to contain it.
The despicable murder of Muhammad Khdeir has reinforced the Western media’s predictable narrative of moral equivalence in which all violence is seen as part of one pointless cycle of violence in which both sides are trapped. But though the two crimes give some superficial justification to that frame of reference, this focus has allowed the Obama administration to evade scrutiny for its coddling of the PA-Hamas alliance.
Netanyahu has good reason to be wary of a large-scale assault on Gaza. Israel has neither the desire to take back control of the strip nor any appetite for the casualties on both sides that would result from a new counter-offensive. The United States, which demanded that Israel show “restraint” in response to Hamas’s murder of the three boys, is now even more adamant about stopping any effort to make the terrorists pay for their crime. The prime minister also knows Hamas is hoping for an opportunity to demonstrate to Palestinians that they are still the address for anti-Israel terror even as it remains firmly ensconced in the PA government.
How will all this end? Hamas seems to think it will be Netanyahu who will blink first since at this point it seems unlikely the normally cautious prime minister will risk further antagonizing the U.S. when he seems not to think that Israel has much to gain from a new fight in Gaza.
But if the two sides do merely stand down, there should be no illusions about the winner in this exchange. Hamas started this fight with a gruesome terror attack, but rather than paying any real price – other than the arrest of some of its West Bank operatives – it has enhanced its standing among Palestinians. By provoking a group of Jewish extremists to behave in the same bestial fashion, it has also obscured the real differences between the two societies and hurt its rival/partner Abbas by exposing him to ridicule from Palestinians who saw his condemnation of terror as weakness or toadying to the Israelis. By firing rockets deep into Israel without incurring a response that will threaten its leadership or its weapon stores, Hamas will have reestablished itself as an equal to Abbas rather than a junior partner.
American officials who wring their hands about a cycle of violence need to understand that their initial appeasement of Hamas after the signing of its unity pact with Fatah has done real harm to the already dim prospects for peace. If in April there was an opportunity for the U.S. to make a statement about isolating the terror group after the unity deal was signed, the prevarications of President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry on the issue have created an opening for Hamas to gain ground in a way that few predicted.
Unless Netanyahu is willing to take the risks associated with actions that will really make the terror group pay, it is Hamas that will emerge from these events as a stronger and more dangerous force than it was only a few weeks ago.Jonathan S. Tobin
Posted by Samantha Power on Twitter:
Daniel Pearl’s story is reminder that individual accountability & reconciliation are required to break cycles of violence. @DanielPearlFNDN
Last night, the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, the Daniel Pearl Foundation and the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA proudly presented the 2013-14 Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, featuring Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, with an introduction by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Dignified, right? Black tie? Check. Very clear right and wrong – check. So what happened?
In one instant, in a flash of unintended honesty, Ambassador Powers showed she learned absolutely nothing, but I mean zero, zilch, nada, from the Daniel Pearl tragedy. She showed that she is as unqualified to give the Daniel Pearl annual speech as, I don’t know, Noam Chomsky, maybe.
Daniel Pearl is in the category of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria kind of historical figures, whose life’s achievements tend to be blurred over the years, until, eventually, they are remembered only for their final few moments. The Archduke will be forever remembered as the man whose assassination by a radical in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, ushered in the First World War.
Daniel Pearl was the Wall Street Journal brave hearted reporter who was kidnapped and executed by a jihadist group calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. Pearl was decapitated on video after 9 days of captivity. He will be forever honored for his unabashed statement, on camera: “My name is Daniel Pearl, I am an American Jew.”
Millions of us have been deeply disturbed by the Daniel Pearl murder. It touched so many previously universal assumptions and turned them upside down: the assumption that no one wants to hurt the press, since everybody wants good press for themselves – wrong; the assumption that when criminals are showing their victims on video it is to extract some kind of ransom, and so as long as the video is running, the victim is safe – wrong; and, of course, the ultimate assumption, that every enemy has a cause over which we can eventually bargain with them, until we meet half way – really, really wrong.
The fact is, millions of us have walked away from the Daniel Pearl execution with the universal conviction that the only way to go now must be to annihilate these bastards, until they’re all dead and gone. It was a Churchill in Dunkirk moment, following which the old bulldog gave his heroic “we shall fight them on the beaches” speech. Just as there was no possibility to negotiate with Hitler in 1940, there’s no negotiating with the jihadists. They are enemies of humanity and must all be exterminated – that’s what the entire civilized world took from the Pearl beheading.
Well, not the entire civilized world, as it turns out.
I don’t have a copy of what U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power told the good folks at UCLA last night. She probably touched all the bases. But I do have her tweets in front of me, and they’re stunning.
The first one is totally on the money, no problem there:
We must be vigilant in protecting the rights of the press. 2013 = 2nd highest # of journalist deaths and arrests all-time. @DanielPearlFNDN
To those of you who don’t speak fluent Tweet, Powers is citing herself at the foundation speech, giving her followers the gist of her message. And, of course, it’s unacceptable that close allies of the United States, such as Turkey and the Palestinian Authority, have been detaining journalists, photographers and even people making unflattering Facebook entries.
She was called on it, of course, by a few of her Tweeter followers:
RDPinRVA: That’s pretty rich coming from an appointee of an administration committed to limiting the press’ freedom.
Casey Kim: You’re part of the same administration who just suggested brining in the FCC to monitor newsrooms.Yori Yanover