When I tell people that I support and stand with Israel, the most common response I get is: “Well yeah, but that’s because you’re Jewish.” True. I am Jewish, but my religion is not the reason for my stance. I stand with Israel because I believe in the ideals of democracy and freedom; because I believe in rights for all members of the region, regardless of religion; because it is the most advanced, forward thinking and productive country in the Middle East. I stand with Israel because this tiny country in the desert has contributed more to this world in less than 70 years than some countries have or will, ever.
Right now the Israel-Palestine conflict is no doubt filling your news feed, complete with YouTube videos, official statements, hundreds of articles from “legitimate” news sources, and your friends very biased status updates on their position. This article is of course no different, and in the spirit of good journalism I encourage you to disagree with my opinions and voice your concerns below. However, in this same sense, the media as a whole is currently doing a very bad job portraying what is actually going on, and in many ways has misrepresented and defamed Israel. While it cannot be denied that this is a humanitarian crisis on all fronts, and that in war there are, unfortunately, casualties, there are a number of crucial facts that have been left out.
One of these notions is that in many cases the images being shared from Gaza are exaggerated, or at times fabricated and untrue. The only battle that Hamas is attempting to win is in the court of public opinion. To do this, they continue to use their own civilians as human shields, utilize schools and hospitals as rocket storage and launching sites, and demands citizens stay in their homes even after IDF warnings to evacuate. The bottom line is that Hamas puts its civilians into a direct line of fire. Why? Simple:
Hamas is helped when residents in Gaza die.
The media does a great job of playing an endless loop of injured and dead women and children, and the videos circulating of purported IDF aggression only makes Israel look bad. The only thing that the terrorist organization has going for itself right now is the heartstrings of those who believe that these pictures tell the entire story. Hamas is exploiting the deaths of civilians and all the while pushing the mentality of martyrdom over safety. But there is a flipside of this question that must also be explored:
Why would Israel want to kill innocent people?
Anytime a civilian dies, Israel looks bad in the eyes of the world. But to seek out and attack strictly civilian targets would not only be illegal according to the rules of international warfare, but would go against any ideals of morality, and is certainly not a practice Israel has or will ever engage in. As the most humane army in the world, the IDF seeks to prevent such catastrophes, not only for civil reasons, but knowing the backlash they receive whenever there is collateral damage. This is the exact reason Israel continues to bring Palestinians in Gaza over their border into field hospitals where they can receive adequate medical attention; it is why supplies and humanitarian aid are still sent in whenever a short cease-fire is ordained (even though the Palestinian Authority often rejects these supplies to continue to display Israel in a negative light). As The Inquisitr wrote on July 28th, 2014: “It seems Israel is the first army in history to simultaneously offer assistance to the civilians and combatants in a territory where it is fighting by attempting to send medical supplies for the injured. At the same time, it is obliged to maintain a strong air and ground offensive in an effort to prevent the terror rockets being fired on its own civilians.”
And it is this idea that leads directly to another preposterous one in that Israel is simply out to destroy all Palestinians and cause as much damage as possible. With the weapons and arsenal that Israel has, it could destroy Gaza relatively easily with little risk to its own soldiers. Instead, Israel is engaging in a ground invasion that is much more expensive and has cost the lives of its own. While Israel is certainly the more powerful nation, it has not overextended its force in the hopes that a peace agreement can be reached. Of course that would be contingent on Hamas upholding a cease-fire, but Hamas’s track record clearly suggests otherwise and is a topic for another debate. Just yesterday another cease-fire agreement was broken, with Palestinian militants being found in the tunnels Israel has made clear they will continue to destroy. And these facts remain true nonetheless: a suicide bomber killed two Israeli soldiers, wounded others, and in the process a soldier was kidnapped. With the IDF’s promise to protect all soldiers, and its history of doing everything in its power to bring back Israelis, is it not clear that such an act would only increase tensions and lead to greater conflict? Israel will defend this missing soldier, just as it will all its citizens, through no fault of its own.
On a CNN Newsroom interview on August 1, 2014, Executive Director of The Palestine Center, Yousef Munayyer was asked the following question: “Doesn’t Hamas also have the responsibility to protect its people?” To this he answered: “Legally under international law, the Israelis are the sole responsible party for the protection of the civilian population.” This underscores the clear message that Hamas is trying to send in that they are not at all responsible for its citizens’ lives, and places complete blame on Israel for this supposed “massacre.” This also leads many to wonder about the disproportionate number of deaths between the two sides.
Fewer Israelis die not because Hamas fires less rockets, but because Israel is better equipped it protect its citizens. The Iron Dome is able to destroy Hamas’s missiles, sirens ring throughout the country constantly, and there are bomb shelters designed to protect the population. Israel is attacked as an aggressor for having the tools, weaponry, and training necessary to prevent causalities on its end. Siren. 15 seconds. Run for your life. But that time is precious when on the other end civilians are told to remain in their homes and die for the cause. I also question why so much attention has suddenly been paid to this conflict, leaving many of the other tragedies involving Muslims and Arabs uncovered. Few people are speaking of al-Assad in Syria, ISIS in Iraq, the Taliban, or Sudan, all locations and groups that have had and/or committed atrocities and genocide towards Muslims. The death toll in these instances totals over 200,000 lives lost. To date, less than 1% of this number of people have died in the current Israel-Palestine conflict. So this begs the question: “is this only a big deal because Israel is involved?” If this were truly and solely a social, political, and humanitarian (and not religious) issue, then wouldn’t these other crimes against humanity towards the same groups of people take precedence? Or is it simply about wiping Jews off this planet? In perhaps the most obvious and disgusting display of such hatred against Israel is the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay’s comments on the Iron Dome. She claims that “There is a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes…[because of] Israel’s refusal to share its Iron Dome ballistic missile defense shield with the “governing authority” of Gaza.” No matter that this system was originally designed to protect innocent Israeli citizens from Hamas’s rocket fire, or that Israel would not be firing rockets if they were not forced to defend itself, but rather find a reason to demean Israel’s credibility.
And what is the solution? Is there one? The last attempt at one, when Israel last pulled out completely in 2005 (against the wishes of many Israelis who were forced out of their homes), the tools were left in place for the region to continue to thrive under Palestinian’s rule. However, Hamas did not turn to improving their territory, but rather focused resources and money that should have been used to benefit civilians to build tunnels to store rockets and to increase their arsenal and propaganda of anti-Israel sentiment, with rockets pointed at Israeli citizens instead. And so we must still consider the thought posed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel’”
I do not fault those who support Palestine or who are pushing the hashtag #standwithhumanity. But I do urge them to get the real facts. And those aren’t found on CNN or Fox, but rather by reading reports coming directly out of the Middle East, by listening to and reading the interviews of leaders from both sides of the conflict, and by ensuring that only credible information is ingested. And with that I can proudly say I stand with Israel.
In fact, I was supposed to be in Israel on my birthright trip last week. And if dates had worked out I would still have gone. Hamas does not scare me. I know a government and military with all citizens’ interests in mind will protect me. And when I finally do get the chance to visit, I will take in and cherish every moment, knowing that there are so many people that would destroy the country and me in an instant if they could. But they won’t. Jews have always been a resilient people; in the last 100 years alone we survived the holocaust and have fought anti-Semitism and oppression. We continue to overcome. And here we are – stronger, braver, and prouder than ever before.