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Questions

11/16/2023 01:57:41 PM

Nov16

I recently received an email from a member of our community expressing deep concern over the tragedy of lives lost and upended by the Israeli incursion into Gaza.  In response to my blog that week, this person wrote simply this, “There is no justification for the murder of thousands of children.” It’s taken me a few weeks to respond.

Dear Friend,

I am really not sure exactly what I can say to you to respond in a way that you will find meaningful and reasonable. This is going to be hard to write and hard to read, but I am admittedly struggling with your statement that there is no justification for the murder of thousands of children. Mostly because I don’t understand what you mean by “justification” or “murder." I wonder what, in the face of the most brutal and largest attack against Jews since the Holocaust, you would have recommended that Israel did instead.  

The individuals and families, who lost their lives or their families (an absolute tragedy, I agree), were placed there by Hamas to shield Hamas combatants.  This isn’t conjecture, this is the strategic plan of Hamas.[1]  Hamas also has the written and stated intent to destroy not only Israel but all Jews, in Israel and throughout the world.  Hamas is the manifestation of the worst hegemonic effort of radical Islamists, who believe there is no room in the world for Jews and the Jewish people.[2] I know that this does not characterize the people of Gaza. I know that the vast majority only want to live peaceful lives.

However, to demand that Israel not have sought to remove Hamas, by any means necessary is really to say that Israel and the Jews should just go away.  I believe that it is hard to argue against the claim that throughout the 75-year conflict, were the Arab countries and Palestinians to lay down their arms, there would have been peace.  But were Israel to have laid down its arms, there would be no Jews.  This too isn’t conjecture, this is just the manifestation of the Arab countries’ expressed and activated enmity against the state and people of Israel, for most of these countries and most of the past 75 years.  It’s just fact.  Yes, there are plenty of times when Israel has done terrible things. Yes. Has Israel’s government gotten it wrong?  Yes.  But the difference is that in Israel, precisely because it’s a democratic country, the truth outs. There is no point when King Assad will be dethroned and forced to admit that he is responsible for the murder of millions of his own citizens. Far more Palestinians have died at the hands of Hamas than Hamas has ever killed Jews, but there is no process by which Hamas can be forced by its own people to account.  Hezbollah, a sworn enemy of the state of Israel, that seeks to make all of Israel judenrein (German for “free of Jews”) is a legitimate political party in the Lebanese government!  And all of this is driven by Iranian hatred for the Jewish people, who for thousands of years were productive, creative, supportive, and engaged members of Persian society and whose vilification is the result of scapegoating so the people of Iran have someone other than the mullahs (Iranian religious leaders) to blame for their own loss of civil, human, and creative rights.  These are the people and the countries that Israel should somehow distrust less? and give the benefit of the doubt to?  

I imagine you might be “yeah butting” as you read this.  But I firmly and assiduously believe that my “yeah but,” trumps yours.  And that “yeah, but,” is this: since at least the year 70 CE, Jews struggled for survival throughout the world, and only when half the world’s Jewish population was destroyed in the Shoah, did the world soften for a brief moment to give us back our land.  OUR land about which there is no doubt to which we are indigenous.  The accusations against Israel of colonialism are absurd on their face.  There is actually no better example of the fulfillment of the most fantastical dreams of those who advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples.  Imagine for a moment that the Sioux people found themselves able to return to the land of their ancestors, free, able to pursue and rebuild their native land, language, and culture. This is why, at least among progressives, it’s become de rigueur, to introduce oneself, for example, as being from Houston, but actually recognizing this land as belonging originally to the Akokisa and Atakapa people. Right?  But, this is what actually did happen in 1948 for the Jewish people, and yet, many in the world have been trying to dismantle it ever since the UN vote for Jewish statehood passed.  Did you know that 57% of Israel today is comprised of Sephardic Jews (from Spain and North Africa), Mizrachi Jews (from Arab countries), and Ethiopians?  And those light skinned pioneers who began showing up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from Eastern Europe and Russia weren’t colonialist conquerors.  They were poor, landless, and powerless, and running from the same kinds of pogroms that were just reenacted by Hamas on October 7.  Some ask if it was indeed the Holocaust that brought to fruition the modern the state of Israel. That’s a really complicated question, but I also believe it’s the wrong question for this moment, because we know this for sure: had there been a state of Israel in 1939, there would never have been a Holocaust.  

I am sorry that I cannot provide you with the affirmation that makes it abundantly clear that there is no justification for the murder of innocent civilians.  Not because I don't believe this to be a horror and a tragedy. Its that it’s the wrong question.  Of course, the death of any and all civilians in conflict is a travesty of untold proportions.  And children, all the more so.  The question I believe we should be asking is, other than the Jews giving up on life and the state of Israel, what would have been the alternative to October 7, 2023?    

Rabbi Scott 


[1] https://stratcomcoe.org/cuploads/pfiles/hamas_human_shields.pdf

[2] https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/doctrine-hamas

Tue, November 28 2023 15 Kislev 5784