Gaza’s Real Enemy

On August 4, Nobel Peace Laureate Eli Wiesel published a full-page Op-ed ad rebuking Hamas for using children in Gaza as human shields against Israeli rockets. Titled “Jews rejected child sacrifices 3,500 years ago. Now it’s Hamas’ turn,” it ran in major U.S. newspapers including The New York Times and The Washington Post, and was paid for by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s This World: The Values Network.

In the ad, Wiesel contended that the world must shift its criticism away from Israeli soldiers for the suffering of those in Gaza and instead hold the real culprit, Hamas, solely to blame. He used these points to build his case.

First, although Hamas and the Palestinians both live in Gaza, they are not alike. Hamas is a recognized terrorist death cult that uses children as suicide bombers and human shields. The Palestinian citizens of Gaza want a hopeful future of peace for their families. Instead, Hamas has imposed its murderous regime on them.

Second, Palestinian parents have more in common with Israeli parents than they do with Hamas. Parents in Gaza and parents in Israel are united by their love for their children and by the fact that neither would voluntarily put a child in danger. Hamas deliberately puts children and other civilians in harm’s way.

Third, both Israelis and Palestinians suffer at the hands of Hamas. Israel struggles for its survival as a nation. Those people of Gaza who reject Hamas’ credo of terror are disenfranchised and alienated by the very people they elected and entrusted to protect and defend them. Instead of the peace and hope they desire and deserve, Hamas gives them war and despair.

Last, both Muslim and Jewish cultures share a love of life and learning while Hamas promotes a barbaric cult of death.

Some have criticized Wiesel’s language as unduly provocative and forceful. The London Times even refused to run the paid ad. Stylistic affinities notwithstanding, he undeniably makes a powerful and rational argument for why Arabs and Jews and “all moderate men and women of faith” must view the war differently.

According to Wiesel, this is not a battle between Arab and Jew or Israeli and Palestinian as much as it is a battle between Hamas and Israel and Hamas and the people of Gaza. Israel’s fight with Hamas, a force determined to annihilate it, is for its right to exist. The true Muslims among the Gaza Palestinians, the ones held hostage and occupied by their own people, are unable to fight back against their Hamas oppressors.

Wiesel’s plea to the world to recognize that Hamas, and not Israel, is the real enemy of the Gaza Palestinians deserves to be heard.

This originally appeared in the Jewish Journal on August 14, 2014.

In Their Own Words

Every summer, hundreds of American teenagers travel to Israel under the auspices of programs such as the Lappin Foundation’s Youth to Israel. Y2I, a “rite de passage” for many North Shore Jewish teens, is intended as a life-changing Israel experience. 2014’s trip was uniquely so.

As their plane landed at Ben Gurion Airport, news broke that the fate of three kidnapped boys was clear: their murdered bodies had been found. Within days, Hamas rockets sequestered the Y2I group in northern Israel, precluding visits to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Masada. It was simply unsafe to proceed with the trip “as usual.”

The teens wrote post-trip essays about their experience and, with the permission of the Lappin Foundation, we share passages from many of them, joined together into a single voice.

“This trip taught me the true definition of being Jewish. It was not until I was actually in Israel, with the rockets and fighting, that I understood how strong we are. Israel is an amazing and resilient country and we were lucky enough to witness it firsthand.

The Israeli kids told me how important it was to just go through your day with a smile, and make the best of a dim situation. I will take that piece of advice with me and use it for the rest of my life. I never thought one trip could teach me such a big lesson.

What I admire most about Israel is her strength and heart. Israel and the Jewish people have always faced adversity. But even when times get tough, even when other people and other countries knock us down and try to belittle us or hurt us or say we are not good enough, we always get up.

I feel it is part of my responsibility to let people know about the real struggles in Israel, not the fake rumors. This is extremely important to me, and Y21 gave me the ability to understand it better.”

During this wrenching time for Israel and Jews everywhere, it is easy to get caught in the web of relentless media coverage, political polemics and sharp-tongued rhetoric. How fortunate we are that we can also tune into the voices of those with the most at stake: our children, who will live in a future we will not see.

This originally appeared in the Jewish Journal on July 31, 2014.

Time to Restore Peace and Security

Israel has reluctantly launched a military offensive against Hamas in response to repeated attacks against its citizenry. Fortunately most of the world agrees that Israel has an unconditional right to protect its people; some believe it should have happened sooner, while others fear that this operation could turn into a broader and more extensive war.

The fact is that war has broken out in Israel once again, and we in the diaspora must stand as one in support of Israel’s efforts to eliminate the danger terrorists pose. What options are there when people want to kill you simply because you exist, not because of anything you do or don’t do? How do you make peace with people whose mandate is your destruction?

As CJP President Barry Shrage said at a recent memorial for the three slain Israeli teens, “We don’t believe that tragedy is inevitable, we don’t believe that we’re trapped in endless cycles of violence. We just can’t afford to mourn any longer. Now is the time for action.”

We must look at the reality of what is on the ground today — not what could have been, not what should have been, but what is. As we go to press, Israel has expressed willingness to consider cease-fire terms proposed by the Egyptians. Hamas has refused. One million Israelis have spent time in a bomb shelter this past week. No country in the world would or should tolerate terror attacks on their civilian population.

We support and echo the statement of Combined Jewish Philanthropies/ Jewish Community Relations Council by urging decent people everywhere to be especially firm, vocal and unequivocal in expressing not only their support for Israel, but also an absolute intolerance for Hamas’s assaults.

On this we must stand united.

This originally appeared in the Jewish Journal on July 17, 2014.