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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
Op-ed: Israel and Gaza: Where the solution does not lie
North Andover Eagle-Tribune
By Rabbi Ira L. Korinow, Boston Chapter
The current war being waged in Gaza and southern Israel has, as one might expect, given rise to criticism of Israel. The criticism, in turn, has caused supporters of Israel to become defensive and outraged. And if it hasn't, it should. But not in the way one might expect.
We are hearing that during the last seven years, 11,000 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel with little, if any, Israeli response. The number of attacks had dramatically increased since the military wing of Hamas overthrew the opposition Fatah to take complete control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. The Kassam rockets cannot be precisely aimed and thus, they fall indiscriminately in Israeli cities, towns and farms, all civilian targets on land that has been under Israeli sovereignty since its inception in 1948. Make no mistake — with a direct hit, they can kill, and have done so.
Once again, as we saw in the 2006 war against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, we are seeing the barbaric attitude toward the value of human life. Like Iranian-backed Hezbollah, Hamas, which also receives arms from Iran, uses innocent civilians as human shields — putting them in harm's way so that Israel can be condemned by the world when scores of innocent men, women and children are killed during retaliatory missile and mortar attacks. Hamas militants (who do not dress in military uniforms and thus look like every civilian) along with rocket launchers and weapon arsenals are conveniently stored in residential housing, schools, mosques and other public buildings. The words of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir ring true: "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us."
Once again, we hear the world crying out and the United Nations Security Council rushing to meet to condemn Israel's actions. Israelis and Jewish leaders everywhere justifiably ask, "Where was the U.N. Security Council during the past seven years when rockets rained upon Israel, terrorizing hundred of thousands of Israelis, forcing children and others to sleep in bomb shelters?" The most recent resolutions calling for a cease fire do not even mention Hamas' practice of launching missiles into Israel, what prompted this war in the first place.
We hear the world, including our American government, imploring Israel to use restraint and to respond "proportionally," as though the Israel Defense Forces should put down their high-tech military weaponry and begin to shoot rockets indiscriminately into crowded Gaza City. In response, we hear the Israeli government say that "proportionality" should not be measured in the number of casualties, especially when Hamas is using innocent men, women and children as human shields. In fact, the U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Handbook clearly states: "The law of war principle of proportionality requires collateral damage to civilians and civilian property not be excessive in relation to the military advantage expected to be gained by executing the operation."
In other words, a proportional response is the application of the right amount of violence to achieve the goal that does not unduly harm civilians. Proportional response is not about the size or technology of the weaponry. It is not about the overall number of deaths.
What would be a proportional response to 11,000 mortars and rockets over a seven-year period? Israel attempted targeted assassinations, but even that failed to stop the barrage of rockets and mortar. After so many attacks on sovereign Israeli soil, this response might be considered reasonable, even though civilians are being hurt and killed in large number. But that is where the real tragedy lies.
It is the tragedy of what is happening on the ground in Gaza that should create outrage in people who value life. The fact is that war and killing is not the solution in the Middle East. For every Hamas militant killed, there are 10 more Palestinians waiting in line to sign up. And if Israel succeeds in disarming Hamas and reducing its power to irrelevancy as it hopes to do, another terror group will likely be formed. It is only natural that people who perceive little hope for their future will turn to every possible venue, including terrorism, to kindle any hope that may exist. That is what happens when one practices communal punishment upon the other, as Israel has often done.
I am a strong supporter of the State of Israel and its citizens' rights to live securely. I also strongly support the creation of a Palestinian state that will exist side-by-side in peace with Israel. All that we hear from the Israeli side and from Jewish leaders, as I mentioned above, may be true. While the anger and frustration that Israel feels after 11,000 rockets and mortars aimed at terrorizing its citizens may rationalize Israel's reaction, the fact is that hundreds of innocent people, young and old, are being killed. Israel's relative restraint over the past few years may be the reason why Israel and Hamas are at war. But when it comes to the deaths of hundreds of innocent people, it cannot serve as an excuse.
Killing is not the solution. An immediate cease fire is a good first step. The next step toward the solution is having the United States take a proactive role in the peace process as it did during the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, when progress was arguably made. After eight years of putting Israeli/Palestinian peace on the back burner, it is time that the United States make peace between Israel and the Palestinians a priority by recognizing the suffering of all people on both sides of the Gaza border. Hopefully, the new American administration will do exactly that.
Rabbi Korinow is the spiritual leader of Temple Emanu-El in Haverhill.