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Drawing Lines in the Sand
As this paper goes to press, the latest chapter in the State of Israel's nearly 60-year-old War of Independence has not ended, as fighting between the Israel Defense Force and terrorist groups along its northern and southern borders continues at breakneck speed.
As was the case when, on the first day of its modern existence, Israelis witnessed assaults on its borders from more than one direction, the threat is grave, and casualties -- both military and civilian -- have been high. But just like in 1948, the mood of Israel's people remains resolute.
Through the ups and downs of six decades of warfare and failed peace overtures, much has changed, but this much has not: The goal of Israel's enemies remains its destruction; the duty of Jews everywhere remains supporting Israel at all costs and in every way possible.
Yet a certain fatigue has set in when it comes to such matters. While rallying to Israel's defense, and creating campaigns to raise money to assist the state and the Jewish victims of terror once proved second nature, for all too many of us, such a swift and resolute response is something to be, at best, debated.
The images conveyed by television broadcasts or reports in newspapers do little justice to the horrors of war, and there is no doubt that both Arabs and Jews have suffered in the last week as the fighting has escalated. In the face of such terrible events, the impulse to turn away -- or merely sigh and place the blame for the struggle on all those involved -- is felt by many onlookers. After decades of media coverage that vilified Israel and airbrushed Arab terrorists into "freedom fighters," some American Jews have joined the blame-Israel-first crowd of activists, who've sought to delegitimize Israeli self-defense or even questioned Israel's right to exist as a nation.
The question is: How will we respond to this new phase of war, in which rockets have replaced suicide bombers?
Will we dither and equivocate while Jewish men, women and children are bombed out of their homes by Lebanese terrorists, backed and armed by the criminal regimes of Syria and Iran?
Will we stand back and argue -- as so many of us are inclined to do -- about the rights and wrongs, and the details of Israeli military operations, whose purpose is to defeat these terrorists?
Israel's enemies -- who are not only the foes of the Jewish people, but also those of the United States and other Western democracies -- hope that that is exactly what we'll do. They think years of propaganda have obfuscated the simple truths of the conflict in our minds. In their arrogance and hate, they think we are foolish enough to fall for their tactical goal of creating a conflict so horrendous that the world will turn away in disgust, and effectively abandon Israel and handcuff its armed forces.
In the coming weeks and months, it will be our obligation to prove them wrong.
Friends of Israel and the Jewish community as a whole make up a diverse population that holds a variety of political and religious views. Differences among us -- which, of course, also exist in Israel itself -- remain real, as does the subject of lively, ongoing debate that's been represented in the pages of this newspaper.
But in wartime, with the deadly intentions of Israel's foes made clear even for those whose illusions often prevent them from seeing clearly, this is not the time for division on the basic question of Israeli self-defense.
We must act to aid Israel materially as it cares again for the latest families of the victims of terror and those displaced by the current fighting.
We must speak loudly, and with as united a voice as possible in support of Israel's justified military campaign, which seeks to end the status quo whereby would-be killers cross Israel's borders with impunity, and then bargain in safety for the release of other killers.
We must say clearly that while Israel's goal remains peace, its Lebanese neighbors, as well as the Palestinians, have no right to harbor killers, and to allow them to use their territory and then pretend as if they had nothing to do with them.
We must insist to the U.S. government -- and to our European "allies" -- that Israel's response not be interrupted. Even more, we must demand that the diplomatic focus of the world not be on Israel's reaction, but on the actions of the terrorists, and their state-sponsors in Damascus and Tehran.
We must remind our fellow citizens that these terrorists are no different from the Al Qaeda hijackers who attacked America in September of 2001. The only answer they should get from democracies is full-fledged support for bringing killers to justice.
Hezbollah, Hamas and their murderous allies have made no secret of their goal. Our answer to them -- and to the people of Israel -- must be just as clear.
This is a moment for renewed activism and philanthropy aimed at shoring up Israel's defense and the welfare of its people. Israel's leaders have vowed that Jewish blood will not be shed with impunity again. We applaud their resolution, and the courage and determination of the Israeli people day after day, month after month, year after exhausting year.
We grieve for those lost and lament the undiminished willingness of Israel's foes to sacrifice their own people's lives. But together, we must stand behind Israel's soldiers and its government.
May their efforts be blessed and rewarded with victory.