A friend of mine who I really respect recently posted a ferocious attack on Israel, accusing it of cold-blooded murder and Nazi-like barbarism. It broke my heart. It was deeply saddening to me that good, thoughtful people are being swayed and convinced by those who are out to demonize and destroy the country that I know to be so different from the way it is being portrayed.
How is this happening, I am forced to wonder — and I know many are wondering the same thing. How is it that the truth is being so perverted and inverted? How is it that what seems so clearly and obviously to be a defensive battle for survival against a ruthless and lawless aggressor is being bastardized as a genocidal offensive against a defenseless victim?
What is clear to me is that my friend and many others like him are not anti-Semitic and not to blame. They are reacting to what they are fed by a media that is perpetrating what I would consider to be a “war-crime” by mischaracterizing, misrepresenting and simply missing the facts of this war. Why? Is this media malicious or just misinformed and gullible?
I’m certain there are those on both sides of that equation. And I believe that a large part of the issue is a “might makes wrong” mentality that reflexively accounts blame to the stronger force and takes up for the underdog, even when this underdog has far less scruples and morality than any canine I have ever encountered.
At any rate, I felt the need to respond to my friend, to try to engage him in dialogue to hopefully open his mind to the fact that there is a very different version of the story he is being told. Here's my response, in the event that you are experiencing similar interactions with your friends:
I truly admire you for taking a firm stance on what you believe, but I simply ask you to consider whether your beliefs are based on truths or on a very politicized and propagandized version of the truth.
I certainly do agree that the loss of civilian life is a tragedy regardless of whose civilians. And I agree that targeting civilians is reprehensible. Where we seem to disagree is on the question of who is actually doing so. It is absolutely certain that Hamas is targeting civilians. Their charter calls for the murder of all Jews and the destruction of the entire state of Israel.
It is also clear that the IDF is killing civilians — but it is not the case that the IDF is TARGETING civilians. The fact, which has been admitted by Hamas themselves, is that Palestinian civilians are being utilized against their will as human shields by Hamas. Israel therefore finds itself in a no-win scenario where in order to combat Hamas, it is forced to incur significant collateral damage. This is certainly no win for Israel (as you have rightly pointed out), but is a sick and twisted win for Hamas because it enfeebles Israel in the war of public opinion.
This is precisely what Hamas is trying to accomplish. They have made it clear that they are telling the Palestinian civilians to stay put in spite of Israel’s warnings. What they are not admitting is that they are beating Palestinians who attempt to flee, and they are murdering Palestinians who are revolting against this sick betrayal of their own people.
Yes, it is horrible to fire at a school, but what choice do you have if you are being fired on from that school, if there are terror tunnels leading from that school to your schools and homes and the only way to protect your people is to eliminate the threat once and for all?
Thousands of missiles have been fired at Israel over the past several years, and Israel has only engaged in the targeted strikes that you advocate. Meanwhile, Hamas has continued to build arsenals and dig hundreds of miles of tunnels that burrow into Israeli civilian land. One can only show restraint for so long before he determines that this growing threat must be dismantled.
Unfortunately — no, tragically — the only way to do that is to fight and destroy Hamas through the human shields that they cowardly hide behind. As Golda Meir said, we can forgive the Palestinians for killing our children, but we cannot forgive them for making us kill their children.
As for your question of why Israel is unwilling to share the land with anyone who is not Jewish, this is an example of one of the areas where I believe you are misled. The fact is that roughly 21 percent of Israel’s citizens are Arab. Not only that, I don’t know the exact number today, but in 2011, 13 of the 120 members of the Israeli Parliament were Arab. Israeli Arabs enjoy more democratic freedoms than any other Middle East country.
So the fact is that Israelis are fully willing to coexist in the land with their Arab neighbors. The issue is not one of religion or birthright, it is one of security. While there are certainly those Palestinians who are willing to live peaceably with Jews, Hamas and others in power refuse to recognize the existence of Israel or the right of Jews to live anywhere on the land, so walls and checkpoints become necessary in order to protect one’s citizens, not to keep out those who would be willing to coexist.
Anyone who tells you that Israel is an imperialistic power that refuses to share the land is ignorant of the facts. If that were the case, why did Israel return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, and why did Israel evacuate Gaza in 2006? The answer is because Israel simply wants to live in peace! The “occupied territories” are land masses that Israel took control of in 1967 in a DEFENSIVE war.
With no interest in occupying another people (it certainly does no good for public opinion, nor is it easy to manage such a losing situation), Israel has maintained control of these territories as a strategic imperative in order to keep terrorists away from its population centers. Gaza is the proof for this — as soon as Israel evacuated, Hamas positioned missiles on this precarious border that were suddenly able to reach all of Israel’s heaviest population centers.
There’s far more to say here, but the important point is to suggest to you that a) Israel is not the bloodthirsty, genocidal maniac that you have been led to believe, but rather a tiny but powerful country that is desperately trying to protect its citizenry, b) that war is horrible and there is no way to fight it in a pretty way, particularly when your enemy refuses to abide by any internationally recognized conventions, and c) that the outlets that you rely on (like the BBC and The Guardian) are certainly not objective players and have long been accused of an anti-Israel bias (as has the UN for that matter).
As for why the U.S. is not doing more to “stand up” against Israel, I would suggest that it is because the vast majority of those in Congress agree that Israel is justified in its actions. As far as I am concerned, it is horrific to have to be “justified” in killing civilians and children.
I am praying that there will be no more killing and no more violence. As it has been said for a long time now, if the Palestainians would put down their weapons there would be peace; if the Israelis put down their weapons there would be no Israel.
Marc Erlbaum is the head of National Productions/eflixir and the founder of the Jewish Relief Agency.