No one in Israel wanted the war that is raging in Gaza, yet most Israelis understood that there was no choice.
No Israelis wanted their sons or husbands or fathers dragged back into the quagmire from which the country had so painfully extricated itself 31/2 years ago.
So it is the height of irony that Israel is being vilified in countless streets around the world as the Nazi aggressor -- and worse.
The protests have gotten ugly everywhere, including in the United States. Once again, Israel is being compared to Hitler's henchmen and the ongoing situation in Gaza to the Holocaust. We've heard this despicable refrain before. During the second Palestinian intifada, such virulent anti-Israel protests led to a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.
What's new is that the same ominous tone is permeating anti-war demonstrations in the United States.
In Tampa, hundreds of demonstrators gathered on Dec. 30 carrying signs that compared Israel to Nazi Germany and called for the dissolution of the Jewish state. One sign declared, "Zionism is Cancer; Radiate it."
In Chicago, protesters held mock coffins draped with Palestinian flags and waved signs that included "Stop Israel's Genocide in Gaza."
In Los Angeles, signs at an anti-Israel rally included one that read: "Every Israeli committing the genocide in Gaza is a 'Hitler.' "
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which has been tracking the incidents, said that while such inflammatory rhetoric is expected in Arab and Muslim capitals overseas, "it is deeply disturbing that it is appearing in anti-Israel demonstrations at home. Offensive Holocaust comparisons and the use of Nazi imagery are deeply offensive, and have no place in a civil society such as ours."
Yet, we shouldn't be surprised. There is a kind of knee-jerk reaction that erupts whenever Israel takes military action.
Of course, the suffering of innocent civilians and the pictures of dead babies is heart-wrenching. You can't be human without being affected. But the anger on the street is misdirected. It's unfathomable how Hamas can have such disregard for its own citizens that it stashes rockets and militants in schools, mosques and heavily populated dwelling places. In a culture of martyrdom, it seems, each dead civilian is a public victory.
The inevitable human suffering we have witnessed this week -- among both Palestinians and a growing number of Israeli families -- is part of the reason Israel put off the war for as long as it did, despite the constant barrage of rockets raining down on its citizens.
A flurry of diplomatic activity is now taking place. We hope, as Israel does, that the fighting can stop in a way that will enable the country to secure its borders and return its citizens to a rocket-free existence.
It's too much to hope for any accommodation with Hamas. For now, the quest for peace that Israel sought when it undertook the painful withdrawal from Gaza back in 2005 -- pitting Israeli soldiers against Israeli settlers -- has all but evaporated.
This war brings to mind a quote by Israel's former Prime Minister Golda Meir, who once told the late Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat:
"We can forgive you for killing our sons but we will never forgive you for making us kill yours."