Gaza and Israel: The Facts Must Remain Facts

(This piece was submitted to the Daily Record in response to an op-ed article by Dr. Aref Assaf of the American Arab Forum)

In his opinion piece, Dr. Aref Assaf of the American Arab Forum accuses Israel, among other things, of indiscriminately targeting civilians in its recent conflicts with Hamas militants in Gaza. Those who take facts seriously know that there certainly was large-scale and indiscriminate targeting of civilians, not by Israel, but by Hamas, as it fired hundreds of rockets towards civilian populations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beer Sheva and so many more towns in the southern part of Israel.

Let us be clear: There is no moral equivalency between those whose purposeful aim is to inflict as much civilian death and destruction as they can and sometimes get it right, and those who take extraordinary efforts to avoid harm to innocent civilians and sometimes get it wrong.

Dr. Assaf also writes, “the fact remains that only Palestinian noncombatants have been made the victims of this needless war.” No, that “fact” does not remain because it is simply not true. Were not those non-combatants killed and maimed within Israel’s borders not victims as well? That there are such horribly and tragically high numbers of civilian causalities in Gaza is due primarily to the well established fact that Hamas deliberately locates their rocket launchers in civilian neighborhoods, in essence, transforming homes, hospitals and schools into military targets, setting up those whom they purport to defend to be martyrs in their rejectionist cause. And who calls them to account?

Israel did target civilians, not with bombs and bullets but with leaflets and even automated cell-phone calls, warning non-combatants about impending attacks on military targets near them, encouraging them to get themselves out of the line of fire. What other combatants have ever done such a thing? Certainly not those whose indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations Dr. Assaf defends.

Dr. Assaf is very revealing when he ends his tirade with the claim that this conflict did not being with “Hamas’ crude rockets,” as if to minimize the crime of indiscriminately firing rockets across an international border, something which no other country would tolerate as long as Israel had. Rather, he claims the conflict began “in 1948 with the dispossession and subsequent exodus of millions of Palestinians.” In other words, the cause of the conflict is the very existence of the Jewish state. Israel’s existence is an anathema to him and to the Hamas murderers he defends. It follows logically and tragically that regardless of what Israel does or does not do, Hamas and its supporters will cease its violence only when Israel ceases to exist.

Do I agree with everything that the current Israeli government does? Of course not. The situation there cannot be accurately portrayed in terms of black and white. But when looking at both past and recent events, it is ever more clear that Hamas and its defenders wear a grey of a much darker shade.

Rabbi Donald Rossoff

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