Dear Penelope and Javier,
I am writing this not as a journalist, but as a regular person, an Israeli citizen, in response to the letter you signed condemning Israel for 'genocide' in Gaza. I am, like many around the world, a big fan of your work. You’re both very talented, and two of the most gorgeous people in Hollywood.
But let me be clear. While you're sitting in your cushy living room, your family members—and especially your children—are not running to bomb shelters several times a day while thousands or rockets rain down on them, not just in the past few weeks, but for years. My family is. Even when the Iron Dome system is neutralizing those rockets, shrapnel can still fall and cause injuries. Your babies don’t have to worry about that, nor do they have to worry about a terrorist crawling out of a tunnel and butchering them in their sleep.
I wonder what you would do if you were us? Let’s stop kidding ourselves. I’m sure as decent people you would feel terrible about the fate of Gaza's children, but that won’t stop you from defending your own.
In part, I don’t blame you for pointing the finger at the "Israel Occupation Forces" for this current conflict, nor for sympathizing with the current plight of the Palestinians in Gaza. How could you not sympathize when you see the horrible images shown to you every day on TV? The truth is, I sympathize too. No child should have to live in a reality like Gaza’s. Most Israelis, in fact, agree with that.
It’s just too bad you didn’t seem to take the time to actually ask “Why?” and do some research before signing this letter. If you had, you would have encountered a different perspective, that “under international law Israel is within its rights to establish a blockade of the Gaza Strip, which would include any flotilla or boats heading there, because Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a hostile terrorist entity that has launched more than 10,000 rockets and mortars into Israel.”
Some people might try to tell you that Hamas arose in response to the blockade, but this is simply not true. Hamas existed long before the blockade and has been responsible for terrorist attacks inside Israel in which many Israelis have been killed. Hamas came to power in Gaza after Israel withdrew from the territory in 2005. Israel instated the blockade after that. The blockade aside, Gaza is actually not occupied by Israel right now. But if you're going to protest the blockade, please protest against Egypt as well, which is also blockading its border with Gaza, and currently blames Hamas, not Israel, for the ongoing conflict.
Despite this, Israel is “not fully exercising its legal rights under international law, since it is allowing inspected food, fuel and other essential materials from Israel into Gaza via trucks.” Israel even allowed shipments of cement into Gaza, which Hamas mostly used to build tunnels through which terrorists could infiltrate into Israel and attack its civilians.
Reports also now indicate that the current operation by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Israel has prevented a surprise attack by 200 terrorists who planned to get into Israel via these underground tunnels.
Your news networks will not tell you this because of their anti-Israel bias. Hamas knows that many of Gaza’s innocent people will die as a result of Israel’s military response. It wants this because this will make for good TV and it will help get the world to condemn Israel, which is why Hamas terrorists have been telling Gazans to stay in their homes despite Israeli warnings of an attack.
Of course you will ask, “Where would Gazans go?” Yes, it is true that they have few places to escape to, but people seeking to live rather than die, people who actually want compromise and co-existence with Israel, perhaps should not elect a terrorist group as their government—a group whose stated mission is the total destruction of Israel. Maybe that sounds harsh, but Israelis live in the reality of the Middle East, unlike the rest of the world.
By the way, just this week reports broke that Hamas terrorists executed more than 20 Palestinians who opposed them in Gaza. In Israel, there are many disagreements, not only between Jews and Arabs, but also between Jews and other Jews. But did you know that 20 percent of the citizens of Israel itself are Muslims and Christians who live freely with equal rights under Israeli law and are active in the Israeli government? Did you know that some Israeli Arabs also serve in the IDF?
I could write about this forever and it probably won’t convince you, because for every voice like mine, there are probably 1,000 telling you differently. But let me make this one final point: Please don’t use the word “genocide” when discussing this conflict. Jewish Israelis, and Jews around the world, are so tired of our tragic history being used as a cynical tool to condemn us today.
You want to speak about genocide? Let me tell you about genocide. Many in my family were butchered in concentration camps. You are from Spain. In Spain, your fascist general Francisco Franco told the Nazis the whereabouts of Jews living in Spain at that time, as your own Spanish daily El Pais revealed in 2010. Your Spanish Inquisition burned countless people at the stake, including many of my own people, and expelled them in 1492. Thank your government for recently granting descendants of those persecuted Jews citizenship, but don’t be self-righteous by condemning Israel. By the way, the Spanish, along with the British, also once killed countless Native Americans when they first arrived in the New World.
If you really care about preventing genocide and tragic deaths, why don’t you speak out when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is butchering thousands of his own people regularly just across the border from Israel? It’s not convenient, I suppose, when you just want to pick on Israel because it’s the latest fad and you want to stay relevant.
The Jewish people are accustomed to being blamed for everything and being held to a different standard than the rest of the world, and if anything, this has made Israelis tougher.
You don't need to agree with everything I've written. The roots of this conflict are complicated and we live in a free world, so debate is welcome (unlike in Gaza, by the way, thanks to Hamas). But don't sign a letter like this without first truly informing yourself of all points of view.
One day, when this current war is over, if you ever wake up from your misguided “I'm so fortunate, so I need to feel sorry for someone” guilt, I invite you to actually get to know Israel for real. It’s not a perfect country, I’ll be the first to say that. But it’s also a warm and welcoming country, full of people who are genuinely fighting for their right to live in peace.
Alina Dain Sharon is the managing editor of JNS.org. Any opinions expressed above are solely her own.