OpinionU.S.-Israel Relations

Accusing Israel of immorality is despicable

Israel has sacrificed lives in order to fight an ethical war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a memorial ceremony for former Prime Minister Golda Meir at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on Nov. 18, 2018. Source: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a memorial ceremony for former Prime Minister Golda Meir at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on Nov. 18, 2018. Source: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. The author of three books, he teaches Torah, Zionism and Israel studies around the world.

In a speech given on the cusp of Israel’s creation in January 1948, future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said, “There can be peace in Palestine in five minutes. It depends entirely upon the attackers. The minute the attackers stop, there will be peace in Palestine. But as long as they go on, there will have to be war and we will have to fight back. And there is absolute faith on behalf of the entire community. We have no doubt whatsoever as to the results of this struggle.”

In the same speech, Meir spoke about the Israeli willingness to sacrifice in war: “I would not say, because it would not be true to say, that we do not mind that our young people are killed. We do. I read that an Arab in London made a statement that the Arab community has this advantage over the Jewish community: They do not take it to heart so much when Arabs are killed; we can stand it less than the Arabs.”

“I want to say this,” she said. “In one way it is true, every young man or woman that is killed in Palestine hurts; the death of each one of them hurts very much. We are still a small community and it is as though we were one family. We personally know each one that is killed and it hurts a lot. But it seems to me that just because it hurts so much, just because life is so dear to us, we are prepared to go to the very limit and to die if necessary.”

“Life that is not worth much if it is taken away does not matter,” she asserted. “Life is very dear to us, and the life of each youngster is very dear to us. Yet the spirit in the Yishuv is that we know that many more lives will be lost and we are prepared for it.”

Meir’s speech could be given today and it would be just as relevant as it was then.

Over the past month, American leaders like Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Senator Chuck Schumer have made comments that have raised the ire of many Israelis and their supporters.

Schumer said, “What horrifies so many Jews especially is our sense that Israel is falling short of upholding these distinctly Jewish values that we hold so dear. We must be better than our enemies, lest we become them.”

These comments were echoed by Blinken: “Israel is not Hamas. Israel is a democracy. Democracies place the highest value on human life, every human life. … It’s what distinguishes us from terrorists like Hamas. If we lose that reverence for human life, we risk becoming indistinguishable from those we confront. Right now, there is no higher priority in Gaza than protecting civilians, surging humanitarian assistance, and ensuring the security of those who provide it. Israel must meet this moment.”

At another point, Blinken said, “Israelis were dehumanized in the most horrific way on Oct. 7. The hostages have been dehumanized every day since. But that cannot be a license to dehumanize others.”

Their words are infuriating because they are completely inapplicable to Israel’s conduct. West Point’s urban warfare expert John Spencer explained in Newsweek, “No military in modern history has faced over 30,000 urban defenders in more than seven cities using human shields and hiding in hundreds of miles of underground networks purposely built under civilian sites while holding hundreds of hostages. The sole reason for civilian deaths in Gaza is Hamas. For Israel’s part, it’s taken more care to prevent them than any other army in human history.’”

Rabbi David Ingber, the founder of the New York Jewish congregation Romemu, expressed the anger many Israelis felt at Blinken and Schumer’s words. In a speech entitled “I Love Israel” Rabbi Ingber said, “Anyone who has ever spent a minute with an Israeli soldier or spent a minute in Israel knows how absurd that hypocritical statement is from Senator Chuck Schumer. Anyone who spent five minutes discussing with a general or anyone else in Israel what it is that they are contending with at this moment. … Anyone who knows that for five minutes can feel how insulting it is, how condescending it is to people who live in Israel [and] who send their children to the army. I have friends and family in Israel. Are their children genocidal maniacs? The young Israeli soldiers stationed on the Gaza border are not a part of a state-sponsored terrorist organization called the IDF. They are heroic soldiers in an army whose purpose is to protect the inhabitants of Israel from enemies whose sworn purpose is to cause Israelis harm.”

The day after Oct. 7, Israel could have carpet-bombed Gaza in a truly indiscriminate fashion. It could have killed hundreds of thousands of Gazans from the air. The war would have been called the “Three Day War” and not one Israeli soldier would have been called up and not one Israeli soldier would have died.

Instead, Israel called up hundreds of thousands of soldiers to put their lives at risk, not to make Israel safer—the Air Force could have achieved that mission—but rather to minimize Palestinian deaths. Israel has lost hundreds of soldiers in order to fight an ethical war. For anyone in America to then claim that Israel is not upholding Jewish values or risks becoming indistinguishable from Hamas and dehumanizing others is shameful and despicable.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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