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EDITORIAL: ISRAEL AT WAR

An end to politics and diplomacy as usual

The responses to Hamas barbarism must include Jewish unity, an end to biased media coverage of Palestinian terrorism and a refusal to let these murderers profit from their crimes.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit and damaged the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon as part of a multi-pronged attack Oct. 7, 2023. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.
A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit and damaged the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon as part of a multi-pronged attack Oct. 7, 2023. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.

Hamas’s Saturday morning assault on Israel was more than just shocking demonstration of barbarism. The toll of Israeli dead and wounded—not to mention those kidnapped and taken into the Gaza Strip by these murderers—is sickening. And it should alarm and enrage civilized people everywhere.

The full extent of the horror on the southern border, coupled with a barrage of thousands of rockets and missiles fired at Israeli villages, towns and cities, is yet to be determined. Nor can we be sure what will follow after the first day of what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rightly characterized as a “war,” and whether it will spread to include Iran and its Hezbollah terrorist auxiliaries in Lebanon.

But we do know this: It is an event that changes the Middle East. All the rules that have governed the way Jerusalem deals with its terrorist foes and their Gaza stronghold since it fell under Hamas control in 2006—in which the Israeli government and military have always sought to limit the conflict—must now be thrown out.

Above all, it must be an end to politics and diplomacy as usual in Israel, the Diaspora and the West.

Whatever strategies and tactics that the Jewish state adopts as it seeks to reassert control over its border, rescue those held hostage and punish those responsible for these crimes, some basic principles must govern the response to these events.

The first is that the Jewish people and those who care about Israel must unite. After a year of political division and a culture war that threaten to tear Israeli society asunder and undermine its economy and security, those arguments must cease, there and elsewhere. The magnitude of this crisis is comparable to that of Israel’s wars in 1948, 1967 and 1973, and so must be the response of those who claim to be Israel’s friends and supporters.

It may be difficult to imagine the current politically fractured, more heavily assimilated Jewish community of the United States, that is far more alienated from Israel than it once was, coming together as it did during those days. But nevertheless, that is the model that the Jewish world and sympathetic non-Jews must follow. It must be clear to the world that when Israel is under attack and Jews are being murdered, the solidarity of the Jewish people and decent people everywhere with Israel must be unquestioned.

Second, there must be no tolerance or acceptance of the usual narratives and biased media coverage of the conflict, that focus more on Israel’s responses than on Palestinian terrorism itself, and which often seek to demonize the Jewish state’s justified measures of self-defense.

Those who seek to wipe Israel off the map—whether by terrorism or political means—are engaging in a global attack on the Jewish people. The rising tide of antisemitism that is sweeping across the world in recent years is driven in large part by anti-Zionist propaganda. Anything that seeks to legitimize the goals of the terrorists to destroy Israel must be rightly labeled not just as hateful but as a form of antisemitism that must not be normalized or allowed to be represented as part of mainstream opinion in the West.

If Hamas cared about the safety of the Palestinian Arabs languishing under their tyrannical Islamist rule in Gaza, they would not have started this war. They will, no doubt, continue to use the people under their control as human shields. That is a tragedy, but worries about the suffering of Palestinians caused by Hamas’s actions cannot be allowed to color the responses to efforts to save Israeli hostages and take out the terrorists and their military infrastructure.

The civilized world must fully support Israel’s counterattack. Any talk of proportionality or the need for restraint on the part of Israel as it copes with this assault on its citizens should be rejected.

Such bloody terrorism is not a natural response to Palestinian frustration or an effort—as Hamas falsely asserts—to prevent harm from being done to the mosques on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

When Hamas talks about ending the “occupation,” it is not speaking about pushing Israel back to the 1967 armistice lines or complaints about Jews living in the heart of their homeland in Judea and Samaria or Jerusalem. As far as Hamas and other Palestinian groups are concerned, “occupation” refers to the existence of Israel within any boundaries. Their goal is not freedom for their people; if that was what they wanted, the Islamists as well as their supposedly more “moderate” opponents would have accepted any one of the compromise peace offers extended to them in the past. What they want to do is to kill Jews and eliminate the Jewish state.

Sadly, such sentiments are also part of mainstream Palestinian political thought and culture. The shameful scenes in which Palestinians have been shown celebrating terrorism and exulting over the dead bodies of murdered Jews or hostages must not only not be forgotten; conclusions should be drawn about what this means in terms of the future of the conflict and what the goals of diplomacy should be.

Any reporting about this war that doesn’t make that clear isn’t merely biased against Israel, but constitutes an adoption of terrorist talking points that legitimize their wrongful insistence on continuing their century-old war on Zionism that has become inextricably tied up with Palestinian national identity.

Third, Hamas and its allies must gain no political or diplomatic benefit from their crimes.

The current imperative for American foreign policy and that of other nations must be to ensure that this unprovoked and appalling tragedy must not be exploited by the forces that have launched this war.

Any discussion in the current context of redoubled efforts to resurrect a two-state solution to the conflict, that Palestinians have repeatedly rejected over the past decades, must end. On the contrary, the existence of the terrorist-run independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza is proof that such a plan is a guarantee of more suffering and bloodshed.

Hamas—no doubt acting with the knowledge and support of Iran—seeks to derail the widening circle of peace in which Arab states have embraced normalized relations with Israel. This war is clearly, at least in part, a response to efforts to involve the Palestinians in negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Jewish state’s burgeoning alliance with the desert kingdom is the result of rational assessments of the national interests of both Middle Eastern countries and their mutual fears about Tehran’s quest for regional hegemony and a nuclear weapon. This war is a reminder that the Palestinians must no longer be allowed to hold Arab nations hostage to their intransigent refusal to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state.

There will be time enough in the days and weeks ahead to fully assess how much responsibility those who have sought to appease both the Palestinian terror organizations and Iran must bear for this tragedy. The same is true with respect to assigning blame for what can only be termed a catastrophic failure on the part of Israel’s security establishment. 

But for now, the priority must be to ensure that Israel’s borders are protected, its people’s safety ensured, and that those responsible for these criminal acts are severely punished and no longer able to launch attacks on the Jewish state with impunity. Any other response from individuals, organizations and their leaders, politicians or governments is unacceptable.

May God watch over the people of Israel and those tasked with their defense. May their efforts be victorious. And may the hateful enemies of the Jewish state be made to understand that their crimes and evil intentions will no longer be tolerated by the civilized world.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit and damaged the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon as part of a multi-pronged attack on Oct. 7, 2023. Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90.
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