OpinionJewish Diaspora

Honors and heroes: Passing 130 days of the war with Hamas

Let’s use this period not to hide our Judaism, but to regain our pride and our literacy about who we are as American Jews.

Israeli forces during Gaza ground operations, Jan. 9, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israeli forces during Gaza ground operations, Jan. 9, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Howard Teich. Credit: Courtesy.
Howard Teich
Howard Teich is a practicing attorney, has held multiple leadership positions in the Jewish community and is the author of HEAR OUR VOICE: One Israel: Standing Up for Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.

Lost in the reflections and prayers for the hostages taken from southern Israel by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 are those on the frontlines fighting Iran’s proxies: the Israel Defense Forces. They are heroes of this country and our Jewish people, and they deserve our plaudits for their heroic efforts, risking their lives for Israel’s stand for peace.

Israel’s future of peace requires clearing the Gaza Strip and its neighborhood of Hamas and other like-minded terrorists who imposed their authority on the Palestinian people. Underlying this decision are the following: the humanitarian efforts towards civilians Israel takes as a matter of course during warfare, which surpasses nearly every other country, and the clear military superiority of its military, as compared to that of Hamas, that nearly guarantees long-term victory, though claiming great hardship and loss on both peoples.

The U.S. Jewish community needs to be strong—literally to be outspoken warriors for Israel—for we can influence the results of this war. Facing antisemitism and pro-Palestinian marches, as well as invective and commentary against Jews and Israel, isn’t easy. Still, we can move past this with greater resilience, just as Israel has called upon its soldiers and reserves to battle the good fight. All we need to do is develop a new strategy for the future of the American Jewry.

Israel must not be left alone in this battle. American support is key to its victory, and the active commitment of the U.S. Jewish community vocally for Israel will make the difference on whether Jerusalem will continue to get the aid it needs—in the field and in the diplomatic trenches, in the media and in the battles of ideas on the street and on college campuses, in the hearts and minds of young people, and yes, in overcoming the opposition of those who constantly favor Palestinians over Israelis.

Let’s use this period not to hide our Judaism, but to regain our pride and our literacy about who we are as American Jews. We need to become more knowledgeable about our history and beliefs, and the impact and leadership we have brought to the world.

First, I refuse to have us shout out the narrative of victimhood for the American Jewish community. Do we really feel that we must be so protective of our community that we would prefer shutting down free speech than have someone shout out “Free Palestine”? Let’s shout back, “You’re wrong! Am Yisrael Chai,” and walk on by.

I strongly recommend that we start demanding the release of the hostages from Hamas with a message to the international community of “Release Them Now” or “Return Them Home Now,” in addition to the important message of “Bring Them Home Now.” Because that has the onus on Israel—though the IDF fights on and brilliantly and heroically rescued two hostages this past week—reminding the world that it is Hamas who kidnapped those men, women and even children, are keeping them in captivity and can immediately release them.

And though we appreciate Qatar’s attempts to negotiate the return of hostages, we must direct a message to Doha that it is unforgivable for them to shield the leaders of Hamas in their country. So we demand that the Qatari government have their protection in Qatar be contingent upon the release of the hostages as a trade-off.

We must continue to call out as outrageous the International World Court of Justice case brought by the Union of South Africa condemning Israel’s conduct of the Gaza war as genocide and calling for a ceasefire. Still, we must recognize that the court ruled that Israel limit death and destruction, and did not go as far as declaring their actions genocide nor that they stop the fighting. Again, Netanyahu got it right after the ruling, saying “We will continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people.”

The United States has supplied Israel with weaponry, and U.S. President Joe Biden flew to Israel in those early days to stand with them and brought significant naval support to the region. America has come under attack and lost soldiers in these months since, and has faced a world where few have supported Israel’s efforts to bring long-term peace to its people.

Nevertheless, I was baffled and horrified that the United States imposed sanctions on four Israeli men it accused of being involved in settler violence in the West Bank, called Israeli actions in Gaza “over the top” and once again pushed for a two-state solution. 

My reaction to the world’s treatment of Israel in this war with Hamas can be summed up in the 1976 movie “Network,” when neighbors shout together, “I am mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” The hostages must remain in the front of our minds and hearts, and yet the long-term future of Israel and the Jewish people must be the priority right now. For the strategic needs of Israel, I turn to the decisions of the governing and military authorities of Israel.

I look to Israel and its leadership as heroes, and honor them for their actions in defending their country and the Jewish people. I continue to pray for the safety of the soldiers, the return of the hostages to Israel and the day that all Israelis can return to the communities they have been forced to evacuate and peace shall again return to the Middle East.

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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