OpinionIsrael at War

The problem with calls for peace

The demand for an Israel-Hamas ceasefire is a call for Israeli suicide.

Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.
Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.
Malka Simkovich. Credit: Courtesy.
Malka Simkovich
Malka Simkovich is professor of Jewish studies and director of the Catholic-Jewish studies program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Her book Letters from Home: The Creation of Diaspora in Jewish Antiquity is forthcoming in 2024.

Hamas’s brutal massacre of more than 1,400 Israelis on Oct. 7 marked the beginning of a terror campaign that continues to unfold. More than 200 Israelis remain in captivity and thousands of rockets rain down on Israeli civilians.

Meanwhile, outside of Israel, a different crisis is escalating, as pro-Hamas demonstrators hold rallies at sites where American Jews congregate: Israeli consulates, Hillel buildings on university campuses and even synagogues.

Demonstrators at these rallies falsely accuse Israel and its Zionist supporters of committing the very crimes committed by Hamas, even as their compatriots on social media are insisting that the massacre did not take place at all.

Leaders of Christian denominations have been quietly debating where to stake their own positions and interests amid this conflict. Many of them, mostly affiliated with Catholic churches and mainline Protestant groups, have held assemblies praying for peace and calling for a ceasefire, a position they believe is in the spirit of Jesus’s call to turn the other cheek in his Sermon on the Mount.

Such calls for peace seem neutral enough. After all, the desire for all civilians to be protected from further horrors appears to be a righteous goal.

From a Jewish perspective, however, the call for a ceasefire is far from neutral. A ceasefire rewards the side that initiated the conflict and encourages the killing of more innocents. It obliges Israel to lay down its arms and allow the Israeli and Jewish captives, many of whom are children, to be tortured and die in captivity while Hamas continues to hurl rockets into Israel.

A call for a ceasefire, in other words, is a call for Israel’s suicide.

The call for a ceasefire also shows a moral failure. It speaks to an inability to discern human evil. It posits a moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas by implying that both sides are equally guilty of the atrocities that have taken place.

Hamas’s 1988 charter clarifies that its goal is not to “liberate” Palestinians, but to eradicate Israel and to kill as many Jews as possible. The events of the past three weeks have shown that this genocidal cult has the support of social justice and student groups across the country.

For the most part, Christian leaders have not gone as far as these groups by condoning Hamas. But their call on Israel to lay down its arms makes many Jews feel as if the year is 1939 and the Church, self-righteously positioning itself as a neutral party, is calling on Jews to negotiate with the Nazis for their own demise.

As a country obligated to protect the existential safety of its citizens, Israel has the moral duty to defeat Hamas, just as the Allies had a moral imperative to defeat Nazi Germany. Only a swift defeat of Hamas and a total denunciation of those who support the murder, torture and abduction of Israelis and Jews will bring an end to this conflict, and allow good people on both sides to begin the work of reconciliation and repair.

In the meantime, praying for a ceasefire is not just perverse. It is an immoral abdication of communal responsibility.

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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