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OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

To my non-Jewish friends on Israel’s war

What our friends and neighbors should know about Israel's battle for survival.

Israeli soldiers in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Israeli-Gaza border in southern Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Israeli soldiers in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Israeli-Gaza border in southern Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Marc Erlbaum
Marc Erlbaum is a filmmaker and the co-founder of Philadelphia's Jewish Relief Agency.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, many have reached out to me asking about Israel. Here is some info that may be helpful:

The world saw the face of evil several days ago. Hundreds of heavily armed terrorists poured across the Israeli border and committed the worst atrocities that most of us have witnessed in our lifetime. We have all seen devastating images of war, but the savage brutality that Hamas wreaked on babies, children, women and the elderly is beyond belief. Jaws dropping, stomachs churning, unable to breathe, we whisper: How is this possible? Is this not the 21st century? Have we been transported back some thousand years to the Dark Ages? Who dismembers children with glee? Who rapes women to death? Who stomps on the faces and crushes the skulls of those they have already murdered in cold blood?

Some might wonder whether I have to be so graphic. I wish I didn’t, but I do. It’s important to record and report these things, because much of the world’s media won’t. They’ll document Israel’s “disproportionate response,” but they’ll gloss over the monstrous savagery that precipitated Israel’s resolve to finally rid the world of an evil that it tried (and failed) for decades to mollify and pacify.

There is a reason Israel’s attempts at peace with the Palestinians have failed. It is not because they have not been made in good faith or without serious compromise. Don’t forget that Gaza was under Israeli control from 1967 until 2005, when it was given to the Palestinians as a gesture of peace by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Nearly 10,000 Israelis who lived in the Gaza Strip were forcibly removed by the Israeli government. Many throughout Israel were fiercely critical of Sharon’s move, but the prevailing attitude was that sacrifices were necessary for the sake of peace.

Unfortunately, peace was never a possibility. That is because there is and always has been a significant faction within the Palestinian populace who will do anything to foil any peace with the “Jewish pigs and dogs.” Though there are Palestinians who have been brave enough to consider coexistence, they have done so at the risk of their own lives. Many who have tried to work with Israel have been murdered as “collaborators,” their corpses strung up or tied to the backs of cars and dragged through the streets. The mantra on the Palestinian street (and even in rallies yesterday in New York and elsewhere throughout the West) has been “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” In other words, the stated (and chanted) goal is not coexistence, but to rid every last inch of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (i.e., Israel) of every last Jew.

Again, there are plenty of good and decent Palestinians who desire a life without conflict and hatred. Yet they are led by, and interspersed with, others whose bigotry and blood lust are far stronger than their humanity or love of life. While honest, hardworking Palestinians have been subject to checkpoints, restrictions and limitations to their freedoms, the fault lies squarely with their own people, who have made it impossible for Israelis to know which Palestinians they can trust and which they can’t. How can one offer freedom of entry and unchecked liberty to a populace that is known to contain some percentage of those who would surely go on a murderous rampage the moment they were given a chance?

The argument has been made that these terrorists are simply “freedom fighters” who are expressing the inevitable rage of being “occupied” and oppressed for decades. But this is demonstrably false. If it were the case, then one would have to assume that Palestinian violence against Jews began with the 1967 occupation. Prior to that, there would arguably be no reason for this murderous rage. Or maybe it could be suggested that the violence began with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 because there were Arabs displaced when the British split the land between Arabs and Jews.

But how then would we explain the Hebron Massacre in 1929 (19 years before Israel was founded) when 67 Jews were killed and 57 wounded? Or the Jaffa Riots in 1936 when nine Jews were killed and 40 wounded? Or the Tiberius Pogrom in 1938 with 19 Jews killed? Or the over 50 attacks on civilians in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s that left scores dead and hundreds wounded?

The fact is that the murderous evil that showed itself over this past weekend is not about territory and is not the result of occupation or oppression. It predates the State of Israel and it goes far beyond Israel’s borders. If the Hamas terrorists had access to New York, Paris, London, Rome, Berlin or any other city around the globe where there are “infidels” who practice their own religion and live democratically, they would gladly and gleefully rape the women and brutally murder the children. That is why the governments of all these democracies around the world are standing with Israel today and clearly affirming Israel’s right to defend itself and decimate Hamas completely.

It is the responsibility of all civilized people to make peace when peace is possible. But it is also vital to identify evil and to fight it vigorously and decisively when all other options have failed.

Jews around the world are in mourning. We are a small and interconnected people, and every one of us knows someone who has been harmed or is now in harm’s way. We are burying over 1,000 dead and praying for the thousands wounded, the hundreds still missing or taken captive and the brave young soldiers who are fighting to secure our future.

It is important that our non-Jewish friends understand the reality of what we are fighting and why. This is not a “two-sided” story and there is no place for moral relativism here. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, a small country that has tried at great cost for 70 years to coexist with its neighbors. It has been invaded by barbaric forces and is now fighting for its life.

War is tragic, and there will be “collateral damage” and loss of innocent life as Israel takes out the Hamas cowards who knowingly and intentionally hide themselves and their weapons in school buildings, mosques and civilian centers. The difference is that Israel does everything in its power to avoid civilian deaths while Hamas does everything in its power to kill as many civilians as possible. The terrorists have chosen this path and they have left Israel no choice.

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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