Friday, November 16, 2012

Responding to a critic of Israel

Sarah Posner is a writer for Religion Dispatches, a blog/e-letter I read. Today, she criticizes Israel for its actions in Gaza:
Obviously Hamas’ rocket launches into Israel are unacceptable. But so is the occupation, which Yoffie conveniently fails to mention in his homage to war. What’s more, as Haaretz reports this morning, Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin was close to negotiating a cease-fire with Hamas. The Israeli government knew it, but assassinated its leader Ahmed Jabari anyway:
She criticizes former Union of Reform Judaism President Eric Yoffie for his belligerence:

Yoffie, though, seems to revel in Israel’s aggression, writing that “Israel came into being so that Jewish children would never again have to huddle together in fear, terrorized by enemies of the Jewish people.” Do Gaza’s children huddle in fear, in Yoffie’s view? Are they hungry, without jobs, without economic possibilities, without a future, and fearful of Israel’s military might?
I responded on the blog (and, I'm unfortunately awaiting the vitriol which seems inevitable on the web). Here was my response:

Ms. Posner makes some valid points, but she also leaves out very relevant information.
Yes, Palestinian deaths and casualties have been, and continue to be, higher than Israel's. That sounds quite damning for Israel. But, we must account for two factors:
a) Israel has avoided many casualties through its "Iron Dome" anti-missile system. The low casualty numbers have nothing to do with Hamas' "fairness" or some such, but with Israel's ability to defend itself. Do we praise Hamas because they haven't figured out how to kill more effectively, yet? 
b) Hamas deliberately hides its operations in dense civilian centers, thus guaranteeing civilian deaths in any response. These civillian deaths are a direct (and possibly deliberate) result of Hamas' policies. 
As for Baskin and the possible truce on which he was working with Jabari, Ms. Posner reverses the blame. She asks, "Why did Israel attack when they were close to a truce?" Instead, we must remember that Israel's actions were a reaction to unprovoked hostility from Hamas in Gaza. What we should be asking is why Hamas chose this time, as a truce was being worked on, to start shelling Israel. And, once they did, what was Israel to do, once the shelling started? Trust that Hamas, despite the attack, was actually, finally interested in peace?
I am sorry if the leaders my movement seem to "revel" in Israeli defense (which Posner calls "aggression"). I don't think that's the case. But, in a world in which every Israeli act, however justified, is vilified in the press and the wider world, it's important for our leaders to be full throated in standing up for Israel.
Finally, Posner refers to the "occupation" and implicitly balances it with the shelling - the shelling from Gaza is wrong, but so is the occupation. Tit for tat. Of course, she doesn't point out that there is no occupation in Gaza. Israel pulled out in 2006. The result was a strengthening of Hamas' position in the region, and the beginning of a constant assault on civilian centers in Israel's south, notably Sderot. It was Israel pulling out of Gaza which led us here; it makes clear what is explicit in Hamas charter - their goal is not the end of the occupation, but the end of Israel.
I honestly and deeply believe that every civilian death, on either side, is a tragedy. As soon as Hamas stops seeking the destruction of Israelis, and of Israel, they can be safe. I pray for that day.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

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