Israel Versus Hamas: Focus on the Facts

JEWISH LIGHT EDITORIAL

Let’s say you live in St. Louis County, and over the past several years, over 5,000 rockets have rained into your neighborhood and others from St. Charles County, just across the river. The rockets come from a variety of locations that appear to be as diverse as churches, government buildings and residential areas. You live in constant fear. Your kids cannot play outside anymore. You have about 90 seconds to take cover when you hear sirens.

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St. Louis County repeatedly asks St. Charles County to take action. Nothing happens. They ask the State of Missouri. Zippo. They ask the feds. Nada. Now what?

That scenario represents an apt parallel to the situation on the ground in the Israeli towns and cities of the West Negev prior to the recent IDF initiative.

Yet in many news reports and analyses of the current battle, one sees nary a description of this context. Take as an example the Post-Dispatch columnist Sylvester Brown’s piece in the Sunday paper. He mentioned Israel’s justification in the most wispy of passing references — “the military blitz Israeli officials say they launched in retaliation of rockets fired by the militant group Hamas”(emphasis added)” — as though to suggest that living under constant fear of rocket barrage is something that’s just not that big a deal. (For those who do believe that, take a look at the excellent first-hand account by SLU professor Rachel Schwartz of life in Sderot, Israel during perpetual bombardment, found in the Nov. 26 edition of the Light or at www.stljewishlight.com.)

While we have no objection to debate and respectful disagreement on historical context, when reporters or analysts ignore or barely recognize the underlying facts of the current situation, their recitations become nothing more than Orwellian Newspeak.

In the “fog of war,” when emotions run high due to the tragedy of death and destruction, it is easy for facts to become obscured. The media would rather rely on video portrayals of current bloodshed than be bothered by the history of Hamas’ terrorist aggressions. Israel is being blamed for a “disproportionate” response to the Hamas rocket attacks. We have no idea what this means, nor, it seems, does anyone who cavalierly throws out the phrase.

What we do know are the following facts that are not subject to debate:

* Israel departed from Gaza in 2005, removing all settlements, displacing 8,500 Jewish residents, abandoning synagogues and leaving the Palestinians in charge of their destiny.

* Hamas, chosen by the Palestinians in Gaza to rule, has launched thousands of rocket attacks on Israel, resulting in death and serious injuries to civilians. The Hamas rockets are deliberately sent from the midst of dense population and myriad civilian buildings (including places of worship).

* Hamas repeatedly targets innocent civilians with its rocket attacks and its suicide bombings. There has never been any credible evidence that these are directed toward police, IDF or other government facilities or personnel.

* Prior to the Israeli counterstrikes, it was Hamas, not Israel, who chose to violate the cease-fire.

* Hamas, along with the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon, is supported by Iran, a sworn enemy of both Israel and the United States, whose leader has called for the destruction of both nations.

The international community has been an embarrassment in its response. If the United Nations Security Council and our European Union allies had any backbone or sense of justice, they would unanimously approve resolutions condemning the Hamas government in Gaza. To its credit, the U.S. delegation to the U.N. blocked a one-sided resolution which would have condemned Israel for the crisis.

Death from war is tragic. No one of right mind wants it. This is why Israel surgically identifies its targets with exceptional intelligence information and tactical aplomb.

We have not been an unequivocal supporter of all actions of Israel in these pages. For instance, there is a major and fairly debatable moral question about the role of continued Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and their effect on what we see as an essential two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But Israel is a sovereign nation imbued with the right, and its leaders have a solemn duty, to protect the lives and safety of its citizens. It is doing so. When Hamas agrees to an enforceable cessation to the rocket launchings, Israel will undoubtedly enter into an agreement. Unless and until Israel goes beyond conduct directly aimed at protecting its citizens — and no one of the so-called experts in the media has proffered a plausible way to do so, short of the current activity — we see no reason to condemn the nation for fulfilling its essential obligation to its citizenry.