Editorial: There is no moral equivalence between Hamas' terrorism and Israel's defense
In the weeks since the terrorist organization Hamas launched its rockets into Israel, igniting the latest round of seemingly endless war in the Middle East, Americans have been reminded how personally so many of us view what happens in the Holy Land.
Since the fighting began half a world away on Oct. 7, the U.S. has been riven by reports of violence against Jews and Muslims here. They include the stabbing death of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy in Chicago, allegedly for his religion, and a wave of antisemitic threats against Jewish organizations nationwide.
Students at Washington University in St. Louis walked out last week in protest of the school’s refusal to label Israel’s counterattack in Gaza as genocide. A Wash U professor says he was fired for a social media post cheering Israel for what he called “much-needed cleansing” there.
And on Monday, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell announced he would challenge the reelection bid of U.S. Rep. Cori Bush of St. Louis, a fellow Democrat, citing Bush’s provocative public statements against Israel in the conflict.
With Israel’s initial air campaign in Gaza now being joined by a full-scale ground invasion, the devastating imagery coming out of the region will only get worse in the coming weeks.
As it does, it’s more important than ever that Americans of all faiths and ideologies keep in mind that, whatever criticism Israel deserves for its treatment of stateless Palestinians over the decades, the current conflict began as an unprovoked attack by hostage-taking terrorists against a legitimate democracy.
There is no moral equivalence here. None.
The Biden administration’s stance is the right one: unconditional support for Israel, coupled with advice to this close ally that restraint in its response in Gaza would be both the humane and strategically smart approach.
It’s advice that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has, so far, unfortunately, chosen to ignore.
Still, again, it’s important to draw the distinction: The Israeli counteroffensive, like any major military operation, will inevitably, tragically cost civilian lives. But there’s no evidence whatsoever that civilian casualties are an Israeli goal.
That’s not the same as what Hamas has done from Day One: specifically targeting civilians, taking hostages en masse — including children, including babies. Some of the more than 200 hostages have already been killed, with video released showing them alive and then showing their corpses. Others have simply turned up dead.
The fact that Hamas purposefully locates its military operations in hospitals, schools and mosques so it can use Palestinian civilians as human shields says all there is to say about its claim to be fighting on behalf of those same Palestinians.
Is this really the right moment for a sitting U.S. congresswoman to accuse Israel, without evidence, of an “ethnic cleansing campaign,” as Bush did in a recent tweet?
Reckless comments like that, coming from Bush and a handful of other hard-left members of Congress, don’t by any stretch represent the mainstream of the Democratic Party. And they don’t represent the wider American populace, with polls showing two-thirds support nationally for Israel in the conflict.
While Israel shouldn’t be immune to criticism for either its historic Palestinian policies or its current military strategy in Gaza, some of the criticism coming from the American left edges close to outright antisemitism. That has no valid place in the debate.
As a uniquely multicultural nation of unusual religious pluralism, America is perhaps destined to deep divisions at home any time these kinds of conflicts arise elsewhere. Strife in the Middle East in particular has always been immune to simple solutions. And, again, Israel is not historically blameless, nor is its current prosecution of the war beyond reproach.
But as the debate here continues, no one should lose sight of the crucial underlying context: A vibrant democracy that shares America’s values and has deep cultural ties here is fighting for its existence against a brutal terrorist enemy whose founding document, The Hamas Covenant, explicitly calls for the killing of Jews and the eradication of Israel.
Americans who side against Israel at this hour are, by definition, siding with that.
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