We must face reality, while making a new one
Hamas knew what the reaction to the carnage they wrought on the towns, villages and cities in southern Israel on Oct. 7 would be. They clearly did not care about the Jews (and the Thais, Nepalese and Filipinos and many others) they slaughtered, with one terrorist calling his father saying “I killed 10 Jews. I am a hero.” Hamas knew that the murder, rape, beheading and burning of Jews — infants to elders —would provoke a reaction that would have horrendous consequences for the residents of Gaza. They do not care for the people they are governing. The deaths of Jews are, for them, a supreme imperative even if it means the death and suffering of their own people.
The world rightly demands that Israel observe the “laws of war.” When Israel told civilians to move to the southern part of Gaza, they did. And then Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched missiles from the southern part of Gaza. One of those missiles misfired and crashed into the courtyard of a hospital. Mainstream news organizations led with the false Hamas assertion that it was an Israeli attack on the hospital until it was proven otherwise.
Israel will of course try to observe the laws of war. I want Israel to assure safe passage from northern Gaza to southern Gaza. I want humanitarian corridors to be opened and sufficient supplies to relieve the population under duress to be provided. But I do not want fuel to go into Gaza. If the fuel consumed in missile launches stops, and that fuel is used for civilians and ambulances then perhaps fuel should be let in.
Why are there so many deaths in Gaza from the aerial attacks? There is a vast network of underground shelters and corridors, essentially a city under a city. Why can’t ordinary Gazans take shelter there? Because, in Hamas’s own words, those underground structures are for Hamas to wage war, not to protect the residents of Gaza.
Hamas, supported and sponsored by Iran, does not want Israel to exist. Hamas does not observe the international laws of war. They are holding well over 240 hostages, including my cousin and her husband, Liat and Aviv Atzili, and Romana Strochlitz Primus’s cousin Chaim Peri, taken from Kibbutz Nir Oz. There is no compromise possible with an enemy that glorifies the death of Jews. When this war ends it will be the Hamas leadership and military that will no longer exist.
With the breaching of the border wall and the slaughter and capture of innocent Israelis and foreigners Hamas won a tactical victory. But, in the eyes of most of the world they lost the moral high ground forever.
When Israeli soldiers enter into combat in Gaza with Hamas I know that, unlike the Hamas attackers, they are not trying to kill infants, children, women, and the elderly. They are soldiers, not terrorists. Tragically Hamas has used and will use civilians as shields.
I mourn the deaths of the Israeli victims, and I mourn the deaths of the Gazan victims. Their blood is on the hands of Hamas. But do not confuse the distinction between soldier and terrorist. Israel must protect itself from any possibility of such an attack ever occurring again. And Gazans must protect themselves by never again allowing terrorists to be based on their land.
This war is the first step. Future steps must include working with international organizations and the Palestinian Authority, which does recognize Israel, and its right to exist. President Biden has stated repeatedly that the solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is a two-state solution. When the Palestinians are governed on both the West Bank and Gaza by a government that recognizes Israel and seeks peace with Israel rather than its destruction, then the citizens of Israel and Gaza and the West Bank, and indeed the entire Middle East, will have a better chance to lead peaceful lives.
May all the hostages be returned to their homes. May the religious zealots in both societies be permanently sidelined. May the day come soon when the path of peace and reconciliation is the path chosen by all.
Jerry Fischer is the retired director of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut.
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