Defense versus revenge 

Defense versus revenge 

Time passes but the shock has not faded. If anything, it weighs even heavier as the extent of the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas has become known.

The army has mobilized and is preparing its assault. Voices have called for a ceasefire and negotiations. But how does one negotiate with a group that has just demonstrated that its demand for Israel’s death isn’t merely rhetorical or abstract, that it is real, even if it has to be done one murdered baby at a time?

There does not seem to be an alternative to an extended war with Hamas, although such a war is fraught with its own horrors. As it conducted operations to clear Hamas terrorists from Israeli territory, the IDF began a bombing campaign and initiated a siege. Hundreds of Gazan residents were killed, many of them innocent civilians.

There is no clean way to wage war on Hamas in Gaza. That doesn’t mean moral dilemmas are free to be ignored. While Hamas has recruited from Gaza, Gazans aren’t Hamas and have no control over its actions. The latest poll by the Washington Institute, conducted before the Hamas rampage, saw Gazans expressing a preference for Palestinian Authority administration and security officials and not Hamas — the majority of Gazans (70%) supported a proposal that the P.A. send “officials and security officers to Gaza to take over the administration there, and Hamas giving up its armed units.” Half of the respondents (50%) agreed with the following proposal: “Hamas should stop calling for Israel’s destruction, and instead accept a permanent two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.”

Hamas, for its part, sees the suffering of the population as an advantage and certainly is not influenced in any way by it.

Recently we read in the Torah the portion Bereishit, which, in telling the story of Creation, speaks of how all peoples were created b’Tzelmo; in God’s image. It is hard to hear that today, for understandable reasons, as families in Israel bury their loved ones. Polarization has set in — another Hamas achievement. How do we not hold tightly to the image of our tortured dead? How, broken and mourning, do we preserve our own humanity by seeing it in others?

Perhaps it is better to speak in concrete terms.  To accept that the IDF mission in Gaza is security and not vengeance. Let us recognize that the large-scale suffering of the civilian population of Gaza is an impediment to the successful completion of that mission. The IDF will conduct a campaign with grave dangers to our brave soldiers who will fight among narrow streets, beneath which are warrens of tunnels holding terrorists and hostages. Evacuating civilians supports the mission as Hamas well knows — it will do all it can to prevent that evacuation, calling for all civilians NOT to move away.

However, it is difficult to understand in what way a siege denying civilians food, water, medical supplies, and fuel will advance the mission. Fortunately, it now seems that some of those early impulses are being corrected. That is important. Real efforts are being made to move as many Palestinian civilians away from the war theater. Water is being restored in the southern half of Gaza, making the trek south more attractive.

Security, not vengeance. The two are incompatible. If all that is accomplished in this war is the replacement of the current Hamas leadership by a new generation of embittered recruits with their own deep and personal grievances, no matter how many missile factories and munition warehouses are eliminated, the operation will have been a failure.

It will take the military to defeat Hamas. Arms alone, however, are not sufficient.

There are so many Israeli victims from Hamas’ terror attack. We are still counting them. Each is an individual with their own story. Among the hundreds who were murdered at a dance celebration held that fateful weekend was Awad Darawshe, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, whose cousin, Mohammad, is a director at Givat Havia, a kibbutz study center known for its work promoting Jewish-Arab understanding and Israeli-Palestinian peace. A paramedic, Awad had been employed by Yossi Ambulances to provide support at the festival. When the gunfire broke out, he stayed to aid victims; because he spoke Arabic, he thought he could intercede. He was face to face, however, with an ideology that tolerates no intercessions, and he was murdered. It is reported that roughly 10% of Hamas’ victims in the weekend assault were non-Jews. This includes kidnap victims.

Missing from her burnt home at kibbutz Be’eri is Vivian Silver, a Canadian-born peace and women’s rights activist. Kibbutz Be’eri on the Gaza border became an epicenter of death and destruction. Vivian moved to Be’eri because of her interest in promoting Jewish-Arab coexistence, particularly in the Negev, serving as director for the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development. Shortly after starting her work there, she joined with Amal Elsana Alh’jooj to create the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation. Vivien retired in 2014. What does a person like Vivien do after her retirement? She cofounded Women Wage Peace after the 2014 Gaza war and volunteered to arrange transportation to Jerusalem for Gazans in need of medical care. Her family describes her as a person whose first fear upon being captured was probably the list of Gazans on her phone who might be targeted as collaborators and killed because of their work together.

Many consider it a cruel irony that among the victims of Hamas’ attack are advocates of Jewish-Palestinian coexistence. This is a misunderstanding. It is not an irony. The most dangerous of Hamas’ opponents are not the Ben Gvirs of the government and radical settlers pursuing their own version of chauvinism and ethnic cleansing.  The great threats to Hamas are the ideas of mutual recognition of national rights, mutual respect, coexistence, and a creative shared future for Jews and Palestinians in the land between the River and the Sea.

Dr. Mark Gold of Teaneck holds a Ph.D. in economics from NYU. He is on the executive board of Partners for Progressive Israel, a member organization of the American Zionist Movement and an affiliate of the World Union of Meretz.

Hiam Simon of Englewood is the past chief operating officer of Ameinu, the leading progressive Zionist membership organization in the United States. He lived in Israel for many years, where he was the dean of students at what is now the Alexander Muss High School, and he served in the IDF as a noncommissioned officer in the artillery.

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