Tunnel vision

Tunnel vision

As Israeli soldiers put their lives on the line to destroy the tunnels Hamas sought to use to murder Israelis, the diaspora community is fighting another battle on behalf of Israel – a battle of hasbara, of explaining Israel’s position.

There is the need to spread the message that Hamas wants to eradicate the Jewish state; that it sees no difference between a soldier stationed on the Gaza border and a child on a school bus in Tel Aviv and damned are any Palestinians who stand in the way.

Consider the elaborate terror tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border. Constructing these tunnels used tons of cement, lighting, and carried a cost estimated at over $1 billion, all of which could have been used to build hospitals, schools, homes, and other infrastructure to better Palestinian lives. And who built these tunnels? A 2012 study by the Beirut-based Institute for Palestine Studies – hardly a Zionist organization – found that Hamas had used forced child labor to build the tunnels, resulting in the deaths of at least 160 children.

Hamas has demonstrated time and again that it cares more about hurting Israel than helping Palestinians. But, like the Hamas terrorists hiding among civilians in Gaza, the combatants in the hasbara battle are not always clear. Israel’s just cause against Hamas has, unfortunately, been hijacked by both the far left and the far right.

On the far left, there are those who argue that, of course, Hamas is bad, but Israel is behaving monstrously in Gaza. These voices straddle – and often obliterate – the line between being pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. They pay lip service to Israel’s right to self-defense, but blame the Jewish state for overreacting to Hamas – Israel is “responding to a slap with a kick to the head,” as one Internet commenter put it. These voices have hijacked the Palestinian cause and use it to mask their own demonization of Israel. They argue they support Palestinian human rights, but cast all blame on Israel while ignoring Hamas’ horrific record and treatment of Palestinians. These people dismiss the words of Hamas leaders, calling for the destruction of Israel and for Palestinian civilians to become human shields, as mere rhetoric, while pointing to every extreme government minister or rabbi in Israel as emblematic of the Zionist cause.

On the far right is a group of people who use Israel to score political points against President Obama, declaring him an enemy of Israel who is actively undermining the Jewish state at every turn. During the search for the missing Israeli teenagers and the painful, devastating discovery of their bodies, these voices could loudly be heard condemning Obama for not speaking out against Hamas, ignoring multiple statements by the president, the State Department, and others in the administration. In their telling, last week’s short FAA ban on flights to Israel was not an overreaction to recent events in Ukraine, but a purposeful ploy by Obama to destroy Israel’s economy.

Both of these groups defy logic, ignore facts, and shift the focus away from the real enemy: Hamas. Yes, Israel has made mistakes in its rules of engagement during this conflict. No child should ever die in war, and tragedy is the only word to describe the children killed on the Gaza beach. The Obama administration does not have a perfect record on Israel; Obama’s foreign policy has been marked by policy failures, such as the continuing violence in Syria and Russia’s increasing international aggression. But there have been a few bright spots, such as Obama standing up for Israel and rejecting the 2012 Palestinian U.N. statehood bid, and securing hundreds millions of dollars in funding for Iron Dome.

Both groups of extreme critics, the anti-Israel leftists and the anti-Obama rightists, seek to advance their own political goals by painting complex issues as black and white – which of course they are not. Obama is not the worst president in history, set on destroying the Jewish state. And just because Israel’s armaments are vastly superior to Hamas’ does not make Hamas’ cause just.

What is black and white is that Hamas has murdered hundreds of people through suicide bombings, indiscriminate rocket fire at civilians, and other attacks, while offering Palestinian lives as a sacrifice to the alter of hatred. “Our path is resistance and the rifle, and our choice is jihad,” Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said just a few months ago.

It is time to put aside our disagreements and focus our outrage on the real enemy, rather than the enemy of political convenience.

– Josh Lipowsky