Operation Protective Edge: My First Month in Israel
By Jane Fantel - Director of Israel Connections
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here already one month and most of my time here has been during Israel’s fight to protect its citizens from Hamas, the terrorist organization out to annihilate the Jewish people everywhere we live, not just in Israel.
I am glued to the Israeli press, Facebook posts, international media outlets and any other means to stay connected with Operation Protective Edge. It consumes so much of my time, as it does for so many other Israeli’s living in this nightmare, if only it was, just a nightmare.
Liat Collins is a writer and editor of The International Jerusalem Post. She was asked by a friend recently, “Why don’t Israel and Hamas just sit down and talk instead of killing each other?” To which she replied almost immediately, “Why don’t the US and al-Qaida talk?” She went on to say that this war with Hamas is not like two kids in school who are having a fight and the teacher is called in to help mediate. One student has no qualms about killing the teacher, the principal or other fellow classmates. The other student just wants to get a decent education, grow up and use what has been learned to have a decent life for not only her/himself, but for society at large. This is what we are dealing with.
Israel, sadly, is reminded during this war, that the enemy is out there, ready to attack when it is convenient for them, and while the specific threats may always be changing, the enemy is not going away.
Ms. Collins goes on by recognizing that to blame the average Gazan does not begin to understand the problem. “Why don’t they just protest and force the Hamas leadership out?” Hamas doesn’t take kindly to any form of protests. Their response is dealt with very harshly, in the form of executions. I’m not sure any of us can blame the average family in Gaza for speaking out. But that’s not true of the international community and the international press. Earl Cox, a Christian broadcaster and journalist focusing on Israel and the Middle East asks, “ Why is the world forgetting the facts and blaming Israel first?” We need only to be reminded of the infamous CNN interview between one of their senior anchors and Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. The CNN anchor tried to blast Ambassador Dermer concerning the claim that the IDF purposefully shot at a UN school, causing many civilian casualties. Ambassador Dermer shot back with the facts and the CNN anchor had to back off. Again, blame Israel first before knowing the facts.
An article by US Marine Corps Gen. (ret.) James T. Conway wrote in the July 24th issue of the Wall Street Journal, “Unlike tunnels that I had seen during the Iraq war that were designed for smuggling, the Hamas tunnels are designed for launching murder and kidnapping. The 3-mile tunnel I saw was reinforced with concrete, lined with telephone wires and included cabins unnecessary for infiltration operations but useful for holding hostages.” Is there any doubt of Hamas’s intentions? Is there any doubt that the IDF mission to destroy every single tunnel possible and demilitarize Hamas is justification to continue?
Jerusalem Post staff writers counter the claim that Israel shares the blame for terrorism coming out of Gaza. First, it counters with the argument that if Israel had ended its “occupation” of the West Bank, then Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups would not be firing rockets at Israeli communities. And second, if only Israel would end the blockade of Gaza, Gazans would have no reason to continue its assault. People are quick to forget that when Israel pulled out of Gaza, there was no blockade. People are quick to forget that before Israel constructed the Wall or the Fence in the West Bank, Israelis were terrorized and murdered with suicide bombings in restaurants, in clubs and on buses. These actions by Israel were in reaction to being targeted by terrorists in an attempt to protect its citizens, the responsibility and duty of every decent country. Some people, these staff writers go on to say, make the mistake of rationalizing al-Qaida’s despicable actions by blaming US policies. Really? There is nothing the US could change in its policies to dissuade al-Qaida from their actions, nothing. That is because what al-Qaida wants and by the way, what Hamas and many of its like-minded terrorist groups want, is to destroy the essence of freedoms offered by liberal democracies around the world. What Hamas hates most about Israel isn’t the Jewish state’s policies in the West Bank. It hates that Israel is a state where women are equal to men, gays and lesbians’ rights are protected; and essentially a secular outlook is maintained. (We can have an internal argument as to what degree women are equal to men and gays and lesbians’ rights are protected vis a vi the religious stronghold in government affairs, but that’s another discussion altogether.)
Another false accusation they bring forward is the notion that random suicide bombings and rocket fire directed at Israeli citizens, as well as other forms of violent struggle adopted by Palestinians, are a protest against poverty and unemployment caused by Israeli policies. The truth is that their terrorist actions are CAUSES of poverty and unemployment today and of wider economic isolation. I’ll repeat this one as it is worth restating. Random suicide bombings and rocket fire directed at Israeli citizens has caused poverty and unemployment conditions in Gaza and the West Bank, not the other way around.
Recently, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said, “ We love death like our enemies love life. We love martyrdom, the way in which (Hamas) leaders died.” No change in Israeli policy will ever satisfy the likes of these terrorist groups and the sooner the world understands this and stops pressuring Israel to do what its own governments would never agree to, the sooner, G-d willing this war will be over on Israel’s terms not the world’s.
Soon I will be back in the comfort and the safety of my home in San Diego, California. Israel will feel way too far away, and soon the distance and time will bring me back to the stark differences of the realities of life for most of us in America and life in Israel. If anything, this war has brought a renewed focus in my life, a new awareness, memories of visiting wounded soldiers forever etched in my mind, and a greater appreciation for the work of countless international organizations supporting Israel everyday in every which way. I am grateful and honored to be part of this effort, part of this amazing and ever-so-strong partnership with Israel through my work at the Jewish Federation of San Diego County.
May the day come in the not to distant future when Arab and Jew can live side by side in peace; when Arab and Jewish mothers can talk with each other about their kids and their hopes and dreams for a better world for them, and may we all know war no more. Amen.