My friend Jeffrie Givens is tempted to support the Palestinians over the Israelis. I asked her why. Here are the reasons she gave and my responses.
Reason 1 for opposing Israel: Of course, Israel has the right to defend itself but its response to Hamas has been disproportionate."
Why that's misguided. You probably have come to believe the Israeli response to Hamas was disproportionate because you saw pictures of destroyed buildings and injured civilians in Gaza. Did you know that as an olive branch to the Palestinians, every single Jew left Gaza in 2005 and as a thank-you present, the Palestinians elected Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction and has backed up that goal by firing 10,000 ever stronger, ever longer-range rockets at Israeli civilians? Children can't sleep at night and frequently hear Red Alerts, which mean they have 15 seconds to run into a bomb shelter.
So Israel had to try to dismantle the Hamas terrorists' bombing installations, which Hamas embedded in homes, schools, markets, and mosques--using civilians as human shields SO they could obtain the very footage that convinces you of the the Israelis' "disproportionality." Hamas even has a name for its ploy: The CNN Strategy.
Unlike Hamas, which deliberately bombs civilians, Israel made real efforts to warn civilians to evacuate military targets: It sent tens of thousands of text messages, phone calls, and leaflets to those civilians that Hamas wanted to use as human shields. Despite those efforts, some of those innocent civilians were hit. And most Israelis grieve for them--Ask Israeli soldiers how they feel about innocent Palestinians who were injured or killed. Now ask Hamas soldiers how they feel about innocent Israelis who were killed. You'll likely see a stark contrast.
And now, Iran is putting finishing touches on a nuclear bomb and it wants to "wipe Israel off the face of the earth."
So, what would YOU have done if you were prime minister of Israel? Would you have sat idly by?
You may also have come to believe that Israel's response to Hamas has been disproportionate because more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed. What's remarkable is how few Palestinians were killed. Hamas put their military in civilian areas in Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on earth (1.3 million people in an area half the size of Maui.) The fact the only 1200 people (fewer than 1/3 civilians) were killed is a tribute to the efforts described above to evacuate Palestinian civilians from the military target areas.
Reason 2 for opposing Israel: Israel's blockade of Gaza deprives innocent civilians of needed supplies.
Why that's misguided. First, the checkpoints are open 24 hours a day to allow needed supplies to enter Gaza and for people to leave and enter. Yes, the Palestinians would like more goods to be brought into Gaza but Israel is reducing the flow to pressure its elected government, Hamas, to release Gilad Shalit, who it abducted. And why are there checkpoints at all? Because Hamas continues to try to smuggle missile components into Gaza: the staging area for Hamas's rocket launchings into Israel. Israel has made clear that as soon as Hamas agrees to stop the bombing and recognize Israel's right to exist, the checkpoints will immediately be dismantled.
If you were the prime minister of Israel, would you remove the checkpoints before Hamas agreed to stop firing missiles at your civilians? Remember, Hamas--by charter and its leaders' statements-- is committed to destroying your country.
Reason 3 for opposing Israel: Israel is guilty of war crimes.
Why that's misguided. Israel was accused of firing rockets at a United Nations school in Gaza...until a UN investigation found that wasn't true--Israel had fired against Hamas terrorists who had cynically placed themselves near the school.
Now Israel is again accused of a war crime, this time for using the dangerous white phosphorus to illuminate a civilian area in which Hamas terrorists were embedded. As mentioned earlier, like all Israel military actions, the white phosphorus was used in a civilian area only because Hamas embedded its military there so it could use civilians as human shields--that is a war crime. If you were the Prime Minister of Israel, how would you feel if you were accused of a war crime?
Reasons TO support Israel
Iran's getting the nuclear bomb is a threat not just to Israel but to all of us. Why should we worry more about Iran having The Bomb than about other countries with nuclear capabilities? Iran is different from all the other nuclear powers in that it is the only country whose leader called for wiping another country off the face of the earth. That could trigger a war of unimaginable consequences for us all.
Of course, Israel is not perfect--just as individual U.S. soldiers have made terrible mistakes, no doubt so have some Israeli soldiers. But perfect is the enemy of the good. I believe that all peace-loving people must support Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, the only country in which women are treated as equals, in which Arabs sit alongside Jews in Israel's parliament, the country with the highest per-capita literacy rate and highest rate of biomedical patents in the world.
I worry that President Obama's willingness to negotiate more directly with Hamas will send a message to Hamas and to other radical terrorist groups such as Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Al Qaeda that terrorism pays. But in balance, I believe the Obama administration is wise in its willingness to negotiate with a wider range of Middle East players. Also, I am pleased by Obama's plan to offer a more nuanced blend of carrots, sticks, and negotiation to deter
's nuclear threat. I am additionally optimistic about peace in the Iran Middle East because of the caliber of people being brought to bear: George Mitchell, Hillary Clinton, Dennis Ross, Richard Holbrook, Barack Obama himself and the increasingly moderate Benjamin Netanyahu. Betting on the triumph of hope over experience, I am cautiously optimistic that we will, sooner rather than later, see that most elusive of goals: a lasting peace in the Middle East.