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July 16, 2014 10:58 am
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Obama Pummels Al Qaeda While Calling for Restraint Against Hamas

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

Opinion

From the Oval Office, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on the phone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sept. 27, 2013.

The greatest challenge facing Israel in its current battle against Hamas is the world’s absurd moral equivalence between a righteous democracy trying to protect its citizens from indiscriminate rocket fire and a genocidal terror organization committed to murdering Jews and destroying the State of Israel.

Last week I published a column criticizing the Obama Administration for its calls for mutual restraint on the part of both parties, as if Israel and Hamas can in any way be compared. I received criticism and pushback from personal friends who work in the Administration saying I was misrepresenting what the Obama Administration had said about the conflict.

But here are the facts, assembled from personal research as well as non-partisan position papers on the conflict that were expertly produced by AIPAC.

It begins with President Obama himself taking the highly unusual step on July 8 by publishing an op-ed in Haaretz days before their peace conference where he said, “…at this dangerous moment, all parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution.” That is a curious thing for the leader of the free world to say about a terrorist organization.

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Reasonableness and restraint? Hamas’ charter calls for the murder of Jews wherever they are found, including the United States. Would the president call for reasonableness and restraint on the part of Al-Qaeda? Absolutely not. He’s blowing them to bits with drone strikes in Pakistan in order to protect innocent American life, which is his job as president.

The president continued in the op-ed, “…All parties must exercise restraint and work together to maintain stability on the ground.” Respectfully, this is absurd. The president is showing no restraint against Al-Qaeda and Prime Minister Netanyahu should likewise employ every means to eliminate Hamas’ capacity to murder innocent men, women and children.

On the very same day that the president’s op-ed appeared, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said at the daily briefing, “…We’re conveying through diplomatic channels the importance to both sides of acting responsibly and with restraint.” Here again we hear the “both sides,” which inevitably brings moral comparisons between Hamas and Israel.

But this has been par for the course for Psaki, formerly President Obama’s spokesperson, who said a day earlier of John Kerry,   “…the Secretary, of course, urged Prime Minister Netanyahu – as he’s urged both parties – to exercise restraint and avoid steps that could further destabilize the situation.”

A week later, on July 14, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest echoed the “both sides” sentiment, yet again, with his comment: “We have articulated our concern about the casualties that have been sustained on both sides over the last several weeks. Our — our — we have concern about the casualties sustained by — the casualties sustained by civilians on the Palestinian side as well. That’s why we’re encouraging both sides to exhibit as much restraint as possible, but we do that with the full knowledge that it is completely unacceptable for rockets to continue to be fired from Palestinian territory aimed squarely at Israeli civilians.”

The latter part of the comment is helpful, but it doesn’t excuse the former. No one wants to see innocent Palestinians in Gaza harmed by Israeli action. We are Jews and our Bible is clear: every human being is created equally in the image of God. Jewish life and Arab life is equal. But there is a clear difference between casualties sustained by innocent Palestinians, who are unwittingly made into human shields by Hamas, verses Hamas targeting Israelis for murder.

No one would have said to Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill that there was any kind of moral equivalence between the suffering of the German and Japanese populations in Berlin and Tokyo after American and British bombing raids, which were in response to Germany and Japan launching wars of annihilation against innocent neighbors.

Earlier on July 11, the White House Press Secretary had also echoed the “mutual restraint” theme. ”

What we are urging is we’re urging some restraint.  We’re urging a strong consideration of the well-being of innocent civilians on both sides. And we’re offering the assistance of the United States to try to facilitate a cease-fire that we believe is in the best interests of both sides. And that is why we have called repeatedly on Hamas to end that rocket fire and we will continue to encourage Israelis at the same time, while respecting their right to defend their country and their civilians, we urge them to exhibit some concern for the lives of civilians as well.”

Israel always exhibits concern for the lives of civilians, which is why Hamas is allowed to operate at all, failing which Israel would have carpet-bombed Gaza, something unthinkable to a Jewish State with a moral conscience.

But Press Secretary Earnest seems incapable of moving fully away from the mutual responsibility theme, even as he speaks of Israel’s right to defend itself. Earnest said on July 8, “It is not in the interest of either side for this violence to continue and even to escalate, so we are hopeful that even as Israel exercises their right to self-defense, that they’ll leave open a channel for diplomacy to prevail and for a cease-fire or at least a de-escalation in the violence to commence. Suffice it to say we’re going to continue to urge both sides to take maximum restraint when it comes to the well-being of innocent civilians. And the easiest way to do that would be to broker a cease-fire from both sides.”

It is absolutely in the interest of Israel to destroy Hamas’ capacity to make war and murder non-combatants, a position that the Obama Administration should be supporting Israel in accomplishing just at the United States is continuing to do against Al-Qaeda.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the international best-selling author of 30 books, most recently “Kosher Lust,” and Founder of This World: The Values Network, the world’s leading organization promoting universal Jewish values. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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