The Jewish Tragedy of the Hamas-Israel Conflict: American Jews Question Israel’s Right to Exist
The most recent conflict between Hamas and Israel has exposed a serious sore in the body of the American Jewish community. A significant number of American Jews on the left find that they no longer feel sympathetic for Israel, and are critical of Israel’s response to Hamas terrorism and rocket fire.
Some are American Jews who conflate their feelings for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with their feelings for Israel and the Israeli people. There are American Jews who so despise the Netanyahu government — and a number of religious and social domestic Israeli policies — that they refuse to join in pro-Israel community rallies meant simply to express solidarity with the Israeli people who are forced to endure terrorism and death from Gaza.
Some American Jews have been persuaded by mainstream media reports that Israel provoked these Hamas rocket attacks by distorted stories of an Israeli assault on the Temple Mount or the eviction of eastern Jerusalem Palestinian families refusing to pay rent for properties they admit they don’t own (neither story has been reported accurately). These Jews are convinced that Hamas is somehow “justified” in perpetrating the double war crime of firing rockets into a sovereign country from within their own civilian neighborhoods.
Is there any other context in which American Jews would argue that a skirmish with police or a real-estate disagreement would justify firing 4,000 rockets into another country?
Jews have always disagreed — often vehemently — about Israeli politics and Israeli policies. Such disagreements are a given of Jewish life.
But there used to be one firm agreement: an American Jewish commitment to an enduring State of Israel. The latest Hamas-Israeli conflict is threatening to do immeasurable damage to the American Jewish fabric.
The terrifying — if not incomprehensible — reaction of a significant segment of the American Jewish community has led to a larger question being voiced, even in public: Should the Jewish state of Israel exist?
Now, for many Jews and non-Jews, the question is crazy. Of course the State of Israel should exist. It is a nation-state and member of the United Nations. It would be like asking if the Arab state of Syria should exist — or should Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan exist?
But sadly, the question is being asked by a startling number of American Jews — who think the answer should be “No.”
The most high-profile proponent of Israel’s demise is Peter Beinart. Until recently, Beinart was a most eloquent voice arguing for a two-state solution that would secure both a Palestinian state and a Jewish state of Israel.
But in a New York Times op-ed last July (with a follow-up in May), Beinart renounced his support of a two-state solution, and now advocates one state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This one state would consist of a Palestinian Muslim Sunni majority which, Beinart argues, would be welcoming of a Jewish minority.
Beinart is now publicly calling for an end to the Jewish state of Israel — and he did so in the pages of The New York Times!
Anyone has the right to agree with Beinart. But for all of us who passionately believe in the State of Israel and her right to exist in secure perpetuity, the fact that there are American Jews who would be happy to see an end to Israel is terribly sad.
In many ways, it is incomprehensible given the sweep of Jewish history and the history of national Jewish rebirth over the past 150 years of modern Zionism. And most terrifying of all, it calls into question the reality of a Jewish people united as one, each caring for all other Jews as “family.”
The purported explanations of what caused Hamas, this time, to fire some 4,000 Iranian-sponsored rockets into Israeli towns, villages, and cities all dissemble the one fundamental truth of the conflict: Hamas and all Palestinian terror groups want to see Israel destroyed, and all of its Jews slaughtered.
What every Jew and non-Jew needs to understand is that there is nothing Israel could ever say or do — nothing Israel could “give up,” no compromise Israel could ever make — that would move Hamas (and the current Palestinian Authority) to agree to live in peace alongside a Jewish state.
Bottom line: Hamas agrees with Peter Beinart (though Hamas would probably demand their one state be Judenrein!).
Thus, siding with Hamas in any of their acts of war against Israel is to validate Hamas’ perspective and goal: that Israel has no right to exist.
So when an American Jew is fooled into thinking that Israel did something to provoke Hamas’ act of war, they are guilty of a degree of naïveté and ignorance of which they would be embarrassed in any other context.
The real human tragedy that Jews should be talking about is the irredentist extremist Muslim and Arab ideology that believes it is morally acceptable to fire 4,000 rockets at civilian targets because Israel has no right to exist.
This does not mean that all Palestinians think and feel as Hamas does. But sadly, no movement for peace has emerged on the Palestinian side.
There is no Palestinian movement equivalent to Israel’s Shalom Achshav (“Peace Now”), nor do Palestinian intellectuals publish op-ed pieces in the New York Times criticizing Mahmoud Abbas or Hamas for their irredentism.
Veteran journalist Geraldo Rivera criticized Israel roundly on television for the death of Palestinian children. But he felt no need to speak of the horror of Israelis living under a barrage of 4,000 rockets and terrorism, nor could he accept the fact that not one Palestinian child had to die if Hamas simply had not attacked Israel with 4,000 rockets, or fired its rockets from civilian areas. (He also didn’t mention the Palestinian children who were killed by errant Hamas rocket fire.)
Sadly, Rivera’s perspective is shared by many American Jews, who view themselves as moral, righteous people.
As David Harris of the AJC has so aptly put it: this is like blaming the fireman for the work of the arsonist.
The most important thing for every American to remember — Jew and non-Jew alike — is that regardless of the pretext given by the media for Hamas attacks on Israel, there is only one overriding cause of the Hamas-Israel conflict — Hamas’ unyielding determination to destroy Israel.
And any American Jew who sides with Hamas is implicitly supporting the same thing.
Few conflicts in life are black and white. This one is, given Hamas’ own words and actions. In this conflict, Hamas is pure evil — and it’s time for all American Jews to see this reality.
Mark S. Golub is the president of the Jewish Broadcasting Service.