Is it OK to take sides in a war? Is it OK to side with a country you love, a country whose values you believe in, a country that celebrates life but is being attacked by enemies who glorify death?
And how do you champion your side while still showing sensitivity for the pain of the other side?
When I visited the family of the slain L.A. soldier Max Steinberg just hours after he was killed in Gaza, I was filled not just with a sense of grief but one of protectiveness towards Israel — a protectiveness I might feel if my own children were threatened.
I was haunted especially by the image of those 13 Hamas terrorists who crossed a tunnel into Israel and were caught before committing a massacre. I was only too aware that if there existed a button that could kill every Jew, a Hamas terrorist would probably press it. One reason Hamas hasn’t killed every Jew is precisely because soldiers like Max Steinberg have gotten in the way.
But with all this evil of Hamas, an evil so advanced that it sacrifices its own children to garner media sympathy, I still can’t ignore the images of dead Palestinians. How could I?
We are taught in Judaism that every human being is created in the image of God; and in America, we are taught that every human being is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Why should that not apply to Palestinians?
It should. Palestinians are entitled to their rights, and I long for a day when they will flourish under those rights and I won’t need to take sides.
But Palestinians in Gaza are “occupied” by leaders who have chosen to make war on the Jews, and in wartime, it’s natural to side with your people. Just as I feel a special protectiveness for my own children, I feel a special sentiment for Israel and the Jewish people. I see the Jewish people as my ancient family, and Israel as the place that welcomed this family home after 1,900 years of exile.
Do I feel guilty or apologetic for supporting my side, for standing with Israel and the Jews? Not one bit, and I’ll tell you why.
I know that if the Palestinians of Gaza lived in Israel, they’d be a lot better off. I know their children would feel safer, their fathers would have more jobs, their women would have more rights, their journalists would have more freedom and their gays wouldn’t be lynched.
These benefits are no secret, not even to Hamas. Listen to senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook, who apparently stumbled in a recent interview in Cairo by speaking the truth.
“Occupation means providing electricity, water and jobs,” Marzook was quoted in JPost, referring to what would happen if Israel returned to Gaza. “Providing these daily matters is the responsibility of the occupying state.”
Of course, it might have occurred to Marzook that Hamas could also have provided these “daily matters” if it wanted to. After all, Hamas had the chance to build a real society for its people after Israel left Gaza and before any defensive blockade started.
But instead of focusing on things like electricity, water and jobs, it focused on rockets, bunkers and bombs.
Instead of building beautiful resorts that would attract tourists, it built underground tunnels that attracted terrorists.
Instead of offering its people human rights, it offered them human misery.
And instead of teaching its people to love life, it taught them to hate Jews.
That’s why I don’t feel apologetic for siding with Israel: When I root for Israel, I feel deep down that I’m rooting for life.
It may be politically incorrect to distinguish between sides in a war, let alone show a preference. But in this case, the evidence of Hamas evil is overwhelming, which is one reason I think we’ve seen so much Jewish unity in this war.
Rarely have we seen so clearly an evil that sacrifices its own people to attract public sympathy; an evil where, as former President Bill Clinton said, Hamas “force[s] Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them.”
This is an evil that is worse than the evil of suicide bombers, where one fanatic would kill himself for the “honor” of killing Jews. This is an evil of corrupt cowards living in private jets and telling their own civilians to take one for the team so that CNN will show more footage of dead Palestinian children.
As much as my heart aches for these children, it rages even more against the cowards who are responsible to protect them but instead wish for their slaughter.
It’s because I know that those Palestinian children would be better off living in a Jewish state — even a Jewish state under siege — that I’m on the side of Israel.
David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at email@example.com.