You’ve read everything, heard everyone, endured every flaming comment on Facebook, bobbed to every talking head on TV and lent an ear to every opinion from Hussein Ibish to Howard Stern. So, what have you learned?
For me, it boils down to 10 truths:
1. This is a fight about extremism. This is not a fight between Jews and Muslims. It is not a fight between Arab and Jew. “Our borderlines no longer separate Jews from Arabs, but people who long to live in peace from those who feed, ideologically and emotionally, on continued violence,” Israeli novelist David Grossman wrote in The New York Times July 27.
2. Israel does not have a blank check for killing civilians. The carnage not only feeds Hamas’ media machine, it also weakens, casualty by casualty, the strong moral basis for Israel’s struggle.
3. If you are pro-Hamas, you are anti-Palestinian. Listen to the words of Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, who defected from his father’s group due to its use of Palestinians as human shields. “Hamas is not seeking coexistence and compromise, Hamas is seeking conquest,” Yousef told CNN. “The destruction of the State of Israel is not Hamas’ final destination. Hamas’ final destination is building the Islamic caliphate, which means an Islamic state on the rubble of every other civilization.” Support for Hamas is support for continued Palestinian suffering. It is one thing to want Palestinian rights and self-rule: Israel acknowledged both when it withdrew from Gaza in 2005. But by maintaining an ongoing war of annihilation against Jews as soon as Israel withdrew, Hamas ensured the subjugation and blockade of Gaza. Shooting rockets to lift a blockade is like having sex to prevent pregnancy.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on July 24. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters
4. After the smoke clears, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to answer some tough questions. Why didn’t Netanyahu take advantage of a Hamas-PLO pact that severely curtailed Hamas influence? Did the Israeli security establishment use the kidnapping of three Jews, as the Forward’s J.J. Goldberg has asserted, as a pretext to upset Palestinian unity and scuttle any possibility of a negotiated solution?
“I ask the leaders of my own country: How could you have wasted the years since the last conflict without initiating dialogue?” wrote Grossman in the Times. “Why, for these past few years, has Israel avoided judicious negotiations with the moderate and more conversable sectors of the Palestinian people — an act that could also have served to pressure Hamas? Why have you ignored, for 12 years, the Arab League initiative that could have enlisted moderate Arab states with the power to impose, perhaps, a compromise on Hamas?” The fact that morality is on Israel’s side in this immediate conflict does not absolve its leaders and its supporters from taking correct action when the guns fall silent.
5. Going in now saved Palestinian lives. The discovery of a vast network of tunnels from Gaza into civilian areas of Israel proved just how critical the ground war was — and how lifesaving. Had Israel waited until a surprise, 9/11-style tunnel-based terror attack killed hundreds of Israelis, imagine the response. The Israel Defense Forces would have charged in full bore against an even better prepared Hamas. The death toll among Palestinian civilians and Israelis would have been far greater.
6. Israel may be losing support where it counts most: in the future. In the United States, younger Americans are far less likely to say Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip are justified. According to a Gallup poll last week, only 25 percent of Americans aged 18-29 support the Israeli position. American Jewish philanthropists need to ask what happened to the tens of millions of dollars they’ve spent to make Israel’s case.
Pro-Palestinian rally outside of the Israel Consulate offices in Los Angeles. Photo by Jeffrey Hensiek
7. Hypocrisy is the new normal. Blaming Israel for a disproportionate use of force? How many Iraqi civilians did America kill in the Iraq War? (At least 130,000.) How many American civilians did Iraqis kill? (245.) And where were all these protesters when Bashar Assad was slaughtering his own people? Twice as many Syrians were killed in war as Gazans last month. “If I were Assad right now,” wrote the Pakistani doctor Ali Rizvi on HuffPo, “I’d be thanking God I’m not Jewish.”
8. Israel, American and world Jewry is a community. The outpouring of support for Israeli soldiers, even among those who harbor doubts about the government’s policy, shows the deeper bonds of community — and destiny — that unite us.
9. Europe: Anti-Semitism is calling; it missed you. This war revealed the need for a serious set of government and NGO actions to deal with anti-Semitic forces in Europe, especially among Muslim communities.
Pro-Palestinian protesters burn an Israeli flag in Paris on July 19. Photo by Philippe Wojazer/Reuters
10. There are voices of moderation, reconciliation and peace, and we must strengthen them. Pay no attention to people who think their side is completely blameless and the other side is 100 percent at fault. Pay no attention to people who assert that the conflict between Arabs and Jews is eternal and inevitable. In 1967, who’d have thought Israel’s strongest allies against the hare-brained cease-fire schemes of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would be Egypt and the PLO? There are moderate voices in Israel, in Palestine and around the world. We must defeat the extremes, and strengthen, support and give hope to the shell-shocked middle.