Last Wednesday I was invited to a Jewish Day School to spend an hour with their Year 12 students to talk about issues related to Israel. One aspect we discussed were the Land Day protests planned by Hamas that would be coming out of Gaza two days later.
It was possible to predict with 100% accuracy the images they would see on their television screens, as Hamas strived for as many Palestinian deaths as possible, believing that every death was a public relations victory for them.
There were about 30,000 Palestinian protesters, not by the way complaining about how Israel treats them in Gaza which Israel left in 2005. They were demanding a so called ‘right of return’ to inside Israel proper with one aim – to end the Jewish majority of the State of Israel and ergo demographically destroy the Jewish State.
The majority of the protestors remained at least 500 metres from the fence and were not disturbed by Israel.
However, quite a few mainly young men approached and, in some cases, reached the fence. They threw rocks, firebombs and even in one instance opened fire at Israeli soldiers over the fence. They burned tyres and scrap wood in an attempt to breach and/or damage the fence. Some were attempting to place improvised explosive devices along the security fence, which could later be used in attacks against Israeli patrols.
It was this group that was hit by tear gas and Israeli sniper fire. Already, at time of writing, Israel has identified 10 of the 15 Palestinians killed, as Hamas fighters and leaders.
Ronald Lauder gave a landmark speech late last month, wherein he almost blamed Israel for the assimilation rate in the United States. He pointed to “two grave threats” that face Jewish continuity.
He was correct about the one – matters of personal status exemplified currently by the issues around prayer at the Kotel – and wrong about the other.
As long as our students hear from Jewish leaders and opinion makers that the reason there is no peace is Israel’s fault and the President of the World Jewish Congress can say that
“contrary to news media reports, senior Palestinian leaders are, they have personally told me, ready to begin direct negotiations immediately”,
then of course the consequences are obvious.
It is not “contrary to news media reports” at all.
It is contrary to self-evident truths.
The problem is that due either to naiveté or personal hubris, people promote such fallacies at our peril.
Some good Jewish people and well meaning non-Jews have been telling us for decades that the Palestinians are finally ready to turn up at negotiations.
The only problem is that they don’t actually really show.
And when offered a Palestinian State on anything other than Israel proper, or on any terms that do not mean the disappearance of the Jewish State, they always find yet another excuse to reject a state of their own. Whether that was in 1947, 1967, 2000, 2008 or other significant dates in between.
My time with the students was in their course on “Ethics and Issues”. We need to be able to convey the message that Israel behaved ethically and morally during the protests and that Israel will investigate every single action to ensure that it continually adheres to even higher moral principles.
The hypocrisy of Turkey’s Erdogan who has just massacred and expelled the Kurds from the town of Afrin in northern Syria, creating nearly 200,000 refugees, is to be expected and is taken seriously by very few.
But France? Yet again? Shame.
“France reminds the Israeli authorities of their duty to protect civilians and urges them to show the greatest restraint,”
a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.
France understands restraint well, especially, the restraint it demonstrates in fighting antisemitism inside its own country.
“France also highlights the Palestinians’ right to peacefully demonstrate,”
Which is great – except it actually wasn’t peaceful where it counted. It was pure and simple, violence orchestrated by the Hamas terrorist organisation.
Not one leader across the Zionist political parties in the Knesset had anything other to say than that Israeli action was justified, that the IDF behaved morally and that 100% of the blame was to be laid on Hamas, an organisation which publicly declares its aim to be the ending of the Jewish State.
Avi Gabbay, Leader of the Opposition and Chairman of Zionist Union (previously the Labor Party), said he
“supports and backs the commanders and soldiers of the IDF who act to defend the state’s border. The sovereign State of Israel will defend its borders from every threat. No one is allowed to cross the border unauthorised, certainly not with weapons, Molotov cocktails, tyres and rocks.”
Gabbay added that the IDF
“is prepared for all events on the fence and I have no doubt our soldiers did all they could to reduce the number of people harmed. Gaza is a ticking time bomb, demographically, economically and in terms of the humanitarian situation. Hamas, who chooses terrorism again and again, is solely responsible for the difficult situation in Gaza.”
Our young adults need to understand that those words did not come from Prime Minister Netanyahu, but from the leader of the so called left wing opposition, in support of the government.
Well, to be complete, there was one leader who did not join the others, the newly elected leader of Meretz, Tamar Zandberg. Meretz itself was having an internal debate earlier this year as to whether they are or are not actually a ‘Zionist’ party. She called the Israel action “trigger happy” and called for “an independent investigation.” Perhaps they should continue that internal debate after all.
Is it really possible that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was ever a serious contender for the Presidency of the United States? Of course, he of all people, criticised Israel for the use of force.
“The killing of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli forces in Gaza is tragic. It is the right of all people to protest for a better future without a violent response”.
The problem is that many young Jews do buy Sander’s naïve folksy philosophy which is simply disconnected from reality.
The relevant parts of the demonstration, to repeat, were not peaceful and Hamas’ vision of a ‘better future’, is one without the Jewish State.
The United States has been magnificent in supporting Israeli action and in providing diplomatic cover where it counts. Nikki Hayley, once again, a star.
(As by the way was Australia at the United Nations Human Rights Council on the 23rd of March, where it was one of only four countries who stood with Israel.)
Hamas plan to continue these protests beginning as they did on the 30th of March and concluding with what they call Nakba Day on the 14th of May – Israel Independence Day as it fell in 1948.
We have a responsibility as parents, students, educational institutions and general Jewish communal organisations to present the picture as it is and to not allow to go unchallenged the views that these demonstrations are just peaceful, the aims pure, or the Israeli response immoral.
It is not Israel’s actions we need to change, but the context and reality our young and others see them in.