Written for the Emory Wheel:
Consider a hypothetical situation.
About a year ago, someone took a hammer to my kitchen window, leaving shattered glass strewn about the floor.
My family and I aren’t of retaliatory blood, so we swept up, replaced the panel, and put the incident behind us.
A few days later, we awoke to another mess. Our front lawn had been dug up, spilling dirt into the driveway and leaving the carcasses of daisies to shrivel in the sun. Again, we cleaned up quietly and went about our lives.
But it wasn’t long before my family couldn’t keep up with the damage.
We awoke each day to a new sordid surprise: paint scraped off of the side of our house; rain seeping through where roof panels had once sat; sewage pipes uprooted; damage with such consistency and such severity that the very foundation of our house began to rot away. Each time, we swept up the mess. Each time, we kept quiet.
You’re wondering: You allowed all this? You didn’t take legal action? You didn’t seek out the people who’d been carrying out an unprovoked assault on your home? It sounds, to you, absurd. Because it is absurd.
None of this happened to my family, nor to my home. My telling is diluted. In reality, the narrative was much worse.
Instead of a hammer, it was a rocket. Instead of a shovel, it was a rocket. Instead of a scraping tool, or an axe, or a jackhammer, it was a barrage of rockets. And instead of my family’s home, it was the schools and streets, playgrounds and homes of Israel’s southern region.
For anyone to live in constant fear that they may die by rocket fire seems a way of life unbefitting of the civilized.
It’s now been more than a week since Operation Pillar of Defense ended. We’ve had time to reflect. The regional conflict remains hazy and oft times complex – even impenetrable. But one thing is clear: Last week, Israel rightly defended itself against those who sought to bring its citizens into that shadow of constant fear.
Israel is not without profound, sometimes devastating flaws. It is a society whose legal statutes often pull from the norms of biblical antiquity; one which is deeply and continually invested in an occupation of the West Bank that poses threats to its own democratic principles and to its Jewish underpinnings; one with a system of government that proves inefficient time and again.
Because the Israeli government’s constituency extends far beyond the borders of the Jewish state, it has already begun to face criticism on these issues.
The era of a subservient global Jewish community has passed. These issues are difficult and important.
But the action that Israel took last week doesn’t fall under that umbrella of flaw. The sobering truth is that Israel’s use of force was warranted. Consider a concise sequence of events – a far cry, I hope, from the convolution of the news cycle:
Yielding to international pressure, Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005. The withdrawal granted Palestinians living in Gaza full power to assemble (by whatever means) its own governing body, its own internal legal systems, its own investments. A few months later, the people – whether by coercion or by choice – elected Hamas, who vowed to bring years of prosperity to Gaza.
Hamas is a terrorist organization. In its founding charter, it calls for the destruction of the Jewish people in the Jewish state.
Not a century ago, someone carried out a similar vision – a memory seared vividly into the collective psyche of the Jewish people. By absolutely no means is the Holocaust the basis for Jewish self-determination, but by all means is it a reason to shudder and recoil at Hamas’ words.
Since its ascent, Hamas has opted away from substantial investments in infrastructure or medicine. It hasn’t moved toward opening a robust competitive market. Instead, it has prioritized weaponry supplied in large part by its allies in the Iranian regime. Those weapons are katyusha and qassam rockets.
Hamas launches them from schools, mosques, and hospitals. The rockets land in Sderot, Ashdod, Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi – Israeli towns where Israeli kids play on playgrounds and rush to shelter when their afternoons are pierced by warning sirens.
It’s easy to fall victim to certain western conceptions that compel us to view Hamas as a political opponent or ideological dissenter of Israel’s. But Hamas is not a righteous army of freedom fighters. Its militants are not “activists.” They are terrorists. Hamas does not protect its citizens. It plants fear in the hearts of both Israelis and Palestinians and dispatches the cursed and capable hands of death upon them.
Had my family taken action against simply the first act of aggression (the mere broken window) we would have been justified beyond doubt.
Israel has seen an average of three rockets per day over the last 11 years; more than 22 thousand pieces of burning metal crashing into small towns over the last year alone. Can you imagine even one rocket landing in your neighborhood – even one time?
I mourn for the infant whose only crime was serving involuntarily as a terrorist’s shield.
I thirst for a partner for peace who will cease to cloak itself in smoke and bullets. I pray that combatants in Gaza and in Israel will lay down their arms and labor for their own safety, their neighbors’ safety. But we aren’t there yet.
Last week, Israel carried out its obligation to unshackle Israelis from the chains of existential fear. In a heap of shattered glass, a hammer is not a valid partner for peace.