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An Open Letter about Gaza and Israel

Dear Friends,

I should be accustomed by now to the reaction of the media and the international community each time violence breaks out along the Israel – Gaza border.  But I hear words such as “atrocities”, “slaughter”, and “massacre”, to describe Israel’s military actions in response to violence begun by Hamas in Gaza and I cannot remain silent.  

I cannot remain silent when the international media, with few exceptions, and the international community – again with few exceptions – has adopted Hamas’ narrative concerning the events which have transpired over the past few weeks along the Israel-Gaza Border.

The media reports which have consistently been dismissive of context and ignorant of history cry out for refutation.  This conflict has been going on for weeks and I have yet to hear any reporter or correspondent pose hard questions of Hamas.  Of course they don’t.  Long ago so many of them embraced the Hamas narrative.  Besides, to question Hamas is to lose your press credentials in Gaza.

But there are tough questions which should be asked of Hamas.  

1) What kind of government both coerces and incentivizes its people to make themselves human shields?

2) How do you refer to this as a peaceful demonstration when your purpose is to incite violence leaving Israel with no choice but to respond with military force?

You see, Hamas is deliberately creating the scenario which will inevitably lead to the death of many of its citizens.  This is nothing less than modern day human sacrifice.  Hamas long ago decided that it would sacrifice its citizens for the sole purpose of bringing about world-wide condemnation of Israel.  And to increase the numbers of those to be sacrificed they have offered monetary incentives.  The family of anyone killed receives $3,000 and for those who are only wounded the compensation is several hundred dollars.

Framed as a peaceful demonstration, the “March of Return” has been anything but peaceful.  There can be no parallel drawn between the so called, “March of Return” and the freedom marches of the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr..  Under the smokescreen of burning tires, Hamas has been deploying children and women as human shields as terrorists have been making repeated attempts to destroy the security fence.  Where is the condemnation of Hamas for turning its citizens into sacrificial lambs?  Even the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has criticized Hamas for sending Palestinian youngsters to lose their lives.  How is it that this is ignored by so many in the media – by the overwhelming majority of the international community and by many of the people we know?

Hamas learned long ago that they could play the media and the international community.  And sadly, it does it so well.  It repeatedly wins the battle of the media and the United Nations because of the adamant refusal of so many to dig deeply enough to see the lies and the immorality of Hamas.  It has convinced the world that the tens of thousands gathered at the International Border were there for a peaceful demonstration.  NOTHING could be further from the truth.  Intermingled with the women and children have been thousands of Hamas terrorists hoping to breach the security fence and then have enough time to murder as many Israelis as they can who live within a few hundred yards of that border.

Far from a peaceful demonstration Hamas has transformed that border into nothing less than a battlefield.  When tens of thousands of people approach a border with the stated intent to tear it down so that they could pour into Israel and massacre Israelis it does indeed become a battlefield.

The New York Times saw fit to print an Op Ed written by Fadi Abu Shammalah who declared that he was participating in the March to Return and to annihilate Israel.  Does anything else have to be written in order to convince people of the true intent of Hamas which organized the demonstrations over these weeks?  And so another hard question which needs to be asked:  How many of those killed were Hamas terrorists – or terrorists aligned with other organizations?  Had correspondents asked these questions of Hamas instead of mindlessly stating the number of Palestinians killed they would have learned that on any given day of those demonstrations the majority of those killed were Hamas terrorists. That my friends is verifiable.  It has been confirmed, for instance, that fifty of the sixty-two Palestinians killed this Monday were Hamas terrorists.

Many of you know that our MJC Israel Mission 2018 recently returned from Israel.  While we were there we went to the Gaza border.  We were within one half mile of the border fence – close enough to see the Israeli military positions and close enough to get a sense of the threat that a mass intrusion of terrorists would mean to the surrounding Israeli communities.  For almost 2 hours that day I travelled with the head of regional security in his jeep.  I heard the conversations he had with the border communities.  I heard him check in with each community to make certain that the shelters were prepared in event of a breach of the fence.  Make no mistake about it – Hamas does not represent an existential threat to Israel, still it has the capability of carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis living near to the border.

He took me to meet with some of the soldiers and I had a conversation with three of them.  I told them that I am a rabbi and that a group from our congregation was in Israel to show our love and support for the State of Israel and the people of Israel.  I asked them if there was any message they’d like me to bring home with me.  And they said, “Please tell our fellow Jews and all people the deep pain we feel each time we shoot our rifle.  Let them know that before every shot is taken permission must be given from a commander so that we minimize as much as possible shooting the wrong people.  Tell them that the only time automatic rifle fire is heard is when grenades are thrown at us, a breach of the fence is about to take place, or we see terrorists planting explosives near enough to the fence to destroy it and enter Israel.”  The director of security showed our groups one of the kites that Hamas has been sending into Israel with incendiary devices attached.  He took us to the fields which have been destroyed by fire and he said to us, “We came here to plant and to create a peaceful community.  We didn’t come here to hold a gun.  If only they would choose peace over violence the world would change overnight.”  

The price in human life has been painfully high. But just imagine what would happen if the Israeli Defense Forces failed to prevent those crowds from breaking through the security fence.  We have seen for years what the Syrians have done to their own people – would we expect Hamas to be less brutal if they were to ever enter Israel?  If there was a real concern for life in this world there would be an international condemnation of Hamas.  Instead, the international chorus of condemnation has chosen to vilify and demonize Israel.   And what will be the result?  This condemnation of Israel will encourage Hamas to commit the same crimes over and over again.  And yes, each time Israel will defend its people.  We should expect nothing less than that.

And the last hard question you will never hear being asked of Hamas:  What have you done to relieve the despair, the hopelessness of your people?  The international community has given you billions of dollars over the years. What have you done with it?  We know well what Hamas has done with the money it has received from the international community.  The people of Gaza suffer primarily because of Hamas corruption, because Hamas has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars into constructing tunnels under the border into Israel and more than that for building missiles to fire at Israel.  Hamas has created a society so hopeless, so devoid of opportunity – that the people of Gaza choose the carrot of monetary compensation for their own death or injury, over the life they know.  If their future is bleak it is because their leadership has never missed an opportunity to fail their people.  The blockade of Gaza by both Israel and Egypt – which by the way, allows for an ongoing supply of humanitarian materials – would end immediately if the people of Gaza would choose peace over the violence of Hamas.

From both the media and the international community we’ve heard too few questions asked and too many ill-informed conclusions reached.  Day after day what the media offers is not even half the story in Gaza.  There is a much fuller picture to be told.  This letter offers a glimpse into the fuller story. When it comes to Israel I won’t be silent.  I won’t be silent in the face of a global attempt to smear and slander the Jewish State.  Whether you agree with me or not I hope that you will share this letter with others.

B’Shalom,

Rabbi Charles Klein

Michelle & Michael Schwartz & family
Senior Rabbinic Chair