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Andy Ostroy Headshot

In Defense of Israel

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I read with great dismay and frustration the NY Times op-ed Wednesday by Amos Oz, an Israeli writer, journalist and professor with a history of often switching parties and positions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his country's use of military force. The piece is a harsh critique of Israel's controversial raid on a Turkish flotilla Monday, in defending its blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza in which nine "passengers" were killed. His position is misguided, to say the least.

Let's not be apologists for terrorists or call them anything but what they are. These passengers were not on some "humanitarian" mission, as Oz claims. They were there simply to provoke Israel and bring about conflict. As the Times states in its editorial Wednesday, "The Gaza Freedom March made its motives clear in a statement before Monday's deadly confrontation: A Violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement, drawing attention to the blockade." And in preparation for that confrontation these militants were armed with metal pipes, sticks, bats and knives and other weapons. So when Israeli commandos rappelled from helicopters onto the ship's deck, the situation exploded into the desired violence.

Oz writes that "Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians." But it is a terrorist organization, and one that is hellbent on the destruction of Israel. When Oz writes of "Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip and Monday's violent interception of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid there..." it becomes quite clear that he's cherry picking his incidents to bolster his bias.

I don't profess to have the answers here, but I also take issue with those who in an over simplified manner believe they do. The current Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates back at least 63 years to Israel's formation. Since then there have been several wars, violent outbreaks, and attempts at peace, must notably during 2000's Camp David summit when then-Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat rejected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer of Gaza, virtually all of the West Bank, and Palestinian control over Eastern Jerusalem, to be the capital of the new Palestinian state. This is essentially what Oz believes Israel should "quickly" offer up to the Palestinians yet again as a means of solving this complex political, military, religious and cultural conflict that's spanned more than six decades (or thousands of years, depending upon how you view it). There is no quick fix. And as demonstrated by the world's swift, harsh and uniform condemnation of Israel's actions Monday, Israel and it's people are once again alone in this not-very-Jew-friendly world. How come the condemnations aren't that swift when Jewish children are blown to smithereens by Palestinian terrorists?

For the record, I am not a 100% unconditional Israeli loyalist and defender. I believe there needs to be a Palestinian state, and I've often been critical of Israel's actions in working towards that end. And I am also critical of Palestinian leadership, which for decades has failed its people miserably. But the truth is, throughout history and all the horrific persecution that goes with it, no one defends Jews but Jews. Israel must decide for itself how best to combat enemies who wish to "wipe it off the face of the Earth"--including Hamas, Al Qaeda and Ahmadinejad's Iran -- and accept the strategic, diplomatic and military consequences.

In his Times piece, Oz exhibits both a naivete and arrogance that recalls that of the German Jews seventy years ago as they stuck their collective heads in the sand even as they were thrown into trains bound for the camps and their eventual deaths. Incredibly for someone raised in Israel and who's served in the IDF, Oz appears to misjudge this enemy and its intentions. What Arafat's ideological miscalculation showed in 2000 is that with any negotiation, it takes two equally motivated, logical, reasonable partners at the table. It's virtually impossible to negotiate with an enemy who's only intention is to destroy you. And that's the point Oz seems to miss.

For a more practical assessment of the conflict, Times readers can hop a couple of inches to the right and check out Tom Friedman who, as usual, provides analysis, common sense and an even hand regarding this very complicated part of the world. If only life, and a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, were as simple as Oz suggests.