For years I avoided engaging in discussions about the Israel/Arab situation -- I just didn't want to deal with it. There has and is too much antagonism and ignorance on all sides, it was just not worth it. I'd rather have a beer and talk about hockey. Thus, I would routinely default to "I do have my own opinions, but I don't live there and I didn't serve in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), so I don't have a right to express my view." It's not that I haven't thought about the issues, learned a great deal and read about them and even written about them, rather it was just the desire to "not get into it" with anyone.
That all changed about three-and-a-half years ago when my parents moved to Jerusalem. No longer was it just close friends and acquaintances in Israel, now my immediate family was there and my comfort in the ability to duck the debate vanished.
Since Hamas started lobbing rockets at Israel three weeks ago, thoughtful, considerate friends, coworkers and clients have repeatedly asked me, "Is your family ok?" My answer has been the same each time: "Thank God, my parents are fine, thanks for asking. But this is a terrible time for Israel and everyone in the region."
However trite the second part of my answer may be, it is also very true. This is a terrible time for the region -- Palestinians and Israelis alike. The reality is also that, as so often happens, this terrible circumstance has turned into a terrible situation for Jews around the world. The terrifying news coming from Central Europe on an hourly basis should give anyone who knows anything about the Second World War pause. That is not to say that the unique unspeakable situation of the Third Reich will repeat itself, only that the vitriol, hatred and disgust being spewed by a (hopefully) small minority of people in France, Germany and other countries is all the more horrific because of a history that is less than 70-years-old.
This is a long way to say that I'm stumped and having never written an opinion piece this personal, I'm worried about saying too much. Nonetheless, now is the time to be heard. Israel is under attack, as it has been since it was established. However, right now, the difference is that as I type there are sons, daughters, cousins, in-laws and friends of friends who are actively in harms way as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) does all it can to stop Hamas from launching rockets and sneaking through tunnels to attack innocent Israelis. At the same time, there are innocent Palestinians who may truly want a peaceful coexistence with Israel who are trapped by their terrorist leaders in a small strip of land littered above and below ground with weapons culled for the sole purpose of killing Israelis.
The BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement is an existential threat, the wars in Iraq and Syria are far too close for Israel's comfort, and the instability in Egypt, Libya and Turkey do not bode well either. It's nearly ironic to say that right now, of all the threats Israel faces on a day-to-day basis, Iran seems to be the only one in mild check, thanks to the efforts of President Obama and the P5+1.
So what now? I sit glued to the news throughout the day, in multiple languages and with multiple outlets. I refresh a website that says how long it's been since a rocket was launched at Israel and I worry. I worry about my Jewish brothers and sisters. I worry about my people's Palestinian cousins and I worry about my parents.
I've remained relatively silent on Twitter and Facebook, while watching with growing disgust as my connections devolve into rhetoric that should never be tolerated. I watch with growing frustration as outlets like NBC and CNN slant their coverage just a little bit day-by-day. What have I done? I've prayed and I've started talking and defending that which I shied away from for so long.
Not shockingly, former President Bill Clinton (as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) has been one of the most prescient voices. The former president said on Indian TV "Hamas was perfectly well aware of what would happen if they started raining rockets on Israel. They fired a thousand of them. And they have a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them." You don't need Bibi Netanyahu to dress it up any more than that. The unfair "proportionate response" argument is appalling. Would Israel not have the Iron Dome system (thanks in large part to President Obama and the U.S. Congress), the number of dead Israelis would be multiple of multiples of dead Palestinians and those dead Israelis would all be innocent civilians.
It is tragic that so many Palestinians are being used by their Hamas/terrorist government and led to their slaughter. It is disgusting than anyone in leadership would sacrifice their citizens in the attempt to shame the enemy. But no country on earth would put up with having two thirds of their population, their international airport and business centers under attack and not respond.
What happens next? With any luck Secretary of State Kerry will negotiate a ceasefire that will stop the rockets, stop the ground war in Gaza and seal up the dreaded tunnels under Gaza. Next, some compensation scheme should be volunteered that would essentially pay Hamas and the people of Gaza to not attack Israel. Then, Messrs. Netanyahu and Abbas should restart the stalled negotiations with the goal of reaching the agreement that everyone knows needs to happen along the parameters nearly everyone accepts as real -- even if they don't admit it.
Until that happens, I will continue to watch the news with dread, watch the clock until the next rocket is launched, counter false allegations and accusations against Israel, and pray everyone makes it through the next day safely. In the end, those of us not Israel do not have the ability to do much more.