Rockets Red Alert - a new oleh's story

I just emerged from my safe room. One alarm, one rocket, no damage. Moving on. Op-ed.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky ,

Red Alert
Red Alert
Flash 90
Why does it seem like I have seen this movie before? It is true that there is a sense that it is all new, that each time the enemy tries to kill innocent Jews (and sometimes succeeds, unfortunately) it is a big shock.

I was working at my desk earlier today, heard an explosion in the distance. A rocket flew over my house, landed a couple of miles from here in an empty field. No siren at all because the trajectory did not endanger anyone. I was unfazed.

But why would people be shocked? This has been going since the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif in 2005. Perhaps people have forgotten that; forgetfulness can be a most convenient psychological tool.

You might recall that the expulsion (euphemistically called the “Disengagement”) was supposed to end the “occupation,” and empower the Arabs to govern themselves productively and peacefully. And if not – if hostilities would persist – then it was said that Israel would have the absolute right to obliterate Gaza as no normal country tolerates attacks on its citizens.

Well, the “occupation” ended, there are no Jews in Gaza, no grounds for animosity. But instead of governing themselves productively and peacefully, the citizens of Gaza – yes, the “innocent” civilians whose plight has the world’s hypocrites up in arms – voted in the Hamas terrorists and have not held one protest to oust them. You might recall as well that Western (and Israeli) fellow travelers touted Hamas as more attentive to the Gazans’ social and welfare needs and so good stewards of that territory.

Those geniuses were dreadfully wrong, which hasn’t precluded them from offering new advice. As some of us predicted, Gaza became a terror state, whose only industry and export is violence and mayhem. I assume there are some good Gazans who regret voting for Hamas and would like nothing better than to live in peace. Since their rulers will not allow that, they would be well advised to follow the path of the Syrian refugees and go live in Europe. The plight of Gazans is bad, getting worse, and will not get better. Anyone with sense should leave.

It is clear that Hamas does not mind at all inflicting the worst type of suffering on their people. And this suffering is exacerbated by the Hamas terror tactics of placing their rockets launchers and weapons depots above, below and inside residential apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, mosques, and the occasional UNWRA facility. Obviously this is cruel and cynical and results in civilian deaths, but what astonishes is the immediate claim – parroted by liberal media outlets – that Israel is violating international law (!) by firing on civilians (!).

It is astonishing that people should utter it sincerely (I’m sure they are insincere) because placing military facilities in civilian areas is itself a violation of international law. Since it would be absurd to impose international law on only one side in a conflict, what we have here is a battleground in which international law is irrelevant. It either applies to both sides or it does not apply at all. All the more reason for good Gazans to flee and for the international community to assist them in finding a new home, if indeed that is what they want. That would be humane and moral.

What is unacceptable and immoral is to grant immunity to a gang of terrorists, even if they are sovereigns in their own territory, because they repudiate international law. No person of genuine integrity would posit such a thing. If, then, one goal of Hamas is to win the PR battle, Israel would do well to announce to the world that Gaza, by its own choice, is an “international law free-zone,” with whatever consequences pertain.

Those consequences should include – immediately – the cutting off of the electricity, power, water and food that Israel furnishes the Gazan kleptocracy. It is a twisted reality that Israel provides the infrastructure to Hamas, which then uses it to attack their benefactors. I don’t recall the Americans providing funding, supplies and weapons to the Nazis in World War II. This is a strange region. Blackmail and threats are an acceptable way of doing business, and weak governments are easily manipulated into embracing a false sense of stability.

Why now? Even Hamas is not irrational, although they too have no realistic end game. The reasons for these flare-ups are multifaceted, and we would do well to note that has changed in the recent past. Hamas uses its rockets as a release valve, allowing its people to vent (through attacks on Jews) in the hopes of distracting them from the crooked governance and the miserable lives they are living. The people see Israel making peace with a number of Arab countries, bringing prosperity to the region – but not to them. They could have it but the Jew hatred of their leaders (and most of them, note the lack of protests and underground movements) is so absolute that it blinds them to any other reality.

Hamas also was poised to triumph in the upcoming (but never quite arriving) Palestinian Authority elections. Those were just postponed by Mahmoud Abbas, currently in his sixteenth year of a four year term. In the warped arena of Arab politics, your preferred party attracts more support if it can murder innocent Jews. So this conflagration is also about building street credibility among the voters for an election that may never come.

The Arabs also notice the dysfunctional Israeli government now at loggerheads for almost two years, with new elections likely in a few months. Part of this dysfunction has enabled the terrorists to horde weapons and improve their abilities which they like to test every few years. The Israeli governments – ineffectual, divided, and seeking only momentary stability – have allowed the problem to fester. Long term strategic thinking, including reasonable objectives and goals, seems absent.

Besides the improved rocketry, Hamas is testing out the new strategy of instigating Israeli Arabs to commit violent assaults against Jews. Only the context – a battle – is new. Israelis in the mixed cities have long suffered from Arab violence, although it must be added that the main victims of Arab violence even in Israel is always other Arabs. Jews in Lod and Akko are suffering from the vicious assaults of their fellow “citizens.” Those who believe that coexistence is possible have good hearts but weak minds. It is hard to swallow that Jews have been arrested (later freed) for defending themselves. That is outrageous and unworthy of a Jewish state. And if there have been unwarranted attacks on innocent Arabs, those too should be condemned.

The land battle in Sheikh Jarakh is as much a phony pretext for hostilities now as it was for Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount was in 2000. It is all fabricated. I can’t weigh in on the particulars of the case – the reclamation of Jewish owned land seized by the marauders in 1948 – except to say that wars have consequences. The evil losers of wars that they themselves started have no claim to anything. That is justice – otherwise there is literally no price to be paid for launching wars against peaceful people.

Finally, Hamas, like the PA, has been struggling financially because their funding was cut off by the United States, Iran is still reeling under the weight of the Trump sanctions, and their cause has lost its allure in much of the Arab world. Even terrorists have to follow the money – they need money for weapons, and they need money to pay terrorists. The PA pay-to-slay had fallen on hard times resulting in a steep drop in terrorist attacks on Jews, and last year, the fewest attacks on Jews in generations.

Well, like the cavalry in bizarro world, Joe Biden rode to their rescue, and has provided hundreds of millions of US taxpayer dollars to the PA, and to UNWRA, which is similar to writing a check directly to Hamas. Within a few weeks, with the funding resumed, the terror resumed. Those who predicted that a Biden administration would do that and thus provoke another round of terror and war have been vindicated.

There may have been legitimate reasons for vote for Joe Biden, but support for Israel was not one of them. Most American Jews do not vote based on a candidate’s feelings towards Israel; it is not a priority for them. But those Jews and their rabbis who voted for Biden and who claim to love Israel and make it their priority, having been duly warned that this would be the result, should take a good look in the mirror.

Good intentions that underwrite lousy results are unhelpful. It is not that these flare ups could not have taken place under Trump and were just more likely under Biden; it is that they did not take place under Trump because few of the conditions precedent obtained. That is to his credit – but we are left to deal with an explosive new reality.

It amazes that people are praising President Biden for his public assertion that Israel has the right to defend itself. Sure, it sounds very noble. But do Jews have so little pride that we have to be thankful to someone who recognizes that we too posses the fundamental right of self-defense –as do all human beings? Is it some great concession that we are allowed to defend ourselves? Is that right really doubted by serious, moral people? Or is this praise grasping at straws because soon enough the Biden administration will not be so obliging?

And with it all, the spirit here is fantastic, people adapt very easily, the deaths and injuries are horrific personal losses but the nation remains strong and resolute. If only we had more politicians with the same spirit who could put their egos aside and serve the people rather than themselves. If only all Jews would realize that every action has a consequence; would that they would actually care about the consequence.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky was the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey until his recent aliya to Israel.He serves as Israel's representative and Vice President and Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, and on the presidium of TORA (the Traditional Orthodox Rabbis of America).



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