It is hard to disagree with this statement from Lisa Albrecht’s Jan. 9 Community Voices piece, “Do not be silent about Gaza”: ” … it is not anti-Jewish to criticize the Israeli government.” Indeed, all you need to do is read Israel’s remarkably robust press to see the truth of Albrecht’s assertion. However, beneath Israel’s free press lies a far more important observation: that the usually fractious Israeli public supports this war.
The people of Israel support its government at this time for reasons which Albrecht ignores in her piece. To begin, Israel withdrew all civilians and military personnel from Gaza in 2005. Many believed that Hamas would use the Israeli withdrawal as an opportunity to govern its own territory and help make a better life for its Palestinian residents.
Unfortunately, in another point missed by Albrecht, Gaza has become a forward position of the Iranian threat to Israel; Iran is a nation whose head of state wishes “to wipe Israel off the map.” The tunnels from the Sinai Peninsula have brought Iranian rockets and influence to Gaza. Hamas has now fired more than 6,300 rockets since 2005 into southern Israel and more than 3,000 rockets in 2008 alone. The range of these projectiles has steadily increased, now putting at risk over more than 700,000 Israeli civilians of all religions. Israel is entitled to exercise its sovereign right of self-defense, just as the United States would to defend itself.
Terrorists embedded in mosques, schools …
Albrecht also misses the point of the humanitarian debacle that Hamas and its patrons have brought upon innocent Palestinians of Gaza and Israel. Hamas continues to embed its terrorists in mosques, schools, colleges and civilian centers and fire lethal rockets from these locations into Israeli civilian centers. While Hamas deliberately targets Israeli civilians, Israel deliberately tries to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. Intent matters. It is a disaster that women and children are dying in Gaza because of Hamas’ actions. We all pray for an end of the conflict and the bloodshed.
Then, Albrecht turns malicious, calling for a Minnesota boycott of Israel. As Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently learned on his trip to Israel, Israel’s contributions to humanity are, per capita, among the leaders in the world. Israeli treatment for breast cancer and multiple sclerosis are cutting-edge. Agricultural and technological innovations such as drip irrigation, Pentium chip technology, cell-phone and voice-mail technology, and electric-car research stand in stark contrast to the medievalism of Hamas.
Albrecht also omits that she is outside of the American mainstream as well as the Jewish mainstream. Recent polls (Jan. 12) show that Americans, by a wide margin, blame “Hamas leaders who control Gaza (66 percent to 17 percent) for the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” Indeed, 54 percent of Americans believe that Israeli leaders only want to defend their people, not hurt others, while only 8 percent say Palestinian leaders want the same.
Steve Hunegs is executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.
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If you’re interested in joining the discussion by writing a Community Voices article, email Susan Albright at salbright [at] minnpost [dot] com.