Israel is in crisis. Over the last week, Eretz Yisrael has been compelled to mount a military response to rocket attacks by Hamas designed to destabilize Israeli society.
Now, as Israel forcefully responds to hundreds of rocket attacks, and the tally of dead and wounded mount amongst Israel’s Jewish and Arab populations, it is critical that American Jews rally our support of the Jewish homeland.
The present crisis partially resulted after Hamas, an extremist organization that controls the Gaza Strip, announced that it would retaliate if Israeli Jews paraded in parts of Jerusalem inhabited by Palestinians as part of a celebration of Jerusalem Day. Jerusalem Day commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem which resulted from Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War of 1967.
Hamas also declared its intention to mount attacks because a number of Arab families are facing eviction from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, also in Jerusalem.
The latter controversy has been working its way through Israel’s court system. Simply put, Arab tenants of rental properties owned by Israeli Jews failed to pay rent that was due. Thus, a landlord-tenant dispute morphed into a roiling controversy, as Palestinians protested their eviction. Ultimately, this legal controversy will be decided by Israel’s Supreme Court.
Regrettably, the Arab tenants and their supporters engaged in violent protests last weekend. On Monday evening, Hamas began firing rockets at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and southern Israel. In response, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) launched airstrikes targeted at Hamas’ leaders and strongholds in Gaza.
While it is difficult to know the exact number of rockets launched by Hamas, the IDF said earlier this week that Hamas had fired more than 1,050 rocket and mortar shells at Tel Aviv since Monday. The IDF has told Jewish Israelis who live in the Gaza Strip to stay home. More than 200 rockets fired by Hamas have failed to clear the border and have landed back in Gaza. Hamas is also firing mortar shells and is using snipers to target Jewish Israelis in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel will use all necessary force to protect its citizens. On Wednesday, Netanyahu spoke by phone with President Joe Biden. After that conversation, President Biden affirmed the United States’ “unwavering support” for Israel and noted Israel’s inherent “right to defend itself.”
“My expectation and hope is that this [conflict] will be closing down sooner than later. But Israel has a right to defend itself, when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory,” the president said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr has been dispatched to the region to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a diplomatic effort to negotiate a ceasefire. Blinken also emphatically noted Israel’s right to defend itself and obligation to protect its civilian population.
At this writing, Israelis are huddling in shelters as air raid sirens regularly blast warnings of Hamas’ continuing rocket attacks. The New York Times has reported that riots have broken out in Israel’s cities between Israeli Jews and Arabs, and police are responding.
It is important to recognize that Hamas’ supporters want more than a cessation of the present conflict.
Veena Malik, an actress who has starred in more than a dozen Pakistani and Bollywood films, tweeted vile comments, including a quote by Adolf Hitler about killing Jews.
“I would have killed all the Jews of the world…but I kept some to show the world why I killed them,” Malik tweeted on Tuesday.
Not surprisingly, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) condemned Israel for committing “acts of terrorism” for its defensive air strikes. Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) also condemned Israel for its response to Hamas’ rocket attacks.
While many in America’s Jewish community may differ on how to achieve a lasting peace in Israel, now is not the time to debate alternatives. Hamas has unabashedly demonstrated its intention to inflict deaths and casualties on Jewish Israelis and continues to launch rocket, mortar and sniper attacks. Now is the time to support Israel in its hour of peril.
This editorial which appeared online and in the May 20 edition of the Jewish Herald Voice is reprinted with permission