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Protests in Gaza- Dig Deeper

06/09/2018 12:52:29 PM


In the past month, I have been reading different perspectives after the most recent Israeli - Palestinian conflict, on the Gaza border. The cacophony of opinions and accusations can make it impossible for us to sort out the facts. The shrillest voices on each side are offering their own mutually exclusive narratives. Yes, this is part of human nature, however, how do we reconcile with this?

As the smoke of burning tires clears and the attention of the media moves on to the next human crises, I would like to share my perspective of the past month’s clash on the Gaza border with Israel.  In a recent article in the aftermath of the conflict, I saw a picture of a sweet little girl with bright blue eyes with a bow in her hair.  Her name was Layla Ghandour. According to the article, the young girl was brought to the war zone by her parents, on the day that the American Embassy was dedicated in Jerusalem. I remember hearing the report that the eight-month-old Layla, died from inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops during the violent protests. At the time, I was saddened and troubled by the death of the little girl as well as the other Palestinians killed and injured. In the same article I saw a cartoon showing an Israeli soldier standing over a baby taking a bottle out of the baby’s mouth and pouring poison into the baby. (This cartoon was distributed in the daily newspaper throughout the Gaza strip.) The cartoon intensified my reaction to the war taking place along the border.

How many, like me, who saw the images of the lifeless baby in her mother’s arms, and were angry at the Israeli soldiers, also heard the report of a Gazan doctor who told the Associated Press that Layla had a preexisting medical condition and that he believed her death was not caused by inhaling tear gas? BTW, he spoke on condition of anonymity because Hamas leaders forbade disclosing medical information to the media.

How many read last Thursday in a New York Times report that said that the family acknowledged their baby was not healthy? ”The Ghandour family acknowledged that Layla suffered from patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital heart disease commonly described as a hole in the heart”. I could not understand how a mother and father with a sickly child would choose to take their daughter to a war zone.

I have been encouraging my congregation for years to dig deeper; that sometimes things are not what they seem - especially in the Middle East. If we hear of accusations of war crimes against Israel and its people, we should not take it just at face value. It is my opinion that Israel deserves our trust, that she is doing her best to protect Israel’s people, while minimizing injuries and loss of life on the other side when she is attacked. 

I stand with Israel, because historically Israel has shown great compassion for all people around the world.  As one of the smallest nations on Earth, Israel has provided decades of humanitarian assistance and capacity building in Africa. Israel has been part of the first response teams after devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Mexico City. Israeli army medics have treated over 3700 Syrian war casualties in special medical facilities it has set up on its northern border with Syria. Israel has taken in over a hundred Syrian orphaned children (both Christian and Moslem) over the last two years. Regardless of Israel’s own internal and regional challenges, at a time of any humanitarian crises, in any corner of the globe, Israeli relief teams have been amongst the first to respond.  I stand with Israel because time and time again Israel has demonstrated that it values the sanctity and worthiness of all human life.

What happened on the Gaza border was not a protest about the reality of life in Gaza, but an attack against the sovereignty of Israel and it’s right to exist. When tens of thousands of people, civilians interspersed with thousands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, march on the border with the intent to destroy it, and penetrate Israel, as well as allowing the terrorists to murder Israelis; it is not only not a peace demonstration, it is not a demonstration at all. It is a battlefield, where anyone who approaches the fence is a combatant.

Palestinians have every right to their narrative that upon the formation of Israel, they experienced catastrophe. My people too, have every right to celebrate our independence and our victory in 1967, and to express joy at being home in our country, whose capital is Jerusalem. We have every right to defend our rights. 
According to the Torah; when the Egyptians were drowning in the Red Sea, our tradition recounts that the angels in heaven began to sing a song of praise to God. God silenced them with the words, “My creation is drowning in the sea, and you want to sing a song of praise?” This biblical lesson should inspire Israelis and those of us who stand with her to value serious moral reflection on how to ensure that Israel lives up to it’s military moral code, which demands that even when force is used in self- defense, it only uses the amount of force necessary and in proportion to the danger faced.  

Gaza frightens me. It paralyzes me, because it is so easy to forget it and sing, regardless of what is happening there. I believe a few things; 1) that the events in Gaza are a war against Israel 2) We should support Israel’s military, 3) I have a  desire to have public debate and conversation over the best means necessary to win this war. As Jewish people and non- Jews who support the Jewish State, we are taught to walk in the ways of God, a God who declares, ”My creation is drowning, and what are you doing about it?”   


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