by Gordon Haas
The rockets are falling in Israel. Hundreds of thousands are in shelters and under siege. Israel has entered into a military operation to defend 4.5 million citizens — over half the population — who are under rocket fire from the Hamas terrorist organization. As you read this message, attacks on Israeli towns and communities continue.
Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ staunchly supports Israel’s right to defend her citizens and condemns such unprovoked violence. Since November 10 Israel has been barraged by nearly 600 rockets fired from Gaza into Israeli civilian centers in addition to the 1,200 rockets that have struck Israel since the beginning of this year.
And while Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, developed with the assistance of the United States, can intercept many of the rockets, it won’t prevent all from hitting their intended targets. As the days have progressed, hundreds of thousands have been listening for the blare of an alarm, signaling the need to take cover in shelters as far north as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And sometimes, those warnings will only offer 15 seconds to run to safety. Fifteen seconds. In other words, the time it roughly takes you to finish reading this paragraph.
Israelis have been living in a state of terror. Can you imagine rockets being fired on New Jersey citizens from Manhattan?
No government should, or would, tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people — over one million — live under a constant threat of fire, including Israel. Just like any other country, Israel has the inalienable right —indeed the obligation — to defend its citizens from attack. Yet, inexplicably, some still question it.
This leads us to pose the following questions ourselves:
If Hamas has the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, why do they engage in terrorism that is only counterproductive to peace?
Why smuggle thousands of rockets and missiles into Gaza, many of them made in Iran, and deliberately place them in civilian homes, schools, and hospitals, putting their own residents at risk?
And why, despite total Israeli withdrawal from Gaza seven years ago, does Hamas leadership remain focused on targeting innocent Israelis, instead of building a peaceful future for their own citizens?
The answer is simple. Hamas is a terrorist organization, dedicated to the goal of eliminating the Jewish state for the Jewish people.
It is for this reason that now, more than ever, we must all stand with Israel in support of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Operation Pillar of Defense, which is targeting the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza while seeking to minimize casualties among non-combatants.
We understand that although Israel employs extraordinary efforts to avoid civilian casualties, they occur despite Israel’s best efforts. Unlike Hamas and its brethren in Lebanon, Israel does not deliberately target civilians even when those civilians are cynically used as human shields by Hamas. We profoundly regret the loss of life and injuries suffered by innocent civilians.
Ultimately, rocket fire from Gaza not only poses a threat to the safety of both peoples, it also makes it infinitely more difficult to move toward a just and lasting peace, a negotiated solution that will enable both Israelis and Palestinians to live safely side by side.
We hope and pray that Israel’s effort to stop the terror on its citizens will be successful and the world will follow the lead of the United States and recognize Israel’s right of self defense. When terror is defeated, peace becomes possible.
Gordon Haas is chair of the Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest NJ