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Israel Under Siege

Barry Shrage: "No nation anywhere can be expected to tolerate assaults on its citizens, and Israel has every right to defend itself vigorously and decisively." Yerechmiel Steinberg looks at the damages of his home after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza landed in the southern town of Sderot, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)
Barry Shrage: "No nation anywhere can be expected to tolerate assaults on its citizens, and Israel has every right to defend itself vigorously and decisively." Yerechmiel Steinberg looks at the damages of his home after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza landed in the southern town of Sderot, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)
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**A note from the editor: This is one of two opinion pieces about the Mideast conflict on Cognoscenti today. The other is here.**

I returned from Israel late last week. After spending most of my time in the southern cities of Sderot, Be’ersheva and Ofakim, I can report that life there has become nearly unbearable, with the near-constant wail of sirens and the terrifying hiss of rockets overhead.

Israel is a nation under siege.

Life in southern Israel has become nearly unbearable, with the near-constant wail of sirens and the terrifying hiss of rockets overhead.

How did we get here? Last month, following the tragic kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teens and the apparent reprisal killing of an Arab youth, Hamas, based in Gaza, increased the number of rocket attacks on Israel.

Such attacks are nothing new. Some 13,000 rockets have been launched from Gaza on Israel since 2006. Until recently, Israel had demonstrated remarkable restraint in its response, despite the fact that millions of Israelis live within striking distance of Hamas's indiscriminate fire.

Last week, the conflict escalated. Thirteen Hamas militants, armed with automatic weapons, grenades, shoulder-mounted rocket launchers and other arms, infiltrated Israel via a tunnel that originated in the Gaza Strip and went beneath Israel’s border toward Kibbutz Sufa. The IDF thwarted the attack, but the new threat from Hamas’s tunnels into Israel, as well as their stepped up rocket launchings and refusal of cease-fire efforts brokered by Egypt, was enough for Israel to begin a ground offensive in Gaza.

The media often casts Israel’s self-defense efforts as “disproportionate,” or as part of an “eye-for-an-eye” cycle of violence. But history has shown that Hamas is an implacable enemy sworn to Israel’s destruction.

It launches its weapons at Israel from residential neighborhoods, from mosques and from hospitals. Hamas’s massive rocket attacks are aimed at the heart of Israel’s cities and towns. Iron Dome, an anti-rocket and missile defense system that intercepts incoming rockets if they are projected to strike populated areas, has prevented massive civilian casualties. Were it not for Iron Dome, Tel Aviv, Herzylia, Sderot, Be’ersheva and every other Israeli population center would be in grave danger, sustaining hundreds of rocket strikes.

Hamas is neither a nation nor a religion. It is a terror organization that has taken over a territory. In Article 13 of its Covenant, Hamas states clearly that peace or two states for two peoples is not, and never will be, an option:

The media often casts Israel’s self-defense efforts as “disproportionate,” or as part of an “eye-for-an-eye” cycle of violence. But history has shown that Hamas is an implacable enemy sworn to Israel’s destruction.

"[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad. There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.”

No nation anywhere can be expected to tolerate assaults on its citizens, and Israel has every right to defend itself vigorously and decisively. Israel’s actions are both appropriate and necessary. And Israel, along with those who support its right to self-defense, mourns for the loss of innocent life on all sides of this conflict.

I join many in praying that the violence will end before further loss of innocent lives. My hope has always been for Israel, and for all of Israel’s neighbors, to live in peace and security, and thus to ensure a future of prosperity and potential for all.


Related:

Barry Shrage Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Barry Shrage is the president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish Federation.

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