My fellow Americans, let’s not be so quick to condemn Israel

As committed humanitarians, we often prefer to ignore the clash between our values and the need for security.

A DEMONSTRATOR stands next to an improvised memorial with the names of Palestinians killed during clashes with Israeli troops on the Gaza-Israel border, during a protest in New York last week. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A DEMONSTRATOR stands next to an improvised memorial with the names of Palestinians killed during clashes with Israeli troops on the Gaza-Israel border, during a protest in New York last week.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As the demonstrations on the Israel-Gaza border continue to intensify, my fellow liberal and progressive Americans are increasingly condemning Israel for use of “excessive force” against protesters. No doubt, the thousands of Palestinian casualties should sadden and horrify. At the same time, we must remember that Hamas is encouraging these protests in order to conduct diabolical terrorist attacks against Israel under the cover of peaceful demonstrations. Condemning Israel for doing its utmost to deter these attacks is gratuitous and counterproductive.
I will not recall that Hamas forces its people to act as human shields to cover terrorist operations, or that Israel does its very best to avoid civilian casualties. Nor will I delve into the various principles of international law that confirm the legality of Israel’s actions. I won’t even bother with the “what if Mexico did this to America” argument. These are valid points, but they don’t get to the core of the matter.
Instead, I will address Israel’s part in the suffering of Gaza’s population. As humanitarian liberals and progressives, as citizens of the world’s greatest democracy, this is, after all, what really gets to us. We know that Israel occupied Gaza by force of arms, constructed settlements there, and then left it in a poor state, only to amplify its misfortune by blockading it and limiting its population’s freedom of movement with a “security fence.” Worse, Israel periodically conducts incursions into Gaza, causing thousands of Palestinian casualties. This shocks our humanitarian sensibilities.
What we ignore is the clash of these sensibilities with Israel’s need for security. Hamas, the radical terrorist organization in charge of Gaza, expends considerable efforts to bring about Israel’s demise, and has on a number of occasions provoked Israeli retaliation with rocket attacks and tunnels facilitating terrorists’ access to the Israeli civilian populations.
Now, Hamas is doing the same, but knowing it cannot fight Israel with rockets and tunnels, it now does so diabolically under the cover of peaceful – and yes, I believe most of them are genuinely peaceful – demonstrators. Among the tens of thousands of protesters are a contingent of Hamas terrorists throwing explosives and flinging burning tires and kites at Israeli soldiers, civilians and property. If given the chance, they will charge across the security fence and unleash suicide bombers, knife attackers and other forms of terrorism on Israeli territory.
The fall of the fence would enable a wave of atrocious terrorist attacks in Israel in the short term and force Israel to build a more permanent barrier and institute harder security measures in the long term, further worsening the lot of Gaza’s population and setting back our quest for peace. Fortunately, Israel is determined to not let this happen. It is regrettable that Israel has had to inflict further suffering on the people of Gaza to achieve security. But despite Israeli efforts, Hamas has still been able to burn Israeli farmlands, though thankfully no Israeli citizens were harmed.
As for who we should hold responsible, Israel certainly has a part, but one that is almost negligible compared to that of Hamas. We should not make the mistake of viewing Hamas as anything but a sophisticated, innovative terrorist organization out to destroy Israel, and its use of peaceful demonstrators as a means of reaching its goal as heinous.
I feel I must also mention the shameful display of our president, pompously proclaiming the glory of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem while tensions persist on the Gaza-Israel border. To be sure, I am happy to see the embassy move (though, as I have explained in a different piece, I disagree with the way it was done). It is rather our president’s egregious disregard for the price of his reckless statements and actions that frustrates me.
So, we must decide where the line is. If we remain radically committed to our principles, Hamas will have an easy time carrying terrorism into Israel and undermining both Israel’s security and the quest for peace. We can settle for this, though I would advise against it. What we cannot do is ignore the other side of this equation and the human cost that will come with completely rejecting Israel’s actions. I, for one, with regret for the pain and suffering endured by the people of Gaza, support Israel and trust it is doing its utmost to balance these values.
The author is currently studying for a BA in Israel at IDC Herzliya and is an intern at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).