The Jewish Community of Louisville has been closely following the events in Gaza of the last few days, including an appearance at the JCC from Daniel Kutner, Consul General for the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia. We express our condolences to the families of those who were killed, and our thoughts and concerns are with the brave Israeli soldiers who were injured in this operation.
Israel is a nation that has always sought peace with its neighbors. To further the cause of peace with the Palestinians, they unilaterally evacuated Gaza three years ago, removing all military AND civilian infrastructure, including the dismantling of settlements, but leaving some structures, like functioning greenhouses, for the benefit of the Palestinians.
The response from Gaza was not one of a peaceful nature. In fact, as Israel withdrew the Palestinian Authority became weaker and the terror organization Hamas became stronger, culminating in a violent coup that installed Hamas as the de facto governing body of Gaza, a situation that continues today.
Hamas treated the Israeli withdrawal as an opportunity to expand their war on Israel’s citizens by launching thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities in the Gaza periphery. Part of Israel’s response to this terror was to initiate a legal blockade of Gaza, in conjunction with Egypt, to ensure that no material that could be used for a military purpose is allowed in.
It is not in Israel’s interest to cause a humanitarian disaster in Gaza. On the contrary, over 100 trucks filled with food, medicine, medical supplies, and other basics are allowed into Gaza on a daily basis, equaling 15,000 tons per week. Additionally, Israel supplies the majority of Gaza’s water and electricity. The Israeli/Egyptian blockade is the only effective way to keep materials that could be used to commit terror out of the hands of Hamas.
On Sunday, May 30, a “Flotilla of Peace” embarked on a journey to try and break this necessary and effective blockade. As these boats were approaching Gaza, Israel warned them repeatedly that they would not be allowed to land. Furthermore, Israel offered to escort the ships to the Israeli port of Ashdod so that the materials these boats were carrying could be checked and then transferred to Gaza through the Red Cross (with representatives of the boats observing the entire process).
The Flotilla’s leaders rejected this reasonable offer and planned to overrun the blockade. Five of the six ships were intercepted without incident, and escorted to Ashdod where they were searched for materials of terror and their humanitarian items were processed for delivery to Gaza.
As the Israeli soldiers attempted to board the sixth ship, they were met with an extremely violent response. They were attacked with clubs, bats, metal pipes, knives, stun grenades, tear gas and even bullets. While Israel’s soldiers were certainly not prepared for this “welcome” (they were expecting “peace” activists, not terrorists), they handled themselves with professionalism and bravery as they defended themselves and each other. Nine of these violent activists were killed, and seven Israeli soldiers were wounded (some were stabbed, and some were shot).
We encourage you to continue to monitor this situation. Here are some links to assist with that:
Finally, we ask that you keep the innocent civilians of Israel, her neighbors, and the brave soldiers who stand in defense of the State of Israel in your thoughts and prayers.Thank you for your support here.
Chairman, Community Relations Council
Director, Community Relations