JCRC UPDATE | July 24, 2014

by Matt Goldberg, Director
Jewish Community Relations Council

The most recent news from Israel is, unfortunately, not very good. In the beginning, Israel fared relatively well during the air war, and the effectiveness of the anti-missile Iron Dome system must have frustrated Hamas, as it was stopping terrorist missiles before they could harm Israeli citizens.

During this time, damage in Israel was relatively light, despite the massive amounts of rockets launched by Hamas. Israel’s attacks in Gaza appeared (according to Israeli analysts) to be reducing the stockpile of missiles. Israelis seemed to be united in support of doing everything possible to eliminate the missile threat from Gaza.

However, things are getting more difficult as the days go by. Israel discovered that its greatest threat might not come from missiles in the air, but terrorists underground. Hamas has built miles of tunnels for the purpose of storing weapons and tunneling into Israel to commit terrorist acts. (See JTA story.)

In one incident, 13 terrorists emerged from a tunnel just a kilometer from a Kibbutz. And this threat served as the catalyst for the recent ground invasion.

So far, Israel has lost 27 soldiers, with many more wounded. And despite Israel’s cautious measures to spare civilian life (such as dropping warning leaflets and placing phone calls to intended target areas) the casualties on the Palestinian side are far, far higher, over 600 now killed, the majority of whom are civilians.

As expected, protests around the world against Israel’s military actions continue to gain traction. And pockets of world opinion – whether fueled by misinformation, a hatred of Israel or other political forces – may soon begin to turn.

The question for Israel is: will they continue to fight or to seek the first opportunity for a ceasefire. Israel has already agreed to three ceasefires in this conflict, each of which Hamas has ignored. But now, Israel seems more reluctant to push for a ceasefire, as it does not want any tunnel infrastructure intact when the fighting stops.

Israel’s military leadership is now saying that they will need another two weeks on the ground to destroy the terrorist infrastructure Hamas has created. But two more weeks on the ground means more Israeli soldiers killed, more Palestinian civilians killed, and more rockets launched at Israeli cities. It’s a decision that no doubt weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of Israel’s leaders.

Furthermore, in another development, in response to a Hamas missile strike within three miles of Ben Gurion Airport, most major airlines have suspended flights into and out of Israel. This heightens the economic impact of the war on Israel and her people.

Many difficult decisions will play out in the coming days, as Israel seeks to balance respect for life of its soldiers and the Palestinian people with its own need for security for the lives of Israel’s citizens.
Israel and the World
Many major leaders of our global community have been vocal in support of Israel’s right to defend itself and the pains Israel is taking to reduce casualties in this conflict. The international community also recognizes how Hamas cynically uses its citizens to protect its arsenal of weapons. The fact that Hamas has used its resources to build heavily-fortified tunnels for its terrorists, but no bomb shelters for its citizens, further adds to their reputation of being careless with the lives of their own citizens. In fact, many believe Hamas is counting on a high death toll of its citizens to help drive publicity for its cause. But in some circles, Israel is demonized worse than ever.

In Paris, demonstrations against Israel grew so violent that they had to be outlawed by the authorities. Jewish shops were attacked, and synagogues as well. Jews were attacked in the street – assaulted in broad daylight.

Anti-Israel demonstrations in Berlin, took a decidedly anti-Jewish tone, with chants against Jews calling them out to fight.

Disturbing images from anti-Israel demonstrations from around the world and even here at home make this issue not just about Israel’s actions, but as its home for the Jewish people.

I hope, as most of us do, that this will be the last war for Israel and her neighbors. That there will be no more rockets, no more tunnels, and nor more grieving families on both sides of the conflict.

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