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JCRC Update: These Are Difficult Times in Israel

[by Matt Goldberg, Director]
Jewish Community Relations Council

These past three weeks have been extremely difficult for the residents of Israel and the Gaza strip.

In response to incessant rocket attacks from the terrorist regime in Gaza, Israel targeted and killed terrorist leader Ahmed Jabari, followed by hundreds of attacks on the terrorist infrastructure of Gaza. They bombed missile storage facilities, rocket launchers, and terrorist headquarters, which Hamas cynically located within Gaza’s civilian population centers, putting their own citizens at risk.

At the same time, the Hamas regime attacked civilian population centers in Israel with many different kinds of mortars, rockets, and missiles, including the Fajr-5, an Iranian missile that Hamas has smuggled into Gaza. These missiles reached the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, putting over 2 million Israelis in harm’s way.

As a fragile truce takes hold, it seems to be only a matter of time until the next round of attacks and counter-attacks, as Hamas has already announced their intention to continue to smuggle in advanced weapons, and Israeli satellite pictures recently spotted an Iranian ship loaded with these rockets headed to Gaza.

It is important to note that the rockets from Gaza are simply an attempt by Hamas to attack civilians, nothing more. There are no Israeli settlements in Gaza. There are no Israeli soldiers stationed in Gaza. The “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza is not caused by Israel’s blockade, as Israel continues to supply Gaza with all its humanitarian needs, and did so even while the missiles were raining down.

This latest military conflict proves how necessary the current blockade of Gaza is (a blockade which the United Nations deemed legal). Imagine the weaponry Hamas would import if borders were open and free from Israeli inspection. Casualty figures would have been exponentially higher…on both sides.

It is also important to note the success of the anti-rocket defense system, The Iron Dome, which was developed in Israel and funded in large part by the United States. When people are critical of American aid to Israel, we can point to this life-saving technology funded by the United States, which can also be used to protect American citizens at home.

It is also important to keep reminding the world that this is an asymmetrical conflict, as Hamas specifically targets civilians whereas Israel makes substantial efforts to avoid and reduce civilian casualties. In this latest conflict, five Israelis were killed, and over 150 Palestinians were killed (more than a third of whom were terrorists). Any loss of life is a tragedy, but we must remember that it is Hamas – through its targeting of civilians in Israel and its deliberate placement of military installations in population centers and buildings, including mosques, hospitals and schools – that bears overwhelming responsibility for the civilian casualties on both sides.

Most media outlets tended to treat the conflict as a cycle of violence and while that has truth, it is not two sides behaving the same in the features of attacks.

Freedom Sunday Anniversary

December 6 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Freedom Sunday march, during which more than 250,000 people (most of them Jews) rallied in Washington to demand that the Soviet Union free its Jews, who, at that time, were not allowed to practice their religion or leave the country.

Subsequent to this march on the national mall, over 1 million Soviet Jews were allowed to leave, positively affecting the landscape of the Jewish communities of North America, Western Europe, and Israel. Locally, our Jewish community in Louisville absorbed over 1,000 of these newly free Jews, and they have certainly made a positive impact here.

December 6, 1987 was a high water mark for Jewish communities in North America. Never before or since have so many rallied for any cause.

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