At the end of the Gaza Campaign, named “Protective Edge” by the Israel government, in August 2014, a friend who is a Law Professor in Canada wrote to me and shared an article by Sam Harris that he described as “a nuanced, important but limited defence of Israel.”
This was my response:
Thank you for thinking of us. Thank G-d, we are all well. All of my children do their reserve duty with the Northern Command, so they were not called up for the last round with Hamas; however if things heat up with ISIS, Al-Qaeda and company in the north of Israel, they might have to fight.
Each one of the rocket attacks triggered an alarm siren in the area liable to be hit, even though, as you know, an infinitesimal number of them got through Iron Dome into residential areas. But each of us in those areas experienced the shock of hearing a siren and having to find a place to shelter, even when the only alternative was to stop the car, on the highway, get out of the car and lie down beside it. The rockets, and the mortar attacks, for which there is basically no warning because of the short flight time, were all directed at causing terror, and most of them were generally pointed in the direction of civilians; hardly any were aimed at military targets.
My cousins in their Kibbutz two miles from the border were in constant fear that a platoon of terrorists would emerge from a hole in the middle of their dining hall and commit mass murder.
The excellent article emphasizes this aspect of the imbalanced conflict, but the most telling point is the contrast of ambitions.
Judaism, unlike Islam and Christianity, has no ambitions, territorial or philosophical, relating to non-Jews. We do not have any ambition to evangelize or convert anyone else. Jews traditionally actively dissuade converts. The salvation of non-Jews is no business of ours; each can go about it his own way. The Jewish mainstream is not missionary.
Judaism believes that Jews are entitled to the Land of Israel, and no more. The territory at the moment under control of the Israeli government control corresponds pretty accurately to the traditional boundaries.
Israel does not want any more than this; not now, not ever.
The tiny scale on which things happen here makes it practically impossible to convey the distances and times scales. The total area of the country is about that of Vancouver Island. Ben Gurion Airport is about 5 miles from the pre-1967 border, and only 20 miles or so from the Jordan River, which has been the natural geographical border since Biblical times.
But, if separatists from Thornhill were shooting rockets and mortars indiscriminately at Toronto’s suburbs and Central Business District, how would the residents of Ontario feel? How would they react? Would any reasonably sized attempt to silence the guns be seen as disproportionate?
Hamas sees itself as part of the Islamic movement, which believes, so it seems, not only that non-Muslims are damned or doomed in some way, but that they must all, without exception, be converted to Islam or killed if they refuse. Islam also believes that large tracts of the world’s surface including the entire Middle East and need to be liberated to Islam, at the edge of a sword.
The colossal amounts of money and aid poured by foreign governments and agencies, into Gaza, and contraband smuggled in, were used to for munitions and to build attack and communication tunnels for terrorists. None, it seems, was used to protect civilians in the inevitable event of defensive actions by Israel.
Israel has no demands on the territory now held by Hamas, or indeed any of the Muslim or Arab world. We can and do demand that they stop trying to annihilate the Jewish people. But faced with an enemy which declares publicly that the Jews must be annihilated, what is Israel supposed to do when attacked?
While I disagree with many of the basic premises of Sam Harris’s article, he has put his finger on the central issues. If only the UN and its agencies, the BDS movement, NGOs and governments would read the article with an open mind, as you did.
Thank you so much for sharing it with me.
31 August 2014