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Letter from a Canadian Zionist to JSpace

The Impossible Argument of the Progressive Jewish Left

This was sent in response to a press release issued by JSpace on May 13, 2021 which you can see here.

JSpace is horrified.

I am also horrified at the escalating violence in Israel but I am also horrified at the contents of this press release.

Here is what we can agree on… there are too many people rioting in Israel-too many Israeli citizens, Jewish and Arab, are fighting each other. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which in the past has existed between Israel and Hamas and/or Fatah, is being acted out in Israel. With 20% of Israel being Arab, there is the potential for a great deal more dislocation if the violence spreads. How the Israelis handle this internal rioting will determine whether it spreads throughout Israel or not. And since both Jews and Arab Israeli citizens are behaving badly, they must all be treated equally under the law. As much as conflict with Hamas is problematic to a point, conflict within Israel is far more problematic. But let’s not jump to conclusions here either…. there are 1.6 million Arab citizens in Israel, and only a tiny portion of those are rioting. Similar for the Jews, where those rioting are an even tinier proportion. Saner, calmer heads must prevail.

Where I do not agree, and why I am horrified, is that this press release will provide some level of cover for those in the media or federal government who would like to see Canada maintain our typical position of sitting on the fence, blaming both sides, demanding de-escalation, requiring proportional response.

I also do not believe that the trigger for the hundreds of rockets raining down on Israeli civilians throughout much of Israel was either the presence of police on the Temple Mount (who were sent there to stop those who were “praying” from throwing large rocks down on the worshippers below.) or is it because of the possible eviction for non-payment of rent of 2-4 families (depending on who you talk to) in East Jerusalem. (JSpace suggests that the families are being evicted by right wing settlers… in fact, if they are evicted, it will be because the Supreme Court, a competent and quite progressive Court, determines that the rights of the Jewish owners of those properties is greater than any rights to those properties the Palestinian families may have acquired.) In any event, this dispute over these few houses has been going on for decades and to suggest that suddenly now, this should be a reason to support riots and rockets is inane.

These events are convenient excuses, but not the underlying reasons for what is taking place. What is really happening is that, with the repeated deferral of Palestinian elections by Abbas, an election he would have lost to Hamas, it was necessary for Hamas to act, to show both their power and their displeasure. At times like this, when Hamas loses an opportunity to increase its power and influence, it feels it must act to show the Arab street that it matters, and Fatah must respond to show that they have mettle as well. With the end of Ramadan, which is typically an unsettled time, and the celebration of Yom Yerushalyim, something had to give, to release the tensions, the anger, and the frustration of Hamas, and allow the power struggle between the two organizations, both of which call for the end of Israel, to duke it out on the ground as opposed to having elections.

Strategically, Hamas is likely doing well for themselves. They choose an unsettled time- Ramadan ending, simmering property dispute, and then the visit to the Temple Mount by the police, as a convenient time to act out, especially given the weakness of the Israeli government after 4 unsettled elections. They know that the Biden administration is trying to make a deal with Iran, and that Israel will not get the same level of support from Biden than would likely have been the case under the prior administration. (they may be disappointed so far, in that Biden has come out clearly in saying that Israel has the right to defend itself)….

Israelis do not send their planes or rockets into Gaza for no reason. They did so in response to a large number of rockets which were fired from Gaza into civilian areas. They are defending themselves, and protecting the roughly 6 million Israelis who are within range of the Gaza rocket fire. And even if you thought that the Temple Mount incident was horrible and disgusting, even if you were embarrassed and upset by the gang of extremist Jews calling for death to Arabs in the same way that countless Arabs call for the death of Jews, and even if you believe that the rights of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem who are in danger of losing their homes are or will be cheated when the Supreme Court decision is released, that does not justify either out of control rioting, nor the raining down of rockets on civilian targets.

What JSpace is essentially suggesting below is that, in face of what is now several thousand rockets being fired into into civilian areas, killing Israelis (Jewish, ARab and others ), that Israel should not respond in kind. It appears they want Israel to stand down, not respond, and go and sing Kumbaya and wait for peace. When one is being attacked by rockets, there is only one option- you have to “take out” the rocket launchers. The fact that those rocket launchers are located within civilian areas, sometimes in or near hospitals and schools, does not change the requirement to respond. Would the members of JSpace suggest that their fellow Jews should simply allow the rockets to be fired without a response? That would seem to be import of the argument made in the press release they issued.

I would argue that the nature and extent of the response to many hundreds of quite sophisticated rockets being shot into Israel so far has been limited, and handled with as much care as can be the case in such a situation. Leaflets are dropped prior to attacks, cell phone notices go out, all in an attempt to reduce the civilian casualties which HAmas itself appears to want to generate. And Israel is attempting to take out as many HAmas leaders as possible, in order to reduce the incentives to continue the rocket attacks, and to reduce the need to send their own rockets and missiles into Gaza.

It is a war crime to install rockets amongst your own civilians. It is also a war crime to send rockets knowingly into civilian areas. HAmas is therefore committing a double war crime. But JSpace wants Israel to stand down. It appears that in the minds of Progressive Jews and many others, Jews are not entitled to defend themselves in the same fashion as other peoples who are under attack. That suggestion is not acceptable and not worthy of any Jewish organization.

As for the call for Canadians to avoid extremist information and rhetoric and to assist with efforts on the ground to move towards peace, that is a good thought, but if Canadians do want to understand what is going on and why people are dying, lets start with explaining what a double war crime is, and ensure that people- Canadians and others- do not conclude that it is ok to send rockets into civilian areas as an acceptable response to a property dispute and/or a visit to the Temple Mount.

And finally, as for the call for peace. Most Israelis and I suspect most Palestinians want peace. Israel has proven that time and again with (rejected) offers for peace. But any reasonable analysis of conditions on the ground in the Middle East will lead to the conclusion that there is no possibility of a final status peace at this time. Hamas is sworn to eliminate Israel, and is a terrorist organization. They control Gaza and as noted above, have enormous support in the West Bank. How do you make peace in such a situation?

The clear messaging that needs to come from Jews around the world is that the double war crime being committed by Hamas is the source of the escalation and of the death and destruction. Israel, as the President has stated, must be allowed to defend itself. If we Jews cannot make such statements in support of our fellow Jews in Israel, how can we expect others to do so? If we do not defend our homeland, and our fellow Jews, who will? Certainly not the NYT or CNN or the Washington Post. No, Israel is not blameless. There are in fact crazies among the extreme right in Israel, people who riot and threaten and lower themselves to the level of our enemies. But that is small stuff… two thousand rockets and counting is big stuff. So is the committing of double war crimes. So is calling for the destruction of your neighbour. So is throwing boulders down on the heads of worshippers at the Kotel.

The situation is horrifying for sure. But there is no moral equivalence here.

And to the extent that JSpace and other Jewish organizations suggest that moral equivalence is the order of the day, they provide cover for our enemies, and encourage those who would prefer to be our friends to behave in a less friendly fashion.

JSpace… this type of press release is not helpful to the Jewish people, or even to the Palestinian people, most of whom are not rioting, not attacking, and who simply want to live happy lives. There is only one party committing a double war crime here and that is Hamas. Act accordingly.

Mike Diamond, Toronto

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