May 15, 2018 – New York – AJC Chief Executive Officer David Harris issued the following statement on the Gaza situation:
We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel at this difficult time on the Gaza border.
There should be total clarity. The latest round of violence was triggered by Hamas, a terrorist organization as designated by both the United States and European Union, whose charter and rhetoric are nothing less than genocidal in their stated aims regarding Israel and the Jewish people.
Critics of Israel have sought to portray this situation as “peaceful protests by Gazans” met with force by Israel’s military. This is a total misreading of the situation, whether driven by malice, lack of awareness, or a misguided effort at “evenhandedness.”
The protests are not peaceful. The goal is to breach an internationally-recognized border between Israel and Gaza, to penetrate Israel, and, as Hamas spokesmen have repeatedly declared, to slaughter, yes to slaughter, Jews, often invoking religious imperatives.
What choice does Israel have if a variety of non-lethal means fails to stop the demonstrators from trying to enter Israel and wreak havoc? What exactly would other countries do in a similar situation, even as some capitals preach sanctimoniously from afar about how Israel should handle matters?
In any such crisis, very tragically, some innocent people may fall victim, but it has been the Israeli military’s ethos to minimize such losses to the extent humanly possible, while dealing with masses of people who include many known terrorists and inciters.
To its credit, the United States has stood firmly by Israel’s side throughout these weeks of escalating violence from Gaza, defending Israel’s absolute right to protect its citizens. We thank Washington for this moral clarity, when too many others suffer from moral fog.
For Hamas, as we have seen time and again, there is a profoundly cynical strategy at work here: Instrumentalize women and children, seek casualties, and thereby portray Israel in the worst possible light.
Shockingly, some in the international community have fallen hook, line, and sinker for this ploy, for whatever reason opting to ignore the true nature and goals of Hamas.
Let’s remember that Gaza was given the first chance in its history to exercise self-rule after Israel withdrew from every last inch of the coastal strip in 2005. Previous occupying powers, including Egypt, had controlled with an iron fist. But rather than charting a course of political, social, and economic development, Gazans expelled the governing Palestinian Authority and replaced it with Hamas. In turn, for Hamas, Israel’s destruction was far more important than Gaza’s construction, unless that construction meant terror tunnels and arms factories designed to target Israel.
So, since 2007, countless opportunities were squandered, massive international assistance was diverted, a generation of children was brainwashed from an early age, and, overall, Gaza’s situation went from bad to worse.
Yet there are those who still refuse to hold Hamas responsible simply because, in their minds, the storyline must always be all and only about Israel.
For them, these enablers of Hamas, Israel has no legitimate right to engage in self-defense, much less get any credit for the daily humanitarian flow that it permits to cross into Gaza even in times of war. Again, recall that Gaza is a declared enemy of the Jewish state. For these enablers, the Palestinians in Gaza are always blameless, always the victims, never the perpetrators. And, by the way, for the enablers, Gaza has only one border, with Israel, though in reality it has two, the other being with Egypt, a fellow Arab nation.
As an organization long committed to the search for an enduring peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, we can only hope that one day soon wiser heads will prevail in Gaza. If Gaza is ever to have a brighter future, it will require a profound rethinking of strategies, beginning with the search for coexistence with Israel, not the stoking of permanent conflict and confrontation.
Shapiro Silverberg AJC Central Europe Office