Response to the Gaza Violence
By Rabbi Eric Yoffie
For the past three weeks, Israel has lived under an increasing barrage of rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. More than 80 missiles landed on a single day. Israel’s first responsibility, like that of any nation, is to protect her citizens. The military action that Israel launched Saturday morning was clearly intended to do just that.
Israel’s action is as tragic as it is necessary and predictable. While we mourn the loss of life, no democratic nation in the world would permit a hostile force on its border to target its civilian centers with constant missile attacks. Israel has demonstrated extraordinary restraint as nearly 8000 rockets have been launched at Israel’s cities in the last 8 years. When Israel withdrew every civilian and soldier from Gaza in 2005, the attacks did not stop for a single day.
We believe that military action must always be the last resort. But more and more Israeli cities are now in range of Hamas’ rocket-firing army of terror, and we know that the traumatized children of Sderot and neighboring towns can no longer be expected to live in constant fear.
Hamas chose to end the existing cease-fire. Hamas has cynically chosen to use Palestinian civilians as cover for its military operations. Hamas openly declares its commitment to destroy Israel. Hamas, therefore, must bear responsibility for the bloodshed. Hamas, and only Hamas, can make the decision to move beyond this bloody conflict by stopping, once and for all, all attacks on Israel from the territory it controls.
We welcome the words of Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak that every effort will be made to limit casualties among the civilian population of Gaza. We welcome as well the words of the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who emphasized in her statement that “while confronting Hamas, Israel continues to believe in the two-state solution and remains committed to negotiations with the legitimate Palestinian Authority in the context of the peace process, launched at Annapolis.”
We note, with sadness, the predictable chorus of those in the international community who call for Israeli “restraint.” These critics offer no solution to the suffering of Israel’s citizens, and in the face of rockets terrorizing their own children, would not be talking of restraint and proportionality. They would be demanding that their governments put an end to the attacks.
We share concerns expressed by our government and by others that food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance be allowed to reach Gaza. We note that Israel has permitted humanitarian aid to pass through the Gaza crossings, and we call upon Israel, western governments, and international aid groups to do everything possible to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
We thank the Government of the United States, which has been a voice of reason in responding to Israel’s actions. We hope that the Palestinian leadership will demand an end to missile fire and a return to the path of peace and the negotiations begun in Annapolis. And we pray that the Palestinian people will strengthen the hand of all who are prepared to make peace a reality.