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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Jeffrey L. Falick


Just four days after the barbaric and savage carnage committed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad against innocent Israelis, the world tensely awaits the coming war.

It is undeniable that it will be a disaster for the Palestinians. Anyone with a pulse could predict the Israeli reaction to this bloodthirsty attack. A less brutal assault would have demanded one, how much the more so this inhuman murderous attack on civilians. As Israelis wade through the carnage of their loved ones and the terrifying gut-wrenching anxiety over hostages they want their government to act. The terrorists knew going in that this would be the case. And they did not care.

Many within the Palestinian solidarity movement recognize this inevitability. To them the consequences are truly frightening. They've voiced their concerns and demands for Israeli restraint. But they care infinitely more about Palestinian lives than Hamas does.

Consider this tone-deaf statement issued by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, whom I have welcomed to our congregation and whose right to advocate for her Palestinian family and home I have supported:

I grieve the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost yesterday, today, and every day. I am determined as ever to fight for a just future where everyone can live in peace, without fear and with true freedom, equal rights, and human dignity. The path to that future must include lifting the blockade, ending the occupation, and dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance. The failure to recognize the violent reality of living under siege, occupation, and apartheid makes no one safer. No person, no child anywhere should have to suffer or live in fear of violence. We cannot ignore the humanity in each other. As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.

I, too, grieve the deaths on both sides. I speak daily about the fundamental human right to live in peace, without fear and with true freedom, equal rights, and human dignity for all people. On that we would seem to agree. Anyone who has read a thing I have written or spoken about Israel's policies knows that I do not excuse it from responsibility to respect and advance human rights. I have decried the encroaching apartheid of the West Bank. I have bemoaned the creeping authoritarianism of Israel's governments. And I have denounced the religious extremists and their damaging settlement policies on pretty much every day that ends in a "y."

But let us be clear about one thing. Neither the blockade nor the occupation nor the growing conditions of apartheid are the causes of the Simchat Torah Massacre. Hamas is not a resistance movement. Hamas does not share in my or Rep. Tlaib's stated commitments to freedom, equal rights, and human dignity.

Hamas is not a liberation organization. Hamas is a death cult of evil religious fanatics who would put every Israeli Jew to death and every Palestinian Muslim under repressive religious control if it could. (Although not before sacrificing the lives of thousands of Palestinians to the inevitable and completely foreseeable consequences of their own vicious brutality.)

They are not resisting the occupation. They feed off it like mother's milk.

Too many in the Palestinian solidarity movement refuse to see this. Posts on social media—many from organizations that I have defended (I'm looking at you, Jewish Voice for Peace)—callously described the attack as a "prison break." If Gaza is, as they say, "an open air prison," it is a prison of Hamas' own design and making.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. It was highly divisive in Israel, but also a moment of great hope for the majority of Israelis. They viewed it, as I did, as a golden opportunity for Palestinians to finally take charge of their own lives and begin the process of building their state. Those who decry the fact that Gaza's airspace and seas remained under Israeli control forget that such things were determined by the Oslo Accords and were scheduled to change with the advance of peace. After the Second Intifada, hopes for Gaza were really the only hopes for any peace at all.

To demonstrate its commitment to the Gaza experiment, Israel built the Kerem Shalom ("Vineyard of Peace") Crossing where the borders of Egypt, Gaza, and Israel meet, with the intent of increasing trade and goodwill. I recall a 2006 visit to the almost-completed mega-complex. I was not alone in hoping that it pointed toward better days ahead.

It never became fully operational. By the time it was built, Gaza was now under the control of a terrorist organization, an Iranian-funded chaos-agent on the Israeli and Egyptian borders. After it violently dealt with what was left of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas began its attacks on Israel. Were they fighting for true freedom and human dignity? Certainly the Muslim extremist regime that Hamas imposed upon Gazans represented nothing of the sort.

It is a strange feeling to find myself defending Israel when it seems that I have done nothing but criticize it for the past several years. To point out the reality of Hamas requires of me not one inch of withdrawal from my disapproval of Israeli policies. Everything I have said or written about its inhumane and counter-productive treatment of Palestinians remains true. I stand behind every talk or commentary I have delivered about its government's growing religious intolerance, its abandonment of democracy, and all its other failures. And, in fact, I'll have much more criticism to add in the days and weeks to come.

But right now I am dealing with images burned into my very soul of what the sadistic Hamas death cult has wrought upon my people.

Last night, I attended the Detroit solidarity gathering which called on attendees to "stand with Israel." Throughout many years of Zionist activism, I frequently echoed that sentiment. However, as time went on, my alignment with that call diminished with my growing disappointment in Israel's direction. Despite that, in this very moment, I hear the cry of our people to stand by their side.

And so today, I stand with Israel.


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