A letter to friends who want to understand what is happening in Gaza
A letter to friends who want to understand what is happening in Gaza
By Mordecai Finley / blogs.timesofisrael.com

I want to say a few words to my friends who are not particularly biased one way or the other (and perhaps somewhat uninformed) about what is happening in Gaza. First, I am in favor of a Palestinian State. The question of the borders and militarization of the future Palestine is a thorny one, but I think it can be resolved. Second, I don’t hate Arabs, Muslims or Palestinians. Over my life, I have talked, had meals with or wrestled (literally, on the mat) with many. I can’t remember one bad moment. I love the conversation, the food and they are talented and dedicated fighters.

The problem is that a sizable number of Palestinians are opposed to the existence of the state of Israel. Hamas is an example of this opposition to Israel’s existence. This is not just my opinion. You can check this out by reading the Hamas charter.


If Hamas, backed and armed mostly by Iran, had the power, they would destroy the state of Israel and kill every Jew there – including my son and daughter, who live there, and my wife, who is visiting, and all her family as well. 

Admittedly, this is personal for me. Every missile that flies into Israel is an attempt to kill my family, not a metaphorical family. My wife and kids.

This is not to say I don’t understand Hamas. They have their very publicly expressed reasons for not recognizing Israel’s right to exist and to kill every Jewish Israeli. Wars of annihilation have always been a part of human history. We Jews were targeted in World War II by the Nazis, and they got six million of us. The world commemorated recently the 20th year of the genocidal wars in the Balkans against Muslims and in Rwanda against Tutsis. I have friends who are Muslim Croats or Bosnians. In fact, I just officiated at the wedding of a Muslim Bosnian. If certain Serbian forces had had their way (not all Serbians), these Muslim friends of mine would be dead. I used to teach Holocaust at USC, and I expanded the course into teaching about wars of annihilation in general,
 especially in the 20th century. Unless you are very familiar with 20th century history, you would be amazed at how many wars of annihilation there were. Ask any Armenian friend, for example.

I am not shocked by the desire of Hamas and Hizbollah, or Iran, to annihilate Israel. Wars of annihilation are a part of history. I am not shocked by the tactic of Hamas to bomb civilian targets. Japan conducted a war of mass slaughter of civilians in their war against China, mostly 1937 to 1945. Millions of Chinese civilians were slaughtered. The Germans used slaughter of civilians as a military tactic, mostly on their eastern front (ask anyone with Polish, Ukrainian or Russian background). My mother lived in London during the German indiscriminate bombing of civilians in England.

The Allies used the same tactics in their air war, certainly as retaliation. The United States, Britain and the Soviet Union slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Germans and Japanese from aerial bombardment of cities. The atom bombs were not the worst of it. If the intentional killing of civilians in war is a war crime, then Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, along with Churchill and Stalin, stand as some of the greatest war criminals in history.

Since World War II, there has been general worldwide repugnance against wars of annihilation and the intentional slaughter of civilians. This does not mean it does not occur, but those who do it, typically lie about it.

Hamas wants to destroy Israel. Intentional slaughter of civilians is a tactic. I am shocked by neither. It scares and outrages me that they are after my wife and kids, and my people as a whole, but I am not shocked by it.

I am not shocked that Hamas went to war with Israel. I am embedding a link to an article that shows that the desire of Hamas to go to war with Israel was a rational and calculated decision, not perhaps the one that you or I would make, but rational nonetheless.

Here is really the only thing that bothers me, aside from the fact that people are trying to kill my family and want to eradicate my people.

They are using the press as a tactic of war, and people are falling for it.

Every article you read that talks about Palestinian suffering (my heart goes out to them) that does not remind you that a terror network that has become expert in building tunnels and does not build bomb shelters, means that someone has fallen for a Hamas tactic.

Think about it. They imported thousands of rockets, some of them huge, and other armaments, but they complain about a blockade. Have you read an article that complained about the blockade of Gaza, that also mentions they have succeeded in smuggling in thousands of rockets, missiles and other armaments? Ask why.

When you read an article about civilian casualties, does the article mention that Hamas chose this war by targeting Israeli civilians? Does the article ask why Hamas places their rocket launchers in civilian areas, and store their rockets in schools and hospitals? If not, ask why.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand why Hamas does this. They know the press will cover the perfectly avoidable civilian casualties, but will not give you much background. They will not remind you that Hamas chose this war, and conducts it by ceaseless attacks on Israeli civilians. They will not remind you that Hamas places its rockets in civilian areas. They will not remind you that Hamas can build military bunkers, but won’t build bomb shelters. They will not remind you that Israel targets missiles but unintentionally hit civilians, while Hamas uses civilians to protect their missiles.

I think Hamas is very clever in how they prosecute this war by making sure that civilians become martyrs. It makes an uninformed world hate Israel. By the way, I think that the “Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade” in Gaza should change their name to “Let-the-civilians-be-the-martyrs brigade”.

The martyring of civilians in war is not that uncommon either. Thousands of Japanese committed suicide instead of surrendering to the Americans. Civilians are often proud to die for their country. Gazans, however, are not given the opportunity to choose. By hiding rocket launchers in civilian neighborhoods, by declaring war on Israel without building bomb shelter for their people, means only one thing: Hamas wants to martyr their civilians. It makes an uninformed world blame Israel. This is a very smart tactic. Just don’t fall for it.

My heart breaks for the suffering of the Palestinian people. I pray that they get their state soon, and will live peaceably alongside Israel. There will be lots of wounds to mend in this process on both sides.

But I don’t blame Israel for the civilian suffering of Palestinians that you see. It is a deliberate tactic of war intended to make you feel exactly what you are feeling: sympathy. I feel sympathy as well, but I know who has the responsibility for this suffering: Hamas.

2.5 ·
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A letter to friends who want to understand what is happening in Gaza