Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Eyeless in Gaza

If any other country were being attacked daily with missiles, by a neighbor which denies its right to exist, we would not question that country's right to respond militarily. Israel is for some reason treated differently. I am passing on, at the urging of my rabbi, a statement from Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism. Maybe this will help people think about whether world opinion is sometimes too quick to condemn Israel.

"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, which Israel launched this morning, was clearly intended to do just that. Today's action is as tragic as it is necessary and predictable. While we mourn the loss of life, we know that 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, bears responsibility for today's 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 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 this morning 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.' Yet 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 thank the Government of the United States, which has been a voice of reason. 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."

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