What if Israel didn’t have the Iron Dome?
The missile defense system has been like something out of an Avengers movie this past week. It has intercepted hundreds and hundreds of missiles fired by Hamas, destroying them before they hit their targets. It’s estimated that 90% of those rockets have been neutralized this way.
That success should be hailed for the lives it has saved – Jews and Arabs alike. Instead, Israel has endured what it often does when violence from its neighbors forces it to defend itself:
From politicians, media elites, TV commentators, you name it, Israel is cast as the big bully, and the Palestinians, who are caught in the middle, the innocent victims. Hamas, a hateful terrorist organization by any definition — and the entity which started all of this — somehow gets a pass.
So take the Iron Dome out of the discussion. Say it was never invented. Say every one of the nearly 2,000 missiles Hamas fired last week – 2,000 missiles! – actually fell on Israeli soil, killing countless civilians, destroying building after building and street after street.
Two thousand missiles, pummeling a nation.
Then what would people say?
Who’s really to blame?
Whatever they’d say then, they should be saying now, because Hamas, with all those missiles Iran helped them build – Iran, hardly a friend to America — isn’t firing them for the fun of it. The intent is to kill, destroy and cripple Israelis. And just because Israel has been fortunate enough to invent a solid defense system is no reason not to point the blame squarely at the instigator here: Hamas.
“We had 700 missiles fired at us in a 24-hour period,” Aviv Ezra, the consul general of Israel to the Midwest, told me last week. “I ask you, what would America do in a case like that?”
We would defend ourselves. That’s what Israel did, and what President Joe Biden said “Israel has a right” to do. But when Israeli rockets, aiming to destroy underground tunnels and weapons installments, also caused civilian deaths that are unavoidable when the enemy operates from within a population – and the reason groups like Hamas do so — angry fingers wagged all over the globe.
Now. All deaths in conflict should be mourned and lamented. It is tragic that innocent Palestinians are dying in this crossfire and people are correct to decry it. But where is the same humanity when it comes to Israelis, who somehow, even in defending themselves, get cast as the aggressors?
Ezra pointed out that the catalyst of all this was actually the Palestinian Authority’s latest delay in elections by its weakened leader Mahmoud Abbas, who fears that Hamas will oust him. Hamas, which hopes to take over the PA, needed to do something, Ezra claimed.
“This was a well-planned, well-organized, well-executed massive campaign of terror by an internationally recognized terrorist group,” he said. “They are committing a double war crime, firing at our population and doing it within their civilian population.”
We can’t overlook the real enemy
Yet somehow, everyone from Trevor Noah to Sen. Bernie Sanders has tried to pitch the ongoing violence as big guy (Israel) versus small guy (the Palestinians), a concept that is not only off base, but should be sadly laughable to Israel, which has a smaller population than Michigan and which, since its creation 73 years ago, has been surrounded on all sides by bigger enemies wishing it dead.
Meanwhile, Hamas, whose sole aim regarding Israel is to wipe it out, gets pushed to the side of criticism. Take a recent MSNBC article, where the writer spent the first nine paragraphs ripping Israel for the situation in Sheik Jarrah, which Israel has labeled a property dispute, involving six Palestinian families facing eviction.
Finally, in his 10th paragraph, the writer said: “Yes, it is bad that Hamas responded … by firing rockets. … Yes, it is bad that Israelis have been injured.”
I’m sorry, but that’s not a 10th paragraph. Not in a balanced analysis.
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Same goes for Sanders, who penned an op-ed for the New York Times in which he chided Israel for the treatment of those six families, and for its “systemic inequality.” Finally, he mentioned, “None of this excuses the attacks by Hamas, which were an attempt to exploit the unrest in Jerusalem, or the failures of the corrupt and ineffective Palestinian Authority.”
That didn’t come until the ninth paragraph.
How would Americans feel if a politician from a supposed international ally wrote a scathing attack on us and waited until the ninth paragraph to mention that we were being relentlessly bombed by our immediate neighbors?
Generations of fear
America should remember who our one true ally is in this region. The only real democracy in the Middle East. I have been to Israel numerous times, know lots of people there and have spoken personally with several of their leaders. That hardly makes me an expert. But I’ve seen enough to know the Palestinian issue is long, complex, thorny and far more nuanced than can be addressed here.
But don’t forget that Israel has been open multiple times to a two-state solution, only to be spurned.
In 1947, as Israel was being created, the United Nations suggested a two-state settlement. The Jews accepted. The Arabs did not.
President Bill Clinton, in his final year in office, tried to get the two sides to agree on a solution. Israel did. The Palestine Liberation Organization walked away.
In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza — on its own — giving control to the Palestinians. Within two years, Hamas had taken over. Now they are using that real estate to lob endless missiles, jerking Israel’s economy to a stop, forcing its airport to close, sending “half the country into shelters,” Ezra said.
It may be more fashionable to vocalize empathy for the Palestinian citizenry (and such empathy is deserved) but shame on Americans who know better but keep silent about Israel’s plight, and its vulnerability to nations and terrorist groups whose sworn aim is to put it out of existence.
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From schoolbooks that don’t even have the state of Israel on its maps, to chants of driving the Jews into the sea, Israel has had to live with its neighbors wishing of, teaching about and sometimes taking action to ensure the erasure of its country — ever since it was created.
That same empathy for displaced Palestinians should be extended to Israelis who also die from rockets, or the ones who must race into bomb shelters every night, many of whom are the children and grandchildren of Jewish people who were targeted by Nazis and tortured in concentration camps. For 80 years, there have been few secure moments in their families’ psyches. Someone constantly wants them dead.
It’s only through the protection of that Iron Dome that thousands of them didn’t die last week. Where’s the acknowledgment of that? Israel, like any nation, is hardly perfect. But surviving rocket attacks shouldn’t make you unsympathetic. If we’re not first pointing the finger at Hamas here, we’ve lost our way.
Mitch Albom is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, where this piece originally appeared. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast each Monday and Thursday on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.