Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Response to David Harris Gershon's "For a Moral World to exist, Israel must kill innocent Palestinians"

David, I just wanted to include this in the comments section, but the comments section of your article was closed.  I encourage everyone to read the article. It's very thoughtful and well written. David makes excellent points. My takeaway from it is that there is really never a moral war when civilians are killed. 

But there are details of your article that I just couldn't get on board with 100 percent. I'm having trouble getting on board with anything, honestly. I find myself responding emotionally to everything and very stressed about teaching my course "Middle East History" to Jews, Muslims, Bahai, Christians, Hindus from all over the world first semester. 

So, I turned to my Israeli husband, who I would describe as amazingly smart, thoughtful, liberal and perhaps most importantly, reasonable. I interviewed him about your article. He had read it before I did, not knowing it was you who wrote it.

This is written in the spirit of conversation and friendship, not as an attack on your ideas. I also don't agree with everything my husband says in this interview, but he makes good points. My thoughts are in red. 

I hope one day that we can all get together and watch The Daily Show. We've watched the clip from yesterday 10 times.
Air Strike after Unity Government was Announced

They objected to the unity government between Hamas and Fatah, but my husband doesn’t believe that the air strike you are referring to was because of that. “The Air Force attacks all the time in response to terrorist movements or retaliation to rocket fire. We hear about two rockets fired at S'derot and no one even thinks about it, but the military responds to it or movements of arms on the ground.”

Me: I'm not so sure. I just don't know. 

The Kidnapping and the West Bank Search

They suspected they were dead; they didn’t know. Was it a wide scope operation at least in part to behead Hamas in the West Bank? Yes, but that’s because they kidnapped children. Rogue criminals is NOT TRUE. The two suspects are known Hamas activists who have served time in Israeli jails.

They weren’t pillaging and raping, they were getting intelligence. 

Me: Arresting people without due process is problematic....I also don't think they knew for sure that they were dead, but I think they probably assumed that they were dead. Dead or alive, the bodies are deemed sacred, and their recovery was also important. Also, Netanyahu should know how sacred words are given the role of words and the assassination of Rabin. His language before and after the funeral was inflammatory. 


The blockade of Gaza isn’t a collective punishment. it's to punish Hamas. In 2007 Hamas had a coup d'état where they murdered and expelled the Fatah officials and formed another party, essentially seceding from the PA which is the elected head of the Palestinians (who Israel negotiates with). The head of the PA is the president. Israel started blockading because Hamas is a terrorist organization. If there is no blockade you will have more rockets from Iran and Syria, and more tunnels. How do you ensure no arms shipments if there is no blockade? 

Me: I agree with him, but I think they should ease it as much as possible, to the fullest extent, so that there are no restrictions on civilian supplies. 

Death of Civilians

Civilian people die in Gaza. How many civilians died in WWII, Afghanistan and Iraq? War has civilian casualties. As an IDF soldier, we don’t try to kill civilians, we try to minimize civilian casualties. 

Me: I agree with him, but I don't think when so many civilians are killed, that Israel has the moral high ground. I just don't think war and morality are usually ever synonymous. Israel's justification, if there is any, is based on sovereignty, not morality.

Goals of the Operation

I don’t know if the best policy is to keep the operation going, because it would be seen as a giveaway to Hamas to stop now. If they objectives are to deal with the tunnels, deal with the tunnels and get out. 

Me: This ground operation will do little except reset the cycle of violence and buy, maybe at most, another five years. 

Peace with Hamas?

I don’t believe in conquering Gaza and overthrowing Hamas. I hope the unity government would provide a return to a peace process. But, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Hamas is a Islamic, Jihadist movement that wants every piece of land that we live on. I doubt all of the sudden Hamas will say that the land is not Waqf (as to article 11 of the Hamas charter) and that Jews can live on it.

My hope is that the Palestinians will relegate Hamas to an organization like the Klan.

I and a lot of other Israelis don’t think the Palestinians are always wrong and Israel is always right. But Hamas is not dissimilar from the same people who run Isis or Al Quaeda or all these other Sunni Jihadist organizations. Once they decided in 2007 (Hamas) to take Gaza by force, they have to take responsibility for the people there and how their actions affect them.  


David HG said...

Hi Sharna and Lior ... before beginning, I want to say how much I love/respect Sharna, and how much I hope to meet you, Lior. Thank you for reaching out. While I have disagreements (mainly of facts), I want to thank the both of you for this conversation.

Air Strike after Unity Government was Announced

The air strike occurred minutes after the unity agreement was signed. This wasn't a coincidence, this was tactical. I have painful, personal experience with this type of move by Israel. In July of 2002, 90 minutes after Hamas-Fatah signed a historic agreement disavowing suicide attacks and the targeting of civilians, Israel bombed Gaza, killing 25 (including a high-ranking Hamas terrorist). The resulting dissolution of the ceasefire, and calls for revenge by Hamas, led to the attack that injured my wife and killed our friends. (This is detailed extensively in my book.)

The Kidnapping and the West Bank Search

Unfortunately, it seems clear to me that what occurred in the West Bank had little to do with finding the teens. Many commentators wondered, at the time why a) Israel had placed a gag order the teens' call, and b) why the IDF was raiding universities and radio stations, which had nothing to do with finding the teens.

As cynical as it may seem, we now know very early that Israeli officials knew the teens were likely dead based on much intelligence. It pains me to say that, but it seems that such was the case, and that the public was manipulated as cover for what took place in the West Bank. Here is one article of countless which discusses this scenario:


The siege punishes all Palestinians in Gaza, and citizens see it as such. Food scarcity is intense, as is childhood poverty, medicine and goods are hard to come by, and residents cannot leave the borders. They are trapped in an urban, impoverished prison. The goal may be to keep arms out, but the result is the punishment of 1.8 million people.

Peace with Hamas?

Lior, this is probably the most significant disagreement I have with you, and it's just about facts.

You wrote that Hamas created a coup in 2007. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is actually what occurred. In 2007, in democratically-held elections, both Hamas and PA officials were elected to a unity government, with Hamas as the majority.

The United States and President Bush, finding Hamas as a majority player in the government, found such a reality untenable. So a U.S. effort (secret) was launched to have Abbas and the PA create a coup and overthrow Hamas. Indeed, this is what occurred, and the intense civil war in Gaza was a military attempt by Fatah to achieve this. Ultimately, Hamas prevailed, but only in Gaza, and took over after the failed attempt.

This history is chronicled in many places, though this article is a good place to start (which begins with the now known secret attempt by the U.S. to topple Hamas).

I encourage you to read:

As is with many things in the world, the current horrible situation in Gaza is partially a product of U.S. interference.

No surprise.

Okay, I'm done. I know I've disagreed with much of what you wrote, but I respect your willingness to engage in this discussion.


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