VOICES: Reject false “either/or” narratives

Any attempt to put into words how the Israel-Hamas war has impacted Dayton’s Jews falls short. Sick with grief and horror comes close. Afraid for what comes next does too. Dumbfounded to witness support for Hamas in America is up there. So is heartbroken at the silence of local social justice leaders who haven’t publicly denounced the pure Jew hatred that ripped its way out of Gaza Oct. 7.

Most Jews I know in the Dayton area — though not all — are Zionists. We support the Jewish state in our ancestral homeland. We have close friends and family members who live in Israel.

The Jews I know, whether Zionists or not, are heartsick. Not only because of the nearly 5,000 Israeli civilians that Hamas terrorists savagely maimed and brutalized Oct. 7. Not only because of the more than 1,400 Israelis that Hamas barbarically slaughtered and the 240 it has kidnapped and holds. Not only because more than 120,000 Israelis are now internal refugees: Hamas destroyed their homes, or their homes are dangerously close to Gaza. Not only because of the Israel Defense Forces soldiers who die in battle against Hamas.

Our hearts ache because we know that for Israel to eliminate Hamas, thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza have been and continue to be killed. A dear work colleague of my wife shared with her that dozens of her family members were killed in Gaza over the past month.

Shamefully, intentionally, Hamas hides beneath hospitals and schools, in densely populated areas behind the innocent, the helpless, the vulnerable. Hamas has stood in the way of Palestinians evacuating Gaza’s north when Israel announced it would root out Hamas there. Hamas’ cynical, successful tactics exponentially expand Gaza’s civilian death count. This brings a misguided global sympathy to the Hamas cause. And the motivation for Jew haters to act on their Jew hatred even more in public and private.

To leave Hamas in place would mean, as one of its senior members said, it will commit the Oct. 7 massacre against Israel again and again.

“Israel is a country that has no place on our land,” Ghazi Hamad told Lebanese TV channel LBC Oct. 24. “We must remove it because it constitutes a security, military, and political catastrophe to the Arab and Islamic nation. We are not ashamed to say this.”

To paraphrase Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, we will only have peace when Hamas terrorists “love their children more than they hate us.”

Golda also said, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”

When you see signs or hear chants of “Free Palestine” or “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” the meaning is clear: the elimination of any semblance of Israel, and the removal of the Jewish people therein.

Even before the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, America experienced an unprecedented spike in antisemitic acts. Since Oct. 7, acts of hate against Jews and the Jewish state have exploded here and have turned even more violent.

Headlines from the past week: FBI investigating after UPenn staffers received ‘vile’ antisemitic threats. Montreal-area synagogue and Jewish center are hit with Molotov cocktails. Jewish man dies after being struck by pro-Palestinian protester, LA Jewish federation says. Palestinian man who plotted to kill Jews in Houston arrested on federal firearms charges. UMass student arrested for punching Jewish student at Hillel vigil. Indiana woman drives car into antisemitic group’s building, mistaking it for Jewish school. Threats to kill Jewish students at Cornell prompt police to monitor kosher dining hall. Bullets fired at 2 Montreal Jewish schools amid local spike in antisemitic incidents.

The enemy of Jews and the Jewish state — and also of Palestinians and a future Palestinian state — is the evil that is Hamas.

At every step from the outset of the long defunct Oslo peace process, terrorism put a two-state outcome farther out of reach. That’s been an aim of Hamas, as it was for lone wolf violent extremists in Israel. Now, Hamas seeks to set back Israel and Arab nations’ normalization efforts via the Abraham Accords, with a Saudi deal on the horizon. My God, how many lives have been lost across these 30 years because Arab states, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel have pursued peace?

Neither the Jews of Israel nor the Palestinians of the region are going away. As far out of reach as a two-state outcome seems, there is no other workable option for our two peoples to dwell between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

The best way to support Jews and Palestinians in the Dayton area is to reject false “either/or” narratives. Support and empathy for one people does not negate support and empathy for the other. All must reject fanaticism. All have the right to live in peace. I am a pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian Jew.

Marshall Weiss is editor and publisher of The Dayton Jewish Observer.

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