Accepting Israel’s Right to Exist as a Jewish State is the Path to True Peace

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Relatives of Israeli soldier Omer Tabib, 21, mourn during his funeral at the cemetery in the northern Israeli town of Elyakim, Thursday, May 13, 2021. The Israeli army confirmed that Tabib was killed in an anti-tank missile attack near the Gaza Strip, the first Israeli military death in the current fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

By Timothy F. Wuliger, Guest Columnist, cleveland.com

CLEVELAND – The innocent Palestinian and Israeli lives that have been tragically lost this month are, very sadly, only the latest casualties of an ongoing conflict between Israel and an array of forces seeking Israel’s elimination. These forces include well-known terrorist organizations – like Hamas, Hezbollah (the much larger terrorist organization operating on Israel’s northern borders), and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – as well as the government of Iran.

Since its founding, Hamas has made clear that its ultimate goal is to destroy Israel. In ruthless pursuit of this goal, this terrorist group launches massive quantities of rockets whose primary purpose is to terrorize Israeli civilians into leaving their homes and communities that are within range of those rockets, and thereby hasten the shrinkage and ultimate elimination of Israel.

Hamas has also mastered the art of building tunnels to breach the border with Israel undetected, to enable it to launch surprise attacks inside Israel, and to shield its leaders, fighters and weapons. Not surprisingly, Israel destroys these tunnels when it can find them.

Hamas, like Hezbollah in the north, knowingly and strategically puts innocent civilian lives at risk by embedding their terrorist operations in, and underneath, highly populated civilian centers like schools, hospitals, residential areas and office buildings. Hamas knows that Israeli attempts to destroy their military assets are very likely to generate the civilian casualties and suffering that have been a core element of the international media strategy of both terrorist organizations.

Israel counters Hamas’ use of human shields with extraordinary efforts to minimize the loss of innocent Palestinian lives, by giving advance notice to people in locations that are about to be attacked that they need to leave. Unlike the indiscriminate death and destruction that Hamas seeks with its massive rocket launches against Israel, Israel is sharply focused on destroying the weapons, and their terrorist operators, that are targeting Israelis.

Israel is far from indifferent to the suffering of innocent people in Gaza and is a conduit for humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza. Inexplicably, two weeks ago, Hamas repeatedly attacked a 24-truck humanitarian aid convoy coming from Israel. Because of the attack, only five trucks made it through; the rest had to turn back.

There is no moral equivalence between a democratic ally and a designated terrorist organization. There is no moral equivalence between a country that uses its weapons first and foremost to protect its civilians and a terror group that uses its civilians to protect its fighters and weapons. There is no moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

In addition to the rockets and the terror, recent violent protests in the streets of some Israeli cities – Israeli Arabs attacking Jews, and Jewish extremists attacking Arabs – are of great concern. While these protests have calmed down in recent days, the fact that they happened at all points to serious and ongoing work that must be done to preserve decades of peaceful relations within these communities.

Good people everywhere hope and pray for the day that the violence ends once and for all. True peace is possible when Hamas and other like-minded terrorist organizations, and Iran, accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state living in security and tranquility with its neighbors. The recent Abraham Accords – Israel’s agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – show that peace is possible. They are a model and a reason for hope for the entire Middle East.


Timothy F. Wuliger is a trustee and former board chair of The Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

This piece first appeared on Cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer on May 30, 2021.

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