EFRAT, ISRAEL — March 24, 2020 — With the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus in Gaza, all eyes are (strangely) on Israel. Lets explore why and if that’s well founded, or helpful.
Some background is important. During the British occupation of the Land of Israel (1917-1948), Gaza was meant to become part of an Arab state per a two-state solution which they, and the rest of the Arab world, rejected. Many refugees fled Israel in the 1948-49 War of Independence, where they lived in squalor under Egyptian occupation. Gaza was captured, along with all of Sinai, from Egypt (and Judea and Samaria / the West Bank from Jordanian occupation, and the Golan from Syria) in the 1967 Six Day War.
Israel left Gaza unilaterally in 2005, bulldozing dozens of communities and disinterring thousands of dead, evacuating every Jew, dead and alive, from Gaza. A year later, Hamas wrested control from the Palestinian Authority / PLO in a bloody coup. Since then Israel has suffered endless attacks and war with Gaza as Hamas builds terror tunnels, stockpiles rockets, mortars, and other weapons, and holds the population hostage. They are used as human shields, as Hamas stays in power by fighting internally with even more radical terror groups.
Recently, I got engaged in a conversation about whether Israel should aid Gaza on Facebook. A friend (1) posted a question which generated lively dialogue. This is the conversation, edited for brevity and clarity.
Participant 1 – “Now that Gaza has Corona, we should offer to trade them medicine, masks, and disinfectant for rockets and other weapons; 1 for 1.”
Participant 2 – “No, we trade and offer them nothing and hope that the tunnels and weapons that they have invested in somehow have some curative abilities.”
Participant 3 – “Wait, we give them meds, they give us rockets? Until now they’ve been giving us rockets for free.”
#1- “We bring our laden trucks, they bring theirs, and we make the trade at Erez (Crossing).”
Participant 4 – “They’d rather die horrible deaths than do that.”
Participant 5 – “How about us not giving them anything until (Israeli hostages and dead soldiers) Hadar Goldin, Oren Shaul, Avera Mengistu, and Hisham al-Sayed are returned to Israel.”
Participant 6 – “We should help them because that’s our Jewish values.”
#1 – “Trading aid for weapons helps them- on every level.”
#2 to #6 – “Jewish values don’t require enabling murders. Egypt can help them or any other Arabs who still care. They cannot stockpile weapons, dig attack tunnels, use their people as human shields taking advantage of and abusing them, and blame us for their problems while holding our hostages, and expect us to bail them out. We are protecting our soldiers and keeping them in the army for months on end with no break to protect ourselves from them. Maybe the Gazans will overthrow Hamas, taking responsibility and create a prosperous society for themselves; building schools, hospitals, and houses rather than shelters for the terrorist leaders under their hospitals and among their citizens.”
#4 – “Helping the Palestinians accept defeat would be the greatest kindness that Israel could do for them.”
#6 to #2 – “You don’t understand the disaster they’re in. They don’t have work, they are poor and hungry, no one cares about them. They’re in crisis. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and get perspective, realize who you’re fighting. Yes, they kill us, they hate us, they want our homes. But when you call others your enemy, at least in my view, they need to be my equal. They’re not my equal. They’re miserable. We have a moral responsibility. We have the upper hand and it needs to be used according to our Jewish values.”
#1 to #6 – “This is the direct result of their choices. This isn’t our fault or our problem: That they hold those positions is their fault and their problem. Every resulting calamity that befalls them is the direct result..”
#6 – “Of course it’s the results of their position. It is our problem when bunch of weak people die from a disaster and we do nothing to help them because ‘it’s not our fault they’re in crisis.’”
#2 to #6 – “I understand their situation. I regret it on many levels. But it’s a situation of their own doing. Over decades they’ve played the wrong hand. They’ve played victim and only exist in that narrative rather building a society they can be proud of and thrive in. They sit on hugely valuable property, and could have been our equals in every way. The people didn’t rise up to revolt against Arafat or Hamas for 25 years. They could have exercised human values, if not because they love us, at least because they would have been better off. It won’t have been the first bloody Arab revolution and it wouldn’t be their last. People will die. That’s too bad, really. Now they may die because of the negligence and abuse of, and by, their leaders who they enable. If we were living next to Switzerland maybe I’d feel different, but per the original post, they hold our hostages, have spent untold money to kill us, and forced us to spend untold money to defend ourselves. Plus the lives they have taken. Jewish values do not dictate having to do anything for an enemy like this even if we had all the hospital beds, medical personnel, equipment and drugs to absorb responsibility for another 2 million. Not on my shekel.”
#6 – “In a war both sides are affected. People die from both sides. It hurts an Arab mother the same way as it hurts a Jewish mother.”
#4 to #6 – “At a certain point, one loses compassion, empathy and sympathy for people who make bad choices. Let’s be honest, if this virus doesn’t completely destroy their society, they will forget any help the Jews gave them and go back to Khaybar Khaybar yaYahud.(exterminating Jews).”
#6 – “I don’t think either side has compassion or empathy for the other.”
#4 to #6 – “Lot of Jews have compassion, empathy and sympathy for Palestinians. Israel allows goods and electricity to pass through the Erez crossing to a people at war with them is compassionate. That there’s a knock on the door policy (warning before bombing a terrorist leader’s home) is compassionate.”
#1 – “He who is compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate.”
#6 – “What a silly and flawed sentence to stand behind!”
#1 – “It’s from (great sages) and is the normative Jewish view about those who try to destroy us. It was originally said about King Saul, who showed mercy to Agag, the King of Amalek. Because he showed mercy when he shouldn’t have, we ended up facing Haman, his descendant, later on.”
The conversation ended with #4 posting a link to an article that said even if Israel were to offer, Hamas would refuse Israeli aid.
Who really cares about Gaza? Qatar is offering $150 million. But Hamas doesn’t care, nor does the Palestinian Authority or the PLO. Nor the rest of the Arab world. Not even Iran, which bankrolls Hamas’ terrorism.
Maybe Israel could, but should it? Previously when humanitarian efforts by Israel to help Gazans provided Israel good PR, Hamas callously blocks access to the aid, and preventing Gazan Palestinians from receiving help.
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Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six and became a grandfather in 2018. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and serve as a bridge between Jews and Christians. He shares insights and experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel, writing for prominent Christian and conservative web sites and appearing on many Christian TV and radio programs. He is the president of Run for Zion and the Genesis 123 Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via www.runforzion.com.