By Elior and ERan Liss
Special to The Vindicator
How would you feel if missiles were raining down on Youngstown? Warren? Boardman?
Change any of these to Tel Aviv, Sderot, or to our home city, Jerusalem, and this is no longer a theoretical question. Citizens of Israel, Jews as well as Arabs, have been subjected to an escalating barrage of rockets and missiles — more than a thousand in the past three weeks alone — indiscriminately launched at innocent civilians by Hamas terrorists. Between 5 and 6 million Israelis, 70 percent of the population, are within direct range of Hamas’ barrage. This is the equivalent of 225 million Americans — an unthinkable number.
While here in Youngstown working in the Jewish community, we worry about our families and friends who have spent much of the past weeks in bomb shelters. We worry about our 80-year-old grandmother who must quickly get down three flights of stairs to safety. We worry about our brothers-in-law, army reservists, who have left their families to defend the homeland. And we worry about the many children whose innocence has been shattered and replaced with utter fear. No child, parent, or senior should be forced to live under such conditions.
We join with all Israelis and our friends in the American Jewish community in grieving the loss of every human life in this conflict. While Israel could choose not to respond to this blistering terror assault, no civilized nation anywhere would tolerate the sweeping targeting of its civilian population (though Israel tried for several days before the start of the operation).
And tragically, the Palestinian civilian casualties, particularly the innocent children, are like Israelis. They are victims of the terrorist organization Hamas, which took control of Gaza nine years ago. They are victims of a regime that holds them hostage to an agenda committed to terror. A regime that uses children as human shields as it deliberately places rockets in schools, mosques and in the homes of ordinary citizens, while their leaders shamefully hide in protected areas outside of Gaza, financed with stolen international funds earmarked for building civilian infrastructure. A regime that denies them the opportunity to build the future they could have had in 2005 as a vibrant, beautiful “Singapore on the Mediterranean.”
Sadly, what else can we expect from a terror group that is just like al-Qaida, a group with publicly-stated goals of wiping Israel off the map and killing as many Jews as possible, and whose leaders hail terrorists as heroes?
THANKFUL FOR U.S. HELP
We are thankful for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system developed with the support of the U.S. that has a 90 percent success rate in intercepting and destroying rockets, and has saved countless Israeli and Palestinian lives. Because of this protection and the Israeli government’s investment in bomb shelters and sound emergency procedures, Israeli casualties have been low, allowing the military to move slowly, taking time to warn civilians in Gaza to vacate targeted areas, while using pinpoint technologies to target only terrorist sites. We call on the world to condemn Hamas for using its shelters to protect its missiles, not its population, and for telling its citizens to ignore the warnings.
Even the Palestinian delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Council recently admitted on Palestinian television that because Gazans receive these warnings, resulting fatalities are accidental, not criminal.
Hamas’ disappointing decision to reject an Egyptian- brokered cease-fire, one accepted by Israel and supported by the Palestinian Authority, the Arab League, the U.S. and the Mideast Quartet, not only continues to place both Israeli and Palestinian lives in danger, but ignores the wishes and legitimate aspirations of its own people. Palestinians no doubt want the same thing Israelis want — to live peaceful lives, have self-determination over their own destinies, and to raise their kids in safe neighborhoods. The people of Gaza have, for nine years, been denied these things by Hamas.
It is clear that Hamas is not a partner for peace. In fact, its leadership celebrated the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens by calling for more kidnappings. The horrific revenge murder of a Palestinian boy was met with swift condemnation by Israel and the immediate arrest of the perpetrators. Hamas refuses to endorse a two-state, peaceful resolution to the conflict and denies Israel’s existence as the democratic, nation-state of the Jewish people. Without the renunciation of terror, the recognition of Israel, and the respect of previously signed treaties, there is no hope for future peace or Palestinian statehood. This might be a good time for the PA to rethink its ill-conceived unity agreement with Hamas.
Our hearts are with all victims, but the fault lies with those Palestinian forces who choose violence and rejection over reconciliation and nation building. Today, Hamas is playing a dangerous game with Palestinian lives. Operation Protective Edge was initiated to ensure that no more children, Jewish or Palestinian, are sacrificed on the altar of Hamas hatred. It will end once Hamas ceases launching its rockets, and calm is restored. The future of the region depends on it.
Elior and Eran Liss are Israelis working in the Youngstown Jewish community as part of an international program that brings young Jewish couples to North American Jewish communities as emissaries of the state of Israel. They are in the second of their two-year assignment here.