Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Heart of the Matter

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By Osi Rosenberg

“We checked the house and heard the sounds of young children in the safe room. We shot at the safe room … until we didn’t hear noise anymore.” [i]

Omar Sami Marzuk Abu Rusha, a member of Hamas

I woke on October 7 without an expectation for the day. I ended the day in tears and pain. Like September 11,2001, my reality is instantly broken and leaving me to question, “what next?” I lived in New York City during that tragic time and eventually left there as a result. Being as close to tragedy as I was afforded me the ability to do something. While lower Manhattan was quickly cordoned off, my boyfriend and later husband and I were able to slip past the checkpoints to volunteer as close to Ground Zero as possible. We were eventually put in charge of an enormous amount of donated goods, and authorized to provide all the rescue workers anything they needed. It’s a day I will relive, in my heart and mind, for the rest of my life. On 9/11 I was able to be proactive and try and begin to make things better, but October 7, 2023, I am stymied.

I live in Connecticut, but my family is spread across Israel. My cousin, 19 years old and just completed her service, has been recalled to the war in the North with Hezbollah. My aunt has been sent to Eilat to give therapy to the traumatized survivors of the massacre. My Grandmother, 97 years old, a holocaust survivor, is forced into hiding in bomb shelters several times an hour. A rocket fell just blocks away from the friend’s home, and another close to my cousin in Tel Aviv. I am afraid, concerned, and nervous for them. I am losing sleep. My community around me is deafeningly silent regarding this conflict. Why?

When Putin invaded the Ukraine, the world jumped up and took notice everywhere. Yellow and blue flags sprouted up on every lawn overnight. The town hall flew the Ukrainian colors. People talked, posted and engaged about it. My husband I, along with many others in our community, volunteered at the Ukrainian church in Bridgeport.  Political undertones were kept to a minimum. Innocent people were being slaughtered and everyone spoke out. Why is Israel different? Why is this so politicized and divisive?

I believe this is an issue of public relations and popular culture. We did not need a history lesson for Ukraine but we do here. While one situation is not more complex than the other, the subject people may be. For thousands of years the Jewish people have been persecuted, disenfranchised, murdered, tortured, robbed and raped everywhere they have gone, every time they find themselves exiled from their homeland, Israel. Whether it was the Babylonians, the Ancient Greeks and Macedonians, the Turkish Caliphate, or the Roman Empire, the Jewish people always return home.  A term was created, Diaspora, just to describe this concept. Another concept, “the Wandering Jew” has also become prevalent in culture and literary works. These are accepted old ideas, that the Jew must wander the world, forever cutoff from the homeland, destined, no, chosen to suffer. Many of the ultra-religious even believe this a characteristic element of the religion, to the point of not wanting an Israel until the Messiah arrives. Meanwhile, some of the loudest support for the state of Israel comes from the Evangelical Christian Right. I think the universal takeaway is that many groups have their own agenda, whether positive or negative to Israel, and all motivations are murky and questionable.

Only Hamas has been clear from the outset as to their intentions: the destruction of all Jews worldwide[ii]. Until a few years ago, this was the stated objective in their charter.

  • Who are Hamas and how did they come to power in the Gaza Strip?
  • Who supports them and how are they funded?
  • Do they have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart?
  • How do you define the term Palestinian?

These are questions Americans should be asking, as undoubtedly few to none know the answers.

Who is Hamas?

HAMAS is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistance Movement), and is a product of the Muslim Brotherhood and estimated to have over 20,000 members.[iii] Hamas came to power in 2006 when they violently overthrew the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Unity Government that they had agree to enter.[iv] Hamas represents the interests of Iran and was created more than likely to destabilize any lasting peace in the Middle East. [v]  They are a faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, and obviously do not have the Palestinian people’s best interests at heart. Their current objective here was to destroy the normalization and peace being made between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Sadly, it appears they may have succeeded.[vi]

Their interests and motivations do not align with the Palestinian people of Gaza or of the West Bank, which, should be noted, is a separate people governed by Fatah, and is not at war with Israel…yet. [vii] In fact, each terrorist that invaded Israel on the 7th was promised, by Iran, ten thousand dollars, a house in the new settlements, and provisions for their families. .[viii] [ix] They were supposed to take as many hostages as possible. The terrorists were not only Hamas operatives. Their invasion included Islamic Jihad, Muslim Brotherhood, and other terrorist cells funded and managed by Iran. One more question here to ponder: if the stated goal of Hamas is the eradication of all Jews and Israel, what choice does Israel have but to eradicate Hamas?

Who are the Palestinians?

This is the most complex question to address. Originally it described the Jews who managed to remain in their homeland after the Roman Empire repeatedly exiled them. [x]  Later, it was a simple geographic designation applying to all Jews and Arabs and others living in the ancient lands of Israel. [xi] Now it is used to describe two different peoples, indiscriminate of one another, the people of the West Bank and the people of Gaza. Remember, there are similarities. Both are primarily Muslim and Arabic, however culturally, and in many other important ways, they are quite dissimilar. Fun Fact: Among the 2.3 million Gaza Palestinians, approximately 1.6 million claim historical roots to the land. That means approximately 1/3 of Gazans have no historical claim.

What is Gaza?

The Gaza Strip is a 25 mile long, 5-mile-wide strip of land on the Mediterranean Sea bordered by Egypt and Israel.[xii] Israel captured this land from Egypt in the 1967 Six Day War. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, Egypt will not take it back, though it’s been offered. It’s important to note that until the very recent air strikes in the past weeks, Gaza was its own de facto country with its own port, power-plant, airport, government, infrastructure, several five-star hotels and many billions of dollars coming in from humanitarian aid for many years.[xiii] [xiv]  Sadly, this money is always diverted away from schools and hospitals and funneled to Iran and other terror purposes, like the more than 310 miles of terror tunnels used to infiltrate Egypt and Israel. [xv]  The takeaway here is that it is not an “open air prison” any more than Singapore or Pakistan. As long as you are not an uncovered woman or a homosexual, you can even stroll the streets unharmed. [xvi] If you are known to be gay or dissident to Hamas, the preferred execution style is to be thrown from the roof of a tall building. However, there are routes in and out of Gaza. People still need Visas to travel. It’s also nice to remember that they are bordered by Egypt, who maintains a blockade against them.

A little history about Israel.

The Jewish people governed themselves in Ancient Israel until approximately 313 C.E., when the Byzantine Empire took control. The Persians invaded another three hundred years later, and in 691, Caliph Abd el-Malik built the Dome of the Rock Mosque on top of the First and Second Holy Temples in Jerusalem, an insult and injury that effects the region to the present.[xvii]  Four hundred years after this, the Crusaders soaked the land in the blood of Jews and Muslims in their violent conquest in the name of the Catholic Church. They lasted for about two hundred years. Then the Mamluk empire took Israel for about two hundred and thirty years, ending in the Ottoman or Turkish rule of Israel, which began in 1517 and ended in 1917 when the British Empire snatched up Israel.  However, it was during the Ottoman rule between 1882 and 1914 that the first and second large scale immigration of Jews returning to Israel occurred.[xviii]

After Britain took control and created the British Mandate for Palestine in 1922, creating the framework for modern Israel, the Arabs living in Israel began pogroms against the Jews, starting with Hebron Massacres of 1929.[xix] Between 1936 and 1939, continuous terror attacks and anti-Jewish riots occurred, instigated by Arabic terrorists. In 1941, during World War II, the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, leader of the people who would later be called Palestinians, traveled to Germany and sent fifteen drafts of declarations he wanted the Axis powers to make concerning the Middle East. Each was more heinous than the next, and amounted to the Arabs requesting an extension of the Holocaust to their respective countries. Hitler rebuffed the Mufti while Himmler remained interested. The Mufti eventually recruited 20,000 Muslims into the SS, who participated in the slaughter of Jews in Croatia and Hungary. These are the real origins of the bad blood between the Jews and the Palestinian people. [xx]

How was the massacre on October 7th allowed to happen and who were the victims?

We now know the complexity and planning that went into the massacre. We know that this was staged for over a year and that rehearsals were conducted right in the open. We know that this war was planned by Hamas to coincide exactly with the 50-year anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, and on the Jewish holiday Sukkot to catch the Jews unable to fight back, as they would be praying. It is clear the government turned a blind eye to the obvious. It believed that just prior to the ground invasions, Prime Minister Netanyahu had troops pulled away from the border and relocated to protect the ultra-religious Jews who wanted to pray at the sight of the Ancient Jewish Temple. This is unprecedented.xxi

Some may remember Netanyahu as an excellent progressive, secular leaning leader. Unfortunately, in recent years, he became embroiled in all manner of corruption and should likely be looking at a long prison sentence. However, due to political maneuvering and machinations, he continues to avoid consequences for his actions. When he almost lost his position and his coalition fell apart, he made a deal with the ultra-religious faction and built a new coalition to keep himself in office and out of jail.xxii xxiii As a result, he is in deep debt with that community. Catering to them has increased tensions between the secular and religious Jews as well as the Muslims and Jews. This is a factor in why and how this massacre occurred.

Many secular citizens are of the opinion that Netanyahu needed a war to stay in office, and allowed a situation to occur that far exceeded his prediction of the brutality with which it was carried out.xxiv This [the ultra-religious faction] is a community that is exempt from military service, unlike every other citizen since the inception of Israel. They primarily study Talmud and Scripture in Yeshivas and collect income from the government. [xxi] [xxii] As they are gaining in influence, there is fear that they will begin to roll back rights for the homosexual community, the secular community and, more specifically, women.[xxiii]

These are also the people pushing for expansion of settlements, causing further rising tensions in the region. These are the people who have moved the dial from support of Palestinians to the current climate of aggressive oppression of the Palestinians, with Netanyahu’s complicity. [xxiv] You may have seen stories on the news about the many large protests in Israel. These changes to the fabric of Israeli government are in large part the reason for the loud and well attended protests.

The Ultra-Religious Jews were not the victims of the October 7 massacre. In fact they had little to no presence at all in the villages that were assaulted and raped. The people who lived in these villages and farms and attended the music festival were primarily people trying to build a lasting peace with the Gaza Palestinians.[xxv] Many were well known peace activists and progressives fighting for better relations with Gaza.  Some of these people were simple farmers and retirees. A number of victims were seasonal workers from Thailand and the Philippines, and a number of victims were West Bank Palestinians and Israeli Muslims.[xxvi]  Over 240 Israeli citizens were taken and are being held hostages. It’s uncomfortable to recognize the irony while the tragedy looms over Israel, threatening to expand further, as both Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthis are now firing rockets at Israel.

As I write this, the Red Alert app on my phone is going off indicating that rockets from Gaza are reaching Tel-Aviv region where most of my family lives, where my 97-year-old Holocaust surviving grandmother lives. The world around me is still screaming their agendas. College kids, special interest groups, and Hollywood actors are calling for a cease fire. It is as though the world has quickly forgotten that they are holding hundreds of our people hostage.

The Arab nations are trying to flip the script and claim that Israelis are the baby killers, targeting civilians despite all the planning and warnings the Israelis give their enemies. Before the world could even investigate, everyone was blaming Israel for bombing a hospital and killing five hundred people. We now know this is Hamas propaganda and lies. It was a parking lot that was damaged. Five hundred people did not die. And it was a rocket mis-fired by the Islamic Jihad that caused this destruction.[xxvii] [xxviii] [xxix]

Even though there is considerable evidence from investigations by France, Canada, the USA and others, and video proving Israel’s innocence, it is too late in the Arabic world’s mind. They continue to blame Israel. Even Rashid Tlaib doubled down on this obvious lie to encourage hate against the Jewish people. No one is surprised.

North Korea by Dictator Kim Jong Ill, Russia by Putin, China and Venezuela are a small few of the non-Muslim countries that have expressed support of Hamas in this current war.[xxx] These countries are trying to curry favor with the Arabic Nations to support their violent oppressive global agendas. I don’t need to give background on these enemy governments and how each are diametrically opposed to the cause of Democracy and truth, however, this list of allies should be very telling to the world. Iran is creating a new Axis of evil. Lines are being drawn. Meanwhile, the Ukraine, Taiwan, and other nations fighting for liberty and freedom endorse Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. Hollywood and university students should look in the mirror and see who they stand next to.

Since 1947, when the UN proposed the establishment of an Arabic and Jewish State in Israel, the Jewish people have fought for peace and recognition.[xxxi] [xxxii] [xxxiii] Many reasonable offers have been made to the Palestinians for a two-state solution. [xxxiv] Many times, it appeared we were close to a lasting accord. Iran and other government’s agendas however will not permit it. Other countries’ agendas do not consider the lives of the Israelis or Palestinians, only the strategic use of this conflict for their own purposes. Hamas itself states openly that it does not have the citizens of Gaza’s safety and interests in mind. After building over three hundred miles of highly fortified tunnels, and zero bomb shelters, they make clear that the tunnel system, which could save civilians from the Israeli offensive, are not for civilian use. On October 31st, Moussa Abu Marzouk, a prominent Hamas leader, stated the tunnels are to protect Hamas only, and regarding the civilians in Gaza he said, “It is the UN’s responsibility to protect them”. This is the leadership in Gaza. [xxxv]

The Heart of the Matter

9/11 was very clear cut. America was attacked. America fights back, as expected.  October 7th, is very clear cut. Israel was attacked. Israel fights back, and the world has to agree, ”Israel has a right to defend itself”.

This is not a battle over land or borders, this is a battle for survival. There are no options for Israel. Hamas has shown its hand, and made clear to the world its goals and the goals of its supporters. Hamas promises to do to everyone in Israel, what it did to the communities at the border.

In a nutshell, here are the two sides:

  1. Hamas, a terror organization, is: constantly working towards eradicating Israel from the world, and all the Jews would be killed or expelled; considers the citizens of Gaza the world’s problem; and funnels money away from the citizenship to protect its terror network. Hamas consistently lobs rockets into civilian cities of Israel without provocation. It openly murders or punishes members of the LGBT community, non-Muslims, and women. Hamas celebrates the beheading of babies, raping of women, massacring of civilians, and kidnapping of non-combatants aged 8 months to 95-year-olds. They openly state that they did not murder any civilians or commit these atrocities, even while showing footage of them doing so.
  2. Israel, a democratic state, is constantly working to provide a two-state solution and works towards peaceful relations with its neighbors, as well as providing aid to the citizens of Gaza. Israel’s government works to protect its citizens and better the lives of people in the region as well as be a contributing member of the world’s communities. Israel, while imperfect, strives to work toward the resolutions in a peaceful manner. Israel provides Gazan civilians with work, food, water, electricity, fuel, and other humanitarian aid. Israel openly welcomes the international community to observe, assist, and advise on its operations, and follows the rules of combat and mourns the lives lost on both sides.

I am afraid that this war may spill over as Iran and Russia are attempting to destabilize the entire region for their own agendas. I look to my friends for support, but I prepare myself and my family for what will inevitably come—the hatred, the lies, and the accusations. We have endured for thousands of years beyond all expectations. And we will prevail.

In the meantime, Israel is still waiting for the return of over 240 civilian hostages being held by the Hamas in Gaza. It has been over a month. The return of these innocent children, women, and men, should be unconditional and immediate. The entire world should be behind this sentiment, but apparently some feel there is room to negotiate with terrorists holding a nine-month old baby, and 239 other civilians in a war zone.

In the end, the heart of the matter comes to this: When one fights for the survival of their family, their people, it really is not so complex, is it?

[i] Hamas terrorist admits to killing women and children in Oct. 7 massacre (nypost.com)

[ii] https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/doctrine-hamas

[iii] National Counterterrorism Center | FTOs (dni.gov)

[iv] https://www.dni.gov/nctc/ftos/hamas_fto.html#:~:text=HAMAS%20has%20been%20the%20de,the%20Palestinian%20Authority%20from%20power.

[v] https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/irans-islamist-proxies

[vi] https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/israels-war-hamas-what-know

[vii] https://www.britannica.com/place/Palestine/Split-administration-of-the-West-Bank-and-the-Gaza-Strip

[viii] https://www.jns.org/pa-to-immediately-reward-families-of-oct-7-terrorists-with-nearly-3m/

[ix] https://news.yahoo.com/israel-releases-video-captured-hamas-145019371.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAMy06-zIbNg14V6m8s1FYvBsdM2K8V6JmxAz0YQh2bz8UGxohk099K80pceFiiYIgaQG3_gas4TihFH4sSjVIGH00PCTmLNdBedjR19FYyUZo6SEjMmUfb0TFL5sUoY3vaPeXt6dPD9DNk_bNGhbHXoEkmM8rLQfKzChqrkl5Um8

[x] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/origin-of-quot-palestine-quot#:~:text=%E2%80%9CDuring%20the%202%2C600%20years%20those,one%20ethnic%20or%20religious%20group.

[xi] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/origin-of-quot-palestine-quot#:~:text=%E2%80%9CDuring%20the%202%2C600%20years%20those,one%20ethnic%20or%20religious%20group.

[xii] https://www.britannica.com/place/Palestine

[xiii] https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g663088-d1974787-Reviews-Al_Mathaf_Hotel-Gaza_City_Gaza.html

[xiv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasser_Arafat_International_Airport

[xv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_tunnel_warfare_in_the_Gaza_Strip

[xvi] https://www.humandignitytrust.org/country-profile/palestine/

[xvii] Temple of Jerusalem | Description, History, & Significance | Britannica

[xviii] History of the Middle East | Encyclopedia MDPI

[xix] The Palestine Mandate – GCHQ.GOV.UK

[xx] How the Mufti of Jerusalem Created the Permanent Problem of Palestinian Violence – The Tower – The Tower

[xxi] Israel funds ultra-Orthodox Jews to study instead of work (la-croix.com)

[xxii] The Haredi Exemption – Israel Policy Forum

[xxiii] ‘Patriarchal and biased’: Israeli women fear loss of rights in legal overhaul | Israel | The Guardian

[xxiv] Israel is perennially swept up in religious conflict. Yet many of its citizens are secular | AP News

[xxv] 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Border Kibbutzim That Starred in Gaza War – Haaretz Com – Haaretz.com

[xxvi] A Gazan worked in Israeli kibbutzim for decades. Then came Oct. 7 (972mag.com)

[xxvii] Why U.S. Intel Says Israel Did Not Attack Gaza Hospital (newsweek.com)

[xxviii] Israel Did Not Bomb a Hospital In Gaza – Aish.com

[xxix] The Gaza Hospital Blast Is a Lesson on Why the Truth Still Matters (reason.com)

[xxx] Israel-Hamas war: Here’s the list of nations backing Palestinian Group Hamas | Mint (livemint.com)

[xxxi] a_historia_da_palestina_-list_of_united_nations_resolutions_concerning_israel.doc (live.com)

[xxxii] 2022 UNGA Resolutions on Israel vs. Rest of the World – UN Watch

[xxxiii] U.S. Vetoes of UN Security Council Resolutions Critical to Israel (jewishvirtuallibrary.org)

[xxxiv] A Short History of Palestinian Rejectionism (besacenter.org)

[xxxv] Top Hamas official declares group is not responsible for defending Gazan civilians | The Times of Israel

1 COMMENT

  1. I don’t think I ever really understood why there was continuous warfare in that region. Your incredibly studious and detailed account helps tremendously, although it is certainly a lot to absorb. I genuinely empathize with your grief and frustration at all of the current disinformation regarding the existing situation. Thank you, Osi, for providing this detailed analysis, especially coming from someone who has numerous family connections in Israel.

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