Don’t tell me about latest Israeli conflict: I was there


With the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas, several first-hand observations are appropriate.

Camera in hand, I witnessed the tragedy from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and a number of generally lesser known targets. While President Biden distinguished himself, several members of Congress — including Jamaal Bowman — demonstrated yet again they do not do their homework, and are content to rely on and to disseminate misinformation to justify their support of Hamas.

Several observations on the events make the point, in my opinion:

• Preliminarily, it must be recalled that Hamas — a militant Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist entity admittedly bent on the elimination of Israel — has been formally declared a terrorist organization by the United States, the European community, and most civilized nations. Its claimed and reported litany of horrific crimes against innocent civilians is virtually endless.

Indeed, its barbarism has, since 2006, earned it a place on the formal U.S. sanctions list.

• Federal law and New York state case law make clear that providing material aid to Hamas is a crime, and is punishable as such.

• Unlike Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and its Palestinian population were not combatants in the recent hostilities, except as victims of Hamas’ ire and rockets.

• True, some individuals on all sides exhibited outrageous conduct, and the issues causing the underlying frustrations on all sides require address. It is also correct that when zealots began throwing rocks, firebombs and other missiles down from the Temple Mount upon those praying at the Western Wall, the police unsurprisingly intervened, causing confrontation.

However, any actual observer of what happened on and after May 9 — and the sequence and nature of the events — compels the conclusion that those hostilities were precipitated by Hamas. Indeed, Israel did not respond until many hours thereafter.

• Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have long been at violent odds. They have distinct outlooks and approaches. Time and again, Hamas has acted to implement its goal to eliminate Israel, invariably by violence.

The Palestinian Authority, though it has a history of corruption and misconduct, has a significantly different outlook. It is led by Mahmoud Abbas, now in his 15th year in office despite the fact that his four-year term expired 11 years ago.

• In early May, Abbas — baselessly blaming Israel as a political “face-saver” — canceled scheduled elections which some believed Hamas might win. Infuriated, Hamas determined to forcefully impress Palestinians and undermine Abbas, the authority, and the Jewish state. Hamas then escalated by indiscriminately firing rockets at the Israeli civilian population before a single Israeli shot was fired at them or at Gaza — the captive enclave of the Hamas dictatorship — as well as launch rockets targeting Nablus, a Palestinian city.

I was in Jerusalem when the red alert was sounded and the loud explosive boom was heard.

• The final excuse offered by Hamas prior to commencing hostilities focused on the coincidentally contemporaneous annual national holiday commemorating Israel’s liberation from Jordanian control of sites sacred to Christianity as well as Judaism. As had been the practice for many years, the customary holiday parade followed the route taken decades previously in the Jordanian-Israeli conflict.

In early May, Hamas — not the Palestinian Authority — threatened hostilities unless Israel changed the line of march away from the Damascus Gate. Israel immediately acquiesced. Hamas then escalated its demands, complaining there were too many people — mostly youth — in the march. Israel again obliged by turning away marchers at the new point of entry, the Jaffa Gate.

Hamas shrugged off Israel’s acquiescence, and nonetheless promptly began firing its rockets against the civilian populations of Jerusalem and other cities. Photographs and published Hamas statements corroborating the foregoing were contemporaneously submitted to Pulitzer Prize winners, electeds and others, together with the prediction that the documented facts would soon be distorted — as indeed it was.

• One more illustration says it all, I think. Most thinking people accept the principle embodied in the statement “Black lives matter” — implicitly do those of others. Hamas does not share that view.

To illustrate, on May 19, Hamas showered Kiryat Malakhi and its environs with explosive rockets. More than 17 percent of the town’s population is comprised of Black lives (Ethiopian refugees).

Earlier, on May 12 — and repeatedly thereafter — more than 500 Hamas rockets showered Bat Yam, Tel Aviv and Be’er Ya’akov — towns that likewise are home to thousands more Black lives.

Black non-Jewish Sudanese and Eritrean refugees that Israel welcomed while others turned them away were also targeted by Hamas rockets in the Tel Aviv area.

Those Black lives too were, in my opinion, of no moment to Hamas terrorists, any more than the lives of Jews, Christians or anyone else.

Among the lives lost to Hamas rockets was an Arab father and his 16-year-old daughter in their Lod home. Palestinian homes were targeted and destroyed by Hamas, and even residents of Gaza were impacted by the many Hamas rockets that fell short.

So much for the credibility of those who claim to support Black Lives Matter, yet simultaneously praise their attempted slaughterers.

• Significantly, while Hamas’ self-styled and — by local standards — well-paid “heroes” were attempting the slaughter of innocents with some 4,500 deadly rockets, its leadership cowered in bunkers beneath a hospital. Its rockets were launched from the cover of civilian-occupied homes, and schools concealed armaments. Even mosques were thus corrupted.

Sadly, mindless racists from Stalin to Hitler to Hamas have long gulled the unthinkable through lies, hateful words, and phony public relations.

While all too often, over the centuries, the Jewish people have been among the initial victims, the bloodshed and loss have ultimately spilled over to others.

Yet the demagogic politicians and unthinking sycophants sadly persist, especially where those who know better sit idly by and allow bigoted actions and hateful words to go unchallenged.

Apt again is Pastor Martin Niemöller’s sage comment on Hitler’s like outrage:

“First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Sadly, there are those who would have us regress to conduct that Pastor Niemöller righteously castigated rather than progressing toward a just and civilized society that rejects racist anti-Semitism and its purveyors.

If we permit that to continue, history will judge us as equally guilty.

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Charles Moerdler,