When my great grandfather, Icek, was liberated from the Wöbbelin concentration camp on May 2nd, 1945, he was not even eighteen years old. Yet, he had experienced more loss, endured more pain, and seen more death than a person could experience in several lifetimes.
He had no family. His mother, Gitla, and younger sister, Chania, were likely sent to a gas chamber and turned into a plume of smoke as soon as they stepped foot off the train—he could never know because they were separated during the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto. His older brother, Wowek, died of Typhus at age of eighteen in 1944. His father, Yoel, deliberately threw himself against an electric fence the day before the camp was liberated.
There were six million Gitlas, Chanias, Woweks, and Yoels, and each of them lost two lives: the one they had, and the one they would have had. From the moment Hitler’s “Final Solution” began in 1933, the world knew what was happening, yet did nothing. The great nations of the world turned Jews away from their borders and seaports, sending them back to Germany knowing what would await them. The Jews were no one’s problem—their blood was too cheap.
In retrospect, this was not a surprise. For as long as the Jewish people have existed, they had been subject to the brutality and mercilessness of their neighbors. From slavery in Egypt, to the destruction of the temples, to the crusades, to the Spanish inquisition, to the Khmelnitsky Massacres of 1648 and 1649, and to hundreds of pogroms, the Jewish people have been persecuted for millennia.
In the midst of the Holocaust, never did my great grandfather, nor my other relatives who survived the war, think that the Jewish people would one day have a homeland of their own: a place where the Jew would never have to live at the mercy of his or her neighbor again.
Instead of returning to Poland with his family, my great grandfather returned with the faces of the dead forever etched into his mind. They have lived with him ever since—even today, at age 90. My other relatives similarly returned to their communities turned to rubble, their friends murdered, and evidence of their past seemingly shattered. Never would they forget.
But the world forgets.
Today, anti-Semitism lives on. Anti-Semitic hate crimes have been rising steadily across the globe for several years, neo-Nazism is growing in Europe, and people like Bashar al-Assad, Ayatollah Khamenei, and terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and ISIL would all be thrilled if there were another Holocaust. In this frightening, but not new, world, if there is to never again be another Holocaust, the Jewish people must be allowed to defend themselves and control their own destiny.
Zionism is as simple as that. It is the belief that the Jewish nation has a right to a homeland.
But from the moment the British withdrew and Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, it has been under attack. Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq declared war that day, and invaded shortly thereafter. They could not tolerate the reality of there being a Jewish State in their midst. The Israeli Defense Forces, at that time a volunteer force composed of Holocaust survivors from Europe and teenagers who had been expelled from neighboring Arab countries, was small in number, and had to defend against five invading armies. Yet they stood steadfast and the State of Israel emerged bent, but not broken. Sadly, more than 700,000 Palestinians became refugees as a result of the fighting, in what Palestinian culture calls the “Nakba,” or tragedy. However, the root of the tragedy was that the Palestinians had such horrible and hateful leaders.
Even before Israel declared independence, the United Nations in 1947 proposed a partition plan that would divide British Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. The Jewish Agency accepted the proposal, and the Palestinians rejected it and refused to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a homeland. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (then the de facto leader of Palestinians), Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who in 1941 met with Hitler in Berlin and stated his support for the “Final Solution,” said that the Palestinians "would continue fighting until the Zionists were Annihilated." The young Israeli state was in hostile territory, and acted in self-preservation.
Again in 1967, the same countries that invaded in 1948—Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, with the support of several other Arab countries—prepared for the complete destruction of Israel. President Aref of Iraq explained: “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear - to wipe Israel off the map.” Egypt’s Gamel Abdel Nasser, a fervent nationalist, initiated war by closing the Straits of Tiran, through which much of Israel’s trade was conducted. Outnumbered two to one, and with invasion imminent, Israel launched a preemptive strike on the belligerent Arab nations’ air forces, crippling the prospect of Israel being wiped off the face of the Earth. Israel achieved a decisive victory in six days, and captured the West Bank (from Jordan), the Gaza Strip (from Egypt), Sinai Peninsula (from Egypt), and Golan Heights (from Syria).
Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace, and attempted to do the same for large amounts of the West Bank, only to be rejected each time.
Many are misled to believe that the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict spans from the borders established after the 1967 war, however, the facts suggest otherwise. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), was founded in 1964 by Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian leaders, and vowed to destroy the state of Israel through armed struggle. Where was the outrage when the Gaza Strip was controlled by Egypt, and the West Bank controlled by Jordan? Where was the outrage when Jews in Europe were never returned the property seized from them by the Nazis?
In its early days, the PLO orchestrated the kidnapping and murder of eleven Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, several plane hijackings and bombings, and the murder of twenty-two elementary school children in the Ma’alot Massacre. Yet somehow, Arafat and the PLO were seen as freedom fighters by many. Apparently, tactics similar to 9/11, Charlie Hebdo, and Sandy Hook are okay as long as they are done against Israelis.
In the year 2000, after extensive US-led peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David, Arafat rejected a two-state solution. Barak offered to give the Palestinians ninety percent of the West Bank, and nearly all of the Gaza Strip, but Arafat rejected. When Arafat returned to the Palestinian territories, he immediately declared the Second Intifada. Dozens of suicide bombings were carried out against civilian targets across Israel. This prompted Israel to begin construction of a security wall alongside parts of the West Bank. The wall is not in place to create apartheid; rather, it is there to make sure that terrorists cannot enter into Israel freely.
In 2008, the Palestinian Authority again rejected another two-state solution.
The world likes to blame Israel for the fact that the Palestinians do not have their own state, but in reality, that is the doing of the Palestinian leadership.
Meanwhile, when Israel has made land concessions, those territories have become hubs for terror. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and granted the Palestinian Authority full control over the region. In 2007, Hamas, an Iranian-backed Jihadist group seized power in Gaza, and has consistently won popular elections since. Its charter reads that 'Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.’ Since seizing power, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israel. This prompted Israel to take military action against Hamas targets in 2008 with Operation Cast Led, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014. If it were not for the Iron Dome missile defense system provided by the United States, Israel would have looked like the Highway of Death from Operation Desert Storm. With all these operations, the world was hypercritical of Israel, while Israel was simply protecting its citizens. Why should any country be expected to allow thousands of rockets to fly into its cities and terrorize its citizens? Why is there a double standard on Israel?
Hamas takes the tens of millions of dollars’ worth of aid that Israel sends to Gaza, and instead of using it to build schools and hospitals, uses it to construct terror tunnels with which to smuggle arms, but most importantly, kidnap and murder Israeli civilians and military personnel.
Meanwhile, the residents of Gaza have since voted for Hamas in its elections, and the group has formed a coalition with Fatah, the party that is led by Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority. The PA has “Martyrdom Fund” with which it makes monthly payments to the families of terrorists who carry out strikes against Israel. Must I remind some examples of recent terrorism? How about the kidnapping, murder, and mutilation of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah, who were just teenagers? How about the murder of the Fogel family, including the decapitation of their 3-month old, while they slept? How about the Har Nof Massacre, when axe-wielding terrorists attacked a synagogue during prayers, killing six? The list goes on and on. Does it sound like the PA is serious about peace?
Of course, the PA does not represent the values of all Palestinians, but those who have dissenting views are intimidated from speaking out.
Like most Israelis, I support a two-state solution. I believe that it is possible to be both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian. But the harsh reality is that as long as Hamas has popular support, a two-state solution would create an unacceptable security situation for Israel if the resulting Palestinian state would inevitably turn into a safe-haven for terror, like Gaza did.
But members of the international community deny these facts, and insist that Israel is an apartheid state, has committed grave human rights abuses, and has no right to exist. For this reason, they seek to cripple Israel’s economy by BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction) measures.
Israel is not perfect, but is it really the only nation on Earth worthy of being the movement’s target? Why are there not corresponding BDS movements for Syria, Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, and the vast majority of countries on Earth? Why the double standard on Israel?
Israel is a beacon of freedom, democracy, and diversity. Jews from all over the world, from Sweden to Ethiopia, live in Israel. Its population is twenty-five percent Arab, with eighteen members serving in the Knesset. Israel is one of the most welcoming nations in the world to members of the LGBTQ community. Women enjoy full freedom, and serve in every capacity in the government, military, and civil society. Israel is the birthplace of drip irrigation, Waze, the PillCam, cherry tomato, Intel 8088 processor, and countless life-saving medications.
Israel sends humanitarian aid all over the world. When natural disaster strikes, Israel is there—just ask Haiti, Japan, Nepal, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and countless of others. When people are in need of medical treatment, Israel is there—just ask Syrian refugees, Palestinians, and the over 4,000 children from third-world countries who have received life-saving heart transplants through Save a Child’s Heart.
The world stands by and does nothing when Assad murders half a million people, when Yemen gets turned to shreds, when Iran kills members of the LGBTQ community, when Putin has opponents assassinated, when the Rohingya are persecuted, when free speech is squashed in China, and when terrorists kill Israelis, just to name a few; but when Israel defends itself, suddenly everyone becomes a social justice warrior.
It is frightening to see the international reaction to the current clashes along the Gaza border. Hamas—which remember, is a Jihadist organization that targets innocent civilians—has gotten 30,000 Palestinians to march to the border, and has had them attempt to break through Israel’s security fence. The crowd has burned tires, thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails, and in some cases, opened fire on Israeli troops. Israel has used riot control measures such as tear gas and rubber bullets—which I do not agree with—to disperse the crowd. In some instances, Israel has used live fire against known members of Hamas’ military wing, the Al Quassam Brigades. In total, thousands have been injured, but Hamas has sworn to continue the “protests.” If Hamas wanted to end the violence, it could call off the protests. But Hamas would rather use the Palestinians as political pawns to shift blame for the plight of Gaza away from itself and onto Israel. And yet, the world rallies around Hamas and the people wreaking havoc on its behalf. How would countries of the world like it if al Qaeda organized riots on their borders?
Civilian casualties are tragic, and while they do happen, the Israel Defense Forces does everything that it can to avoid them. The claim that Israel is orchestrating genocide is preposterous, and an insult to the victims of actual genocide.
Israel is not perfect, but no other country is either. Supporting the state of Israel does not mean that I support everything the government does. Supporting Israel does not mean that I support the expansion of settlements, the denial of asylum to African migrants, civilian casualties in war, or the hard-liner stance of some in government. Supporting Israel means that I believe that the Jewish people have a right to a homeland, and that Israel should be judged by the same standard as every other country on Earth. Peace will happen once the rest of the world believes the same. Judging by history, that day may never come—but Israel will live on, because the lives of the Jewish people depend on it. Never again means never again.
Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holocaust_in_Poland
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