Guest post written byJonathan Biron
Jonathan Biron is a US Department of State International Exchange alumnus and an 18-year-old Israeli.
They say Israel’s response is not proportionate.
I am an 18-year-old Israeli who has just graduated high school. I’d like to be at the beach right now, not writing this article to “explain” why my country has to defend itself against terrorism. Operation Protective Edge caught me by surprise, as I was planning my last summer vacation before my compulsory military service.
So despite wanting to enjoy my last days of freedom, in recent weeks I have found myself explaining to my friends all over the world the nuances of the current escalation in the Middle East and the gloomy situation we’ve endured for years now. I’ve had to provide some much-needed context for the grim images coming out of Gaza right now.
While defending the country I love so much, I have had to deal with accusations and questions directed at the sixty-six-year-young country. I would like to share those questions with you. And this question of “proportionality” is foremost among them.
Imagine for a second that you were subject to constant rocket threat. Imagine you always had to keep one eye on the TV in case a rocket was about to hit. Imagine you could only listen to music silently so that you could hear the air raid siren. Imagine you had to sleep, eat, read – and live – always adjacent to a bomb shelter. And imagine that you have had to live under such conditions and under such a menacing threat for 14 years already.
Worse: imagine that one day, the rocket fire became a constant barrage, and you discovered that terrorists had burrowed underground tunnels beneath your house. And that these murderous terrorists were crawling through these tunnels, planning a mass terror attack on the Jewish New Year, during which they would pop up from under your town and neighboring towns, mass murder hundreds of people, and kidnap you and your children, all because you belonged to a particular ethnic group.
Would you stand idly by? Wouldn’t you do whatever was necessary in order to defend yourself and prevent those attacks?
That is what Israel has been doing for the last three weeks – defending itself like any other country would do, while taking every precaution to avoid killing or hurting civilians. This is not a war Israel chose, and even though war is never a bed of roses, I am proud of my army’s ethical approach to combat, even in the face of the most heinous and false allegations leveled against it.
They also say there are more Palestinian civilians killed than Israelis.
Let me be clear: there is nothing more horrible than the death of an innocent civilian. What the people of Gaza have been going through is a tragedy. But I ask myself (as anyone should) if it’s Israel’s fault that we sanctify the value of life – and invest all of our efforts in early warning systems, bomb shelters, and anti-missile systems which intercept most rockets fired at populated areas and save lives, while Hamas invests its money in weapons and tunneling instead of food and welfare to its people?
Is it Israel’s fault that while we try to avoid the killing of innocents and open a field hospital to treat wounded Palestinians in the border next to Gaza, Hamas doesn’t let its people take cover, instead using them, cynically, as human shields – hiding behind civilians, transporting terrorists in ambulances, storing rockets with explosive warheads in UN schools.
Not everything Israel does is error-free. But Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It is a country that since its very establishment, and against all odds, set a goal to ensure freedom and equality to all its citizens – Jews, Arabs, men and women, LGBT alike – while it is fighting at the first line of defense against the war on terror.
These days, that war is against a radical Sunni-Islamist terrorist organization (with much the same goals as Al-Qaeda) that wishes nothing but the deaths of me and my friends just because we are Jews. Don’t take my word for it, you can read the Hamas Charter, and you can watch it on Hamas television.
I am writing this on behalf of many young Israelis, who have been raised on the values of peace and justice of our historic prophets, as well as on the value of “Tikkun Olam,” the Jewish principle which means, “making the world a better place.” I am writing this on behalf of 3 million young Israelis who want to live in peace and quiet, such as any person on this planet deserves. We deserve it too.