GUEST COMMENTARY - Since Saturday, October 7, 2023, people of humanity all over the world have been reeling in disbelief. The images that are being broadcast bear witness to the most horrific acts of terrorism, the murder and kidnapping of people who were sleeping, having breakfast, enjoying a music festival, and just living their lives. Once more, Israel was attacked by terrorists who wanted to kill Jews. And make no mistake, it is not just the Jews of Israel that they want dead. It is Jews everywhere. The Hamas Charter, Article 7 says so.
However, even with irrefutable evidence of this horrific attack, some have excused it saying it was Israel’s fault.
One might argue the attack was precipitated because of the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza and the 2 million people who live there. However, given that since October 7th more than 5,000 rockets have been launched into Israel from Gaza, this has to be the most unsuccessful blockade in history. The problem is that Israel has to be 100% perfect in blocking the arms, rockets and launcher parts being sent to Hamas from countries that support terror. And perfection on anything is virtually impossible to achieve.
Another might say that Israel has choked Gaza financially, but how can that be when the week before this horrific attack, more than 19,000 Gazans entered Israel daily to work side-by-side with Israelis so all could earn a living to support their families. If the leadership of Gaza wanted productivity for their constituents, the leaders would not have taken the millions of dollars sent to Gaza from various countries and organizations and put this money into building underground tunnels and weaponry. People who are familiar with land use issues know how expensive it is to build subterranean structures. These leaders could have used the money to fund tech start-ups and companies targeting consumers and businesses, instead of using it for targeting Jews.
Others have claimed the attack was Israel’s fault because Gaza is under Israeli occupation. However, Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, leaving behind 21 abandoned Israeli settlements, and gave the Gazans agricultural technology and an opportunity to build a productive society. After the Israelis left, Gazans shot off rifles, danced and sang songs as they burned these agricultural installations and houses to the ground. Right now, the only occupier of Gaza is Iran with Hamas as its Gazan proxy.
In recent days, I heard professors who are teaching the next generation of business, political and community leaders say that the attack by Hamas was precipitated by Israel’s “white colonialism”, that it wants to perpetuate the European model of seizing and dominating a land that belongs to others. However, Jews have thousands of years of history on the land that is now the State of Israel, a country that was established as a “refugee state”, as a place for the displaced Jews who were still alive after the Holocaust and those Jews exiled from Arab countries in 1948 and later. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Israel served as a refuge for Jews from the USSR who had been denied religious freedom, and for the over 15,000 Jews from Ethiopia who had been targeted for extinction during that country’s civil war. Between 2015 and 2022, another 10,000 Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel. Israel was never and is not now on any colonization track as were European nations during the years of exploration and beyond, countries who colonized Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and parts of Asia. These professors argue that Israelis are descended from these “white colonizers”, but this is a false statement. Less than one-third of the Israeli population is of European descent. Most Israelis are of Middle Eastern descent, which means their ancestors lived in the region for many generations before the State of Israel existed.
Some writers have said that the attack on October 7th was excusable because of the Gazans’ anger that Israel has engaged in “ethnic cleansing” of the Arab population. However, this assertion has been refuted many times. In 1948, the United Nations gave both Jews and Arabs a land of their own: the two-state solution was on the buffet table but only Israel took the offering. The Arab countries declared war and lost. The Arabs who stayed in Israel and became Israeli citizens have had the advantages of a sophisticated health care system, world-recognized educational institutions, jobs and quality of life. And now their children and grandchildren have these advantages. There are approximately 2 million Israeli Arabs. They are represented in the Israeli government, in the judiciary, academia, entertainment, sports, medical fields, and many other business sectors. If Israel had a plan for ethnic cleansing, it has been a complete and utter failure. There may be racism in Israel but just like the racism in the US and elsewhere, it should not be tolerated under any circumstance. Israel’s detractors may spout the term “ethnic cleansing”, but it is slander and an old trope that is put forth to nourish a narrative that did not and does not exist.
No matter what prism one may be viewing the situation in Israel and regardless of what storylines one might desire, there can be no excuses made for the behavior that we saw on October 7th. The responsibility sits squarely on Hamas and its sources of support. Has Israel made mistakes? Yes, but what country hasn’t. Should the people who live in Gaza have their own state? Whenever they recognize the State of Israel and choose peace over killing Jews, it will happen. Was Israel surprised by this attack? The IDF has stepped up and owned this. No doubt there will be many extensive, in-depth, all-encompassing investigations to assess the realities of October 7, 2023. That will come and should come, but after the immediate requirements are met.
(Marcia Selz, Ph.D., is the founder of the Coalition of Homeowner Associations-Council District 5 and the author of “At Vitoria: A City’s Medieval Promise between Christians and Sephardic Jews”)