On Friday afternoon, a Palestinian sniper injured two Israeli soldiers stationed at the border with Gaza. It appears the sniper's main target was a senior Israeli military officer, who was unhurt. Israel responded by bombing a compound belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization in control of Gaza, killing two militants. The next day, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or PIJ, another terrorist group operating in Gaza, began barraging Israel with rockets, targeting civilians indiscriminately. Acting in self-defense, Israel launched retaliatory strikes, hitting attack tunnels, military compounds, weapons storage sites, and rocket launching and production facilities.
By the time both sides reached a ceasefire on Monday morning local time, Hamas and PIJ had fired nearly 700 rockets at Israel, killing at least four Israelis and injuring more than 200 others. Israel, meanwhile, launched hundreds of strikes in Gaza, where at least 25 people were killed, including several terrorists. Also among the dead were, most tragically, a pregnant woman and a baby. Anti-Israel forces of course rushed to blame the Jewish state for the deaths, portraying Israelis as bloodthirsty savages. As usual, they were either lying or ignorant. It turns out that Hamas and PIJ killed the pregnant Palestinian and her infant niece. Indeed, 90 rockets launched by Hamas and PIJ failed to reach Israel and landed inside Gaza, according to reports. It is unclear how many of the Palestinians' deaths were caused by Palestinian rockets, but Hamas and PIJ's violent obsession with destroying the Jewish state only hurts the people for whom they claim to fight.
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To sum up, Hamas and PIJ fired first and then targeted civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian, while Israel struck military targets, and only in self-defense. And, just so there is no doubt about who is at fault, look at the history. Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005, hoping to live in peace with the coastal enclave, and Hamas, which took over Gaza in 2007, has a founding charter that calls for Israel's destruction and the murder of Jews. And PIJ is arguably even more radical! One side is a democracy seeking peace, the other a totalitarian, terrorist regime seeking genocide. Which side is more at fault for the current situation?
And yet, despite this very obvious contrast, many Western progressives, including those in elected office, who claim to support peace, equality, and social justice, seem to think it is OK for Hamas and PIJ to launch rockets at Israeli civilians. Just look at Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib's (Mich.) response to the clashes over the weekend. Tlaib focused her comments on a headline reporting that "Gaza militants" fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, and that then Jerusalem responded with airstrikes—like a broken clock, Western mainstream media can occasionally report accurately on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "When will the world stop dehumanizing our Palestinian people who just want to be free?" she wrote on Twitter. "Headlines like this & framing it in this way just feeds into the continued lack of responsibility on Israel who unjustly oppress & target Palestinian children and families. #FreePalestine." No condemnation of Hamas and PIJ, which are, apparently, justified in their actions. No acknowledgement of Israel's right to self-defense, which, apparently, does not exist because of the "occupation." Never mind that the Palestinians have effective autonomy in both the West Bank and Gaza. Just blame Israel.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) of course had to give her take on the situation. "How many more protesters must be shot, rockets must be fired, and little kids must be killed until the endless cycle of violence ends?" she asked on Twitter. "The status quo of occupation and humanitarian crisis in Gaza is unsustainable. Only real justice can bring about security and lasting peace." While the message is intentionally ambiguous to avoid defending Hamas and criticizing Israel too explicitly, perhaps because of her unfortunate habit of saying very anti-Semitic things, the implication is clear: Israeli actions are causing the violence. Perhaps she does not realize that Hamas and PIJ triggered the violence and targeted civilians, but at this point Omar has no more chances of receiving the benefit of the doubt regarding Israel.
Naturally, anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour also shared her opinion. First, she seemed to justify Palestinians using violence against Israel, suggesting that one can understand the motivation. Then she appeared to take offense to an American mayor criticizing Hamas for indiscriminately firing rockets at civilians.
The list goes on of progressives blasting Israel, including the son of Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-Semitic leader of the United Kingdom's Labour Party. They all tell the same narrative, even spreading false information that Israel, and not Hamas, killed the pregnant Palestinian woman.
It is painfully obvious that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and of the political left more generally, despises Israel. More than that, these once fringe voices, which are now mainstream and overtaking the center-left, are offended, even disgusted by the Jewish state. The seething, venomous hatred is visceral, creating an almost palpable poison that permeates the air, corroding the body politic with its destructive abandonment of reason and moral clarity. These radical voices, which do not represent the entire political left but are in the process of overtaking it, do not want the Jewish state to survive. How else does one explain their behavior? Supporting terrorist regimes over a democratic ally, endorsing initiatives such as the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, applying the most crippling double standards to Israel, accusing it of cosmic evil, isolating the Jewish state as the Jew among nations—these are all efforts to undermine Israel until it discards its Jewish character, surrendering to the will of the mob and leaving the Jewish people to the whims of the vultures. Does that sound like exaggeration? Take a moment to imagine what would happen to Israel if it adopted the policies that Tlaib, Omar, Sarsour, and Corbyn want, and if the West adopted the appeasing policies that they want toward Iran, Hamas, PIJ, Hezbollah, and all the Islamist, anti-Semitic regimes and groups that want to destroy Israel.
In a great irony, however, these progressive voices are not only anti-Israel, but also anti-Palestinian. After all, Hamas is the same group that, in March, brutally suppressed Palestinian protesters who were demonstrating against Hamas's tyrannical rule, which has left Gaza in an almost apocalyptic state. Unemployment is astonishingly high, there are frequent blackouts, the sewage system is terrible—indeed, Palestinians in Gaza have no hope, and that is because of Hamas. More generally, progressives like Omar, Tlaib, and Sarsour never say a word about Palestinian suffering in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere; they only seem to care when Israel is involved. Is it possible that they care more about hurting Israel than helping the Palestinians?
Progressives espouse many wonderful things: tolerance, equality, and peace. Israel embodies these ideals, practicing the only progressive society in the Middle East. Women are equal to men in every way, there is a vibrant LGBTQ community, and Arabs and Muslims can enjoy all of the same rights and opportunities as Jews. The Palestinian leadership, both in Gaza, and the West Bank, exhibits none of these qualities. So Israel and the progressive movement should be a natural fit—the latter embracing the former to bring a more progressive vision to the world's least progressive region. Yet too many Western progressives demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and demand that it adopt policies that would kill lots of Israelis, and lots of Jews. Why is that the case? Anti-Israel progressives who wish to practice what they preach should really look themselves in the mirror—and maybe educate themselves on Middle Eastern history.