This week I had the chance to hear journalist Ari Shavit speak at a synagogue in the Boston area at an event organized by Combined Jewish Philanthropies. The author, who has become well known for his book My Promised Land, spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and praised, in particular, those who had made the anti-missile Iron Dome system possible, including the engineers who designed it, as well as President Obama and the U.S. Congress for helping up fund it.
What struck me about his comments on this particular topic was his emphasis on the way that this defensive military technology had not only saved the lives of Israelis, but of Palestinians as well. I was not surprised to hear this sentiment expressed, but I did think, as I listened to him, that it's probably a feeling that many of us who care about Israel experienced this past summer, and should probably share more often.
In my opinion Mr. Shavit was not only espousing a moral viewpoint, but offering a realistic assessment - when he said that as terrible as the war with Hamas was, that by virtue of the presence of Iron Dome further escalation was prevented, this is a clear-eyed assessment. Each time this system successfully intercepted a rocket or missile and prevented Israeli casualties, pressure on Israel to launch a full scale invasion of Gaza was probably reduced a little. This may yet be the best example of the fact that when it comes to security, Israel would always rather protect its citizens by defensive, rather than offensive, measures.
By contrast, Hamas and Fatah have proven lately that they prefer the opposite tack, targeting Israeli civilians in order to score points with their own constituents and in the process not only committing horrible crimes but demonstrating a commitment to violence over peace. In fact, just this morning there were media reports of an attack in Jerusalem carried out by a man with longstanding ties to Hamas, which has apparently killed one person and severely injured several others. This brutal assault follows another similar terrorist attack carried out in Jerusalem on October 22nd of this year which killed two people, including a 3-month old baby.
On days like today, peace seems perhaps an ever more distant dream. What can we say or do about a conflict in which one side devotes its resources to a defensive technology designed to save the lives of all civilians caught in the crossfire, while the other fires rockets at kindergartens, digs tunnels designed to infiltrate people's homes and applauds those who mercilessly ram their cars into crowds of people standing by the side of the road?
I think for the moment, all we can do is to stand in shocked silence once again, hoping and praying that those of us who care about a peaceful two-state solution, can stave off the weariness that breeds cynicism just a little longer.
Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2014.