By: Julie Paris | Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle | December 13, 2023
Israel was forced to enter a war that it never wanted in a fight for its survival and a race against time to rescue the hostages.
More than two months have passed since thousands of Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel by land, air and sea in a heavily coordinated terror attack, murdering more than 1200 Israelis, committing unspeakable acts of brutality against thousands of men, women and children, and kidnapping an estimated 240 hostages into Gaza.
Israel was forced to enter a war that it never wanted in a fight for its survival and a race against time to rescue the hostages. This war is horrific and devastating on both sides, but the fault lies squarely with Hamas. Israel has made its goals clear: rescue the hostages and eliminate Hamas, whose founding charter calls for the ethnic cleansing of Jews “from the river to the sea,” and who oppresses its own citizens to retain power and control in Gaza.
As the Israel Defense Forces fights a battle like no other in history, with Hamas terrorists embedding themselves and their weapons within civilian areas like UN schools, hospitals and homes, the IDF has also made Herculean attempts to protect the lives of Palestinian civilians, who have spent decades as victims of this brutal terrorist regime. The IDF is also coordinating vital humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza, which sadly is often hijacked by Hamas.
At their own peril, Palestinian citizens are also speaking out against Hamas about their dire living conditions because of Hamas leaders’ blatant disregard for their lives. Israeli forces have already rooted out thousands of Hamas operatives and will continue to do so until Hamas has been eliminated and is no longer a threat to Israeli civilians and its own people.
With Israel at war, we have seen a new battle taking shape in our community with violent protests against Israel, a dramatic rise of antisemitic incidents and calls for an immediate ceasefire. These ceasefire calls, led locally by Rep. Summer Lee and echoed nationally by anti-Israel groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, are reckless, dangerous and naive. The reality is that an immediate ceasefire would only benefit Hamas, leaving a genocidal terrorist organization in control, and continue placing Israelis and Palestinians in harm’s way. It would make it impossible for the more than 100,000 Israelis living along the Gaza border to rebuild their homes and their communities without the fear of another attack.
Don’t forget there was a “permanent” ceasefire on Oct. 6, which was negotiated after Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel in May of 2021. That was one of more than a half-dozen ceasefires since 2006 that were negotiated with Hamas, all of which ended when Hamas decided to attack Israel, leaving an untenable situation for Israel to allow to continue. While we can all support attempts to bring about a lasting peace in the region, we cannot support a ceasefire that allows Hamas to stay in power and get away with brutally massacring, raping and kidnapping civilians from Israel and other countries, which they have promised to do over and over and over again until Israel is destroyed. Israelis cannot continue to live alongside an ran-backed terrorist government that has spent decades terrorizing Israeli communities and has shot more than 11,000 missiles into Israeli civilian areas since Oct. 7 alone. A call for an immediate ceasefire will only embolden Hamas and allow its terrorist reign to continue.
Leaders across the political spectrum, including President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and our own Sen. John Fetterman, understand this, and have recognized that there can be no justice or peace until Hamas releases all hostages and is removed from power in Gaza. On Dec. 8, the U.S. bravely stood with Israel at the UN by vetoing a dangerous UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. As Secretary of State Blinken has said, Hamas has choices too. Pressure must be placed on them and their allies in Qatar, Turkey, Iran and elsewhere in the region, to surrender so that the people of Israel and Gaza can recover and build a better future.
Also on Dec. 8, pushing back against a recent report claiming widespread support for a ceasefire within the Jewish community, hundreds of rabbis of all denominations signed an open letter blasting this report and arguing that a large majority of the Jewish community is united in rejecting this claim and supports Israel’s mission of eradicating Hamas’ leadership and a return of all hostages.
For the sake of all civilians in the region, this war should end as quickly as possible. There will eventually be a ceasefire once Israel achieves its military goals. However, demands for a premature ceasefire that would leave Hamas in power are immoral and counterproductive, and only serve to continue the oppression and violence in Gaza.
I hope and pray for the time when Israel will live at peace with all its neighbors. In the meantime, the only way to end Hamas’ terrorism and Israel’s response is to let Israel achieve its goal of eliminating Hamas’ ability to attack Israel and hold Gazan civilians under its evil rule, something President Biden and the large majority of Congress understands.
I also hope we will all continue to stand with Israel in a fight for survival, for freedom, for liberal values, and for the return of every single hostage being held inside Gaza. PJC
Julie Paris is the Mid-Atlantic regional director of StandWithUs, an international nonprofit and nonpartisan education organization that supports Israel and fights antisemitism.