I received this note from a congregant –

Rabbi, I’m distressed by this post by Joy Reid of MSNBC – https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=joy%20reid

I lived in Gaza for two years, I’ve covered numerous wars over the years. Israeli officials always highlight how they try to avoid civilians and how they warn residents to vacate their homes ahead of an impending air strike. This picture captures how dense gaza is at the moment of an air strike. Even if one building is notified to vacate, look at the damage that is caused to the nearby buildings. The windows that are blown out, the glass and the debris that injures or kills those in adjacent buildings or on then streets below. Think of the psychological terror and trauma one must feel to receive a phone call to leave their home within minutes.

What do you grab when you are running out? Do you grab food for your children? Their birth certificates? Their favorite doll or toy that helps them sleep? Just clothes?

What we perceive to be an attempt to avoid casualties is psychologically tormenting, terrifying and traumatic. There are no early warning sirens. There are no bunkers. And no shelter will protect you when an entire building, sometimes 13 stories high is collapsed on your head. There is no place to escape. There are no front lines. There is no place for the displaced to go. It’s not like those that reject this violence can just simply cross the border away from the war zone. They are in the war zone whether they move from one building to the next. Imagine if you are a law abiding citizen who rejects this violence and unbeknownst to you someone who lives ten floors down from your apartment is involved in nefarious activity. Imagine you are held responsible for what that neighbor does by having your family home destroyed. It is the very definition of collective punishment.

There is no safe space for the people of Gaza. Even if the innocent people of Gaza reject the violence being carried out they are still paying the price. This is not a war between equal sides.

Here is my response:

Thank you for sending this – It really explains and validates all the problems we have with someone like this being a high-profile reporter for MSNBC.  Her account is very subjective and reflects her bias, a bias which comes through in her reporting of the situation.

How so?

While focusing on the problems in Gaza and saying that it is not a war between two equal sides, she ignores and overlooks the most important factors of all; the ones which account for my belief in how unjust the cause of Hamas is, and why I am so passionate about speaking out on behalf of and in defense of Israel.

She does not give any context as to why Gaza is being bombed.  Is Israel just doing it for the hell of it – or could it be because Hamas has launched thousands of rockets indiscriminately at Israeli population centers.  This is totally left out of her account, but it is extremely relevant.

What about the Israeli parents and children, including those who may have pre-existing health problems and who have to run and dodge and escape the incoming barrage of rockets?  She does not consider at all the damage that Hamas inflicts on Israel.  What about the trauma of Israeli parents who have to wake their children up in the middle of the night to run to a shelter? And what by the way is Hamas’ goal in sending these missiles?  One need look no further than their charter, or what they say and preach in their mosques, or what they teach their children.  It is nothing less than the elimination and destruction of the State of Israel and to kill Jews.  Israel’s motivation, however, is defensive, to protect its citizens.

Who is it that has built tunnels to invade, capture, kidnap and kill people on the other side?  (Answer – Hamas, not Israel.)  Even if this reporter cannot recognize the difference because of her bias and superficial understanding, surely any intelligent person can recognize the difference.

Israel chooses to invest in the technology and weapons that will save its citizens’ lives, whereas Hamas chooses to invest what it doesn’t steal for its leaders in tunnels and weapons of destruction.  Instead they place their command centers and weapons in the middle of civilian areas and schools because they know Israel, unlike them with their mass rocket shellings into population centers, values life and attempts to avoid civilian casualties.  They build tunnels and bunkers and so their commanders can hide and take refuge, leaving civilians exposed.  And they do this because the sad truth is that they do not have the same values that we have in the west.  They know that destroyed buildings and the appearance of disproportionate loss on their side will arouse sympathy, as it obviously did for this reporter.

And by the way, not everything that comes out of Hamas is accurate or reliable.  I have seen video of supposedly dead bodies covered with a linen that get up and move after they think the camera has been turned off.

Yes, the Palestinians are suffering, and yes this is unfortunate, and even tragic.  Yet the saddest part of all is that their suffering is caused by their own deeds and miscalculations; by the decisions and path they and their leaders have chosen.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  It will change when the Palestinians turn away from the fomenting of vile hatred of Israel and the goal of wanting to destroy Israel and choose instead to build up their own society.  Until that happens, they will continue to suffer and pursue their destructive goals, which really only destroys themselves.  Let us not contribute to perpetuating the situation by being enablers, as this reporter, and all too many other naïve, well-intentioned reporters are.

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt
May 14, 2021