Filed under: opinion
Two thousand and eight went down as one of the worst years in history: a global recession jerked international stock markets at unpredictable rates while nuclear powerhouses were on the rise in the eastern hemisphere. In the final days of the year especially, the messy Middle East cracked under the pressing tensions between Israel and Gaza, giving way to yet another climax in the age old story.
Palestinian residents of Gaza have been firing rockets into Israel since 2001. In 2005, the Israeli disengagement from Gaza removed Jewish settlers and military forces from the area and gave the land in Gaza to the Palestinians; in the nearly three and a half years since, over 6500 rockets have been fired into Israel by Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization that democratically gained control of Gaza’s government in 2006 elections. Its victory in the 2007 Palestinian civil war secured its power; Hamas has been threatening the safety of moderate Palestinians and Israelis alike.
With the help of Egypt, a six-month cease-fire agreement was reached in June between Hamas and Israel. When the agreement expired on December 18, however, the situation took a turn for the worse: attacks escalated and violence ensued. While the number of rockets decreased significantly in the second half of the year, it is widely believed that Hamas was using the “calm” time to smuggle and stockpile longer range rockets. “Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian president, was dumbfounded when Hamas in the first place didn’t renew the cease-fire,” says Israel commentator and lecturer Neil Lazarus. Even after Abbas appealed to the radical group through the Egyptians, “Hamas turned to its arsenals.” Hamas is dangerously more radical than the majority of Palestinians that populate Gaza, and its unwillingness to cooperate with its own people and Palestinian leaders is frustrating civilians, and endangering lives. The IDF started “Operation Cast Lead” on December 19 with air-strikes over Gaza, and began ground fighting about a week later, motzaei Shabbat January 3. Hamas retaliated violently by increasing both the number of rockets being fired and the distances they reach; Merhavim high school, for example, is closed because it is within the rocket range.
Hamas supporters all over the world have been condemning Israel for what they believe to be gratuitous offensive attacks. Perhaps even more jarring than the unruly fighting on the border were these extremists’ international rallies and protests: angry mobs massed outside London’s Israeli Embassy for days, violently fighting with policemen; crowds of thousands gathered to burn Israeli flags in Iraq; tons of Lebanese Shiites swarmed to worship Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as he called for a third intifada; and Jordanians gathered in Amman to chant for the restoration of suicide bombings. These radical approaches and brutal demonstrations are scaring the worldwide Jewish community more than ever.
It is no secret that as a people we are small in number and, as threats become more and more real, we must tighten our grip by projecting our voices. Israel “is the only country in the world whose right to exist is a subject of legitimate discussion among intellectually sophisticated and liberally minded people,” notes Israel writer and speaker Daniel Gordis. Despite what we may think individually about Israel’s government or recent operation in Gaza, I find it imperative that we come together to support her. This does not, by any means, suggest that we must agree with her every action; in fact, we are stronger if we represent our own views, and work together to harmonize opinions on the issues she faces. It means only that we must do everything in our power to make sure Israel survives.
To do this, we do not have to physically mediate between Mashaal and Olmert, or devise a plan to destroy all the rockets; there are other actions we can take to make a difference. Most importantly, as American Jewish teenagers, we can advocate for Israel. Neil Lazarus offers five effective tips for Israel Advocacy: have a message; use emotion; personalize; speak their language; and get to yes. We must educate ourselves on the situation in order to develop a position and understand the importance of our actions. By staying updated on sites like Jpost, Ynet, and Haaretz, we can become informed young adults with respected opinions. Next, we must advocate with passion and deliver our message by personally identifying with the issues. In our appeals, we must also focus on connecting with the opposing party. Callous attacks will only help disprove your point; make sure to disagree respectfully and back your views with accurate, eye-opening and objective information. In every discussion about Israel, from formal petitions to casual conversations, we can employ these steps to effectively advocate for our homeland. Whether we are conscious citizens, true Zionists, inspired activists, concerned Jews or a combination, the time has come to repay Israel for the glory and good times with which she has blessed us.
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