As a frequent visitor to Aspen and as an Israeli, I am interested and disturbed by some of the responses to Melanie Sturm’s recent “Think Again” piece (“Confronting evil in Gaza — if not now, when?,” July 31, The Aspen Times)
Writer Cathleen Krahe takes issue with Sturm’s use of the word “evil” to describe Hamas (“Hamas is hardly evil,” Aug. 3, Letters, The Aspen Times); Michael Levengood suggests that Gaza is “the world’s biggest concentration camp (and) biggest graveyard” (“Look at Israel’s role,” Letters, Aug. 5, The Aspen Times); Stefan Edlis says there were no rockets in recent years and suggests a “motivation” for the indiscriminate firing of missiles on Israeli population centers (“Palestinians denied basic freedoms,” Letters, July 31, The Aspen Times).
Facts readily available to anyone seeking a nuanced understanding of the issues may help.
1. Hamas — “Islamic Resistance Movement” and an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood — was founded to eradicate the Jewish state of Israel and to murder Jews as well as Christians and others, and to establish an Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East and eventually around the world. Hamas murders and oppresses opponents, gays, women and journalists. They use terror as a strategy, from the murder of innocents in cafes and busses to firing missiles at millions of civilians across Israel. And they make no secret of any of this. If al-Qaida and Hezbollah, Boko Haram and Hutu, Hitler and Pol Pot are considered “evil,” Hamas must logically be included in their infamous company.
2. Hamas is not focused on “ending the ‘occupation,’” nor was it ever. It, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida and others active in Gaza and the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria/the “West Bank” of the Jordan River, are not, nor have they ever advocated for an independent “Palestinian” state in those territories living peacefully alongside the Jewish state of Israel.
3. Hamas and others fired an average of 60 rockets a year since the end of the last operation against Hamas in Gaza in 2012 — not “none” as per your writer. This does not count hundreds of cross-border mortars, gunfire attacks and IEDs. A total of some 14,000 rockets and missiles have been fired on Israel since it withdrew all its troops and every one of its citizens from Gaza in 2005.
4. Calling Gaza a “ghetto” is disingenuous. Not only does Israel provide for the entry and exit of goods and services, even in times of war, but both Israel and Egypt exercise their sovereign right to monitor the import across their borders to prevent the passage of weapons of war. The draconian terms imposed upon Gaza were and are a result of Hamas terror. Your writer’s suggestion that the terrorist firing of rockets on civilian populations is somehow a “response” to the lawful blockade (upheld by the U.N.) not only is illogical and incorrect; it is immoral. And your other writer’s concept that a desire for “freedom” motivates the murder or attempted murder of innocents is a despicable and un-American corruption of both the reality on the ground and the very idea of “freedom.”
4. A “concentration camp” is where the Nazis murdered millions; a “graveyard” is where people are buried. The use of those terms by your writer for rhetorical purposes falls clearly into the definition by the U.S. State Department of the new anti-Semitism, using Nazi references or accusations of genocide and murder to demonize Israel and the Jewish people. Israel is clearly doing a poor job, as the “Palestinian” Arab population has increased dramatically over the years; and the “graveyards” in today’s Syria, Iraq and various African countries, let alone recent massacres in Rwanda, Bosnia, Chechnya, etc. might be of interest to your writer. The fact that the ratio of civilian casualties to combatant casualties is far lower in Gaza than NATO in Bosnia or the U.S. in Iraq or Afghanistan puts paid to the absurd accusation that Israel is wantonly killing innocents. To say otherwise reveals a Jew-hatred reminiscent of medieval times — only this blood libel is directed at the nation-state of the Jewish people rather than at individual Jews.
Recognizing evil is the first step in combatting it. Excusing terror for any reason encourages it. I wonder if your writers would support the firing of rockets on Aspen by poor Mexican workers in detention in Denver, or their blowing up a bus on West Main Street to protest their conditions or lack of future prospects. California U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi said the other day that Qatar repeatedly told her that Hamas is a “humanitarian” organization — and in her naivety and desire to make sense of a senseless situation and ideology, she chooses to simply believe what the extremist, anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-Israel Qatari leaders tell her rather than to think for herself. Perhaps if she reads Sturm’s columns, she might “think again.”