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Monitor Board of Contributors: Hamas has been the aggressor, not Israel

John S. Hancock’s letter to the editor of Nov. 23 titled “Israel rains death on Gaza” was extremely misleading and contained numerous factual errors. The current “bloodbath” did not being when Israeli soldiers murdered a 12-year old boy who’d been playing soccer.

The current conflict began in 2005 when Israel withdrew from Gaza, giving the Palestinians who live in that area control of their own destiny. They elected Hamas (a political party whose name means “violence” and whose mission it is to eradicate Israel) over the Palestinian Authority. Hamas immediately began its daily rocket attacks on Israel, firing on average 1,000 rockets per year into southern Israeli towns inhabited by civilians. These towns are not in disputed territories. These towns are not outposts by settlers. These are towns in which Jewish residents of Israel simply wish to go about their lives in peace.

In early November of this year, Hamas, emboldened by the increased support it has received by the new government of Egypt, stepped up its rocket attacks. Before Israel began retaliating, Hamas fired an average of 250 rockets into southern Israel per day. Israel’s retaliation targeted Hamas leaders and known terrorists. Women and children died because Hamas terrorist leaders are known for deliberately hiding out in homes with their many wives and children and other members of their extended families so that when the Israeli forces specifically target these terrorists, innocent women and children die.

Hamas has fired far more rockets into Israel than Israel has fired back into Gaza. Many more Gazans have died than Israelis because of something called the Iron Dome, a part of the Israeli defense system that has intercepted more than 80 percent of the Hamas rockets fired. Hamas has now developed the capability of firing long-range rockets and directed rockets at both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the two major populations centers in Israel. The Iron Dome intercepted those targeting Tel Aviv, and those headed toward Jerusalem landed in the West Bank, resulting, thank heavens, in no fatalities or injuries.

A look at the Hamas propaganda, the posters carried at rallies in support of Hamas, and the efforts made by Hamas to minimize injury or death to civilians can shed light on the nature of the conflict. Hamas and media outlets that support Hamas have reissued old photos of fatal attacks by Palestinian terrorists on Israelis in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but changed the captions to claim that these were photos of residents of Gaza killed by Israelis in the recent conflict. Posters at rallies in support of Hamas read “God Bless Hitler” and “There’s no better blood than the blood of Jews.”

Before Israel launches attacks into Gaza, army officials both call civilians and drop leaflets to let them know an attack in their area is imminent, giving them time to move to safety. The Israeli defense forces also undertake something called “roof knocking,” which drops loud but non-lethal bombs into an area of Gaza, again, to warn civilians that an attack is coming and allow them to move to safety. Hamas, on the other hand, specifically targets Israeli civilians. And despite the cease-fire that both sides agreed to, Hamas is still firing rockets into Israel, specifically targeting the Tel Aviv metropolitan region, an area inhabited by more than 3 million people.

Ordinary Israelis and ordinary Palestinians simply want peace and to go about their lives. I pray that the current cease-fire between Israel and Gaza will somehow give the leaders of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people an opportunity to step back, breathe and seek the peace that the area so desperately needs.

(Robin Nafshi is the rabbi at Temple Beth Jacob in Concord.)

The rabbi's letter is heartfelt and accurate as far as it goes. But it lacks any historical context for the Gaza conflict. Hamas was democratically elected to represent Gazans, and for both Israel and the U.S., it's a reminder to be careful what you wish for. In the 80's, Israel encouraged Hamas--seeing it as an effective counterweight to the PLO, and useful to keep the Palestinians divided and quarreling among themselves. Though I hasten to add this is something they've long managed to do very well without outside assistance. Neither side in this conflict has missed any opportunity to miss opportunities for peace. But the preponderance of power rests on the Israeli side.The Likud party has in the main pursued a policy that renders a two-state solution less and less likely, in favor of a "greater Israel". It has done this by allowing the settlements to continue to grow on disputed land, by continuing to build a wall to separate two peoples who should be sharing one land, and most importantly, by perpetuating the myth that Israel was, prior to 1947, a "land without a people, for a people without a land." Unless and until Israel is willing to negotiate with Hamas, nothing will change. There is no one else to talk to, and Israel and the U.S should be mindful of one lesson from before the 1947: one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

Hancock also said something about an occupation. There are no Jews in Gaza, and there have not been since 2005.

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