I wake up every morning in dread, grabbing my iPhone to see what horrors the night has brought. And every morning the list of the dead grows longer. More families that will never know unalloyed joy again. I wish it would just end. Every day I have to pick a side. On one side is Israel’s right to defend itself, at great cost and with great sorrow. On the other side, Hamas. Every day I pick the same side: Israel. Not because I don’t value the lives of Palestinians. Not because I am brutal or bloodthirsty.
I side with Israel every morning because I believe in the fundamental right of Israel to exist, in the right of its citizens to security and in the essential duty of its democratically elected government to ensure that security. Three simple beliefs which, if we replace the name of Israel with that of any western democracy, would not be controversial.
We now know, without a doubt, that Hamas fires rockets indiscriminately at civilians in Israel, that Hamas has spent what little it received in money and materials to build tunnels to facilitate killing and kidnapping civilians in Israel and that it uses the civilian population of Gaza as human shields. On these facts, even supporters of Hamas or ardent opponents of Israel’s actions agree.
Israel’s government is not only justified but obliged to use force to defend its citizens from the Hamas regime. So why the sense of unease? Because of the sheer scale of the death and destruction. I cannot help but feel sadness and admiration for the bravery of Israeli soldiers who have lost their lives defending their country and their people. Equally, I feel enormous compassion for the innocents in Gaza who have lost lives, loved ones and homes.
But I cannot use numbers to judge what is right and wrong. What lies behind these numbers is the disparity between the government of Israel’s actions and Hamas’s actions in the way they treat their populations. Israel builds shelters, Iron Domes and warning sirens; Hamas puts its civilians as human shields in front of its fighters. So the logic of the body count is not one that helps me to pick sides. It does, though, fill me with sadness, as it does most Israelis.
I don’t say that anything is justified in the fight against evil. War is ugly and it is hard to defeat the evil of Hamas, an enemy that defends itself not with weapons but with the bodies of women and children.
Many people cannot see through the perverse logic of an enemy who uses its own people’s death as a weapon. They mistake their deep sense of compassion for an appropriate moral compass without realising that they are observing the most cynical and evil regime. Others, those who oppose Israel’s very existence, see this as an opportunity: an opportunity to turn the world against Israel and to help Hamas in its quest to get rid of the hated Zionist entity.
This is why I stand with Israel. Because when we are mealy mouthed, when we are unclear, when we keep silent, when we are not willing to be counted, those who would destroy Israel notch up another victory. But this support for Israel in its war with Hamas is not at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination in their own state and to live in peace: I am on record time and again arguing for these rights and encouraging the government of Israel to build a momentum towards this goal and create conditions for prosperity for both the people of Gaza and the West Bank. But Hamas is not Gaza, and Hamas is not Palestine.
Tomorrow we can engage in a serious discussion about how best a state facing terror should defend itself while protecting civilians placed in the line of fire. But today we need to choose where we stand between Israel and Hamas, and I choose Israel, as should every other right thinking person.