How Not To Advocate for Israel

Obama%20Fox%20530[1]Last week we saw four examples of how not to advocate for Israel:

1. Don’t back lawsuits you can’t win.

The Supreme Court struck down a law that forced the President, through the Secretary of State, to identify, upon request, citizens born in Jerusalem as being born in Israel even though the United States has never acknowledged Israel nor any other country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem.

President Bush did not enforce this law, and neither has President Obama. No one should have been surprised that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Executive Branch. But as a result of this short-sighted lawsuit, which never should have been brought, the Palestinians are claiming victory and pro-Israel groups are upset.
[Read more…]

No, the U.S. Won’t Impose Sanctions on Israel

The U.S. is not going to impose sanctions on Israel.

You would not believe the nonsense I get in my inbox. The question I ask myself is whether I should write about it, thus giving it a modicum of credence and potentially spreading the rumor further, or whether to ignore it, letting the misinformation stand uncorrected. But since we are going to see a lot of nonsense between now and Israel’s upcoming elections, let us see what we can learn. [Read more…]

You Call That a Crisis?

Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, April 9, 2013. (Photo: Matty Ster.)

Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, April 9, 2013. (Photo: Matty Ster.)

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) responded Wednesday to Jeff Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic that quoted a senior U.S. official referring to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as a “chicken**t”:

There should never be any doubt that the special and strategic bond between the United States and Israel remains strong, steadfast and secure. In such a relationship, cooperation is celebrated and differences should be aired in confidence.

Unsubstantiated reports of inappropriate criticism and unprofessional name-calling are outrageous and unacceptable. And if proven true, the responsible individual should be held to full account. Whether they agree or disagree, friends engage with respect.

Dialog and professional engagement are essential to meeting the growing challenges that both Israel and the United States face. I hope that this moment provides an opportunity to reaffirm the distinct and critical relationship between our two countries.

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) said similar things:

Even in informal conversation, the use of the term was unprofessional and does not meet the standard of civility and deference that has typified the Administration even in disagreement with its long-time ally.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has the right and responsibility as the freely elected leader of a sovereign nation to conduct Israel’s foreign and domestic policies as he determines are in the best interests of his country and its people. Likewise, the United States has a strategic interest in pursuing peace, prosperity and security for Israel. Cooperation between the two countries has never been stronger.

The personal frustration that is reflected in the anonymous source’s ad hominem attack should be channeled to constructive engagement rather than rhetorical flourishes.

As pro-Israel advocates, even as we condemn this unacceptable name-calling, we must understand what was behind it.

We are in a difficult position because the current government in Israel also bears some of the blame for the rift in U.S.-Israel relations. It is not “anti-Israel” to recognize this reality any more than it is “anti-American” to recognize the flaws of the current U.S. government’s policy.

We have heard tales of rifts and snubs almost since the day President Obama was elected. Yet, the Obama administration has taken U.S.-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels: He provided Israel with record aid, including enthusiastic support for Iron Dome, which the George W. Bush administration was “frosty” on, and while continuing U.S. policy on settlements and Jerusalem that have been in place since 1967, he has not let this decades-old disagreement affect the U.S. strategic and diplomatic support for Israel.

During the Gaza War, even while calling for a cease-fire, Obama resupplied Israel with munitions. The delay in delivering Hellfire missiles, which have now been delivered, did not adversely affect Israel, which did not use those during the war.

The undeniable reality is that the U.S.-Israel relationship remains strong, and it is almost a testament to the strength of the relationship that the worst that President Obama’s critics can point to is name-calling. I would take name-calling over the tangible damage previous administrations have done to Israel any day.

No one in the Bush administration ever publicly referred to the prime minister of Israel as “chicken**t,” but let us not forget what did happen during the Bush tenure.

Bush rejected requests from Israel for special bombs to attack Iran and violated an agreement with Israel to maintain its qualitative military edge by selling arms to Arab states.

In 2002, Bush demanded that Israel stop its military offensive in the West Bank “now, not tomorrow.”

In 2006, when Israel invaded Lebanon, the Bush administration said, “We are urging restraint on both sides, recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself,” almost word for word what the Obama administration said during Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

The Bush administration pressured Israel into allowing Hamas to participate in the 2006 Gaza elections, thus conferring on Hamas a legitimacy it could not have otherwise achieved. The Bush administration rescinded $289.5 million in loan guarantees for Israel as punishment for what Bush considered illegal settlement activity.

The Obama administration has never pressured Israel to act contrary to what Israel perceives as its best interests. If the Obama administration is in a crisis with Israel, we should only wish the Bush administration had similar crises.

President Nixon postponed the sale of 25 Phantom jets and 80 Skyhawks to Israel, and complained that “the f**king Jews think they can run the world.” President Ford called for a “total reassessment” of the U.S. policy toward Israel. As Lenny Ben-David wrote in The Jerusalem Post, the Bush 41-James Baker animus toward Yitzak Shamir “was so hot it could melt snow on Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Nothing that is happening now comes close to the animus and venom that Menachem Begin displayed toward Ronald Reagan in 1981.

If you can think of a Republican administration that has been better to Israel than the Obama administration, I am all ears. Anyone who thinks we are at a low point in U.S.-Israel relations either has forgotten history or has conveniently chosen to forget.

So why the hatred of Obama from some of our Republican friends? Even psychoanalyst Richard Kaufman is not sure:

I wish I could understand the blind, irrational, paranoid rage so many people nurture toward Obama.

A lifetime in psychiatry, neuroscience, and psychoanalysis does not help me to figure out where this wrath comes from in otherwise sane, reasonable, loving, compassionate, highly educated, intelligent people.

I dislike, disrespect and disagree with many, if not most, politicians. But I don’t hate them. Perhaps the hypertrophied reaction to Obama is a type of monosymptomatic delusion? I do not know.

I do not know either, but let us keep the current tensions in perspective. We were told before President Obama’s election in 2008 that he would turn on Israel. It never happened. Then we were told that once re-elected in 2012 he would turn on Israel. It never happened either.

Instead, Obama visited Israel, becoming only the fifth sitting president to do so, and continued building the international coalition without which sanctions on Iran would not be effective. And he not only championed Iron Dome from the beginning, but he asked Congress for additional funding during the recent Gaza War, thus saving thousands of Israeli lives.

The U.S.-Israel relationship has always had its ups and downs. By any historical measure, the Obama administration, with all personal tensions, remains among the ups.

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If Gaza Were Near the U.S.

— by Steve SheffeyHamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel this week.Can you imagine what the U.S. would do if hundreds of rockets were coming into it from the Delaware Bay? It would not exercise a tenth of the restraint Israel has exercised.Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) spoke for all of us last Tuesday: 

Families in Israel are once again hearing incessant alarm sirens and racing to bomb shelters as Hamas launches hundreds of rockets from Gaza targeting Israeli civilians. No nation would, nor should accept such attack without firm response. I support Israel’s right to defend herself against threats to her citizens and efforts to restore quiet to the region

The fundamental duty of any state is to protect its citizens. The reason so few Israelis die from rocket attacks is that Israel does everything it can to protect its citizens from rocket fire. The reason so many Palestinians die from Israeli air strikes is that despite Israeli leaflets and other warnings that attacks are imminent, Hamas launches rockets from hospitals and densely-populated areas, and deliberately keeps civilians in harm’s way.Some people urge a “proportionate” response on Israel. What would that be? Firing dozens of rockets randomly into Gaza?The correct amount of force is the amount necessary to stop the Hamas rocket attacks. If anything, the Israeli response has been insufficient, as the rocket attacks keep coming.The Jewish Federations of North America have issued a statement commending President Obama “for his continuing support of Israel’s right to self-defense.”

You may have seen misleading headlines about White House Middle East coordinator Philip Gordon’s major speech last Tuesday. However, it was a good summary of the U.S. policy on Israel, Syria, Iran, and the peace process:

 

Over the past several days, Hamas and other terrorist groups have launched dozens of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, forcing local populations into their shelters.The United States strongly condemns these attacks. No country should have to live under the constant threat of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians.

We support Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks. At the same time, we appreciate Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for acting responsibly. We, in turn, call on all sides to do all they can to restore calm, and to take steps to protect civilians.

Israel is doing exactly what Gordon urges. The only way to restore calm is to stop the rocket attacks, and Israel is doing all it can to protect civilians.

Unlike previous administrations, the Obama administration has never condemned, threatened, or punished Israel for using military force to protect its citizens. Who can argue with what Gordon said?

Gordon also discussed the specifics of President Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security, preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, removing chemical weapons from Syria (a huge success that was achieved without firing a shot), and the prospects for peace with the Palestinians, even as rockets are striking Israel. This is where the headlines have been misleading.

I urge you to read what Gordon said, all of it, and decide for yourself if these are the words of a friend or if he is “blasting Israel.”

Why Does Israel Still Transfer Money to the PA?


In forming this technocratic government, Hamas agreed to conditions it was never previously willing to accept, such as giving Abbas veto power over all ministers and approving the formation of a government in which it has no ministers, which is why this unity government might succeed.

— by Steve Sheffey

The pro-Israel community is concerned about the new Palestinian unity government.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), a lifelong advocate for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, a supporter of a two-state solution, and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement on the subject last week:

I remain deeply concerned that the Palestinian Authority continues to move forward with a reconciliation government that includes the internationally-recognized terrorist group Hamas. Hamas continues to advocate violent action against Israel, and its political leadership refuses to recognize Israel.

Hamas’ participation in a unity government raises serious doubts as to the Palestinians’ commitment to a negotiated peace with Israel and raises significant questions regarding future U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.

While I support efforts by the Palestinian Authority to form government institutions capable of representing the Palestinian people, a unity government with Hamas, without Hamas agreeing to the “Quartet Conditions,” which includes renouncing violence, recognizing Israel and honoring past agreements, will hinder the peace process and will not result in a future Palestinian state.

President Abbas must understand the two-state agreement can only be achieved through good faith negotiation with Israel. I hope he and his government will take the steps to further the prospects for peace for his people and the region.

More after the jump.
AIPAC called on Congress to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), while Congress “conducts a thorough review of continued U.S. assistance to ensure that U.S. law, which prohibits to a Palestinian government in which Hamas participates or has undue influence, is completely followed and implemented.”

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago wrote that the “inclusion of Hamas at any level of a Palestinian government undermines the goal of the United States and Israel for a negotiated settlement to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

Israel criticized the decision of the U.S. to work with the new Palestinian unity government. But the White House pointed out that the same day the technocratic Palestinian unity government was established, Israel transferred more than 500 million shekels (about $145 million) to the PA government.

Haaretz reported that a senior White House official said, “It is unclear to us why some in the Israeli political leadership are staking out such a hard line public position that is fundamentally at odds with their own actions.” The official added that the transfer “was no accident and reflects the Israeli establishment’s clear interest in maintaining a functioning and stable PA that can effectively administer Palestinian areas.”

Israel has no interest in seeing the PA collapse and their actions this week reinforce this clear-eyed understanding, despite what some Israeli officials are saying publicly.

Our position has consistently been that the threshold for working with a PA government is that it recognize the Quartet principles and doesn’t include or share power with Hamas. It is against our interest — and Israel’s interests — to cut ties with and funding to such a PA government. A functioning, stable PA serves our interests, Palestinian interests, and Israeli interests.

Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that the “U.S. does not recognize a government with respect to Palestine because that would recognize a state and there is no state.”

Hamas is a terrorist organization. It has not accepted the Quartet principles. It continues to call for the destruction of Israel. It continues even as it moves into this new posture. And so we are obviously going to watch closely what happens, but we will… work with it in the constraints that we are obviously facing.

Unless Kerry is mistaken on the facts, the U.S. is not required by law to cut off funding. Kerry said last week that Abbas “made clear that this new technocratic government is committed to the principles of non violence, negotiations, recognizing the state of Israel, acceptance of the previous agreements and the Quartet principles.”

Based on what we know now about the composition of this technocratic government, which has no minister affiliated to Hamas and is committed to the principles that I describe, we will work with it as we need to, as appropriate.

The purpose of this technocratic unity government is to administer affairs in the West Bank and Gaza for purposes of having election in six months.

No one disputes that Hamas is an unrepentant terrorist organization. But neither Israel nor the U.S. believes that any of the ministers in the unity government are members of Hamas. Hamas is very weak as a result of restrictions imposed by Egypt, so it is in both Israel’s and the PA’s interests to capitalize on this weakness by forcing Hamas out of power in Gaza by elections.

In forming this technocratic government, Hamas agreed to conditions it was never previously willing to accept, such as giving Abbas veto power over all ministers and approving the formation of a government in which it has no ministers, which is why this unity government might succeed.

If the Palestinian Authority collapses, not only would Israel have to take over administration of the West Bank — which Israel does not want to do — but Israel would also lose the security cooperation that has virtually eliminated terrorist attacks from the West Bank into Israel. Perhaps that is why, despite its rhetoric, Israel continues to transfer money to the PA — and so should we.

Congress should work with the Administration to ensure that we have not been misled as to the composition of this unity government, and to monitor this unity government for acts that would render it ineligible for U.S. aid. Suspending aid now could imperil U.S. and Israeli security and administrative interests. It might be more prudent to suspend aid only if and when we have evidence that continued U.S. assistance would violate U.S. law.

The goal is to remove Hamas from power and create a government that can negotiate meaningfully with Israel, but the risk is that Hamas will use this government to expand its influence. A Palestinian government without Hamas that can negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is the ideal partner for peace. We must be careful not to take rash action.

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ASA Israel Boycott Widely Condemned


Related Article: Is Your Alma Mater Complicit in ASA’s Israel Boycott? Includes universities’ contact information so that you can make your views known.

— by Steve Sheffey

The American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions has been condemned by organizations, politicians and public figures from all across the political spectrum.

The American Association of University Professors said in an official letter that it opposes academic boycotts, including the ASA boycott, as violations of academic freedom.

The Anti-Defamation League wrote in a press release, “This shameful, morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest attack on academic freedom by the [ASA] should be soundly condemned by all who are committed to the ideal that open exchange of ideas is the most effective way to achieve change.”

Targeting Israeli institutions solely because they are in Israel — the only democratic country in the Middle East where scholarship and debate are encouraged and flourish — is based on a myopic and fundamentally distorted perspective of Israel and the conflict and is manifestly unjust.

Comments from Ambassador Oren, Rep. Schneider, JStreet, Peter Beinart and Jeff Goldberg follow the jump.
The former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, wrote in his official Facebook page that the boycott “singles out the world’s only Jewish state, the Middle East’s only democracy, undermines academic freedom, and defies Abu Mazen’s opposition to such boycotts.”

More needs to be said about fighting back. The United States has long imposed strict penalties on companies complying with the Arab boycott of Israel. Similar measures should be enacted denying state and Federal funding for any activities associated with the promoters of this racist anti-democratic measure.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) tweeted that the “decision by ASA to boycott Israeli academic institutions is misdirected and wrong.”

In its official blog, JStreet wrote that it “strongly opposes the American Studies Association’s decision today to boycott Israeli colleges and universities.”

Unilaterally placing blame on one party, as the ASA boycott does, is an overly simplistic and unhelpful approach to an incredibly complicated and dynamic political situation. And it is one that is not befitting of an academic community.

The Daily Beast columnist, Peter Beinart, wrote that the boycott is “dead wrong,” because it denies “the legitimacy of a democratic Jewish state, even alongside a Palestinian one.”

The Bloomberg columnist, Jeff Goldberg, wrote, “Is it a coincidence that these academics are singling out the world’s only Jewish-majority country for boycott? Only to those who know nothing of the history of anti-Semitic scapegoating.”

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The Forward and the Jewish Journal of Boston Launch Partnership


Forward editor-in-chief Jane Eisner has strong ties to the Philadelphia Jewish community. Before 2008 when she became the first woman to edit The Forward, she was vice president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, held a variety of positions at the Philadelphia Inquirer including editorial page editor, and taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College. Her TV program The Salon continues to air locally on TJC.

Collaboration Will Enhance Jewish Journalism in Greater Boston

The Jewish Daily Forward and The Jewish Journal, two of the American Jewish community’s leading news sources, are working together to expand their coverage and entice more readers to connect with the Jewish community in Greater Boston, nationwide and around the world.

Beginning in August, the Journal’s print edition will include a selection of news, interviews,  features and arts coverage from the Forward’s correspondents worldwide. And the Journal will launch a new website, hosted by the Forward, to provide a rich online experience worthy of the Jewish Journal’s in-depth coverage of the metropolitan Boston Jewish community.

Forward president and publisher Samuel Norich:

This is another step on a road we have been traveling for a century, toward providing the most comprehensive and credible coverage of American Jewry and the Jewish world. Because we believe a robust Jewish press is essential to the health of our communities, the Forward is pleased to work with the Jewish Journal to better serve Boston’s Jewish community, and we look forward to extending this collaborative model to publications in other localities.

In this partnership, each organization will retain its editorial and financial independence. The Forward, by working with the Journal, will extend its exposure in the Boston area and benefit from the Journal’s thorough knowledge of its community. The Journal will gain access to the Forward’s extensive experience in national and international journalism, digital media and marketing.

Barbara Schneider, publisher of the Jewish Journal:

We’re laying the groundwork to expand beyond our traditional base on the North Shore. By partnering with the Forward, the Jewish Journal can maintain its hyper-local approach to covering communal news and provide a more valuable service to the Greater Boston community. We will also be able to offer our community a more comprehensive and up-to-the minute website.

Everyone wins. The Jewish Journal benefits, the Forward benefits, and — more importantly — our readers and web users benefit from our ability to do more for them together than we can separately.

About The Forward

The Forward is a legendary name in journalism, chronicling the American Jewish story for 116 years. As a nonprofit, user-supported media organization, it remains committed today to serving the Jewish community and society’s greater good with a national, Jewish perspective, strengthening Jewish engagement with independent reporting and diverse commentary on current issues and the arts, in English and Yiddish, that meet the highest standards of public service in journalism and cultural expression.

Its news, analysis, features and arts coverage reach an audience of millions through the Internet at forward.com, as well as its newspapers published in both English and Yiddish. Forward journalists are regularly seen and heard on CNN, MSNBC and NPR, and its coverage is regularly cited by major outlets such as the New York Times, Israeli media and international wire services. The Forward’s excellence has been recognized with numerous professional journalism awards for reporting, editorials, design and web content.

About The Jewish Journal

The Jewish Journal is a nonprofit, independent, local paper that shines a light on all aspects of Jewish communal life in the Greater Boston area, while offering a broad spectrum of opinion on its op-ed pages.

Founded in Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 1977, the Jewish Journal is now based in Salem. Its mission is to inform, engage, educate and connect the Jewish community in the Greater Boston region. The newspaper is distributed free to families in more than 60 cities and towns in Eastern Massachusetts, and mailed to subscribers in other states.  

House GOP Oppose Measure Targeted Against Iran

(NJDC) On Friday, House Republicans voted unanimously against a measure that would have kept up the pressure on Iran. The Motion to Recommit put forward by Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL) contained an amendment that explicitly banned the export of helium to these “hostile nations that seek nuclear weapons or missile technology” — which specifically included Iran.

The bill ultimately passed with one nay vote, which means that Republicans owe an explanation as to why they opposed Representative Schneider’s amendment. At a time when we should be doing everything we can to augment sanctions, Republicans appear to have let party politics trump common sense — and sent exactly the wrong message.  

New Jewish Faces on Capitol Hill in 2013

PM Netanyahu Meets with Senator Daniel Inouye— by David A. Harris

Now that the 113th Congress has been sworn-in, we thought you would be interested in learning a little bit about the newest members from our community who are bringing their Jewish values to Capitol Hill.

Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presents Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) with a replica of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jerusalem
(September 2, 2012). Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO

More after the jump.

  • Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz was appointed to the U.S. Senate following the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) — a pro-Israel giant and true friend of the American Jewish community. Notably, Senator Schatz was sworn into the Senate with a Tanakh, and his entrance into the Senate brings the total of Jewish partisan Democrats to 10 — the number required for a minyan. (Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont, an eleventh Jewish senator who caucuses with the Democrats, is an Independent.)
  • Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL) is a former Mayor of West Palm Beach, Florida and she successfully fought a tough campaign against a formidable opponent. Frankel is very familiar with the issues that concern her constituents, including protecting the social safety net and support for Israel.
  • Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL), who was defeated following his first term in 2010, is beginning the second chapter of his congressional career in the 113th Congress. Grayson is an outspoken advocate for many of the issues of concern to American Jews, and his voice will be important in rallying the Democratic caucus.
  • Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) was a prominent voice in both the California Assembly and Senate, and believes in so many of the policies supported by the clear majority of our community.
  • Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL) is a distinguished businessman and Jewish leader from Chicago who ousted incumbent Representative Robert Dold (R-IL). Schneider is an outspoken Israel supporter and is committed to protecting America’s middle class.

Special Report: Israel and Gaza

— by Steve Sheffey

Hamas terrorists have fired thousands of rockets into Israel from Gaza. What is remarkable is not the Israeli response, but the Israeli restraint in the face of aggression no other country would be expected to tolerate.

The pro-peace and progressive communities must speak out forcefully in support of Israel. A two-state solution is impossible as long as Hamas terrorism continues.

President Obama has backed Israel in this latest crisis. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) condemned Hamas and issued a statement unequivocally supporting Israel’s right to self-defense. Congressman-elect Brad Schneider (D-IL) also issued a strong statement condemning Hamas’s attacks on Israel and supporting Israel’s right to self-defense.

The US Senate and House unanimously approved a resolution supporting Israel on November 15. For this to happen in two days with everything else on the Congressional agenda is a remarkable display of US support for Israel. AIPAC praised President Obama’s strong support for Israel as well as strong support from both parties in Congress.

Since his re-election, President Obama has spoken out against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state at the UN, reiterated his firm commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and forcefully condemned Hamas while supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. So much for Republican claims that President Obama would be less supportive of Israel in his second term.

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More after the jump.
Israel is doing what it has to do. As Israeli President Shimon Peres said, “Those who preach to us about morality should offer an alternative way to stop the rocket fire from Hamas.”

Hamas terrorists have fired over 12,000 rockets from Gaza into Israel during the past 12 years. Hamas  has fired over 800 rockets  into Israel since the beginning of the year, over 120 in the week before Israel began Operation Pillar of Defense, and hundreds more since then. No country would tolerate this terror for as long as Israel has. No country should have to tolerate even one rocket, let alone 12,000. Millions of  Israelis are within rocket range and have only 15 seconds from the time the sirens sound to run to a shelter.

President Obama told Prime Minister Netanyahu “that he understands and supports Israel’s right to self-defense in light of countless rocket attacks on Israeli civilians being launched from Gaza.” And yesterday, the White House defended Israel and blamed Hamas for the the escalation in violence, saying that “Israelis have endured far too much of a threat from these rockets for far too long.”

On November 14, UN Ambassador from the United States Susan Rice said that

“There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu is right:

I want to remind you that, seven years ago, Israel withdrew from every square inch of Gaza. Now, Hamas took over the areas we vacated. What did it do? Rather than build a better future for the residents of Gaza, the Hamas leadership, backed by Iran, turned Gaza into a terrorist stronghold. They fired thousand of rockets at our cities, at our towns, at our civilians, at our children. They’ve smuggled thousands of rockets and missiles into Gaza, and they deliberately place these rockets and missiles in civilian areas: in homes, in schools, near hospitals. This year alone, they fired over one thousand rockets and missiles at Israel, including close to 200 rockets in the last 24 hours.

I’m stressing this because it’s important to understand one simple point. There is no moral symmetry; there is no moral equivalence, between Israel and the terrorist organizations in Gaza. The terrorists are committing a double war crime. They fire at Israeli civilians, and they hide behind Palestinian civilians. And, by contrast, Israel takes every measure to avoid civilian casualties. I saw today a picture of a bleeding Israeli baby. This picture says it all: Hamas deliberately targets our children, and they deliberately place their rockets next to their children. Despite this reality – and it’s a very difficult reality – Israel will continue to do everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties.

Israel’s response was neither excessive nor disproportionate. What would a proportionate response be? Firing a missile into civilian areas of Gaza every time Hamas fires a rocket into civilian areas of Israel? There is no moral equivalency or “cycle of violence” here. Hamas fires rockets into civilian areas to terrorize Israel. Israel attempts to end the rocket fire by targeting those who are doing the shooting. Since Hamas deliberately operates from civilian areas, some loss of innocent life is inevitable, no matter how hard Israel tries to avoid it. To compare Israel’s deliberate, surgical killing of Hamas terror chief Ahmed Jabari with Hamas’s deliberate targeting of civilians is itself immoral. Hamas brought this on itself and its people.

We will also hear that more Gazans than Israelis were killed in the recent fighting. This is partly because the Iron Dome batteries the Obama administration provided have intercepted some of the missiles, partly because Israelis are trained to find shelter as quickly as possible, and partly because even though Israel targets military sites, Hamas places the military sites in civilian areas.

Palestinians in Gaza are suffering terribly from Israeli air strikes. The death of any innocent person is tragic. This latest round of fighting will result in more suffering and dying within Gaza. It will also breed more hatred toward Israel. No one should be happy about it. The problem is that Israel has no choice. The UN is not pressuring Hamas to stop the terror. The Arab countries are not pressuring Hamas to stop the terror. Israel had to act to stop the terror, and while Palestinian suffering is undeniable, the blame rests solely with Hamas, not Israel. How much force should Israel use? Enough to stop the rockets, whatever that might take.

If the Arabs were really concerned about their Palestinian brethren, instead of running to the UN to condemn Israel, they would have already run to the UN to condemn Hamas for its terrorist rocket strikes.  Instead of financing Hamas, they would cut off financing for Hamas and try to strengthen the Palestinian Authority. They would realize that the goal of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security can only be achieved by showing the Israeli public that a two-state solution can work. How can the Israeli public be expected to support a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) after this? Most Israelis understand that a two-state solution is the only solution that will allow Israel to remain democratic and Jewish, but they also understand that any solution must allow Israelis to stay alive. Hamas is making the case that ceding the West Bank could be national suicide.

As Susan Rice said on November 14,

“Hamas claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that does nothing but set back the Palestinian cause. Attacking Israel on a near daily basis does nothing to help Palestinians in Gaza nor to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self determination and independence.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said on November 15 that “Hamas’s ongoing use of indiscriminate violence against Israeli is harmful to the cause of Palestinian statehood and dangerous to the Palestinian people in Gaza.  Its oppressive regime has caused immense suffering.” Read all of Rep. Schakowsky’s condemnation of Hamas and unequivocal support of Israel’s right to defend itself here.

The pro-peace community in the United States must speak out forcefully against Hamas and in support of Israel’s right to self-defense. Now is not the time to tell Israel to exercise restraint or to remind Israel that military action alone cannot solve the problem, as if Israel does not already know that. Now is the time to acknowledge that those of us living thousands of miles away from Israel, in peace and safety, are not in a better position than Israel to determine how best to protect their families and loved ones. Instead, the pro-peace community should focus its efforts on rallying world-wide condemnation of Hamas and their terrorist allies.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, in an article titled A Call to US Progressive Jews: Support Israel’s ‘get tough’ policies in Gaza, wrote that

if progressive American Jews ask me why Israel can’t just muddle through, my answer is this: Israel came into being so that Jewish children would never again have to huddle together in fear, terrorized by enemies of the Jewish people, while their parents stood by helplessly. Helping those children is a progressive cause. And doing nothing for them undermines the sovereignty of the Jewish state and strikes a fatal blow at the very raison d’etre of Zionism.

See this a one-minute video showing a mother’s perspective on the affect of rockets on children.

To achieve peace, the Palestinians must start preparing their own people to accept the reality and legitimacy of a permanent Jewish state of Israel. They must also prove to Israel that it can cede land to the Palestinians without fear of creating yet another launching pad for attacks on Israel.  Israel will have to make painful concessions to accommodate yet another Arab state in the Middle East, including relinquishing sovereignty over areas of the West Bank that have been Jewish for centuries. That’s hard enough, but worth it for real peace. But to expect Israel to make those sacrifices when it is understandably concerned that its neighbors still seek its destruction and are willing to terrorize Israel with rocket fire is unrealistic and unreasonable.

Israel’s quarrel is not with the Arab Palestinian people, but with the Iran-backed Hamas terrorists who run Gaza. Indeed, Israel has endorsed a two-state solution and consistently proposed peaceful solutions, even willingness to trade land won in defensive wars for a promise of peace, only to be rebuffed again and again by intransigent Arab Palestinian leadership.

But even as Israel strives for peace with its Arab neighbors, it cannot be expected to forsake the primary duty of any state: to protect the safety and security of its citizens. We would expect no less from our government if our children were subjected to daily rocket attacks at home and at school. Israelis in southern Israel have only seconds of warning to race to the nearest bomb shelter, and if kids are in different rooms, that means a split-second decision regarding which kid to grab and which kid to hope makes it to the shelter on her own. No government can permit its citizens to live that way. Read more about what it’s like here.

Since his re-election, President Obama has spoken out against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state at the UN, has again stated that “we’re not going to let Iran get a nuclear weapon,” and has forcefully condemned Hamas and unequivocally supported Israel’s right to defend itself in Gaza. So much for Republican claims that the “real” Obama would abandon Israel in his second term. The real President Obama is who we saw last week and who we’ve seen for the past four years. We have a friend in the White House. Republicans who are sincerely concerned about Israel should be relieved. Republicans who don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes, though, better start worrying.

The US Congress also stands behind Israel. On November 15, the United States Senate sent an overwhelming message of solidarity with Israel, passing by unanimous consent a resolution introduced by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) that very same day. This bipartisan resolution, with 62 Senators as co-sponsors joining Gillibrand and Kirk, expressed firm support for Israel’s “inherent right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism.” On November 16, the House passed unanimously passed an identical resolution, introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA). Click here to read the resolution.

For statements from other elected officials, including Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL), click here. Congressman-elect Brad Schneider issued a statement condemning rocket fire from Hamas and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, noting that he has personally visited many of the Israeli communities now under fire.

AIPAC on Thursday praised the Obama administration’s strong support for Israel’s self-defense, as well as the strong support members of Congress from both parties have given Israel amid the Gaza fighting. Read more here.