Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, left, is hugged by Khurshid A. Qureshi, president of the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers.
Wars sicken me, even wars that I support. I support Israel’s offensive in Gaza, but watching it on TV — the images of bombed-out buildings, crying women and, inevitably, the bodies of innocent bystanders — is a painful experience.
… as long as the thugs of Hamas can act with impunity, no Israeli government of the right or the left will agree to a two-state solution or any other kind of peace. Doves take note: To be a dove of influence, you must be a realist, firm in your principles but shorn of all illusions.
As a reality check for my views, I did what I normally do in these circumstances: I checked with my closest Israeli friends, who are all left of center, haters of war and ferocious opponents of the West Bank settlement movement. In virtually every case, they saw the action in Gaza as tragic but necessary and were astounded by the opposition of American doves. “What did they think,” one of them asked me in bewilderment, “that we would just sit there forever while Hamas fired rockets into our cities?” And they pointed out that most politicians on the left support the offensive, as do more than 80% of all Israelis, according to polling data.
I have not seen any polls on the reactions of American Jews, but my own sense, supported by anecdotal evidence from the Reform movement, is that there is strong backing for Israel’s government. American Jews have a commonsense approach to these matters.
We are aware that American forces have gone halfway around the globe to engage in a war in Afghanistan against terrorists who once carried out an attack on American soil. We know that civilians have frequently died in that war because terrorists make a point of operating in civilian areas. We know too that this war has the support of our liberal president-elect.
So why, we ask, should Israel’s center-left government, after long periods of restraint and desperate efforts to renew the cease-fire, be expected to refrain from fighting terrorists that are regularly attacking from right across the border? And we are certain that if rockets were being launched from Canada into our own homes in Michigan or Maine, we would demand immediate action, and our government would quickly oblige.
American Jews see Israel’s Gaza offensive as a tragic necessity, unwelcome but inevitable, carried out by a reluctant Israeli government doing what it must to end rocket attacks against its citizenry. In short, American Jews are, as usual, sensible and centrist, and supporting Israel in her hour of need.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie is president of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Israel continues its assault on Hamas militants in Gaza, bombing a range of targets even as an international truce appears to be gaining momentum.(Jan. 3)
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