Critic of Elie Wiesel ad misses markby Rabbi Ari Cartun
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Amy Neustein’s complaint about Elie Wiesel’s ad, which said, “Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it’s Hamas’ turn,” misses the point (“Why Elie Wiesel’s full-page ad troubles me,” Aug. 22). All she sees is the suffering of the innocents of Gaza. I agree they are suffering, and in my prayers for healing and peace I remember them. I mention them in our congregational prayers for healing and peace. But that is not the point of Wiesel’s powerful metaphor.
It is not that there are no innocents in Gaza, or that their suffering does not matter. Wiesel speaks of their suffering. But what he says is that “before sleepless mothers in both Gaza City and Tel Aviv can rest, before diplomats can begin in earnest the crucial business of rebuilding dialogue ... the Hamas death cult must be confronted for what it is.”
As someone who was in Israel during this war and watched Israeli TV interviewing Gaza parents about their suffering so that Israelis could see it firsthand, and as someone who has been and still is involved with Arabs and Muslims working with Israelis and Jews for peaceful solutions to the conflicts between us, I have had to face the terrible way that Hamas uses its own population’s deaths as a political tool, knowing full well that they can drive the Amy Neusteins of the world to override their moral judgment of Hamas’ murderous policies by relying on oversimplified math: More Arabs are dying so they must be in the right.
There are always mistakes in war, and we all know that no human government is always right. Israelis and diaspora Jews will always argue about how to run Israel. But nothing that Israel does well or poorly, no mistake in a tank crew’s aim or a bomb’s blast radius can possibly be compared to the immoral calculation Hamas makes to purposely attack civilians, and to spend its money on death rather than life, to store explosives in homes and shoot them from homes and schools and mosques and hospitals.
Hamas does not represent all Arabs. Not even all Palestinians. It only represents Hamas.
Hamas believes that human sacrifice is a good thing. And we, Jews, reject that, and have for more than 3,000 years.
As a group, Israelis and Jews worldwide are concerned about the suffering of innocent Palestinians, whether or not they voted for Hamas. They are all held captive by Hamas, and suffer Hamas’ policies. Hamas shoots. Israel tries to get them to stop shooting. Hamas has either rejected most cease-fire offers or has broken cease-fire promises. So there is only one way to get it to stop, and that is to shoot at the missile launchers, both the people and the hardware, wherever it is stored, and from wherever it has been launched.
When the shooting stops, insh’Allah, God willing, it will stop, we may sort it out and hopefully find a way to live together.
But now, Ms. Neustein, go sit in Ashkelon with missiles coming at you all day, and see if you can still write what you wrote. And if you can’t go there, then download the Iron Dome app onto your smartphone, and listen to the missile alerts all day in solidarity with your family, the Israeli people. Then reread Elie Wiesel’s admonition to Hamas, and see if your op-ed is still meaningful. Maybe afterward you and I can weep together for the innocents being slaughtered in Gaza.
We’ll also weep for the daughters and sons of our family, the Israelis, who know that to save their families from more missiles they have to send shells and bombs into Gaza. Even after the phone calls and leaflets and warning rockets they send there to warn the Gazans to move away, which cause more Israelis to die while trying to remove these missiles, they know that they will have to live with having done terrible, but not immoral, things.
And they weep, too.
Rabbi Ari Cartun is the spiritual leader of Congregation Etz Chaim in Palo Alto.