I’m writing this column on July 18, the day the July 28 issue of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin goes to press. Hopefully, by the time you read these words, Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s mission to stop the seemingly constant barrage of rocket fire from Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza will have ended.
As Jewish Federation of Ottawa President and CEO Andrea Freedman said at Ottawa’s Rally for the People of Israel on July 16, “This has been a hard few weeks, hard to be a Jew, hard to be a human being,” as we’ve watched the news come in from Israel.
First, there was the 18-day search for Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on June 12, and then the tragic discovery that they were murdered, likely almost immediately after they were taken hostage, allegedly by Hamas-affiliated terrorists from Hebron who – as I write – are yet to be captured.
Then, there was the brutal torture and murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian boy from east Jerusalem, by three Jewish Israelis who reportedly confessed to this horrible crime of revenge – which has been, quite rightly, classified as an act of terrorism by Israel’s Ministry of Defense.
And, in the aftermath of these crimes, Hamas and like-minded groups in Gaza dramatically increased their rocket attacks aimed at terrorizing Israelis and ultimately forcing Israel to launch Operation Protective Edge, it’s third such campaign – after Operation Cast Lead in late-2008 and early-2009 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 – to stop the barrage of rockets.
I have no doubt Israel would have preferred not to have been forced into these operations. So many innocent lives are lost – every one of them a tragedy – when the terrorists use civilians, including children, as human shields for their rocket installations or when horrifying mistakes are made, which should not take place, such as the four children playing soccer on the beach killed by Israeli fire.
When terrorists persistently attack a country, they do so in full awareness that the country will have no choice but to respond. The terrorists know that, in a situation like Gaza, when their rockets are hidden in populated neighbourhoods, in homes, schools, hospitals and mosques, the response will inevitably lead to much suffering and innocent lives lost among their own people.
But that is what they want. They are zealots whose goal it is to destroy Israel, no matter what the cost in suffering or innocent lives lost for their own people. While any caring human being sees such suffering and every innocent life lost as a tragedy, they are some sort of depraved victory to the terrorists. If Hamas cared about their own people they – as Israel did – would have accepted the cease-fire brokered by Egypt early in the conflict.
But, as MP Marc Garneau, a former military officer, pointed out, “to argue that you can’t attack Hamas terrorists because of the risk of killing innocent Palestinian civilians is equivalent to saying, you’re not allowed to defend yourself.”
It really is heartbreaking to see what is going on in Gaza. But Hamas knew what it was doing in bringing on this situation. Hopefully, it will be over by the time you read these words.
Because of the fast-changing nature of the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories, almost all of our coverage of these events has been taking place online at www.ottawajewishbulletin.com. We’ve posted scores of articles over the past month, usually several per day, and will continue to do so as long as the situation warrants.
In fact, being able to cover such situations with timeliness and immediacy is one of the great advantages of our online platform. Please visit the site regularly for breaking news, or follow us on Facebook for alerts on new stories.
All of us at the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin staff were deeply saddened when philanthropist and community leader Arnie Vered lost his “championship” battle with pancreatic cancer on July 4. It was truly inspiring to see him face his disease with such dignity and bravery. Our deepest condolences are extended to the Vered family.