Hamas or Israel? Choosing a side isn’t rocket science

I grew up in a pro-union household. Tales of my father’s exploits on the Hollywood picket lines were my bedtime stories. “The Ballad of Joe Hill” and “Which Side Are You On?” were my lullabies.

Which side are you on? Good question. There was such moral clarity back then. Just pick a side. Reducing some issues to either/or binaries was considered a virtue among the liberal classes. I know. I was a liberal; I am a liberal; I understand how liberals think.

Go down the list: same-sex marriage, climate change, reproductive rights — check, check, check. No middle ground. I know which side I’m on.

So today, after 1,000 rockets have rained down on Israel, I ask liberals, many of whom feel conflicted about the war: When it comes to Israel’s fight against Hamas, which side are you on?

Are you on the side of the homicidal, infanticidal, genocidal, theocratic anti-liberal jihadists? Or are you not? It’s a simple question.

Oh, you say, this issue is far more complicated. It does not lend itself to simplistic choices. It goes back to 1967. It goes back to 1948. It goes back to 1917. It goes back to the First Aliyah in the 1880s. It’s about occupation. It’s about colonialism.

Rejecting a cease-fire, Hamas continues its barrage. Nursery schools, airports, gas stations. Hamas doesn’t care where the missiles land or whom they kill. In contrast, the Israeli military warns Palestinian civilians before it takes out Hamas missile launchers.

Which side are you on?

Oh, you say, but it’s more complicated. Israel is waging a disproportionate war. Just check the body count. Two hundred Gazans killed vs. one Israeli fatality.

Israel builds bomb shelters and missile defense systems to protect its people, thus keeping casualties to a minimum. That’s what any sane society would do. Without those measures, the Israeli death toll by now would be horrendous.

Hamas, in contrast, launches Kassams from hospitals, mosques and bedrooms, then urges Gazans to stand on rooftops and take a bullet for the team. It has never built a bomb shelter other than a network of tunnels to hide its cowardly leadership. Responsibility for every Palestinian life lost in Gaza falls on Hamas.

Which side are you on?

Oh, you say, but it’s more complicated. Ongoing Israeli aggression leads to mass casualties, global outrage and collective punishment for Gazans.

Collective punishment? What would you call the random firing of rockets at Israel’s population centers? I’d call it collective punishment.

Civilian deaths are horrible. But Israel is not at war with Palestinians. It has no objective in Gaza other than neutralizing Hamas as a lethal threat. On the flip side, I have no doubt Hamas and its co-monsters would happily play soccer with the severed heads of Israelis if given half a chance.

Which side are you on?

Oh, you say, but you’re just being hyperbolic. You’re just being Islamophobic. Am I? At their rallies, on their YouTube videos, they sing of the destruction of Tel Aviv. They call for rivers of blood. I take them at their word. What part of “From the river to the sea…” do you not understand?

So to my fellow liberal Jews who have made Israel an exception to their normally exacting moral clarity, I understand the handwringing over collective punishment, over occupation, over the viability of Zionism in a post-Zionist paradigm.

It’s nice. It means you care. Thanks for caring. Now stop the squishiness.

Choose a side. You can choose Hamas, with its worship of chaos and hate, blood and mayhem. Or you can choose Israel, whose people are this very minute treating in their hospitals the wounded from Gaza; the people whose army sends out life-saving warnings before striking a target; the people who want nothing more than to live in peace with their neighbors. Really. That’s all they want.

You can choose the people who venerate the Hadith (a saying of the Prophet) that reads: “The Jews will fight you and you will prevail over them; then a rock will say, ‘O Muslim, here is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.’ ”

Or you can choose the people who, given the opportunity to tweak it, would say, “O Muslim, here is a Jew behind me. Come and befriend him.”



Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.