Murder is always wrong and we need to stand together as humans to condemn it.
The vicious attack against Israel launched on Oct. 7 by the terrorist group Hamas — the faction that has controlled Gaza since 2006 — was murder on a massive scale. It is rightly being called Israel’s 9/11, not just for the number of innocent civilians killed in a single day but also because it shocked the targeted nation and the entire world.
It is not about Israelis, or Jews. Or Palestinians, or Muslims. It is about all of us.
Editorial pages, college presidents, thought leaders, journalists, educators, clergy, business leaders, politicians, philanthropists, anyone with a leadership role and a voice, needs to roundly condemn terrorism. Every. Single. Time. Without this chorus of voices, no group is safe from genocide.
Standing up and denouncing terrorism is the only way to go. Otherwise, we lose our moral direction and put our civilization at risk.
What is so horrid about Hamas and its attitude toward Israel — which we hear reflected in antisemitic rhetoric around the world — is that the terrorists consider anyone who happens to be standing in the state of Israel an enemy, and therefore a legitimate target.
And anyone who supports Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself, even those who may also criticize that nation’s governance and policies, is also seen as an enemy of Palestinians in particular and Muslims in general. This is misguided.
Humans are capable of nuance. One can — one must — condemn Hamas and still advocate for human rights and freedoms in Palestine.
One can oppose the actions of Israeli governments through the years toward Palestinians, in Gaza and on the West Bank, without being or appearing to be biased against all Jewish people everywhere. There are many Jews — in America, in Israel and elsewhere — who oppose those actions.
Nothing that is going on in the Middle East today, or for the last 70 years, justifies a blanket condemnation of Jews, antisemitic hate speech or the violence that often follows.
Nothing that is going on in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank today justifies a blanket condemnation of Muslims, anti-Arab hate speech or the violence that often follows.
Violent rhetoric leads to violent deeds. Good people must stand up against violent rhetoric and extremism of any kind and at every opportunity. Silence is complicity.
We should not forget that only a few days after our 9/11, President George W. Bush paid a very public visit to a Washington mosque to draw a bright line between those who had perpetrated those heinous attacks and the vast majority of Muslims who are not violent and bear no ill will toward America.
Among the lessons of these horrible events for Americans is that a country divided cannot protect itself.
There is reason to worry that Israel was open to this attack because the nation was weighted down by political infighting. Our nation, riven by hateful rhetoric and misled by false information, is in a similarly vulnerable position.
The House of Representatives cannot agree on a speaker. Key diplomatic and military positions remain vacant as members of the Senate block qualified presidential appointments. Our own Capitol was attacked and our democratic processes were interrupted on Jan. 6 by our own citizens.
Bad actors — Iran, Russia, etc. — want us to be distracted and angry internally, so that we are weakened externally.
An informed citizenry and ethical leadership are the cornerstones of democracy. And in our age of social media as the town square, where any crackpot can spout whatever comes to their mind as the truth, critical thinking and principled leadership become ever more important.
The loss of democracy in Gaza is also a factor here. Hamas was elected to govern the territory in 2006 and has not faced the voters since. It has no claim to be the legitimate governing party of that territory, and holds power only through intimidation and stoking hate for Israel.
There is such a thing as the Palestinian cause. But the actions of Hamas have done it horrible, perhaps irreparable, damage.
Some theorize that the attacks of Oct. 7 were designed by Hamas to derail potential diplomatic advances between Israel and Saudi Arabia. And now that Israel is attacking and causing much misery and destruction in Gaza, it is unlikely that the Saudis, or any other Arab or Muslim nation, will pursue peace with the Jewish state.
That is, apparently, a goal for which Hamas was willing to cause the deaths, not only of many innocent Israelis and citizens of other nations who happened to be there, but an untold number of their own people.
The Arab world is still the best hope for peace in Gaza. It has, or could find, the influence to have Hamas release the hostages it has taken. It could negotiate relief supplies for those in Gaza. It could work toward lighting a path to peace in the Middle East. Without their input, peace will never come.