By Fletcher Word
The Truth Editor
“Advocating now for a ‘ceasefire’ keeps Hamas in a position of strength. A ceasefire cannot happen before the Israeli and American hostages are released,” said Daniel Pearlman, vice president, Community and Government Relations Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo, last week during a media briefing last Thursday, October 19, at the Federation headquarters in Sylvania.
“Take a moment to reflect on whether, 80 years after the Holocaust, we as a society are willing to tolerate such crimes against humanity. If we aren’t willing to tolerate this, then we must recognize Israel’s right and responsibility to defend its citizens from terrorism,” he added.
The local Federation’s media briefing came 11 days after the October 7 Hamas attack on the Jewish state, during which the invaders killed approximately 1,400 Israeli citizens and kidnapped over 200, including as many as a dozen American citizens, two of whom were released this past weekend.
Rottem is a young Israeli who moved to the Toledo area in 2015 in order to marry his fiancée. He is a student at the University of Toledo about to earn an undergraduate degree in computer science. His family remains in Israel.
“I was born in Israel into a war and since then I’ve been into war a few times and it’s a very common thing in Israel to grow up in a lot of war.
But this time, this war is different.
For me, hearing my family, my brothers and sisters crying, being afraid, feeling at times hopeless – it’s hurting. It’s a constant pain that we all suffer for two weeks now.
We still don’t know when it’s going to end.
I want to talk about the music festival. Music festivals in Israel are very common. It’s a way to break out of the stress and fear; it’s a way to celebrate life; it’s a way for people to feel united, to find happiness, when sometimes you cannot find it.
I used to go to those places, to those parties with my friends, to celebrate life, being in nature, being in a beautiful place. Ten years ago it would have been me.
For all of the poor families who lost their loved ones; for all of the poor families whose loved ones have been kidnapped, captured in Gaza; for all of the poor families, the Palestinians in Gaza that want nothing in this war, nothing with Hamas and nothing in any kind of terrorism, they just want to live their quiet lives, happily in their families — we are with you!
We are praying for all of you, for both sides. We are all human, there are good people on both sides, we must remember that.”
U.S. and worldwide condemnation of the attack was immediate, as were protests advocating for the rights of Palestinians.
“The Jewish Federation unequivocally condemns Hamas’ barbaric acts of terrorism, supports Israel’s right to defend itself and demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages forcibly taken into Gaza,” said Pearlman, noting one of the key obstacles in the way of an immediate peaceful solution – the Israeli citizens held hostage.
But Pearlman also noted that the Jewish Federation sympathizes with the average Palestinians who are not members of Hamas and who are also being victimized by the Hamas atrocities.
“We also decry the loss of innocent Palestinian lives, all of which are avoidable. Hamas is to blame for every Israeli and Palestinian man, woman and child that has been and will be killed in the war that started with its ruthless and unprovoked massacre of Israeli civilians,” he said.
The rest of the world may attribute Hamas violence to an uprising of the oppressed but the Jewish Federation, according to Pearlman, will have none of that. Antisemitism is at the root of Hamas’ reason for existence and reason for the October 7 massacre.
Referring to Hamas 1988 Charter, Pearlman pulled a quote: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O, Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.” (Article 7).
Indeed, as protests also become increasingly common, even in the United States, Israel’s closest ally, the Federation has noted the rise of antisemitism even in the U.S.
“Previous violence in Israel has been linked to a sharp increase in antisemitism in the United States,” said Pearlman. “According to the FBI, Jews (who make up two percent of the U.S. population) are targeted by 60 percent of all religiously-motivated hate crimes … we expect 2023 to shatter 2022’s record of antisemitic incidents, in part from the war emboldening antisemites.”
“There is something that I call the change of emotions that starts with an event. The event will lead to emotions that lead to sadness. We cannot contain the sadness for too long, so we convert it to anger. Once the anger is accumulated, we convert it to hate. Once the hate is there for too long, it will convert to action.
We must know that once we cross the border between anger and hate, it’s really hard to come back. At this stage of anger, we have to learn that if we want to find solutions, we have to talk with each other. It has to be through communication, it has to be from conversation. People need to ask questions rather than act and feel hate towards others.
It will only support violence if we will continue going towards where we are going. We must stop it at anger, take it back to sadness and find it in compassion, compassion for the families that lost their loved ones from both sides. Compassion to the Palestinian people that lost their loved ones; compassion to the Israeli families, my brothers and sisters, that got slaughtered.
We have to find a solution out of this. We want peace, we want to live without fear. We can do the best for everyone and understand there is a way to find the good in people. This is what we need to do.
There are a lot of people that still have hope.”
As horrific as the Hamas invasion, the mass rapes and murders, along with the several hundred kidnappings, were to the rest of the world, the Israeli reactions – bombings that had killed thousands of Palestinians by the time of the media briefing, a cutting off of food, water, electricity, medical supplies and fuel to the Gaza two million citizens, along with Israeli warnings to those citizens to abandon their homes in the northern part of the territory to move south – even as actually leaving Gaza was virtually impossible – led to protests not only in Arab countries but also around the world, notably in U.S. universities.
The proliferation of protests about the Israeli reaction has prompted the Jewish Federation to question the protesters access to accurate information.
“When you say, ‘Free Palestine,’ what do you mean by ‘Free Palestine?’ Free Palestine from Hamas? Free Palestine from whom?” asked Pearlman rhetorically. “The answer, of course, should be “Free Palestine from Hamas,” because that would mean they don’t side with terrorists.”
As of this past Monday evening, Israel had widened the war with Hamas, much to the consternation of its allies such as the United States by using warplanes to attack not only Hamas targets in Gaza but also a mosque in the West Bank supposedly used by Hamas and two airports in Syria in order to target Hezbollah militants. The airstrikes occurred after both President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken attended Israeli war cabinet meeting and urged the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) not to broaden the war.
At the urging of allies, however, on Sunday a second convoy of aid trucks, carrying medical supplies, had been allowed in Gaza through the Egyptian Rafah border crossing.