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Day 228: Iron Swords War

By Leah Garber

“Let me be clear: Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence—none—between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.”
— President Biden, May 20, 2024

In an imaginary world and time, there was once a small being who built her modest and tiny house on land that was promised to her. But then the small being realized that another entity wanted to build her house nearby, so she agreed to downsize and make room for her neighbor because all she wanted, all she ever dreamed of, was to build her own home and invite her relatives from far and near to make the parched earth blossom to benefit her people and to strive for peace.

Even in an imaginary world and time, one cannot always choose her neighbor. So that peace-seeking being found herself dragged into war after war because her neighbor was not satisfied with a portion of the land, preferring bloodshed, misery, and a life of terror, so it did not have to compromise or recognize the other’s right to exist. What a sad tale.

Thousands of light years from this imaginary legend, a painful reality obliges us to face this real-world horror story.

On the morning of October 7, the face of the State of Israel changed forever. Those who never believed it was possible to achieve true peace with our neighbors realized with great sadness that they were right. Those who always believed and acted and preached and tried to reach beyond the fence, and lend an outstretched hand for peace and coexistence, realized with great pain that they were wrong. These and those experienced the greatest tragedy—despair became reality, and their dreams were dashed. Both were devastated, forever changed.

The rage, the pain, the hurt were all so deep that these and those—the supporters of peace and those who claimed it is not attainable, all of whom share a burning belief in the righteousness of our ways—united to fight together against the enemy’s brutality.

Alongside the rising rage and the desire to defeat the enemy that invaded our lives on that clear day, the State of Israel and its soldiers, the most moral in the world, aren’t motivated by revenge. Rather, they are fighting to protect our homeland and our people, all while strictly observing the rules of ethics, the Geneva Convention, and war’s international laws—always. Because of their extreme caution not to endanger civilian residents of Gaza, even at the risk of their own lives, many of our soldiers have been killed or wounded, including my own nephew, a paratrooper commander.

The whole of Israel is now on the stand, and just as victims of violent crimes often are abused again on the stand when they testify, yesterday our entire country experienced the events of October 7 all over again—this time under the guise of the “International Criminal Court of Justice.” Antisemitism reared its ugly head when, in an unprecedented, controversial statement, the chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, requested arrest warrants for Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Gallant, and top Hamas leaders.

The audacity and disgrace inherent in including the leaders of Israel, a moral, democratic country, and the murderers of Hamas, a terror organization, in one sentence, in the same breath, blamed for the same crimes is, first and foremost, an insult to the judges of the court in The Hague.

This outrageous arrest request for the prime minister and the minister of defense is an arrest request for the entire State of Israel, including the 250 hostages who were kidnapped to Gaza, many of whom were murdered while in captivity. It is an affront to the memories of the 1,200 souls murdered on October 7, whose severed heads and limbs were used by the bloodthirsty murderers as playthings. The arrest request is an insult to the children and women who were brutally raped and murdered. It is served to those who were cremated while embracing their loved ones. The sickening arrest request is submitted to nearly 400 IDF soldiers who were killed in the war that was forced upon us. It is served to the hundreds of thousands of evacuees whose homes were destroyed. It is served to the children of S’derot and so many other towns throughout Israel that continue to experience daily alarms that have residents running to the safety of shelters.

These shameful arrest warrants are served to all the citizens of the State of Israel for daring to do what every other country in the world would have done: protect our country and our people.

Must we apologize for not turning the other cheek? For standing with strength of spirit and determination to defeat the enemy, protect our borders, and bring the hostages home? Is it for this that we are mentioned in the same breath as Hamas terrorists? The disgrace of the arrest warrants shows the hypocrisy of the court and its judges and, sadly, grants a reward to the supporters of terrorism.

For generations, we have adhered to the teachings of the Elder Hillel, one of the most influential rabbis in Jewish history. He lived more than 2,000 years ago, during the Second Temple period, and is best known for this saying in Pirkei Avot 1:14: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

For generations we have excelled in the realization of “If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” As this war has progressed, Israel has brought more and more humanitarian aid into the Gaza strip, and we always have been the first to provide help and assistance to any country caught up in a humanitarian crisis or natural disaster. Delegations of Israeli first responders travel all over the world, including to enemy countries, to lend a hand when needed. We do so quietly, without publicity, and certainly not for any political gain but rather out of commitment to who we are and what we believe: “If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Now, when those who claim to be just, objective judges are, in fact, blind to the truth, biased, and infected with hypocrisy that is spreading like wildfire, we must uphold Hillel the Elder’s initial rule, one that we have neglected as we hurry off to care for others: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” This is our time to be there for ourselves.

Last night, in a rare act in our country’s politics, an overwhelming majority of the members of the Israeli parliament signed a petition condemning the arrest warrants, standing with the prime minister in his call to cancel them. Today, our most important ally, the United States, stands, as always, on our side, and, in a rare procedure, members of Congress are promoting bipartisan legislation that will impose sanctions on anyone involved in the case of the arrest warrants against Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gallant. For that action and for being by our side all along, we are incredibly grateful.

Unbearably difficult days are upon us. The torrent of pain that has engulfed us for 228 days does not let go. We can’t yet fully laugh or be truly happy. Grief is in the air. Sadness and sorrow surround us. The hostile winds that blow from The Hague hurt, disappoint, and anger us, but they will not loosen our determination nor weaken us. Justice is on our side. We will prevail, because “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

Together, united, we will overcome.

Leah Garber is a senior vice president of JCC Association of North America and director of its Center for Israel Engagement in Jerusalem.

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