Israel must not be held to a different standard in protecting its citizens

Rabbi Dov Lipman speaks out


I ask all Americans to picture the following scenario:

Al Qaeda builds cells in Mexico and takes control of the Coahuila region which borders Texas. The United States closes border crossings to prevent Al Qaeda from its stated goal: smuggling weapons to use to destroy America. Significant international pressure mounts to re-open the border crossings and the United States permits humanitarian aid to pass through while looking out for any terror-related materials. America monitors the Gulf of Mexico to insure that weapons would not arrive in Coahuila via the sea.

Despite these efforts, weapons flow from Guatemala to Mexico, enabling the terrorists to send them to Coahuila with ease. U.S. intelligence is aware of the stockpiles of missiles in Coahuila, but the missiles are stored in very dense residential areas and any attempt to destroy them could lead to significant civilian casualties. The citizens along the southern border of Texas are advised that a threat exists and are given instructions in case of an attack. But all assumptions were that Al Qaeda would not have the nerve to attack.


And then it happens. A missile is shot from Piedras Negras, Mexico, to Eagle Pass, Texas.  The 5-mile distance means that the 30,000 residents of Eagle Pass have only seconds to find shelter. Air raid sirens blare at 8:00 a.m. as the children in the 15 Eagle Pass elementary schools, two junior high schools, and two high schools are riding their bikes and walking into their school buildings.

Sound scary?

Welcome to Israel.

But "Al Qaeda" is "Hamas,”  "Coahuila" is "Gaza," and "Eagle Pass" is the Israeli town of "Sderot."

Given the deep commitment of the American government to the security of its citizens, America would, no doubt, react with force. The residents of Piedras Negras would be warned to evacuate and the U.S.  Air Force would fire at any area possibly housing the missiles and their launchers. And I have no doubt that the U.S.  would go after other potential threats, including  the stockpile of missiles in Ciudad Acuna, which threatens Del Rio, Texas, a mere 6 miles away.  This would be done despite the fact that the terrorists surround their missiles with innocent women and children as human shields.  

The civilians would be warned to leave, but then Ciudad Acuna would be subject to military assault. Americans would, of course, feel terrible sadness over the loss of innocent life, but Americans would not consider this to be a "disproportionate" response.  Through these strong air attacks, America would end the threat of missiles launched into its cities after experiencing only one missile launched into its borders.

Let’s go one step further. Imagine 13 Al Qaeda terrorists, dressed as U.S. soldiers, emerging from a hole in the ground a few hundred feet from the entrance to Alpine, Texas. Intelligence cameras notice them, and U.S. Army and Air Force personnel quickly scramble and kill them. Special Forces enter the tunnel and find loads of ammunition, maps, handcuffs and tranquilizers, proof of a plot to kill hundreds of U.S. citizens and kidnap American children. They discover that the tunnel begins in the living room of a home in the center of La Linda, Mexico, in the Al Qaeda-conquered Coahuila region.

Sound scary?

Welcome to Israel.

But "La Linda" is the Gazan city, Shejaiya, "Alpine" is the Israeli kibbutz, Sufa, and "Al Qaeda" is  Hamas.

Certainly, American forces would cross the border, enter La Linda, and go conduct a house-to-house search for additional tunnels. They would alert civilians to evacuate in order to prevent innocent casualties. But if the civilians ignored the leaflets, phone calls, text messages and loudspeaker announcements, America would not halt the operation and accept to live with the possibility that, at any moment, terrorists could appear in cities throughout southern Texas and slaughter anyone in their path. America would do whatever it deemed necessary to root out the tunnels, even if that meant the tragedy of civilian casualties on the Mexican side.

This describes the reality in Israel today.  But instead of just one missile fired into Israel, there have been a few thousand in mere weeks and more than 11,000 over the past nine years. Instead of one terror tunnel there are at least 30 tunnels dug into Israel with the intent to wreak havoc in the towns along the Gaza border and paralyze the entire country.

So, Israeli forces went into Gaza with three clear goals -- ending the missile fire, destroying the tunnels and killing or arresting as many Hamas terrorists as possible. The mission's goals also mandate keeping civilian casualties to a minimum.

Israelis are saddened by the death of innocent civilians. The Israeli Army actually puts its own soldiers at risk to prevent civilian casualties. But this is war and people die – even innocent people. And this is why Israel wants peace. To be clear, if Hamas would announce that they were laying down their arms, there would be immediate peace.  But If Israel would announce that we were laying down our arms, Hamas would slaughter all Israelis.

Anyone in the United States questioning Israel's action in Gaza must undergo some deep internal reflection. What would YOU do if ruthless killers were tunneling into your home to kill or kidnap your children?  What would YOU do if missiles were aimed at your children's schools and playgrounds?  Would you call for a minimal, "proportional" response and demand that all operations cease because innocent civilians were tragically caught in the crossfire?

I am intimately familiar with the American values upon which I was raised, including the government's commitment to protecting its citizens and its soldiers while being as sensitive as possible to civilian casualties.

Israel should not be held to a different standard.

So, Americans must raise their voices in support of Israel's right to defend itself and its need to insure that at the end of the current operation, missiles and terror tunnels no longer endanger its citizens.

Anything else would be the height of hypocrisy.

Dov Lipman, who grew up in Silver Spring, Md., and received a master's degree from Johns Hopkins, is a member of the Israeli Knesset.