Don’t turn away: Reflections on the war against Hamas terrorism

ZAKA volunteers at Kibbutz Be’eri identifying the bodies of Israelis slain by Hamas terrorists, Oct. 11, 2023. Credit: ZAKA.

By Richard Friedman

Editor’s Note: Southern Jewish Life associate editor Richard Friedman was executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation for 37 years. During his tenure, he helped lead the Birmingham community through five conflicts in Israel. But, he stresses, “nothing like this.”

Adds Friedman, “I ask all those I know to please do everything they can to support my BJF successor Danny Cohn and his team as they lead our community through the unfathomable catastrophe now facing Israel and the Jewish people. Please go here to support the BJF’s emergency campaign for the people of Israel.”

Below are some of Friedman’s observations as he has tracked the unfolding tragedy.

Don’t Turn Away

Don’t turn away. Don’t turn off the news. Watch it. Jewish history is staring us in the face.

Take your pick: This is 1903 (the year of the infamous Kishinev pogrom); 1941-1945 (when Hitler and his collaborators killed 6 million of us); 1948 (when atrocities committed by the Arab armies included women being dismembered and Arab fighters parading with the heads of Israeli soldiers on stakes); 1973 (when Syria and Egypt invaded an unprepared Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year); 1976 (when Palestinian terrorists hijacked a plane, taking 106 Israelis and other Jews to Entebbe airport); 1991 (when Iraq attacked Israeli population centers with Scud missiles); 2000-2005 (when Palestinian suicide bombers killed more than a thousand Israelis — in restaurants, malls and outside a dance club).

The Hamas attack on defenseless civilians reflects the mentality which drove all the above: Hatred of Jews and, starting in 1948, hatred of the Jewish state.

Please don’t overthink the current situation. Don’t fall into the trap of blaming it on Israel’s debate over judicial reform, Israel’s possible normalization with Saudi Arabia or any other reason. Don’t be beguiled by the calls for “restraint” or “de-escalation” that will invariably start coming, probably in just a few days. Don’t reject support for Israel just because it comes from people who you disagree with on other issues.

Hamas has always been committed to the destruction of Israel and the goal of killing as many Jews as possible.

Over the years I have heard Israelis, referring to the violent infighting among their Arab enemies, say the following more than once: “Look at what they do to each other. Imagine what they would do to us if they had the chance.”

Superb Coverage

CNN’s coverage of the murder, kidnapping, beheading and raping of Israelis has been superb. A far cry from the old days when the station’s coverage often lacked fairness, particularly when it came to Israel’s right to defend itself.

CNN has a brand-new president whose impact can already be seen. From the Wall Street Journal: “Addressing the network’s mission and purpose, Thompson (the new president) urged CNN to define the news, not just react to it. ‘And let’s not second guess ourselves or get distracted by complicated arguments about balance or whataboutism or false equivalency. Let’s cover political news proportionately and fairly, but not be frightened of our own shadows’.”

Bearing Witness

I had coffee today with a long-time Christian friend. He asked me why does the media have to keep showing those horrible pictures? I told him that it is a necessity and though brutal and jarring, must continue. The reason is that none of us — literally and figuratively — should lose sight of what triggered Israel’s response, especially as it becomes more aggressive. We cannot look away. We must bear witness.

CNN just showed a picture of a blood-splattered Israeli baby murdered in Saturday’s massacre. As a journalist and a Jew, I commend the station for having the courage to do so. In a CNN interview right after that, an Israeli mom, whose daughter has been kidnapped, implored “Don’t look away.”

Who Cannot Weep?

Don’t turn away. Watch this. An Israeli father relieved that his child is dead. The video speaks for itself. Who, as a parent and grandparent, cannot help but weep? Thank you, CNN.

Only One Way

Israel’s siege of Gaza has become devastating. The picture are heart-breaking. There’s only one way to end it — and Hamas has the power to do so.

“No electrical switch will be lifted, no water hydrant will be opened, and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages are returned home,” Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz posted on X, formerly Twitter. “Humanitarian for humanitarian. And nobody should preach us morals.”

Pray for Hamas to end the siege of Gaza!

Thank You, Anderson Cooper

Thank you, CNN’s Anderson Cooper. One of the station’s correspondents was reporting from Gaza and pointed out that unlike Israel, the citizens of Gaza do not have shelters. Well, why is that? Cooper asked. The correspondent appeared stumped for a moment.

Cooper followed up by noting that Hamas has built sophisticated tunnels deep underground. Why can’t civilians use those as shelters? More fumbling around from the correspondent.

Finally, the correspondent said it’s because Israel has blockaded Hamas’ borders (as has Egypt) and won’t allow enough concrete in to build shelters. Cooper scoffed and shook his head.

It was a pretty lame response considering how Hamas has managed to smuggle in vast supplies of concrete and other materials to build tunnels.