Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 7, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

By Moshe Gerstley

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated before a crowd of attendees at a Yad Vashem event marking Holocaust Remembrance Day that “No amount of pressure, no decision by any international forum will stop Israel from defending itself. Never again is now.” For the first time at least in my lifetime, the parallels between the situation in pre-Holocaust Germany and today’s politically charged atmosphere in the West drawn by many do not seem as inconceivable as I’d previously thought.

To the astonishment of all, in the aftermath of the deadly invasion of Southern Israel on October 7th—when Hamas terrorists executed 1,163 men, women, and children, some in the most gruesome of ways, burning innocents alive, murdering the Elyakim, Kedem Simon Tov, Idan, and other families in front of one another with glee, even shooting at ambulance tires so the last of victims can’t escape, somehow crowds of left-wing radicals have flocked to the streets in major cities around the U.S. to express their support not for those that had just endured those massacres, the worst on their people since the Holocaust—but rather for the Palestinian people who elected and (from recent poll results) continue to support Hamas. Signs saying “resistance is right,” and “by any means necessary” have been held up by crowds of these protesters around the West, unveiling a level of antisemitism never before seen in this country. Many of these crowds were gathering before any Israeli counter-strikes had even transpired. Yet because most judge a geopolitical conflict like Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza solely on the death toll, Americans particularly in younger demographics like mine, largely align themselves with the Palestinian cause.

Such “feeble” logic would allow for one to defend the Nazis in the 1940s for, after all, the Allies killed more German civilians in totality than the Germans killed Allies. Of course, a war ought to be marked not by the number of those killed—but rather by the societies they each respectively seek to create. The coexistence present in Israel, where Jews, Muslim Arabs, Christians, and the Druze live together and are represented in the Knesset, on the nation’s highest court, and even in the IDF itself, is evident. Not a single Jew, however, resides in PA-controlled municipalities of the West Bank, nor can a single Jew enter the Gaza Strip. Democracy, coexistence, and the Jewish state founded in part to provide asylum to those same Holocaust survivors, are worth fighting for no matter the cost. One ought not argue that in the midst of the fight to retake Europe in early 1945, on the verge of toppling Nazi rule in Germany, the Allies should have ceded to their genocidal foes to spare civilians from the destruction. The allied bombings in Dresden over just three days killed some 25,000 – 35,000 yet one mustn’t insist it was unjust, on the contrary, they should praise it because the alternative would be allowing a regime unyielding in their aspirations to expel or execute all Jews in the region and establish a civilization of total exclusivity and conformity to remain in power.

Today, Rafah is Israel’s Dresden; the epicenter to which the remnant military forces of an abominable enemy have withdrawn after the main battles have been lost and defeat is inevitable for them. Just as the Nazis believed the Russian counter-offensive in February of 1945 was losing momentum and bound to end, allowing them to recoup in Southern Germany, so too have the modern Nazis, Hamas, who just as overzealously murder Jews and eager to establish totalitarian rule, believes the Israeli counter-offensive is losing momentum and bound to end, allowing them to recoup in Southern Gaza. This cannot happen. Allowing for a terror regime that beheads its victims, and took hostages—a Holocaust survivor among them—to continue its reign in Gaza would be a geopolitical and human rights travesty that should provoke moral revulsion by all decent people of conscience. Israel in its intent to enter Rafah, stands seemingly alone. Influenced by those growing crowds in the West, international support for Israel has plummeted in recent months—even amongst Israel’s most ardent allies. President Biden, in appealing to his prospective voters in Michigan, has now totally objected to and opposed the Israeli military campaign in Rafah, even withholding congressionally approved weapon transfers as it was revealed early Wednesday. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, too, called operations in Rafah “deeply concerning,” and French President Macron voiced his opposition as well.

On Yom HaShoah, Monday, I recalled the stories of my paternal grandmother who was born in a DP camp, and my maternal grandmother who grew up hearing harrowing accounts from her family, much of whom were eradicated by the Nazis, and remembered what once made this country great; it was America that harbored the brave few who contended to bring freedom to millions by liberating my family from the Nazis, the millions suffering from European communism in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine, or East-Asian communism in South Korea, and for two-decades in South Vietnam. It was America that saw the prospect of lasting democracy and freedom as paramount and did not sway from that pursuit no matter the cost. America has decided not to do the same here, heightening the need for Israel to finish this war. Today, Israel must be the ones to liberate those in Gaza who suffer under Hamas’s authoritarian theocracy and terminate the many who are a part of, corroborated with, or support Hamas. This is Israel’s Dresden moment—a defining end to a tiring war. Hamas, realizing Israel has not in fact lost momentum and determination, is now trying to end this war on their terms with an insincere faux deal. This too, cannot happen. On this Yom HaShoah, as Israeli forces begin their contentious descent on Rafah, we must remember—Hamas started this war on its terms, and now Israel will end the war on its terms.

Moshe Gerstley is student at DRS High School and an intern at 5 Towns Jewish Times.


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