As Aotearoa New Zealand navigates its political pathways, Israel has gradually resumed control and cleared the border areas flooded with terrorists, revealing the extent of the Hamas massacre.
As of today, we have counted more than 1,400 people murdered, among them babies, children, women and elderly people. Entire families were butchered in their homes. Infants were mutilated and children gunned to death with their parents. Approximately 260 young men and women were slaughtered, most of them shot to death, at a music festival. More than 3,500 people were injured, many of them still vacillating between life and death. Over 199 have been abducted to Gaza, their fate unknown. In addition, the enemies of Israel launched thousands of rockets against its civilian population.
The Hamas attack in the south was the premeditated mass murder of innocent civilians. The launching of rockets against Israel’s population is a further attempt to terrorize and kill innocent citizens.
It is time to dispel myths and come to reality:
The first myth is the unholy equation made by many mainstream media outlets, in a futile attempt to preserve a non-existent balance, to deceptively describe the conflict as “violence on both sides.” Some public figures in New Zealand have unfortunately echoed these sentiments, further fueling misinterpretations of the conflict.
However, while Israel seeks peace and coexistence, the Palestinian terrorist organizations, including Hamas, choose death and devastation. Recent statements by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, the incoming prime minister Christopher Luxon and other politicians reflect a firm condemnation of Hamas’ actions, yet it is disheartening to observe the hesitation from New Zealand’s government on designating Hamas’s “political” wing as a terrorist organization, a step crucial for a unified stand against terrorism. While throughout the conflict Israel has made great efforts to minimize harm to civilians, the militant Palestinians aim at innocent civilians as their primary objective. Hamas commits a double war crime – targeting Israeli civilians while using the residents of the Gaza Strip as human shields. Adding to that another crime- snatching of civilians – babies, elderly, men and, women and children into Gaza- to use them as human shields.
There can be no comparison. There is no equivalence between those attacking innocent civilians and those defending themselves against such attacks. The condemnation from various New Zealand politicians and other figures of the Hamas attacks on Israel is a step towards recognizing this fundamental distinction, yet a unified stance is crucial for a deeper understanding and a lasting peace.
The second myth is one, repeated by many, that the use of force is ineffective or inherently immoral. This is false. There are times when the use of force is a necessity, an obligation and the only moral course of action. Facing the depth of evil of terrorists like those in Hamas, who set out to murder babies and slaughter innocent people in their beds, it is the obligation of every state or entity to stop them from accomplishing their goals and to prevent such atrocities by any available means.
It is unacceptable that the right to use force in self-defense is questioned in relation to Israel. Like every other state in the world, Israel has the right and the obligation to protect its citizens and to take all necessary measures to defend its people.
It is abhorrent that there are those who question that right. When media personalities and others question Israel’s right to self-defense, the people of Israel ask: how many Israelis must be killed in order for that right to be recognized, as it is for any other nation on this planet?
The third myth to be highlighted is one that touches on the essence of the conflict between Israel and the extremist Palestinians. The falsehood that needs to be dispelled is that the conflict is only about tangible elements, like territory, water or other material assets. One of the most clichéd statements is that ‘if Israel would only do this or that then there will be peace.’ The attack on southern Israel demonstrates the fact that Hamas, like other terror-supporting elements in the Palestinian camp, have no interest in compromise or coexistence. They wish to eradicate Israel and refuse to recognize it in any shape or form.
This is an existential battle, in which Israel’s survival is at stake. Israel has gone a long way in trying to achieve peaceful coexistence. It recognized the Palestinian Authority and relinquished territory to the Palestinians. Israel vacated the entire Gaza Strip, including the dismantling of all Jewish settlements in that territory. However, Israel was not rewarded with peace. Instead, the territories it vacated were then turned into terrorist training camps and launching pads for attacks. There is a growing realization that peace will only come when the majority of the Palestinians choose coexistence over conflict and eject the extremists from their midst.
Furthermore, this attack came after a long period in which Israel strove to bring calm to the Gaza Strip by making extensive efforts to improve the economic situation of Palestinians, with an emphasis on long-term projects in Gaza. In this context, discussions had begun on the implementation of the Gas for Gaza and Gaza Marine projects. Yet while Israel was working to stabilize the area by promoting long-term projects, Hamas launched a murderous and destructive terrorist operation designed to hurt Israel and undermine stability in the area.
Israel proved it is open for peaceful co-exitance in its long-standing agreements with Egypt, Jordan, the Emirates, Morocco, Bahrein. And was on the way for more peaceful achievements. The Palestinian authority is held back, by Hamas, from achieving that too. The Palestinians and the family of nations, NZ included, needs to help them decide on their future path.
There are many who ask how they can help Israel at this time of need. It warms the hearts of the people of Israel to witness such offers of support and they are deeply appreciated. We need to understand that , beyond the murdered, tortured and abducted- there are close to hundreds of thousands homeless Israelis by now, internal refugees whose homes have been burned down, bombarded and evacuatedboth from south and from North of Israel.
Beyond the emotional and material support provided by many, no less important is moral support. Public statements by elected officials, solidarity communal gatherings in synagogues and churches, and the illumination of public buildings in blue and white (the colors of our flag) are all fine examples of reassuring actions. However, not all gestures of support have been welcomed with open arms. The recent episode at the Auckland war-memorial Museum, where the illumination of the building in blue and white was met with resistance and led to a forced apology, alongside acts of vandalism, showcases the polarized reactions this conflict evokes locally. Concurrently, pro-Palestinian protests, like the march along Queen Street in Auckland, reflect a spectrum of sentiments that necessitates a more nuanced understanding and dialogue within New Zealand.
In today’s world of social media, everyone has a voice and anyone can be an ambassador of good will or a keyboard warrior. It’s encouraging to see some political leaders in New Zealand standing firm against terrorism, and it’s imperative that the public is well-informed to foster a balanced understanding and support for Israel in these trying times.
It is a turning point, a point when one needs to choose to be on the right side of history. Let your choice not be the one that supports a murderous ideology that rejects any dialogue.
Ambassador of Israel to New Zealand and Non-Resident Ambassador to the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga.