Long Beach Jewish Community: The Gaza/Israel Situation: Important Update
From the Jewish Federation of Long Beach and West Orange County:
The Gaza/Israel Situation: Important Update
* Our Israeli Sister Communities Under Attack
* Local Congregations Defaced with Anti-Israel Messages
* Talking Points, Links and Washington Contacts
Jewish Federation of Greater Long Beach and West Orange County stands firmly in support of Israel’s moral right and responsibility to defend its citizens. Since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, more than 6,300 missiles and rockets have been fired from Gaza toward Israeli civilian centers in the south. More than 3,000 were fired in 2008 alone.
We pray that the citizens of southern Israel will be able to live in safety and security. Please visit your congregation this weekend, to say a prayer for Israel, a prayer for peace and security in 2009.
Today, 35,000 citizens of our sister communities of Kiryat Malachi and Ashkelon Coast are paralyzed by fear, trauma and panic. Schools, from pre-K through college, are closed. Shops are closed. Parents cannot work. Our Ashkelon Coast villages (some located less than 3 miles from the Israeli border with Gaza) have suffered under a barrage of rockets, sometimes averaging one missile every 18 minutes. And December 30th marked the first time that our sister city of Kiryat Malachi, long believed to be out of missile range, was under attack.
Locally, several congregations in Orange County have been defaced with anti-Israel messages. Our Jewish institutions have increased security in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies. Community members are participating in rallies, writing letters to their Congressional representatives and newspaper editors, and speaking to the news media. Every voice in support of Israel is needed, now more than ever. Please join with us in supporting Israel, and condemning Hamas terror against Israeli civilians. Here’s how you can help:
Read on for talking points and how you can support Israel today!
Call your Senators/Representatives at 202-224-3121 (Capitol Switchboard).
Here are some talking points and background information:
* Israel has a moral right and responsibility to defend its citizens. Israel is reacting just like any other nation under constant attack. If Detroit was under attack from Toronto, or San Diego was under missile fire from Tijuana — with 50 rockets in 50 hours — the USA would act decisively to end the threat. We should not apply a double standard to Israel.
* Possibilities for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, based on two states living side by side in peace and security, were seriously set back when Hamas ousted –by force — the Palestinian Authorityfrom the Gaza Strip and rejected prior agreements regarding Israel’s right to exist. Regardless of these root causes, we mourn the suffering and loss of life that is occurring on both sides of the present conflict. For the last 8.5 years, the constant barrage of rockets from Gaza on Israeli civilian centers went unchallenged. No nation should suffer literally thousands of indiscriminate attacks. Israel has repeatedly called on Hamas leaders to end this terrorism. These calls fall tragically on deaf ears. For the sake of their own people, Hamas leaders should choose a path of non-violence and redirect efforts toward building a viable homeland – with the necessary infrastructure to support the social, economic and educational needs of Palestinian men, women and children.
* Israel has taken risky measures to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas has acknowledged that almost all of those who have lost their lives in Gaza have been Hamas militants or those placed in harm’s way by Hamas’ arsenals.
* During the 6-month cease-fire, Israel provided some 17,000 truckloads of humanitarian aid – goods, medicine and food — to Gaza.
* This past Sunday, Israel made it possible for 23 trucks carrying 160 tons of humanitarian aid — food and medicine — to enter Gaza. And on Monday, triple that amount — 60 trucks of food and medicine, and 10 ambulances — were sent into Gaza by the State of Israel.
Background on the Situation
* In August 2005, Israel disengaged from the entire Gaza Strip and turned the area over to Palestinian Authority (PA) control. At that point, Israel civilian and military presence in Gaza ended completely – the “occupation” was over. The hope was that this action toward peaceful co-existence would restore stability and open up opportunities for advancing the peace process.
* In 2007, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip by coup. Widely viewed throughout the world as a terrorist organization, Hamas, with Iran’s support, openly seeks Israel’s destruction. Despite Hamas’s intent, Israel continues to acknowledge that the residents of Gaza have humanitarian needs that must be met.
* Since Israel’s disengagement in 2005, more than 6,300 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza toward Israeli civilian centers in the south. More than 3,000 were fired in 2008 alone. Instead of state-building in Gaza, Hamas dedicated its resources, including international aid, toward terrorizing Israel’s civilian population centers. Israel’s southern cities and towns within 20 miles of the Gaza Strip, including Sderot and Ashkelon, have suffered the brunt of this terror. They are deliberately and indiscriminately attacked by rockets, often dozens of times a day.
* Despite repeated appeals by the Israeli government, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the leaders of Egypt and Jordan and the international community, Hamas has continued to fire rockets on Israel. Moreover, Hamas intentionally uses civilian locations for weapons manufacturing, ammunition bunkers, and the storage and use of rocket launchers.
* The situation in Gaza contrasts sharply with that in the West Bank where real progress is being made both in terms of security and economic development for the Palestinians because of the leadership there of Abu Mazen and Sallam Fayad, Fatah leaders who reject terrorism. Unemployment has decreased and average income has increased in the West Bank.
* During a 6-month negotiated ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, Hamas used the opportunity to rearm and increase the quantity, quality and range of its weapons. Iranian provided missiles, with a range of 20 miles, have now made it possible for Hamas to hit beyond Sderot and Ashkelon, into cities like Kiryat Malachi and Ashdod.
* The lives of 700,000 Israelis are now at risk.
Israel’s Response and Proportionality
* We deplore the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians. But Hamas knows full well that its terrorist activities will provoke a response, as they would by any nation. The Israel Defense Forces have demonstrated to Hamas that Israel cannot allow its citizens to live out their lives in bomb shelters, children in southern cities unable to attend school and their parents unable to work.
* Terrorists must not be allowed to use innocent women, children and elderly as human shields for Hamas terrorists firing at Israelis. Hamas makes no effort to comply with international law. The Geneva Convention states clearly that if a missile launcher or weapons stockpile is placed among a civilian population, the responsibility for civilian causalities lies with the party that deliberately put the civilians at risk.
* When innocent civilians become victims, it is a profound tragedy. Israel is deeply committed to exercising its right of self-defense in a limited and responsible manner. Israel is not attacking the Palestinian people; it is attacking Hamas infrastructure and terrorist installations to bring an end to the attacks on Israeli citizens, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others.
* Israel has continued to supply fuel, food, medical supplies, and other humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, despite Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians. During the past six months, Israel has facilitated more than 14,624 truckloads of humanitarian assistance including more than 185,000 tons of supplies and 39 million liters of fuel. There have been more than 4,130 medical evacuations from Gaza.
* On December 28 alone, Israelis shipped 4 truckloads of flour, 3 truckloads of medicine and medical equipment, and one truckload of heating gas. Israel facilitated the shipment of 15 more truckloads from the United Nations relief program, World Food Program, and Red Cross. In the past day, another 38 truckloads were transferred at the Kerem Shalom Crossing including more medicine, medical equipment, food, 1,000 units of blood and 10 ambulances.
* While Israel makes every effort to avert a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, the world must not forget the humanitarian crisis happening in southern Israel as a result of terrorism. The towns of Sderot and Ashkelon have been pounded by a barrage of Qassam rockets aimed at civilians. Pre-schools, homes, and bus stops have been incessantly targeted. When the alarm goes off, civilians have between 15 and 60 seconds to find cover, depending on their distance from Gaza. Think about what you would do if you were in the shower? What do you do when you have children to protect? Think about the life the residents of Israel’s southern cities are forced to lead.
* On December 24th, 80 Hamas rockets and mortars struck homes, schools, outdoor public spaces and businesses in Southern Israel. 80 rockets in 24 hours = 1 rocket every 18 minutes. The incessant strikes have caused damage on every level, particularly psychological damage. Widespread panic and hysteria abound, as post-traumatic anxieties re-emerge and intensify.
Israel Seeks Peace
We are deeply concerned about the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians. We want peace and end to suffering on both sides. The way to achieve this is to have the terrorists lay down their weapons, recognize Israel, and negotiate a two state solution. Israel is committed to a two-state solution – two states for two peoples living side-by-side in peace and security. Israel has demonstrated that she will embrace any genuine opportunity to achieve peace with her neighbors.
Talking Points for Our Christian Friends
* We are bound together as the descendents of Abraham, united in our devotion to the diverse people of the land. We share a quest for peace that will be realized by free and secure states, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians, living side-by-side. We mourn the loss of lives, each created in the divine image. When one person suffers, we all suffer. We pray and tirelessly strive for a day when suffering will be known no more and peace will prevail.
* The Christian population in Gaza and throughout the Palestinian territories has deep roots and we recognize that they feel trapped in this conflict. We also recognize the important voice of Christians throughout the world as advocates for peace.
* We have been saddened by the silence of much of the international community in the face of the attacks against Israel. We applaud those who have forcefully decried these attacks. Their calls for peace have an important resonance as they have recognized from the onset that Israel should not bear the physical and psychological toll of these attacks.
* Nations have a profound and moral responsibility to defend their citizens. Peace will be hastened whenPalestinian leaders in Gaza exercise this responsibility, ceases their attacks, and reject the path of Israel’s destruction.
* Israel’s response has been defensive and directed to the greatest extent humanly possible at military targets. Hamas has confirmed that the casualties have overwhelmingly been Hamas militants. Israel’s single goal is to protect Israelis from unprovoked attack. The actions of Hamas have included missiles fired at random at innocent civilians. It represents a devious and indiscriminate wielding of tremendous offensive power.
* The humanitarian situation in Israel and Gaza is a paramount concern for us as it is for Israel, which continues to work with the international community – foreign governments, United Nations agencies and NGO’s including church groups to find practical solutions to alleviate suffering. These efforts are have been hampered by the cynical and concerted efforts of Hamas to wage war from within civilian enclaves.
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