‘But Israel deserved it,’ right?

In Short

Israel deserves one thing right now: our unwavering love, prayers and support.

I woke up on Saturday to what seemed like a nightmare. I couldn’t believe this was real. 

Hamas had broken into Israel? By land, sea and air? Innocent civilians were being murdered in their homes? Men, women and children were being taken back to Gaza as hostages? Women were being raped and paraded in the streets? Babies were found beheaded? Three hundred thousand  reserve IDF soldiers being called up to serve?

It couldn’t be true. But it was. 

I work for a nonprofit organization that connects college students and young professionals around the world with entrepreneurs and business leaders in Israel. Half of my colleagues live in Israel. Two C-suite executives, one being our CEO, were called up for reserve duty.

I can’t imagine what it’s like for my colleagues in Israel. One of them left me a voice note as she was breastfeeding her newborn yesterday, telling me she was safe and asking what the media in the U.S. has been saying. I was embarrassed to tell her.

A colleague in America has a sister in Israel with many kids — and he just learned that his sister’s best friend has a son taken hostage by Hamas.

If you are Jewish, you are likely one degree of separation from knowing someone affected by this. 

My phone is constantly blowing up, between the horrifying images that are emerging from Israel as we learn more about the atrocities Hamas has committed against innocent civilians; Jewish friends supporting each other by reposting messages on Instagram; and the occasional reply from a former college classmate — who wrote, and I quote, “Israel is really the ones who created this monster.”

I see my friends express utter disappointment and sadness over the lack of acknowledgement from their places of work, including schools, financial institutions, tech companies and large media agencies. All the while, these places champ at the bit to make a statement about anything and everything else, but not for Jews being slaughtered of course. Then, context is needed.

It’s heartbreaking and sadly unsurprising to see the lack of response from the broader community. They were silent when initial reports emerged of Hamas targeting young adults at a music festival. They were silent when a Hamas terrorist took a video of slaughtering a grandmother and uploaded it to Facebook for her family to find out. “But Israel deserved it,” right?

I can’t, no matter how hard I try, see the other side: the side that, in response to the horrors we are all seeing, chant catchy phrases like “Free Palestine” and “End the Occupation” and “ethnic cleansing” instead of immediately and unequivocally condemning the atrocities committed by the very people Palestinians elected in 2006. When did it become political to condemn the rape of women? When did it become complicated to condemn the burning of children? Do they, in their heads, really believe “But Israel deserved it?”

Israel is far from perfect. The Middle East is complicated. Good people want Israelis to live in peace, and good people want Palestinians to live in peace. But let me be clear: This doesn’t justify what Hamas is doing. It is possible, isn’t it, to be concerned over Israel’s policies but still come out and condemn murdering innocent civilian lives? It is possible, isn’t it, to be outraged by Netanyahu and condemn the sick torture endured by innocent families at the hands of Hamas? It is possible, isn’t it, to feel for Palestinians and also know that beheading babies is not the path to peace? 

I don’t know what the next hour, day or weeks will bring as Israel gears up to respond to this unthinkable series of events — the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust. I am sick to my stomach over it. 

I am dreading the response I know I will see from the media, from college campuses and from uninformed peers in the coming days. They will post videos of the IDF targeting terrorist sites in Gaza — after the IDF informs Palestinian civilians about it, in advance — and they will say “See? Israel did deserve it.”  

The horrific acts of violence that have occurred over the last few days are not political. They are not complicated. There is no gray. 

Israel deserves one thing right now: our unwavering love, prayers and support.

Rachel Philipson is the chief development officer of TAMID Group.