Below is an Op-Ed by Michael Sonduck, President and CEO - Submitted to the Union Tribune on July 16, 2014
Hamas’ disappointing decision to reject the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel that was broadly supported by key stakeholders, including the Palestinian Authority, the Mideast Quartet, the Arab League, and the United States, not only continues to place both Israeli and Palestinian lives in danger, but also ignores the wishes of the very people it claims to represent.
As reported by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a credible poll conducted last month throughout Gaza by a highly-respected Palestinian pollster found that 70 percent of respondents were “heavily in favor of a ceasefire”, and largely oppose Hamas’ policies and leaders.
In the past nine days, Hamas has fired more than 1,100 rockets into Israel, putting the lives of six million Israelis — 70 percent of the country’s population — at risk, as well as the lives of its own civilian population. Try to imagine 70 percent of our country — 250 million Americans — under the unceasing threat of rocket fire. Envision dinners interrupted, wedding ceremonies halted, and fearful children jolted awake in the middle of the night as families scramble to find shelter. Once the sirens are sounded, Israelis have just 15 seconds to reach safety. That’s barely enough time to read this paragraph. By the time you finish reading this article, sirens will likely have been sounded in yet another Israeli town.
Since Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, more than 13,000 rockets have been fired at Israeli towns and cities. And while Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, developed with the assistance of the United States, has a 90 percent success rate in intercepting the rockets, it cannot destroy every rocket. Israeli’s homes, gas stations, factories and schools are all at risk. The rockets have caused damage and fires that threaten more lives. This utterly abnormal reality has become the norm for millions of Israelis - Jewish, Muslim, and Christian alike. The threat to life is real and unacceptable.
We profoundly regret the injuries and loss of life suffered on both sides. All lives are precious; all mothers and fathers mourn; and in all nations, people grieve. But while the Israel Defense Forces seek to minimize casualties by repeatedly delivering warnings to civilians in Gaza to vacate targeted areas and using pinpoint technologies to hit only identified infrastructures, Hamas victimizes Palestinians, calling on citizens to ignore these warnings, and continue to use the people of Gaza as human shields.
Even the Palestinian delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Ibrahim Khreisheh, told a Palestinian Authority TV outlet that Hamas “rockets aimed at Israeli civilians are crimes against humanity - every rocket, individually, whether or not it hits anybody.” He further elaborated that because Palestinians in Gaza receive warnings from Israel before an airstrike - a safeguard not observed by Hamas to Israeli - any resulting fatalities are accidental and not criminal.
Hamas is an internationally recognized terror organization whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews. Hamas is not a partner for peace. In fact, its leadership lauded the kidnapping and murder of three innocent Israeli teens last month by calling for further kidnappings. Despite having signed a unity agreement with the Palestinian Authority, which was working to negotiate peace with Israel, Hamas does not seek a peaceful two-state resolution to the conflict, and even refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people.
Its leaders instead choose terrorism and hail their terrorists as heroes. They smuggle in thousands of rockets from Iran and deliberately place their own citizens, schools, mosques, and hospitals at risk by storing weapons in those civilian facilities, while using innocent Palestinians as human shields.
For Hamas, portraying Israel as the aggressor and targeting Israelis is more important than protecting its own citizens. Yet, inexplicably, some still question Israel’s decision to exercise self-defense and protect its population.
We hope the tumult will end and are praying for peace. We implore the global community to follow the lead of the United States in recognizing Israel’s right to self-defense and to stand in opposition to terror.
Israel has an inalienable right and obligation to defend its citizens from attack. “No country on Earth would remain passive in the face of hundreds of rockets fired on its cities,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “and Israel is no exception.”
Nor should anyone expect it to be.