Want to be taken seriously by Israel and its friends?
Here’s your moment to demonstrate your bona fides.
If you really mean what you say about criticizing Israeli policies but not questioning Israel’s inherent right to live in peace and security, then raise your voice right now.
Not tomorrow, not the day after, but today.
Speak up and say that the scores, if not hundreds, of rockets being fired from Gaza at Israel are an abomination. Say there can be no justification for such acts of terror.
Say that that this assault is a brazen violation of fundamental human rights.
Say that Israeli women, men, and children have the right to live in peace in their homes, and not be on permanent, 24/7 alert.
Say you empathize with Israelis, as they have no more than 15 seconds to reach a bomb shelter, and to make sure that their young children and elderly relatives also find protection.
Say that Hamas is a terrorist organization, precisely what the United States and European Union declared it to be years ago.
Say you’ve read the Hamas charter and understand the group’s goal is not to end Israel’s settlement policy, but Israel, period. Say you’re aware that Hamas uses civilians in Gaza, including children, as human shields.
Say you know that Hamas is linked to Iran, from which it gets funding, weapons, and training.
Say you see a clear moral distinction between the arsonist, Hamas, and the firefighter, Israel.
Say there’s a fundamental difference between a despotic regime, Hamas-ruled Gaza, and a democracy, Israel.
Say you know that Hamas trains children to glorify death and “martyrdom,” while Israel educates children to affirm life and advance the frontiers of human knowledge.
Say you know that Hamas opposes any Palestinian effort to reach peace with Israel, and will do everything possible to sabotage efforts in that direction.
Say you know that no country, neither America nor the European nations nor anyone else, would tolerate volleys of deadly rockets fired at them with the aim of causing murder and mayhem.
Say you know that Israeli hospitals, in response to more than 12,000 rockets over the past 14 years alone, continue to provide life-saving medical care for residents of the Gaza Strip.
Say you know that Israel not only has a right, but an obligation, to defend itself, which means going after the terrorist infrastructure and its leadership.
Say you hope that the world will understand and support Israel at this precise time, when half the Israeli population lives within range of Hamas weaponry.
Say you know how to prioritize your concerns, and, whatever your other issues with Israel might be, its ability to end the deadly attacks now tops the list.
Say you’ll avoid the temptation to invoke mealy-mouthed and misplaced comments about “restraint” and “moral equivalence” and “cycles of violence,” as if you were playing both sides off against the middle.
Say you know that Israel left Gaza, lock, stock, and barrel, in 2005, giving this strip of land the first chance in its history to govern itself. Say you know that no one before Israel, not Egypt, not the British, not the Ottomans, no one, offered Gaza the opportunity that Israel did to chart its own destiny.
Say you know that, in 2005, Gaza had the chance to choose whether it would seek to emulate Singapore or Somalia, and chose the latter.
Say you know that Hamas took over power in Gaza by ousting the Palestinian Authority, killing many in the process.
Say you know that there is no way peace can be advanced for the Palestinians — or the Israelis — if this very same Hamas is allowed to share governance with the Palestinian Authority.
There are moments in life that define us. We don’t always get to pick and choose them. They come, often unexpectedly, linger for a time, and then move on.
This is one such moment.
Speak up now — unambiguously, credibly — while literally millions of Israelis live from one alarm to another. Don’t worry. There will be other occasions to voice your ongoing concerns about, and criticisms of, Israel.
But if you choose to remain silent or resort to ambiguity, please don’t expect to be taken seriously the next time you preface your critique of Israel with those familiar words, “As a friend of Israel…”
David Harris is executive director of the American Jewish Committee.