by Mark Silverberg
On Thursday, July 24th the Jewish communities of northeast PA came together at the Scranton JCC to show their support for and solidarity with Israel in its conflict with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists based in Gaza.
Addressing an estimated audience of 250 persons, guest speaker Micah Halpern confronted many of the issues faced by Israel in this war – issues that included Hamas’s double war crime of using civilians as human shields and using hospitals, nurseries, residential homes, mosques, playgrounds, ambulances and even UNRWA schools as weapons depots and bases from which to launch rockets into Israel’s civilian population centers.
He noted that no nation can allow a portion of its people to live under the same conditions as did the British during the London Blitz – sleeping in bomb shelters and separated from death only by the randomness of a missile’s flight. He emphasized that Hamas deliberately targets Israeli civilians and celebrates when Jewish children die. “How long” he asked “would Americans put up with missile attacks on Dallas and Houston from Mexico?” There is no question,” he said, “that Israeli attacks on Hamas targets are justified, so why blame Israel for the war as does much of the Western media?
He added that Israel is scrupulous about protecting civilian life; that it has dropped leaflets and taken the unprecedented measure of amassing a complete list of cellular telephone numbers of Gazans and through an automated telephone system is warning residents in Arabic to evacuate targeted buildings containing weapons stashes prior to Israeli air strikes. “I know of no other nation that announces where and when it will drop its bombs, thus enabling civilians to evacuate the area” he said.
On the argument that Israel is using “disproportional force”, he stated: “While some 60,000 civilians in British cities were killed by Nazi bombers in WW II, the Allied aerial counter-offensive to eliminate that threat cost 600,000 German lives – a ratio of 10 to 1.Yet the media attacks Israel for using “disproportionate force”?
And as for the tons of humanitarian aid crossing into Gaza daily from Israel during this conflict, he posed a rhetorical question: “Do you think Churchill would have sent food and medical aid into Berlin as a humanitarian gesture during the bombing of London?”
On the issue of Hamas using civilians as human shields, Halpern was even more scathing in his remarks. “I am appalled”, he said “that anyone would use innocent children as human shields as a deliberate war strategy. I have no doubt that the Israelis must be sickened by the loss of innocent lives even as Hamas delights in their propaganda victory. Maybe that’s the difference between the Israelis and the Hamas terrorists. The Israelis are civilized – even in war. I can’t say the same for Hamas. As Netanyahu said recently: “Israel uses rockets to protect their children. Hamas uses children to protect their rockets.”
Halpern was joined by CRC Chairman David Fallk (who introduced the evening’s program), Mark Silverberg (who read the emotionally moving eulogy that had been delivered a mere two days earlier on Mount Herzl at the funeral of Max Steinberg – a young American who had made aliyah from Los Angeles only a year prior to the Gaza War, voluntarily joined a top Israeli commando unit, and was killed in action in Gaza), Jay Weiss (who gave the prayer for the well-being of the IDF) and Rabbi Yisroel Brotsky (who read Psalm 20 which is recited in times of national distress).
In an auditorium overflowing with waving Israeli flags, posters of Israeli victims of terror, Israelis running to bomb shelters, children cringing in their parents arms, photos of rooms filled with the remnants of thousands of rockets that had been fired at Israel’s civilian population over the years, and posters proclaiming “Am Yisroel Chai”, the love and caring in the audience reflected itself in cash donations of $60,594 as of August 1, 2014 that includes a significant donation designated to the Israel Emergency Fund for the specific purpose of purchasing two portable bomb shelters designed to protect members of Kibbutz Sa’ad – a small Jewish community bordering Gaza that falls outside the protection of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.