Steve Hunegs

Steve Hunegs was named Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) in November of 2006. Hunegs has a long association with the JCRC. He served on the Board of Directors from 1993 to 2002 and served as Board President from 1998 to 2000. Read more about Steve Hunegs.

Israel wants peace, Hamas doesn’t

Posted by: Steve Hunegs Updated: August 7, 2014 - 4:15 PM

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) applauds Israel’s decision to extend the current 72-hour ceasefire originally set to expire on Friday morning beyond its present deadline.  It comes as no surprise that Hamas has called for a resumption of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians if their demands are not met.  We support lifting the sea blockade of Gaza, but only if Hamas’ weapons are seized and Gaza is demilitarized.

We underscore Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments yesterday when he said, “Israel deeply regrets every civilian casualty, every single one. The people of Gaza are not our enemy.  Our enemy is Hamas.”

There is no question that the loss of life is tragic.  Any feeling person understands that this is a horrific situation for innocent Palestinians and Israelis.  We want an end to terrorism.  We want an end to violence.

Israel takes every measure to avoid civilian casualties, but what should it do when thousands of rockets are being fired by Hamas under the cover of their own people?  What would the United States do in the same situation?

More than 3,000 rockets have been fired by Iran-backed Hamas from Gaza into Israel since July 8th with ranges that place millions of Israelis at risk.  Day and night, Israelis have 15 – 90 second warnings from a siren to run for a bomb shelter.  Mothers, babies, and children in hospitals are sleeping in bomb shelters.  People in the street, walking to work, or going about their daily lives are often left unprotected and with nowhere to run, they lie down in the street and cover their heads.

In Gaza, Iran-backed Hamas is fighting against peace by building a vast network of multi-million dollar lethal terror tunnels, firing thousands of rockets at Israeli mothers and children, and hiding behind their own people.  For years, there have been no Israeli soldiers or settlers in Gaza.  Cement that should have been used to build houses and schools in Gaza was instead used by Iran-backed Hamas to create tunnels of death to attack Israeli civilians, and schools have malevolently been used as storage containers for rockets, turning innocent Palestinians into civilian shields.

The majority of Minnesotans and Americans appreciate the essential moral difference between Israel, a liberal western democracy, and Hamas, a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and internationally recognized terrorist government which seeks the destruction of Israel and all Jews.  With the latest news that Hamas has called for a resumption of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians if their demands are not met, we are not sure what further evidence could convince the blame Israel first/blame Israel only fringe that Israel is fighting a just, defensive war.

In a recent interview, famed Israeli writer, peace advocate, and founder of Peace Now, Amos Oz, posed these questions: “What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?  What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?”

Ultimately, the only possible solution to this conflict is the two-state solution, an independent Palestine living in peace with the Jewish State of Israel.  Israelis and Palestinians deserve peace and security, and lives free from terror and violence.

Hope for and belief in peace are the reasons that Israel gave up all of the Sinai for peace with Egypt, why Israel made peace with Jordan, left Lebanon, and left all of Gaza.  Israel works daily in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank on security issues for both Israelis and Palestinians and to aid in the economic development of Palestinian communities.  All those who hope and pray for a lasting peace should support Israel in its war against Hamas, which not only violently seeks Israel’s destruction, but is callously and cynically indifferent to the welfare of Palestinians.

These have been difficult days for Israel during Operation Protective Edge.  Israel has exercised its sovereign right of self-defense against over 3,000 Hamas rockets aimed at its civilians and it destroyed terror tunnels from Gaza into the heart of Israel intended to perpetrate a mass casualty attack against Israelis.  We owe great thanks to President Barack Obama and Congress, including Senators Klobuchar and Franken from Minnesota; Hoeven and Heitkamp from North Dakota; and Johnson and Thune from South Dakota, as well as Representatives Walz (CD-1), Kline (CD-2), Paulsen (CD-3), McCollum (CD-4), Bachmann (CD-6), Peterson (CD-7), Nolan (CD-8), Cramer (ND), and Noem (SD) for authorizing $225 million in supplemental funding for Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system.  Judging by various opinion polls, the American people are standing with Israel.

We also thank Governor Mark Dayton for standing strong with 1,400 other Minnesotans in late July to express support for Israel.

Israelis and Palestinians deserve peace and security.  The world is crying out for an end to this conflict and to a cessation of the suffering on both sides.

Finally, we take to heart these polling results of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya:

  • 92 % of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip are in favor a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas;
  • 72% of Palestinians hope their leaders will work to achieve a lasting peace agreement with the Jewish state; and
  • 68% of Palestinians said they would prefer the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip over the option of rearming the militant factions there

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