Each day, I struggle to send my kids to school and out with their friends. I worry when I go to the grocery store, when I gather with my friends in public, when I'm in synagogue on Shabbat. I have these fears because I am Jewish.
In the three and half weeks since the horrific Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, I have not once slept through the night. I am constantly on edge. And I am not alone. I feel confident saying that many in my community feel the same way. We worry every minute of every hour for our 9 million brothers and sisters in Israel of all races, ethnicities and religions, and for the 240 hostages who are still held in captivity by Hamas in Gaza. We grieve for those who were brutally murdered and for all Jews for whom life will never be the same.
It is in this context that I read Ahmed Tharwat's "America is united — in overkill — when it comes to Palestine" (Opinion Exchange, Nov. 1), which did not acknowledge the terrorist attacks that started the current war and referred to it as an "overkill reaction" to use military force to try to rescue the hostages, whom he calls prisoners of war, one of whom is only 9 months old.
Tharwat complains that before starting any conversation he has to "condemn Hamas." I certainly hope he would be eager to condemn a group that kidnapped young children and innocent Israeli men and women, proudly raped women, beheaded families, and burned others alive. Every Jewish person and leader I know has condemned the attack on Wadea Al-Fayoum, a 6-year-old Muslim, and his mother, who were stabbed to death in Illinois in what authorities say was a hate crime. We did so without thinking twice. It is not a Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish or American issue. It is an issue of humanity. It is telling that Tharwat has such a hard time doing the same when it comes to Jewish lives.
Tharwat refers to Israeli actions in Gaza as a genocide and calls the U.S. complicit. He apparently gives a pass to the Hamas leadership that has repeatedly blocked the Palestinian people from leaving northern Gaza after Israel warned of upcoming attacks. He gives a pass to the Hamas leadership that has stolen thousands upon thousands of pounds of aid supplies and has enriched itself while watching people suffer. He gives a pass to the Hamas terrorists who hide underneath hospitals, mosques and schools, shielding themselves with innocent civilians, knowingly putting them in danger while using those same hidden tunnels to launch attacks on Israeli civilians.
Tharwat compares Israeli policy toward Gaza to that of an imperial power trying to push out an indigenous people. This deliberately ignores the fact that Jews are by every measure indigenous to the Land of Israel, and have lived there continuously for thousands of years despite two millennia of forced exile and persecution.
Tharwat concludes his column by comparing the Hamas terrorists to Jesus, a man who was condemned when he lived but is now revered by billions of followers. (Tharwat also ahistorically refers to Jesus as a Palestinian, which belies the fact that Jesus lived and died as a Jew from Judea.) Perhaps this is why Tharwat is so puzzled by American support for Israeli self-defense.
Most Americans wouldn't think to compare Hamas to Jesus or any other inspiration for faith, moral clarity and compassion. We are horrified by young people taking to the streets to cheer mass murder. We grieve for each Palestinian civilian death, but we understand that intent matters. There are distinctions to be drawn, and Tharwat is welcome to see them or not.
Susie Kaufman is an active member of several local Jewish nonprofit organizations.