Israel is not Russia, Gaza is not Ukraine
At the time of writing this column, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is in full force with unbridled attacks on civilian populations in Ukraine’s major cities. With the exception of such noble countries as Syria, Belarus, North Korea, and Eritrea (known as the North Korea of Africa), the world recognizes Russia’s invasion for what it is: an undisguised power grab meant to throttle the aspirations of the Ukrainian population to remain a democracy and bond more closely with Europe. Indeed, as of this writing, Russia has threatened “Ukrainian statehood” exposing Russia’s intent to force Ukraine back into Russia’s sphere of influence.
Ukraine has not capitulated despite being thoroughly overmatched militarily, and the world recognizes and salutes the bravery and heroism shown by Ukrainian fighters and civilians alike. However, in the midst of this ongoing tragedy, extreme anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian activists (and make no mistake – these people are much more anti-Israel than pro-Palestinian) have attempted to color events in Ukraine in an attempt to draw world sympathy to the Palestinian cause. Here are a few choice arguments: why does the world cheer Ukrainian armed resistance
Russian bombing of TV Tower in Kyiv
to Russian military occupiers, when the world treats Palestinian armed “resistance” to Israeli “occupation” as terrorism? Why did the world react in revulsion to the Russian bombing of the TV Tower in Kyiv, but fail to react to the Israeli destruction of the AP Tower in Gaza? Why has the world instituted crippling economic sanctions against Russia, while Israel remains free to participate in the global economy?
Israeli bombing of AP Tower in Gaza
Some direct quotes to set the scene: Maureen Claire Murphy of the Electronic Intifada website tweeted “If you’re a Western liberal sympathizing with Ukrainians taking up arms against Russia right now, ask yourself why [you] haven’t sympathized with Hamas fighters in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon?” Mehdi Hassan of MSNBC commented ““Who better to denounce wars of aggression and illegal occupations… than the foreign minister of Israel.”
Of course, these comparisons are deliberately misleading. Did Ukraine do anything at all that harmed Russia before the latter invaded the former? No. There were no Ukrainian terror attacks deliberately targeting Russian civilians or property. No Ukrainian suicide bombers, no Ukrainian Qassam rockets, no Ukrainian tunnels beneath the Russian border to infiltrate Russian towns and murder their residents. What provoked Russia was not Ukrainian attacks on people, property, or infrastructure, but Ukraine’s desire to pursue democracy and join Europe.
And Israel? Israel has indeed attacked Hamas and affiliated terrorists in Gaza after the latter pummeled Israel with rocket fire. Hamas Hamastered the art of suicide bombings, with 471 Israelis murdered from 2001 to 2003. Thanks to a combination of intelligence and military operations plus investment in infrastructure such as the security barrier surrounding Gaza and the West Bank, suicide bombings in Israel are now largely a thing of the past. Not so with rocket attacks, which are what provoked Israel’s most recent incursion into Gaza. These rocket attacks fell almost
Hamas terrorists preparing to launch Qassams
at random over Israeli territory, reaching as far as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. While Israel’s Iron Dome proved invaluable in intercepting most of these missiles, the sheer volume of rockets launched forced Israelis into shelters. The AP Tower in Gaza housed Hamas’s military intelligence along with its command and control. Israel’s attack on the tower was thus a strike against a legitimate military target. Note that it has long been the practice of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terror groups fighting Israel to locate their offices and weapons amidst civilian population centers with the goal of causing civilian casualties that could then be used to press human rights violations against Israel. While Israel did indeed bring down the AP Tower in Gaza, note that no individuals were killed in the attack.
By clear contrast, there were no military or intelligence operations targeting Russian civilians emanating from Kyiv’s TV Tower. Rather, this was part of the Russian strategy of disconnecting Ukrainian civilians from all manner of infrastructure, including communications, fuel and electricity, gas, and of course transportation. As the Jerusalem Post editors have written:
…the Ukrainians never tried to throw the Russians into the Black Sea, nor does the Ukrainian constitution include a clause stating that Russia has no right to exist. … the Ukrainians did not arm their people with explosive vests and encourage them to ride buses in Moscow and blow themselves up along with as many innocent passengers as possible … the residents of Kharkiv in northern Ukraine have not been firing rockets for nearly two decades at apartment blocks in Belograd just across the border.
Indeed, Ukraine’s ambassador to Washington, Oksana Markarova, made it clear that the indiscriminate rocket attacks on Ukraine are reminiscent of the rocket attacks on Israel. Ambassador Markarova said “The majority of the strikes are from the air, and it’s something that again, you know, all brothers and sisters in Israel are, unfortunately, too familiar with.”
So, the next time you come across someone trying to accuse the world of hypocrisy by supporting Ukrainian resistance but not Hamas, remind them: Israel is not Russia, and Gaza is not Ukraine.
Eating Like an Israeli – Sephardic Charoset
The first time our friend Noah came for seder, he was stunned when the charoset was passed around the table. To him, it looked different. It tasted different. “Ashkenazis!” he jokingly remarked.
Who knew that charoset could be anything but apples, wine/grape juice, and nuts? Maybe an occasional raisin, but how different could it really be? The answer: REALLY different.
Noah’s family is Moroccan, and indeed, their charoset is not at all like what we always had during Pesach. The next year, I called Noah’s mom and got her recipe. When Noah returned to our seder, he was thrilled to have charoset as he knew it – and so were we… it was delicious! (Confession: I made our “usual” charoset too – tradition you know!) Consider making both kinds this year – you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll be eating like an Israeli (at least like the Moroccan ones)!
- 2 cupspitted and chopped dates (SECRET: Dates are a pain to work with, so if you can find and buy the pre-chopped or date paste (not syrup), it is SO much easier!) Use a food processor to chop them if you use whole dates.
- 1 cupground walnuts or almonds (or half cup of each)
- 1/2 cupred wine (Noah’s mom uses “dry” red wine but we used sweet)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger (optional)
- 1/4 cup chopped raisins or prunes (optional)
- Mix it all together! Enjoy! B’tay avon!
Note: I have also heard of Moroccan families who form the charoset into balls, serving it in that way rather than in a bowl, putting one ball at each place setting before beginning the seder. Maybe we’ll try that this year!