Israeli flag
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As lay and professional leaders of the Jewish Federation, we feel an obligation to assert some important truths.

The recent conflict in Israel has been a heartbreaking experience for Jewish people around the world. We are horrified by the destruction and loss of innocent life. Beyond that, many of us are struggling with the lingering impact of this latest confrontation in our day-to-day lives. 

It is impossible to avoid. We have been inundated with discussion and commentary, much of it in the media and in our Facebook feeds. It has been widely noted that the intensity and extent of the criticism of Israel is fundamentally different than it has been in the past. 

As lay and professional leaders of the Jewish Federation, we feel an obligation to assert some important truths.

While there are many complex and longstanding issues in the region, the reality of terrorism is simple. Hamas and other organizations are committed to the destruction of Israel and have chosen the murder of innocent civilians as their primary means to accomplish this end. The tragic deaths of Israelis and Palestinians alike are the direct outcome of this terrorist campaign. 

Furthermore, the comparison between terrorist aggression and Israel’s attempts to defend its citizens is inaccurate and deeply unfair. It is, in fact, the exact response Hamas intended by situating their launch sites in schools, hospitals and apartment buildings in Gaza, turning children and other innocent civilians into human shields. 

The widespread condemnation of Israel, offered with little or no acknowledgment of the intent and actions of Hamas, serves to justify terrorism and emboldens anyone who sees the murder of innocent people as an acceptable tactic. The people of Israel want peace, and in recent years there has been tremendous strides in cooperation and common purpose among Jewish and Arab neighbors, notably evident in Federation’s Partnership2Gether region in the Central Galilee. Hamas works to upend this fragile shared society with its assaults and rejects the idea of a peaceful two-state solution. One side seeks peace while the other vows destruction. 

For many years, Israel has been held to a different standard among nations. The same groups that admirably champion equality and justice are unwilling to recognize the democratic and culturally diverse nature of Israeli society, unique in the region. Instead, these voices are among the most strident in the wrongful portrayal of Israel, often invoking Nazi Germany among other absurd and offensive comparisons. 

It is true, also, that these false narratives have amplified deep-seated animosities and fanned the flames of antisemitism across the world. We are seeing the effects of this playing out in hateful and frequently violent attacks on Jewish people around the world. This, too, is part of the strategic intent of Hamas and others. 

We must remain vigilant in the fight against antisemitism. The safety and wellbeing of our local community remains the Jewish Federation’s highest priority, and we will continue to actively safeguard our schools, synagogues and other institutions. 

Acknowledging these realities does not preclude open discussion and debate, and we sincerely welcome all voices from our community. Indeed, it is part of our tradition. In the future, we hope to find ways to productively engage with and explore the complexities of the situation, with the understanding that we are unified in our hope for peace and stability for Israelis, Palestinians and all communities in the region. 

Matthew B. Lester is president of Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Dennis S. Bernard is president of the United Jewish Foundation. Steven Ingber is CEO of Federation.