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Peace and war in the Gaza strip

Doron Levin, an illustrious journalist and fervent Zionist based in Detroit, has a lot to say about the current crisis in Israel and Gaza.

After days of strife in which Israel bombarded Gaza with aerial strikes and Hamas fired rockets into Israel, the conflict has escalated into a ground invasion in which Israel wants to locate missiles and dismantle tunnels. Hamas has used these tunnels for weapon smuggling and yesterday killed two Israelis after coming to Israel in one, according to the New York Times. They have also continued rocket strikes. Over 400 Palestinians have been killed. Some 18 Israelis soldiers have been killed in addition to two civilians, according to CNN.

A hawkish but empathetic Jew, Levin underscores that no decent Israeli wants killing, and that the loss of any human life should be reviled. At the same time, he expressed an urgent feeling that Israel must defend itself against Hamas, a militant Sunni Islamist group that is opposed to the Jewish state. The ground invasion is a gloomy last resort but simultaneously necessary.

"It became impossible to avoid. They warned people they were coming. The tried to get Hamas to accept a cease-fire. Hamas didn't want a cease-fire," he said. "We Jews and Israelis have an obligation to defend ourselves."

Levin makes the argument that Israel represents a culture of life while Hamas promotes a culture of violence. While initially a socialist experiment, Israel has largely emulated the United States by nurturing democratic institutions and capitalism. These institutions have fed freedom and prosperity.

Moreover, Levin said Judaism values humanity. Jews' role in the Torah and their covenant with God has given them the duty and responsibility of being a good example to the world via following Jewish law.

Levin cites many examples of Israel's goodness. They dropped leaflets in the current fight to warn Gaza citizens of imminent aerial bombardments. When Jewish extremists killed Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir for revenge after the deaths of three Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, they recoiled in revulsion and arrested the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, Hamas has disseminated a damaging ideology. They have vowed to end Israel and have said in the Hamas Charter that international peace efforts contradict their mission of Islamic jihad.

"That seems to be apart from a political goal. That seems to be a goal about blood (and) martyrdom," Levin said. "You're not dealing with a group that wants to make compromise. You can only defend yourself."

While Levin purports a moral binary between Israel and Hamas, his argument rightly has nuance. He talked about how Hamas has provided services like health care and sanitation to Gazans, and this is why they have some support. Yet he says this support is unhinged from Hamas's ideology.

"Most of the people in Gaza, some of them may hate Jews, some of them may not. They just want a better life," Levin said.

Given the distinction between Hamas and Gazan citizens, Levin has a deep empathy for the latter's plight. He rues the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded and has felt despair about causalities like the young boys who were killed while playing soccer.

As a soldier in the Israeli Army in the early 1970s, he met many Palestinians.

"I remember who they are, and I felt bad for them," he said. "In America, there's education, there's mutual respect, there's a justice system. They can have all that."

He agrees with Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic who assessed that Hamas has hijacked its citizens.

"I think there's something to that. The national movement has been hijacked. They don't have a broad-based political movement that attempts to understand the will of the majority. They have Hamas, and they are ruled by violence," he said.

In today's New York Times, there was an interesting vignette about the disconnect between the Hamas leadership and their citizens.

Gazan Taghreed Harazin, who has witnessed the carnage in Gaza, said she is not part of Hamas and most of the Gazan citizens she knows are not part of Hamas.

Emphasizing the menace of being ruled by the organization, she said: "If you say any word, it's held against you."

When asked about the future of the two state solution given the current war, Levin said it is not realistic. Jews fear that creating a sovereign state in Gaza and the West Bank might result in another antagonistic entity. If President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority can be trusted to build a peaceful Palestinian state, then there might be advancement. It is utopian, but still possible, he said.

Levin really cares about the future and sanctity of Israel. As a Zionist, he is conscious of how the persecution of Jews for millennia has accentuated the need for a Jewish state. Jews love peace and hate war, but the necessity of Israel must be protected, he said.

In the near future, he hopes that peace in Gaza will transpire.

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