This past Tuesday, while most of us woke up to snow and a hot cup of coffee, millions of Israelis were awakened by blaring sirens and rocket blasts. While children around the world attended school, children in Israel concealed themselves in bomb shelters, waiting for tensions to de-escalate, hoping to lead a normal day. Often, Hamas is to blame, but this week, the case was different.
Yesterday, the Israeli military ordered the assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata, a senior official in Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the driving force behind most terror activities emanating from the Gaza Strip in the past year. His neutralization led to an onslaught of more than 250 rockets directed at the Jewish state, exposing civilians to a precarious and perilous reality. The PIJ rivals Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and so, Israeli Defense Force Spokesman Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman said the Israeli military is currently stopping attacks on Hamas, an effort to avoid retaliatory action from both the PIJ and Hamas. Although both groups differ in ideology, their ultimate objective is the same: the destruction of Israel and Islamic control over it.
Clashes between these radical Islamist groups and Israel might seem recurrent, especially with a barrage nearly triple the size coming from Hamas close to a year ago, but they are not what startled me on Tuesday morning. Rather, what shocked me most as I was poring over the news was the text I received from my father a few hours prior. My brother Daniel — a soldier in the Givati Brigade — is serving in Nablus, which is located within Area A of the West Bank, an area closed off to Israeli civilians. As he was patrolling the area, sympathizers of PIJ threw a type of incendiary device known as a Molotov cocktail at his unit. Luckily, no one was harmed.
Of course, all of these events are troubling. No civilian should ever fear for their lives, especially because of their Jewish identity. However, terrorism and hatred become extremely tangible when someone you love is threatened by them invariably. Every day, I think about what might happen to Daniel, my only sibling, and hope that the concoctions of my imagination never come to fruition. I think of my family and friends who live in Israel, especially those who live in the south, and pray for their safety too, but ultimately there are those who seek to override love with animosity.
By now, schools have been shut down and offices have been shuttered because of incoming missiles. Since 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning, 39 people in southern and central Israel have been treated for light wounds by Magen David Adom, an Israeli EMT service. An 8-year-old girl in Holon suffered from a heart attack and was given lifesaving treatment, but her condition remains severe. This is not normal. Having a day off because you must spend it in a bomb shelter is not normal. However, the world has come to see this as an inevitable part of Israeli life, shrugging off every rocket attack as if it is a mere case of larceny. We need to stop normalizing terrorism and jihad when it comes to Israel, especially as global terrorism becomes more prevalent. If ISIS began launching attacks on the United States after the targeted killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, there would be an international outcry.
It is time that we support the only democracy in the Middle East and hold groups like PIJ and Hamas accountable for their actions. As an ardent supporter of human rights, I adamantly oppose indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and so should anyone who claims to care about social justice and bettering the world, because no one, regardless of who they are, should live their lives under constant fire.
Denouncing these attacks is the morally responsible thing to do, and rather than justify it in the name of “freedom fighting,” it is our moral obligation to stop terrorism in its tracks.
Shiraz Otani is a CAMERA fellow, president of Binghamton University Zionist Organization (BUZO) and a senior double-majoring in political science and Judaic studies.