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Pray for the Gazan Boy
by Rabbi Avi Shafran

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1/1/09

No, I’m neither a prophet nor a covert Israeli operative. Yes, it was only a day after I distributed a column taking the New York Times to task for refusing to call Hamas a terrorist organization that Israel launched its offensive against Hamas in Gaza. But, really, I had no foreknowledge of the fact that Israel’s leaders would do anything more in response to the shelling of its towns by Hamas and its friends than offer the sort of statements that have been issued for years after such terrorist onslaughts.

But they did do more, in the hope – may we merit its fulfillment – of crippling the infrastructure of the murderous entity to its south. And, true to form, The Times avoided the “T” word, going only so far as to identify Hamas on first mention as a group “which Israel and the United States brand as a terrorist organization.” According to informed sources, Israel and the United States have also branded the sun hot and the Pope Catholic.

Similarly true to form was Hamas itself, whose spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, according to the very aforementioned newspaper, “called for revenge in the form of strikes reaching ‘deep into the Zionist entity using all means,’ including suicide attacks.” Still no you-know-what-word, though.

There was more of interest in the paper’s reportage, too. In a dispatch by veteran Times reporters Ethan Bronner and Taghreed El-Khodary that appeared on December 30, the scene at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital was vividly brought alive.

“Armed Hamas militants in civilian clothes roamed the halls,” they wrote. “Asked their function, they said it was to provide security. But there was internal bloodletting under way.”

The report then described how a young woman came to the hospital seeking her wounded husband. She asked a “militant” to help her but was turned away. Fifteen minutes later, however, she saw her spouse being carried out on a stretcher and watched as, lying there helplessly, “he was shot in the left side of the head.” The fatal bullet was administered by a terro – a “militant,” that is – presumably convinced that the man on the stretcher, who had been incarcerated by Hamas before an Israeli bomb liberated his prison, had collaborated with Israel. So charged Sobhia Jonaa, a lawyer with the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights.

Perhaps some ray of hope lies in the possibility that the man killed on the stretcher was indeed cooperating with Israel and not just someone from a different clan than his killer. If there are in fact Arabs unlike those whose angry faces adorn the front pages of papers worldwide, who realize that Islamist terror-mongers do not bode well for the Arab umma, that is true reason to celebrate.

As it happens, an undeniably hopeful spark was reported in the very same Times story.

Highlighting the saga of Gaza families lamentably displaced by the bombings, as civilians unfortunately are in even the most justified wars, the reporters interviewed the members of one such family, whose home stands next to a Hamas compound.

After recounting “the utter fear and panic they all felt as the missiles hit,” the father of the family’s bemoaning of the fact that “we have no shelters in Gaza” and his expression of concern for his elderly, paralyzed mother, one of the reporters had the idea of asking the man’s 13-year-old son for his view of the situation.

The boy, taking, as the dispatch put it, “an unusual stand for someone in Gaza,” responded: “I blame Hamas. It doesn’t want to recognize Israel. If they did so there could be peace. Egypt made a peace treaty with Israel, and nothing is happening to them.”

Were only such insight and common sense as contagious in the Palestinian world as hatred and violence have been.

Kudos to The Times for including the quote. But brickbats, too, for taking the astoundingly irresponsible step of actually identifying the quoted boy by name.

Pray for him.

© 2009 AM ECHAD RESOURCES

[Rabbi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.]



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