A Call for Compassion in Wartime 

In Law by Alon K.

“But you and I know that this war will not have any real victors and that, once it is over, we shall still have to go on living together forever on the same soil.”

Albert Camus, The Rebel 

Hi, my name is Alon, and I was raised most of my life in New York City. Six and a half years ago I made Aliya to Tel Aviv, Israel. From one city to the other, the transition was relatively easy for me. My extended family did their part by providing me a place to stay while I learned the language, explored the culture, and made my own the habits needed to succeed in Israel. Similarly, both governmental and non-governmental organizations provided me with grants, educational programs, and a network from which to grow and become a part of the Start-Up Nation experience. And today I am thriving and heavily involved in the Israeli Hi-Tech scene. That is the quick and dirty about me, so now on to the matter at hand. 

Since I made my Aliya, I experienced two wartime periods because of Gazan-Israeli conflicts, while living in Tel Aviv. The first was in 2021, and my experience mostly involved staying indoors, whether at home or at work, and rushing to a safe location when the air raid sirens went off. “Safe” meant rushing down four flights of stairs to the bomb shelter for us who could, sitting in the building’s hallway for the elderly who could not, and hiding under the bed for our three-year-old cat. 

This experience was quite nerve-wracking, but I did not lose my composure because I understood that: 1) our country had the Iron Dome, a missile defense system that was designed to intercept rockets before they reached their destination; 2) living in Tel Aviv, only a few rockets would make it this far to us, and the Iron Dome would have plenty of time to catch these few missiles in time; 3) the Gazan missiles were not American military grade, but rockets whose life threatening damage could be avoided when taking the proper measures to hide under safe cover. The worst of it was hearing the rockets explode and hoping it was from interception in the sky and not a hit. 

And so, 3-5 times daily, for a week or two, we experienced air raid sirens and distant explosions. At best a nuisance, but also a reminder of how bad the families living in Sderot, Be’er Sheva, or any other southern city in Israel really had it. To them it was a more regular event. During one such regular event, about a year later, I recall sitting with my friends at a bar on Dizengoff Street, drinking beer and having a casual conversation, while hearing a rocket or two blow up in the distance. I never thought that in my life I would have such a bourgeois moment. Although, it would probably be no different than if I was sitting in some café in New York, discussing the hostilities in the Middle East like some enlightened know-it-all, all the while risking nothing of myself. 

Well, what can a civilian do in such a situation? How can I give back to the country that helped me integrate into its daily life? Do I spend all day filling up social media with hate propaganda? Or maybe remind people on social media to “Stand with Israel?” Do I march with a flag in the streets in solidarity? No… these things would not stop Hamas from continuing their crusade of death, and the BDS movement in American and European campuses from continuing their crusade of hatred. It would not stop fake news agencies from trying to cast doubt that Hamas committed war crimes or try to cast the blame for these war crimes on Israel. And it would not prevent this cycle of hatred from continuing further.

What Can a Civilian Do?

Let’s now focus on recent events. The surprise attack from Gaza was, indeed, a surprise. I was alerted by waking up to the siren at about 7:30 AM. I was alone this time, as my partner was that very day planning to return from overseas. No information really came in from the news, and eventually most of it trickled in through friends on WhatsApp and Telegram. The main pieces of information were that Hamas penetrated the border wall and proceeded to massacre civilians in Kfar Aza and the nearby music festival. 

What military objective could Hamas aim to gain? None. 

What ground could Gaza gain? None. 

The objective was to massacre civilians, plain and simple. 

The objective was to force Israel into an offensive, so that the media will begin their campaign of antisemitism toward the Jewish State. 

This is business as usual for Israel. But unlike the events of 2021, IDF’s response was not swift, and mobilization took a lot of time – the cost in life was very heavy. The IDF had to call in the reserves to properly respond to this kind of attack. But what about those who were not called in? We cannot raise up arms to protect. We cannot mobilize for a ground assault. No, all of this would be lunacy. Instead, we acted through our compassion. 

The civilian population had mobilized to help the civilians who survived in the south and had now been displaced and needed immediate aid. People opened their homes to strangers to stay with them. Others participated in food and clothing drives. Businesses did what they could to provide shelter. This was a mobilization of our compassion – we felt the pain of those suffering in the south and acted as best we could. 

A lot of these efforts in the Central Area of Israel were coordinated by the local government – Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, and Givatayim – with civilian participation. All while still experiencing rocket fire and sirens from overhead. And with all this effort a question occurred to me: what actions is the Palestinian “government” – so called by the west – doing to mobilize its people’s compassion? 

Are they protecting civilian life – or calling for Palestinians, civilian or otherwise, to kill as many Israelis as they could? With a ground assault imminent into Gaza, are Hamas moving civilians into safe location while they focus on fighting, or simply using them as a buffer – as human shields – while the militant terrorists go into hiding beneath the ground and or escaping to Egypt? Where is the Palestinian compassion? The Palestinian government have been asking civilians to stay put and die. They have been asking their civilian population to sacrifice themselves and become a statistic.

The Laws of Wartime: Humanitarian Law

So what happens now? As you may have heard by your government – Israel has a right to defend itself. The laws of war allow for a proportionate response to defend. But what does this proportionate response mean? 

In simple terms, a proportionate response to achieve its objective of stopping Hamas’s assault. That means that if a militant is operating artillery all the while having ten school children dancing around them, then it may be proportionate to attack the militant even though it would risk the lives of those children. That means that if Hamas has overtaken a school, hospital, or UN building to set up its military operation, then it may be proportionate to neutralize the threat, even though it would risk the lives of possible civilians still inside. The answer is generally, yes, if the actions are taken with care to minimize the possible collateral. 

Even though the Palestinian government has asked Gazan civilians to stay put, the IDF has called for them to clear and has even taken measures to wait for them to clear. By cutting off water, electricity and other such necessities, the hope would be to get them to move to safer grounds. By giving Gazans time to clear the vicinity, the IDF is risking the success of neutralizing Hamas to preserve the life of civilians. 

But did you ever notice that in most clips from Hamas, there are always children and civilians running around them? Those children, those parents – maybe they don’t know any better. They don’t know these laws. They are asked by their “government” to congregate around the militants to act as a Media Shield. Do Americans or Europeans know that the law is such? 

Is this Palestinian compassion? Does compassion mean sacrificing your child in a hopeless effort? Again, and again, and again…

A Call to Action: A Challenge to Measure Compassion

So how can western civilians, citizens, actually help? Will measuring the death toll change future outcome? Should a correct measure of Humanity be the death toll? If a thousand times as many Palestinians die in this conflict as Israeli’s does that mean that the response was disproportionate? 

It seems that the west likes to be fixated on death, but none of them are doing any actual fighting. If you like death so much, then please come to Gaza and fight. Instead, I challenge the media to start publishing statistics of compassion. How much effort did each side put into protecting life. 

I challenge the American and European news outlets – publish statistics on how many civilians were aided. How did the Palestinian government prepare its Gazan population to handle the obvious retaliation that would come from Israel? Afterall, this was months, if not a whole year in the planning. Did this plan include how to keep civilians safe?

Consider this: what virtues do we want to preserve and what evil do we want to eradicate as a global community – Compassion or Hate? Life or Death? Israel has done its part to preserve Life and Compassion, it is time for the rest of the world to eradicate their fixation with Death and Hate. Call for the Palestinian government’s intervention of compassion and quiet their cry for death and destruction. 

History is filled with martyrs of peace, and it is through them that peace was attained – Gandi, Martin Luther King Jr. The Palestinians only have martyrs of death – celebrated by their own people for killing as many civilians as possible. Until the Palestinians are held accountable for their own actions and their own government, how can they be allowed self-determination? What will they have done to earn their peace?