Can we doubt the meaning of ‘from the river to the sea’?

Israelis are traumatized by the massacre, grief-stricken over the hostages, and worried about their soldiers. They see huge hate rallies from every corner of the globe denigrating them for defending themselves.

Rhonda Wainshilbaum is an artisan and a civic volunteer, living and working in Massachusetts, just over the Vermont line.

The anti-Israel letter from Jewish Voice for Peace, published in The Commons recently, contained fallacies, omissions, and inaccuracies.

Accusing Israel of genocide is a provocative indictment unsupported by facts. It diminishes real acts of genocide - such as those that occurred in the Holocaust and against Armenians and in Rwanda.

Since their creation in 1948, Israelis have sought to live in peace with their Arab neighbors. Yet they have had to endure repeated attacks from every surrounding Arab country for their right to exist. Hamas and its supporters have vowed to repeat the atrocities of Oct. 7 until every Jew is dead.

Israel's actions are aimed at destroying Hamas, not the Gazan people. Surely JVP knows that Hamas intentionally puts its own people in harm's way, fires rockets from densely populated areas, and hides among civilians in a cynical strategy to maximize civilian casualties.

Hamas hopes that the world will blame Israel. In fact, it is Hamas that is directing genocide against its own people by using them as human shields.

Israel evacuated Gaza in 2005 in hopes for peace. What would Gaza look like today had Hamas focused on building a society instead of lining its pockets and building a war machine with billions of stolen humanitarian aid dollars? Check out this video by a man who belonged to Hamas.

JVP states that there should be no caveats to a ceasefire, indicating that it is fine if Hamas rearms itself for its next murder-fest. Where is their call for the return of the hostages and for Hamas to lay down their arms? Why do they focus only on Israel's response to Hamas's well-funded terror campaign?

Israel cannot go back to the status quo of massacres, destroyed homes and farms, and daily rockets fired upon their civilians. Moreover, the Gazans, themselves, are brutalized by Hamas.

JVP's letter states that the phrase "from the river to the sea" is "an expression of Palestinian freedom." But "from the river to the sea" implies the destruction of Israel and is understandably terrifying to many of us.

After Oct. 7, can we have any doubt as to what it means? And has JVP considered what will happen after Hamas tortures, rapes, mutilates, and murders 6 million Israelis? They will create another corrupt, barbaric, cruel theocracy on the dust heap of what was a thriving, vibrant, innovative democracy.

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The JVP letter continues: "750,000 Palestinians were violently expelled from their homes by Jewish militias. Palestinians have a word for that event: the Nakba, or Catastrophe. In Hebrew, we have a special word for the Holocaust: the Shoah, or Calamity. The cognitive distortion required to avoid these parallels is astounding."

There is no comparison between the systematic gassing and murder of 6 million Jews solely because they were Jewish, and Arabs who became refugees as the result of a war that Arabs started.

In 1947, the United Nations proposed a two-state solution, calling for an Arab state next to a Jewish state on their ancestral land, where Jews could return after millennia of genocidal exile. Jewish leaders accepted the plan, but Arab leaders rejected it.

On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel declared independence. The next day, five Arab states launched a war of aggression against the tiny, fledgling Israel that left thousands dead on both sides.

Many Palestinians were encouraged by their leaders to flee their homes, with promises that they could return to occupy the homes of defeated Jews. Some of them stayed (and today their descendants comprise about 21% of the diverse Israeli population). Some were driven out by Jewish militias.

About 850,000 Jews were also expelled from Arab countries. Israel welcomed these Jewish refugees, but Arab countries refused (and continue to refuse) to absorb their brethren.

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Israelis are traumatized by the massacre, grief-stricken over the hostages, and worried about their soldiers. They are in a frightening war in Gaza, and the threat of annihilation from Hezbollah in the North looms large.

They see huge hate rallies from every corner of the globe denigrating them for defending themselves. They see 250,000 evacuees from the North and the South who have moved from harm's way to the center of the country.

Recently, there was another barrage of rockets on Tel Aviv. They are shocked and bewildered by the betrayal of their comfortable cousins in the diaspora who have compassion only for their enemies.

To paraphrase the great Rabbi Hillel: If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?

This Voices Response was submitted to The Commons.

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