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What I learned on peacekeeping duties near Israel

Bill Connor
Courtesy of Bill Connor

As most Americans are aware, the Palestinian terror group Hamas has been firing missiles from the northern Gaza Strip toward Jewish Israeli population centers like Tel Aviv for over a week. Hamas claims this is in response to rising tensions in Jerusalem over evictions of Palestinians, and Israeli police measures at the Al Aqsa Mosque. At this point, over 2000 missiles have been fired against Israeli civilians, and Hamas has even targeted an Israeli nuclear reactor in the Negev. The Israeli military have responded by targeting Hamas military leaders, fighters, and military communications facilities, but not targeted civilians. Its “Iron Dome” anti-rocket defense has helped, but even Jewish children have been killed. The Biden Administration had restored $235 million of funding recently to the Palestinians (which had been cut off by the Trump administration), and that money appears to have helped fund the attacks.  Having served between Israel and Egypt on military peacekeeping duties (1996-1997), I firmly believe America needs to take our stand behind Israel. Let me explain.

On that peacekeeping deployment, I was an Infantry Captain in an Infantry Battalion Task Force (TF 2-27 IN “Wolfhounds”). Our mission was to occupy various checkpoints in the Sinai desert, from the Straights of Tiran to the border crossing into Eilat, Israel. This was as part of the overall “Multinational Forces and Observers” (MFO) of multiple nations along the border between Egypt and Israel in the Sinai. During that time, I had the opportunity to travel throughout Israel, including Palestinian territories, and surrounding Arab countries.  Of note, we deployed shortly after Benjamin Netanyahu was first elected Prime Minister. Based on Netanyahu’s known conservativism, this caused a great deal of violence and acts of terror by the Palestinians.  Regardless, I had the chance to speak with average people from the different sides and form my opinions about the conflict.  I deployed to the MFO mission neutral to all sides. I had previously deployed to Kuwait twice and had listened to a number of anti-Israel voices.  I left the MFO mission knowing that, despite minor imperfections, Israel was the “good guy” America should support in the dispute with the Palestinians.

The first thing I noticed was that Israel was the kind of free, equal, and Democratic nation like America, while the other side was opposite.  After the Israeli War of Independence (1948-49), Jews from throughout the Middle East were expelled by Arabs and resettled in Israel.  Jews are virtually non-existent within the Palestinian areas beyond fortified Jewish settlements. The Jews in Israel did not force out Muslim Palestinians, but incorporated them within Jewish Israel proper. Over 3 million Muslim Arabs are Israeli citizens. Muslim Arab Palestinians in Israel even have seats in the Knesset (Parliament) where they are able to openly praise the Palestinian cause and criticize Israel. Though all Israelis must serve in the military, Muslim Arabs in Israel have the option “not” to serve.  The Israeli newspapers, unlike the Palestinian and surrounding Arab nations, give voice to both sides. 

During the time I was there, Israelis were in the process of giving back major parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control. What I noticed then, and much more over the coming years, was that Israeli unilaterally giving land back caused more attacks by Palestinians. When the Israelis gave back full control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (which involved the Israeli Army forcibly removing long-time Jewish residents) in 2006, the Palestinians rewarded Israel with attacks.  When the Israelis withdrew from Southern Lebanon, they suffered the same dynamic.  Each Israeli concession is seen as weakness, and has encouraged Palestinians to drive toward their stated aim of the destruction of the Jewish State. 

The current justifications by Hamas for missile attacks hold absolutely no water. From 1949 to 1967, East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount which is the Holiest place to Jews, was off-limits to Jews. The Temple Mount was where the Ark of the Covenant was previously kept within the Temple. When Jordan attacked Israel in 1967, Israel took East Jerusalem during the fighting.  Immediately afterward, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan allowed Arab Muslims to have policing participation of the Temple Mount, but under Israeli sovereignty.  Unlike what happened to the Jews, Israel not only allowed Muslim access to the Temple Mount, but allowed them to have policing authority. For Hamas to fire thousands of missiles at Jewish civilians and a nuclear reactor over an issue of policing there is absurd, as Israel has been more than fair.

American interests are furthered in standing behind the truly Democratic nation of Israel, and demanding Hamas be dismantled.  Allowing the cancer of the Hamas ideology, radical Islam, to spread does come back to America, as we experienced on September 11, 2001. It is shocking that the Biden administration decided to give that $235 million to those seeking to destroy Israel, but after the rocket attacks it cannot continue. The Palestinians must utterly repudiate this cancer, and show itself a true Democracy first. Israel is in the right, and America stands up for what’s right. John Adams said that our Constitutional System was predicated upon a “moral and religious people”. Let’s show that character in backing our ally Israel now.

Bill Connor, a retired Army Infantry colonel, author and Orangeburg attorney, has deployed multiple times to the Middle East. Connor was the senior U.S. military adviser to Afghan forces in Helmand Province, where he received the Bronze Star. A Citadel graduate with a JD from USC, he is also a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Army War College, earning his master of strategic studies. He is the author of the book Articles from War.

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