We get it. Two of the major international crises facing the United States today are Israel’s war with Hamas and Ukraine’s war with Russia. Both battles are real-life manifestations of the paradigm of good versus evil. Both demand the support of the civilized world.
President Joe Biden was eloquent in tying the two together in his address to the nation last week and in urging Congress to fund massive amounts of military and other assistance for U.S. allies in Israel and Ukraine.
But why does the support of one need to be tied to the other?
We understand Biden’s problem. What was once widespread bipartisan support for ongoing aid to Ukraine has dissipated. An increasing number of Republicans and even some Democrats are questioning the propriety of using ever-increasing taxpayer dollars to support the Ukraine war. They point to other, important domestic needs that require funding and question further investment in a foreign war when those funds are needed to put our own house in order.
There is no need to debate that point here. Suffice it to say that we support continued aid to Ukraine as it fights the hegemony of Vladimir Putin’s Russian war effort. But funding for Ukraine stands on its own merit. And while the Ukraine war may invoke many of the same concerns as are raised by the Hamas attacks on Israel, funding for Ukraine has nothing to do with funding for Israel – unless the purpose for tying the two together was to gain leverage for funding Ukraine based upon widespread support for the funding of Israel’s needs in response to the horrors of Hamas’ attacks.
We are troubled by the linkage. Our concerns are on two levels.
First, funding for Israel’s war against Hamas also stands on its own merit. The Hamas jihad against the Jewish people, its premeditated targeting and butchering of innocents, heartless grabbing of civilian hostages and parading them through the streets and their cowardly use of those hostages as shields against reprisal rise to a new level of repulsiveness and inhuman behavior.
Overwhelming support in Congress and among people of decency support crushing Hamas’ evil. That call for support must be answered independent of otherwise legitimate concerns about Ukraine or anything else.
Second, we are concerned about what appears to be a pattern of tying “support for the Jewish community” to support for other worthy communal needs – almost as if support for the Jewish aspect of the cause is not sufficiently important to stand on its own.
We understand when support for the fight against antisemitism morphs into support for the fight against Islamophobia, human rights and hate in a broader context. We understand when support for hardening Jewish targets in our cities expands to similar protections for churches, mosques and other religious institutions that have nowhere near the same histories of attack or need for ramped-up security. And we understand when the effort to curb antisemitic hate speech on campus is expanded to include other minorities and targets of abuse and ridicule.
But Israel’s fight against Hamas is different. There is nothing similar to Hamas’ genocidal effort to wipe out the Jewish people and the state of Israel. The fight against the evil of Hamas stands alone and deserves to be addressed separately from Ukraine and separately from any other international crisis.