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VICTOR JOECKS: Democrats’ divide over defending Israel is depressing

It’s depressing to watch Democrats splinter over Israel. It shouldn’t be hard to choose between a staunch U.S. ally and a terrorist group.

Early last week, Hamas fired around 150 rockets into Israel. It’s important to understand two things. First, the U.S. government classifies Hamas as a terrorist group. That’s not a partisan label. Second, sending rockets into civilian areas is an act of war. A country has a right and a duty to defend its citizens.

That’s what Israel did. It launched airstrikes into Gaza, targeting Hamas leaders and military infrastructure. Hamas kept launching rockets, firing more than 4,000 at Israel. Israeli airstrikes flattened buildings used by Hamas’ military and targeted its leadership. Israel announced a cease-fire late Thursday.

A government protecting its people from terrorists shouldn’t be controversial. Yet, some Democrats objected.

The United States has for “too long turned a blind eye to injustice and violence committed by the Israeli government,” Nevada Democratic Party chair Judith Whitmer said in a statement last Friday.

She accused the Jewish state of committing “human rights violations.”

That’s a serious accusation. It may even seem plausible at first glance. More than 200 Palestinians died, including more than 60 children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, which may or may not be reliable. In contrast, a dozen people in Israel had died as of Thursday. The Israeli military has leveled a number of buildings used by civilians, including one that housed an AP bureau.

But stopping one’s analysis there amounts to choosing willful ignorance. Hamas deliberately hides military equipment and personnel in mosques, schools and office buildings.

Hamas does this to put Israel into a double bind. Either Israel allows Hamas to fire off rockets from “civilian” structures or Hamas gets to accuse Israel of attacking civilians.

This shouldn’t fool anyone. If a military operates in a civilian building, it’s a valid military target. To limit civilian casualties, Israel alerts residents of buildings before bombing. That reduces the military effectiveness of its strikes. Israel does it anyway.

Here’s the difference between Hamas and Israel. Hamas launches rockets toward Israel in hopes of killing as many civilians as possible. Israel alerts Palestinians of upcoming attacks on military targets to limit civilian casualties.

There is no moral equivalence here. None.

But Whitmer isn’t the only Democrat ignoring those details. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was almost the party’s presidential nominee, called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel. “It is illegal for U.S. aid to support human rights violations,” he tweeted. Several Democrats in the House, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, have attacked Israel as well.

Fortunately, many Democrats reject this false narrative. President Joe Biden affirmed Israel’s right to self-defense, although his administration has had some concerning rhetoric, too. In Nevada, Sen. Jacky Rosen and Rep. Susie Lee condemned Whitmer’s comments.

Good. May they have the courage to continue standing strong against those in their own party who are eager to attack Israel.

American politics has enough partisan issues. Supporting Israel shouldn’t be one of them.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698.

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