San Diego Civic Leaders React to Middle East Crisis, Prospects for Peace

San Diego Civic Leaders React to Middle East Crisis, Prospects for Peace

The Middle East War between Israel and Hamas has had international ripples, even making its way to California, where reactions vary regarding the battle between Western democracy and an Islamic terrorist organization. 

A 10-day-old conflict between the two was taken to a new level as Israel escalated Operation Protective Edge with a ground invasion into the terrorist-controlled Gaza region on Thursday to destroy tunnels in Gaza which give terrorists access to Israel. 

“War is a disaster for everybody that’s involved,” said Michael Sonduck, who is the CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, in an interview with local San Diego Fox News affiliate Fox 5. 

“Hamas, which has said to its citizens, ‘Don’t move out of harm’s way. Stay right where you are,’ puts bombs and rockets in mosques and in schools, right in the middle of citizen population[s], and launches them from those populations, using their own citizens as human shields for their military activity.”

On Wednesday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency For Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) revealed that 20 rockets have been found in one of the schools the United Nations funds in Gaza. The incident warranted a response from Israel’s Foreign Ministry, about which a spokesperson for the organization said, “Yet again, Gaza terrorists abuse UN facilities to carry out their violent activities. Hamas and other terror groups are determined to put civilians in harm’s way.”

Nasser Barghouti, who is with the U.S. Campaign to end the Israeli Occupation group in San Diego, told Fox News, “Hamas is, whether we like it or  not, the elected government of Gaza to date. And, as such, they have a responsibility to their people, just like any government has a responsibility to its people. They’re being bombed and shelled and destroyed by Israel. The only response that a government can do is to retaliate against that, and that’s what Hamas says it’s doing.” 

The war between Hamas and Israel began with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teen boys (one of which held dual US-Israeli citizenship) by Hamas terrorists as they were hitchhiking home in the West Bank. The murders were followed by the murder of a Palestinian teen whose death is being called a revenge killing and is believed to have been carried out by Israelis. 

This incident led to airborne strikes which began with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihadists firing rockets at Israel, which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. The Hamas-initiated attacks were met by counter-strikes by Israel’s military, which was acting in self defense.

Sonduck told Fox News that, despite the waves of violence which have torn the region apart, he believes there can be “peace where you can find common interests.” He emphasized that there are citizens who, in fact, want peace and that, if those citizens “can step up and really change their government [Hamas], they can find common interest and there can be peace.” 

The Israeli government has firmly stated that it does not wish to overthrow the Hamas government or to reoccupy the Gaza strip. From a national security standpoint, without a substitute government on hand to take control should Hamas leadership waver, this would further destabilize the region, creating a vacuum for dozens of extremist Jihadi militant groups to potentially take over.

For Barghouti, the issue of peace has to do with “the siege” being “eased, at least if not lifted… so that normal medicines and water and energy… fuel, can go into the Gaza Strip. And people can have a semblance of normalcy.”

On Wednesday, Hamas released a list of 10 demands from Israel in exchange for a proposed 10-year truce. Some of the demands, such as rule #8, are that Israel must never enter Gaza under any circumstances and must protect Palestinian Muslim worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Rule #2 demands the freeing of all prisoners arrested since June 23 (when three Israeli teens were killed by Hamas operatives) and improving the conditions of those currently in prison.