I think Elie Wiesel and Shmuley Boteach have officially jumped the shark with this ad. Aside from the fact that there is no evidence that Hamas actually forces Palestinians of any age to act as human shields, equating Gaza militants with “death cults indistinguishable from that of the Molochites” is hyperbolic to say the least. Also, the situation faced by Abraham is not quite the same as the situation in the Occupied Territories, which has a few more moving parts than a singular command from an omniscient deity to kill your son.
This ad pretty clearly suggests that Hamas views Palestinian children as expendable in its war effort, while the Israeli government does not. But if that’s the case, then I think we should ask ourselves how we’re supposed to view this sort of thing:
I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire.
[F]iring guidelines were changed so that the safety distance from Palestinian houses was reduced from 300 meters to 100 meters. Shortly thereafter, a shell hit the house of the Ghaben family in Beit Lahiya, killing 9-year-old Hadil and injuring 12 of her family members. Following the incident and several others related to artillery fire, human rights organizations appealed to the Israeli High Court to stop this lethal practice. In response, Israel stated that artillery fire would no longer be used in the Gaza Strip. Only three years later, in Operation Cast Lead, artillery fire was used once again, even more extensively than before.
The stories that have emerged from eyewitness accounts of hundreds of children being killed by Israel’s indiscriminate destructiveness, the shelling of United Nations schools and public hospitals, and finally the destruction of Gaza’s water and electricity, guaranteeing deaths from typhoid and other diseases as well as widespread hunger among the million and a half Gazans most of whom have had nothing to do with Hamas, highlights to the world an Israel that is rivaling some of the most oppressive and brutal regimes in the contemporary world.”
It seems pretty clear to me that there’s plenty of evidence that the Israeli government also views Palestinian children as expendable in its war effort against Hamas. They can certainly argue that Hamas is forcing them to shoot through children by operating in highly populated residential areas (which Hamas does). But the Israeli government can’t claim the same is true of their decision to shut off the electricity in Gaza. They can’t claim the same is true of IDF soldiers who bait and kill Palestinian children in skirmishes in the Occupied Territories. They can’t claim the same is true when the IDF knowingly uses highly inaccurate artillery with a high capacity to inflict collateral damage.
And if we’re going to place this in the context of scripture, I’d like to ask Rabbi Boteach how the IDF’s behavior in the Occupied Territories is consistent with the aspirations of Tikkun Olam, or the command to “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt,” or "What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah."
There’s no question that Hamas is a nasty organization. But the Israeli government continues to drive Palestinians into its arms by doing some pretty terrible things themselves. So while the last paragraph of the ad asks us to “work towards a brighter future with those who choose life, Arabs and Jews alike, all of us Abraham’s children.” I think it’s fair to say that the Israeli government still has some work to do in this area if it really wants to live up to that aspiration.