By: Ashley Bergeron
On Nov. 9, The Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley hosted an event called “Insight and Analysis on Israel’s War with Hamas”. The event was held over Zoom and was hosted by Bob Feferman, who started off the event by thanking the sponsors: Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne, Jewish Federation of Northern Indiana and Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley.
The speakers, Khaled Abu Toameh and Dan Feferman, were both in Israel at the time of the event. It was roughly 2 a.m. their time when the event started. Bassem Eid, a Palestinian reporter living in Israel, was also slated to speak on the panel but was unable to attend.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an Israeli Arab journalist who has been in the field for almost three decades. He has been a producer and consultant for NBC News since 1989 and has been writing for the Jerusalem Post since 2002. He covers Palestinian interests and is known as the “eyes and ears” of foreign journalists in the Gaza Strip.
Abu Toameh has personally met with Hamas, which includes interviewing their leaders. A question that was brought up at the event was, “Has Hamas changed over the years?” Abu Toameh explained that Hamas has not changed at all since their establishment in 1987 and that their goal from the start was to make Israel an Islamic state. Abu Toameh said that according to Hamas, non-Muslims could live as a minority or leave the country when Israel becomes an Islamic nation.
Abu Toameh said he has observed that while Palestinians and Israeli civilians tend to be vocal about their opinions on the Israel-Hamas war, public officials do not, giving the example that no public official would openly condemn or endorse Hamas.
Concluding his remarks, Abu Toameh stated that the war is in its early stages. He said while he was not surprised that Hamas would attack Israel, he was surprised by the magnitude and timing of the acts they committed. He ended his part of the discussion by asking how can Israel get rid of the theology of Hamas, and admitted he didn’t know the answer to the question himself.
Dan Feferman is a researcher who focuses on Israel. He co-hosts a podcast called Jewanced and is the executive director of Sharaka, a Middle East based NGO that focuses on peace between Israel and the Arab world. Feferman is originally from South Bend and now lives in Rehovot, Israel.
Feferman opened his portion of the panel by discussing the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Feferman said he, his wife and their children are used to rocket attacks; they happen once or twice a year. Usually, these would last 30 minutes, but the siren on Oct. 7 lasted four hours. This was due to the fence that Hamas broke down, which led to a violent spree. Feferman said it took a couple of days to understand what happened.
Feferman, who also served as a national security analyst in the Israeli military, discussed his perception of Israel’s failures during the attack, saying that Israel was relying on an electronic defense system and had limited resources prepared for the event of a bypass of this system. Despite this, Feferman said, Israel has a large enough armed force to support the war, which he said is an “existential” one in which Hamas wants to prove to the region that they are strong enough to thrive on their own.
A viewer of the panel asked, “What is the justification for the loss of [Palestinian] civilian lives in the effort to destroy Hamas?”
“While Israel should and is doing anything it can to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza – Hamas is ultimately responsible for this, and Israeli civilians cannot continue to pay the price. Many German and Japanese citizens died as a result of the actions of their radical governments. Sometimes there is a moral imperative and innocent people pay the price,” Feferman said. “I’ll ask you – what is the alternative? What would you do if your neighboring country did this to you and said they will continue doing it?”
Per their website, the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley’s mission is to “embrace, connect, and support Jews locally and globally through social services, coordinated fundraising, community outreach, educational programming.” They have a variety of events through the rest of 2023, including “Concert for Israel: Tears, Hope, and Strength” on Nov. 30 at their location, 3202 Shalom Way, in South Bend.
If you’d like to learn more about the Jewish Federation, visit their website at thejewishfed.org.