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Rabbi Brad Hirschfield Discusses Israel-Hamas War

As war between Hamas and Israel continues, Father Dave invites back Rabbi Brad Hirschfield to help bring context to this complicated world issue. 

Father Dave begins, “From my experience of the many years that you’ve been joining us on the show, even if it’s something that you’re very passionate about and have a strong opinion about, you tend to be a balanced voice.” He then asks Rabbi Brad to help us understand the different parties involved and partially how we’ve gotten to this point.

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Rabbi Brad begins, “Admitting my own bias, I’m a proud Zionist. I believe in the existence of the Jewish state; I believe in Jewish self-determination. I should also tell you that I believe in Palestinian self-determination, simply on the fact that I don’t believe it’s ever ethical to want something for oneself, and not at least offer it to other people if they want it.” He continues that not all people who support Israel hold this view, but Hamas and those supporting it do not believe in the existence of a Jewish state.

“[Hamas is] a theocratic, fascist, terrorist organization. Their roots go back to the beginning of the 20th century in something called the Muslim Brotherhood which was founded in Egypt, and whose goal was to turn the entire Middle East, and ultimately the world, into a territory governed by Muslims under the rule of Islamic law. That is the purpose of Hamas,” Rabbi Brad says. He explains that they came to power in Gaza after an election in 2006, though it was not peaceful and involved civil war. “Hamas’ stated goal is the destruction of the State of Israel, and the death of as many Jews as possible in the realization of that goal. To conflate all Palestinians with Hamas would be a terrible wrong. To minimize the number of people in the Palestinian movement who support many of the goals of Hamas would also be wrong.”

Rabbi Brad expresses that while both Hamas and Israel have committed wrongs, there is no moral equivalence between them. “I want to be very clear that anyone, regardless of politics, whose heart does not break over the death of Palestinian innocents, including children – something is wrong with them. That is a tragedy, full stop. Compassion demands not only that we weep over the losses on our side, but over the death of innocents on the other side,” he says. “People often fail to know how to be both compassionate and morally resolute. So they find themselves needing to make all kinds of erroneous moral equivalences so they can feel good about being compassionate. That’s never a good idea. Moral clarity is as necessary in a conflict as compassion.”

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Father Dave notes some demonstrations in the United States, especially on college campuses, that are protesting against Israel. Rabbi Brad expands on his previous point saying, “This goes back to how people try and reach, with the best of intentions, moral and compassionate positions. What they tend to do is try and reduce it all to who has more power, and whoever has more power must be less moral. Obviously that is a fool’s errand, because power can be used well or poorly. The issue is not power, the issue is the one wielding it.” 

“For anyone to imagine that there is any possible context, an excuse or explanation for the greatest mass murder of Jews in the single 24-hour period in any day since the end of the Holocaust is crazy. It should be scary to people,” Rabbi Brad continues, referencing the events of October 7.

He notes how issues of peace and violence go beyond just these events in the Middle East. “This has to do with people wanting to be on the side of liberation, and I get it,” he says, and notes other regimes that started with good intentions. “So we have a problem here, and it has much more to do with how people recover a sense of ethics and morality that doesn’t just soothe them, but invites them to hold the side they support to the highest possible standard, regardless of how much power they have or don’t have.”

For more, you can read Rabbi Brad’s thoughts here and here in light of the ongoing war.