Hiromoto: Proud of my fight

JERUSALEM

Sometimes I yearn for the amoral, analytical freedom I had during my bright college years. The chance to look at an issue from all sides and deconstruct it in an ethical vacuum to understand all points of view was invaluable for my personal growth and intellectual satisfaction. But that era, like so many throughout history, has ended, and I have arrived in reality.

My reality is that two and a half years after graduating from Yale College, I am a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, and I have found myself in the middle of a conflict between my adopted country and those who would see it and its citizens wiped off the face of the earth. Extremist zealots from groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad seek to annihilate the State of Israel and its diverse communities of Jews, Christians, Druze and (yes) Muslims.

Like most Israelis, I believe in and refuse to give up on the dream of peaceful coexistence with our Palestinian neighbors. Before being drafted into the IDF, I studied Arabic diligently at Yale and spent a year working for a network of Arab-Jewish schools in Israel. When Israel left Gaza in 2005, I, then about to begin my senior year in the Elm City, shared the global hope that Gazans of all political stripes and ethno-religious backgrounds would embrace the new beginning to bring peace and prosperity to our region.

Alas, that dream has been torn asunder. The Iranian surrogate Hamas, a longtime sponsor of terror, usurped the Palestinian people’s democratic processes and seized control of the Gaza Strip in a coup in 2007.

Gaza and its Palestinian residents are currently hostages of the Hamas regime. Their homes and street corners have been rigged with mines and bombs, their places of worship turned into weapons warehouses, and their schools jury-rigged as launchpads for their rockets. Indeed, Hamas has made Gaza, once home to ordinary life, a battlefield in their unholy war against the freedom and hope that have been embodied by the State of Israel in its short 60 years of life.

This perpetual existential adversity has not stopped the Israeli people from realizing the dream of a strong and democratic state. Whereas other countries might have used hostile populations on all sides as a pretense for dictatorship and tyranny, the State of Israel has become a model for multiethnic democracy. Judicial review is rigorous (a Christian Arab judge sits on the country’s Supreme Court), civilians exercise full control over the military, and women and gays enjoy legal equality (including compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces for both). Within its democratic framework, Israel has followed the American model of welcoming immigrant groups from around the world: My basic training unit included soldiers from North America, both Eastern and Western Europe, Ethiopia, Ghana and India.

Israel’s only reward for a painful yet hope-filled departure from Gaza has been over 6,000 rockets directed against innocent Israeli civilians since August 2005. Today nearly 1 million people living in southern Israel must cower every second of the day for fear that one of these dread-inspiring creations will explode and shatter their lives. I often think of my octogenarian grandmother — would she be able to make it to a bomb shelter within the 15 seconds allotted by such a launch?

While the current situation, where IDF forces have reluctantly re-entered the Gaza strip, is not an easy one, I know that our cause is just and that we have no other choice. What country in the world would tolerate daily barrages of rockets and mortar bombs against its civilians for eight years?

I am proud to be wearing my uniform now because I, like the other women and men who wear it, am working to build a peaceful, stable Middle East despite extremist elements plotting to destroy this vision. Indeed, if not for those years of observation and analysis in the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, I may not have developed the discernment to understand the difference between the inherent justice of self-defense and the immorality of brutal aggression directed deliberately against innocent Israeli civilians.

This critical difference between the necessity of self-defense and the barbarity of terror, like the stark contrast between academic theory and palpable reality, empowers me and all other peace-seekers to continue to hope, pray and, if necessary, fight to create a better world in our three-dimensional real time so far from textbooks and lectures.

Lee Hiromoto is a 2006 graduate of Morse College.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    Question to the author: Are you proud of the wide use of white phosphorous as a chemical weapon against the civilians of Gaza, as can be clearly seen from hundreds of pictures and videos? Are you proud of the IDF telling the UN to move civilians to a school and then bombing that school when there were enough civilians there?

    I bring up these points knowing that supporters of the IDF dismiss the killing of almost a thousand people, including hundreds of children, as just accident. What else could it be? But is Israel using white phosphorus on civilians, as it did in Lebanon, by accident also?

    Regarding how democratic and open Israel is: In Egypt, women finally have the right to divorce their husbands. In Israel they don't, because religious zealots, who control the Kenesset, defeat measures giving women this basic right every time it arises. Why don't you mention that?

    Mr. Hiromoto's uncritical attitude towards Israel sadly has deadly consequences to the civilians of Gaza.

    For a more critical view of Israel, I recommend that people see the film "Waltzing with Bashir", which just won a Golden Globe. It shows how Israeli soldiers, like Mr. Hiromoto, back in 1982 in Lebanon, fired lighting flares into the sky so that their phalange stooges can kill Palestinian women and children into the night in Sabra and Shatila. This is the real history of Israel's aggression, which needs to be understood to appreciate what is going on today.

  • Goldie '08

    Josh Flaster (MC '06) is also serving in the IDF.

  • Concerned Yalie

    "…I have found myself in the middle of a conflict between my adopted country and those who would see it and its citizens wiped off the face of the earth"

    That's an interesting statement considering that it was Israel who broke the 5-month ceasefire with Hamas.

    "Alas, that dream has been torn asunder. The Iranian surrogate Hamas, a longtime sponsor of terror, usurped the Palestinian people’s democratic processes and seized control of the Gaza Strip in a coup in 2007."

    Hamas legitimately assumed power, being elected democratically by the Palestinian people. Instead of working with the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, Israel, the US, and the EU, never gave Hamas a chance to moderate its position and govern by exacerbating the situation through the levying of sanctions. We cannot just fail to recognize democratically elected governments that fail to align with our foreign policy interests.

    "This perpetual existential adversity has not stopped the Israeli people from realizing the dream of a strong and democratic state"

    The idea that Hamas's rockets threaten the existence of the Israeli state is farcical. These rockets have destroyed less than a dozen people, while Israel has killed almost a thousand Gazans, many of them civilians written off in Western press as "collateral damage"

    "While the current situation, where IDF forces have reluctantly re-entered the Gaza strip, is not an easy one, I know that our cause is just and that we have no other choice"

    I doubt Hiromoto is gullible enough to believe that statement himself. The current invasion of Gaza was planned months in advance, while the truce with Hamas was still on. Both the disproportionate use of force and the timing of the event leave no doubt that political considerations were the primary motivation for the invasion.

  • rob welsh

    good for you, lee. Godspeed and this American alum hopes you and your fellow soldiers complete your mission successfully and return home safe. Rob Welsh, SM '01

  • Pete Fenzel

    Good luck, Lee! Hang in there!

  • Charles

    Mr. Hiromoto,

    I congratulate you on what you are doing and hope that Israel dispatches Hamas with minimal casualties on both sides.

    Whether Hamas is a legitimate government is open to question. Ask Fatah.

    There would appear to be slim chance that Israel could ever coexist with Hamas. The principal reason for the existence of Hamas is the eradication of Israel. Read the Hamas charter. It is not ambiguous on the point.

    Hamas has been living out its charter for years. Israel should have acted against Hamas long ago. They are now prosecuting this war with extraordinary care and restraint, pamphleting and calling residents of areas to be targeted. Never has such care been exercised in history, certainly not in WWII, generally considered a "just war," in which indiscriminate bombing took place on all sides.

    During my time at Yale, Viet Nam was the focus. That was, indeed, a very different war. I believe our opposition to that war was incomparably more justified than opposition to the present Gaza conflict. Islam is, in my view, far more challenging and dangerous than communism was. Shariah law requires conversion, subjugation or death of non-believers. No ambiguity in the Koran, either.

    Good luck, Mr. Hiromoto!!

    Charles Morgan
    YC '68

  • The well wishers

    #5:

    What do you think this is? A boxing match? People are dying, and the most you can do is compare it to sports?

  • New Haven '05

    While I disagree with the Israeli response to portions of this conflict, the fact remains that both sides violated the cease fire continually over the course of the entire period.

    Also, there are now multiple videos of militants firing mortars/rockets from the yard of that UN school, and there are enough other videos to show the use of human shields by Hamas militants to be disgusted by them.

    While the use of W.P. is not illegal in warfare, it is certainly against anyone's decent sensibilities for the IDF to be utilizing it (if that is in case happening - it has yet to be confirmed by anyone, just speculation, although the speculation is probably accurate).

    As someone that studied with Lee, I hope that he comes home safe.

  • Elizabeth Moore

    God bless you for your service and fight, Lee. Hang in there and keep standing strong for everything that you hold true.

  • American Citizen

    Please note that this man, Hiromoto, is an American citizen by birth serving in a foreign army and as a spokesperson for that army.

    We used to call that treason.

    He should be ashamed and Yale should be ashamed of graduating traitors like him.

    Even more shameful is that he is taking up foreign arms while the USA is at war.

    Why does this blog support TREASON to the USA?

  • Y09

    Yale should not be educating people who fight in foreign armies. Sorry ISO crowd - For God, For Country, For Yale is not ambiguous

  • Elizabeth Moore

    To American Citizen and Y09: Please reference a recent article in the YDN that profiled some international students required to take leaves of absence in order to serve obligatorily in the armies of the countries they were citizens of. Should Yale neglect to admit these students simply because they are not US citizens and they are fighting in the armies of the countries that they are citizens of? Further, dual citizenship in America is in fact not a crime, nor is it a crime or a renunciation of US citizenship to serve in a foreign army. Afroyim v. Rusk (1967) made it such that it was impossible to "divest a person of his United States citizenship absent his voluntary renunciation thereof."

  • ADC

    "Instead of working with the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, Israel, the US, and the EU, never gave Hamas a chance to moderate its position and govern by exacerbating the situation through the levying of sanctions."

    Concerned Yalie, you cannot possibly believe that Hamas would "moderate" its position. Its position on Israel is quite clear: They will not stop until Israel no longer exists in the region.

    Let's put this into some perspective: Suppose a democratically elected group in Mexico began shooting rockets over El Paso, Texas. What would you think? Would you say, "this is unacceptable" and do what you could to make them stop? Or would you say "well,the United States' illegal narcotic consumption has created a situation in Mexico where drug cartels rule over people with an iron fist and have created crime and poverty… so it's really the US's fault"?

  • Y11

    @Concerned Yalie: It's one thing to condemn Israel for killing too many civilians in its operations. It's another to openly support Hamas and declare we haven't given them a chance to moderate. Come on. It's a terrorist organization, designed specifically to kill civilians. Their very charter calls for the destruction of Israel. There's a big difference between killing civilians in the pursuit of terrorists due to AoE attacks and actively trying to kill them to cause fear and death.

    To those crying "traitor," get a grip. Yale is a global university, and it's not as though this man has no stake is Israel's fate and just decided to put a pro-Israel stance to action and go fight.

    And finally, to Mr. Hiromoto, I deeply respect your sacrifice and wish you many safe returns.

  • cyberchemist

    I saw a Gazan MD on TV say the fires produced by the Israeli bombing and shelling could not be put out with water, only with sand.

    White phosphorus is stored under water and burns only in air. There other incendiaries that can not be put out with water, such as burning metals like magnesium, and thermite, but white phosphorus is not one of them.

    I don't what is being used in Gaza to create fire, but white phosporus does not seem likely.

  • Yalie

    It is unbelievable that throughout your entire article you failed to mention the humanitarian repercussions of the Israeli attacks in Gaza…

    And about Israel being a democracy…. A day after you wrote this, Israel banned two main Arab parties from running in its elections. This is not democracy… it is fascism. Israel is just like you describe it Lee…. but only for Jewish people and I hope that soon you realize that this inherently means that Palestinians living in Israel are second class citizens.

  • Dov

    You guys are missing the fundamental difference between Israel and Hammas. The goal of hammas is to kill Israeli civilians. Israel retaliates with the goal of hitting military targets. The fact is that Hammas has inefficient technology, and so their rockets usually don't hit anything, but their purpose cannot be forgiven. Furthermore, they devalue Palestinian lives by using their own civilians houses, their own children and their schools, as military bases, simply to make Israel look bad when they charge those military bases.