A group composed of some 7,000 mothers of Israeli soldiers fighting in the Gaza Strip held up huge posters depicting the children of senior U.S. officials as IDF recruits during a protest in front of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Tel Aviv hotel on Tuesday.
The message: What if it were your children fighting in the Gaza Strip? Would you continue to demand the resupply of the enemy?
The group behind the protest, Imahot HaLohamim (“Mothers of Combat Soldiers”) is demanding an end to U.S. pressure on Israel.
“Our message is very simple. Our soldiers’ lives have to come first and foremost, and be prioritized over those of enemy civilians,” Mirit Hoffman, the group’s spokesperson, told JNS.
Since the war’s start, the U.S. has insisted Israel permit humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip. President Joe Biden promised during an October visit to Israel that aid would cease if it was found that Hamas had diverted it for its purposes.
It’s a promise that has not been kept. The U.S. has instead doubled down, demanding that aid increase, including the entry of fuel, something that Israel at first categorically refused to allow.
“Every time Blinken comes, he brings more and more demands that endanger our soldiers,” said Hoffman, who has a son and a son-in-law fighting in Gaza.
“It’s a total double standard. The demands that the U.S. administration put on our soldiers goes far beyond what America practiced after 9/11, or Pearl Harbor,” she said, adding, “We know the supplies go to Hamas. Hamas is telling everybody that it goes to Hamas. It’s not even a secret.”
“The U.S. is supposed to be our ally. I’m sorry, but actions speak way louder than words. Coming and shaking our hands and then putting the most ridiculous pressure on our government and endangering our soldiers—that’s not what allies do,” Hoffman said.
The U.S. has also pushed Israel to move to a less intensive, more targeted stage of the war. It has also suggested that Palestinians displaced to the south of the Gaza Strip be allowed back to the northern part. Blinken said at a press conference with Qatari officials in Doha on Sunday that “Palestinian civilians must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow.”
The mothers’ group says doing so will endanger IDF soldiers as Hamas terrorists disguise themselves as civilians in order to carry out attacks.
“The people that are interested in coming back are people that are actually working with Hamas,” Hoffman said. “It’s going to make it very difficult for our soldiers to distinguish between so-called non-terrorists and full-blown terrorists. This should be considered a closed war zone.”
If the U.S. is so concerned about helping the Palestinians, it should be pressuring Egypt and Jordan to allow their fellow Arabs to escape into their countries and out of harm’s way, she said.
The group also said that the U.S. hasn’t shown the same level of concern for Israeli hostages held by Hamas. There are babies, women, people who need medicine, Hoffman said. “We haven’t seen them. We haven’t heard from them. And I’m told I have to worry about Palestinians? What kind of double standard is that?”
Mothers of Combat Soldiers is not alone in its criticism of the U.S. administration. On Tuesday, dozens of family members of hostages converged on the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza, with the aim of blocking aid passing into the Hamas-ruled enclave.
“We will not allow the introduction of humanitarian equipment into Gaza while the sick and wounded are held captive by Hamas,” the families said in a statement.
Shai Wenkert, whose son Omer was taken hostage, said: “We will reach the Kerem Shalom crossing to prevent goods and medicine from entering the Gaza Strip. My son is sick with colitis, and since Oct. 7 he has not seen a doctor. It is impossible that at this time hundreds of trucks are entering Gaza.”
In early December, it was reported that the Biden administration had been quietly pushing Israel to open the Kerem Shalom crossing to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.
After initially resisting the pressure, Israel agreed to open Kerem Shalom on Dec. 17.
Although Mothers for Combat Soldiers was not involved in Tuesday’s protest at Kerem Shalom, the group organized a demonstration near the crossing on Dec. 21.
Mothers of Combat Soldiers members march to the Kerem Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip, Dec. 21, 2023. Source: Facebook.
Protesters carried signs that read, “Humanitarian aid kills Israeli soldiers” and “Forbidden to stop until the elimination of all terror supporters.”
Hoffman said all the groups are working together to make sure the message gets out: “If you want to conquer a terrorist army, you have to place a siege. And that’s what we were doing at the beginning until the U.S. came aboard and put pressure for this ridiculous resupply of Gaza. There are a lot of groups that want it to stop. We’re all fighting the same fight here.”