Viewpoint: May the New Year restore hope in Ukraine and the Middle East

Print More

By Arnie Fielkow, guest columnist

As 2023 comes to an end, we all look forward to a New Year filled with much happiness, good health and fulfillment for ourselves and our family. Yet, while we in New Orleans  have largely enjoyed a year of peace, the same cannot be said for the citizens of our allied nations of Ukraine and Israel. Since February 2022 in Ukraine and Oct. 7 in Gaza, lives have been uprooted and terrible acts have been committed against innocent citizens.

The atrocities committed by Palestinian terrorists against Israel on Oct. 7 — including brutally attacking and even slaughtering women, children and seniors and taking more than 200 civilians hostage — represent crimes against humanity not seen since Nazi Germany over 80 years ago. Similarly, Ukrainian citizens have been the victims of unspeakable acts committed by Russian Federation soldiers, including the deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children who have now been taken across the border into Russia in an apparent effort to destroy Ukraine’s culture and people. These acts of cruelty and criminality against the Israeli and Ukrainian citizenry, both funded and supported by Iran, can never be forgotten and must not go unpunished.

As we enter the New Year, it is my hope and prayer that a just resolution can be found to both the situations in Ukraine and the Middle East so that peace and tranquility can once again be restored to these regions. But what is “just” and what needs to happen for for this objective to be realized?

First and foremost, both Ukraine and Israel must continue to be supported through financial and military means by the United States and our European partners. It is time early in January for the U.S. Congress to stop playing political games and pass much-needed supplemental funding bills for both countries. A truly just peace requires both Israel and Ukraine to remain strong militarily so that their goals can be fully realized. Hamas, Russia and Iran are celebrating our congressional inaction, and it is time U.S. leadership demonstrates through their votes that we in America stand for democracy in combatting terrorism and authoritarianism. A strong Ukraine and Israel will only accelerate the goal of peace, and it is time all elected federal leaders —both Democrats and Republicans — recognize this and act.

A just resolution also calls for different end games in both Ukraine and Israel. Ukrainian fighters — who before the war were doctors, lawyers, businessmen and other ordinary citizens — have acted with tremendous courage in successfully opposing Russian aggression over the past two years. One must remember that Russia actually began its military excursion in 2014 when it invaded and captured sovereign Ukrainian territory, including the strategically important Crimean Peninsula. This was followed by a similarly unprovoked attack against the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and other parts of Ukraine in 2022. Never in eight decades has the world seen such an attack on a country’s sovereignty and the world rule of order.

Most agree that a resolution of the Ukrainian conflict will involve a diplomatic solution, but Ukraine and its inspiring president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, must be placed in as strong a position as possible militarily for a just resolution to occur. This includes a return of significant land to Ukraine, and a pathway for future long-term peace and security, including future NATO and European Union membership. Equally important, the International Criminal Court must continue to investigate Russian leadership and fighters and hold them accountable for their war crimes. Anything short of this should be unacceptable to all who seek justice and long-term stability for Ukraine and its neighboring NATO border countries.

As for Israel, a just resolution in the New Year requires the meeting of three objectives: the elimination of Palestinian terrorists, the safe return of all remaining hostages, and a true pathway for long-term peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and indeed between Israel and its Arab state neighbors.

Contrary to what some would like one to believe, the horrific acts of Oct. 7 do not represent a battle between Israelis and Palestinians, a fight over land, nor a response to Israel’s recognition as an independent and democratic state since 1948. There is no justification, no moral equivalency for the terrorist acts committed on that fateful Shabbat day.

Judaism and Jewish values honor the sanctity of human life as it is often said that the saving of even one life represents a saving of the entire world. Admittedly, it is difficult to watch on television the daily loss of life and suffering of innocent Palestinian civilians who are being used as human shields by their leadership. Yet it is equally heartbreaking for Israeli families who have been forced to bury over 1,200 loved ones or who still daily pray that their family members held hostage under nightmarish conditions in Gaza will be safely returned. While the world largely and unfairly condemns Israel for its response to October 7, one wonders what any country would do in the face of similar terrorism?

Israel has been fighting for its peaceful existence for 75 years. Most people, myself included, recognize that a long-term resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must eventually be found for all citizens. However, for this to happen, strong, courageous and ethical leadership must emerge on both sides with a common desire to find a road map that can bring both Israelis and Palestinians the peace, security and prosperity they and their families want and deserve. The Abraham Accords were a positive step in achieving this goal, and let there be hope in the New Year for this regional partnership to be continued and even broadened.

We are all blessed to live on this incredible planet, and may the New Year restore hope and optimism to the suffering people in Ukraine and the Middle East. May 2024 also be a year when we remember the world becoming a more safe and just home for all people. As the Hebrew phrase says, “Ken Yehi Ratzon —Let it be so”!

Arnie Fielkow

Guest columnist Arnie D. Fielkow is a former president of the New Orleans City Council and former CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

One thought on “Viewpoint: May the New Year restore hope in Ukraine and the Middle East

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *