By Kevin Deutsch
Coral Springs Commissioner Joshua Simmons drew criticism from a Jewish community advocate Friday for his Instagram post stating that the Israeli government “should not be the cause of more deaths of innocent Palestinians” in its war with Hamas.
In the post, which features text overlaid on a video of Simmons working out at a gym, the commissioner wrote: “On Oct. 7th, like many, I was horrified by the Hamas attack on Israel. I still condemn their actions today as they still hold Israeli hostages and are putting innocent Palestinians in harm’s way.”
“However, the government of Israel, in their quest to root out Hamas, should not be the cause of more deaths of innocent Palestinians. We can stand against antisemitism and call for the protection of Palestinian civilians.”
Nechama Gutman, a Jewish community advocate and Coral Springs resident who survived a deadly, coordinated attack by three Hamas suicide bombers in Jerusalem in 2001, took exception to the latter part of Simmons’ post. She posted a screen grab of Simmons’ post on her Facebook page, calling him out for blaming the Israeli government for Palestinian civilian deaths—casualties she and the Israeli government pin squarely on Hamas.
“Dear City Commissioner Joshua A. Simmons. I like [that] you agree that innocent civilians are caught in this war,” wrote Gutman, 39, a mother of five who sits on the Victims Advisory Council for Strength to Strength, an organization that supports victims of terrorism around the world. “This includes [Israeli] babies that were horrifically beheaded. Women whose infants were brutally cut out of their bodies and then stabbed while still attached to their mothers’ umbilical cords and only after was the mother shot and killed … Women who were gang raped till their pelvis has shattered.”
On Oct. 7, Hamas carried out the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust when thousands of terrorists crossed into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip and massacred some 1,200 people—most of them civilians—while also committing widespread acts of torture and rape upon victims in their homes. Hamas, designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, seeks to destroy the Jewish state and kill the Jews living there. It is currently holding over 240 hostages taken prisoner from Israel.
“Israel has done everything in its power to reduce civilian deaths,” Gutman wrote. “They have dropped flyers asking civilians to head south. Sent half a million text messages telling them to leave their homes. They have made hundreds and thousands of phone calls advising them to please head south. They have a daily 4-hour window allowing civilians to head south and let humanitarian aid in. Israel certainly has the technology to completely destroy Gaza by air, and yet our men and women are on foot climbing into the depths of hell looking for terrorists along with our hostages.”
“Yes, Palestinian Civilians need protection …. from the terrorist organization that has ruled their lives. Put the blame where it is needed. H@mas is to blame 1000%”
In response to the Oct. 7 attacks, the Israeli military launched a campaign targeting Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip with the aim of destroying the group. According to The Times of Israel, The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that 11,078 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
The newspaper reported that casualty figures provided by Hamas could not be independently verified and are believed to include Palestinian civilians killed by terror activity in the Strip as well as Palestinian terrorists killed by the IDF. Hamas is also believed to restrict information regarding the death count among its own fighters, according to the Times.
Hamas routinely uses Palestinian civilians as human shields and uses civilian infrastructure as part of its strategy, operating in locations that include refugee camps, hospitals, and schools.
Gutman, a respected voice in Coral Springs’ Jewish community, has PTSD due to the Hamas suicide bombings she survived without physical injury as a college student studying in Israel as a teenager. Her brother Rafi Horwitz, 36, moved from Coral Springs to Tel Aviv in February and has been volunteering since Oct. 8th, helping displaced Israeli children and bringing supplies to communities in need.
“As my family is currently risking their lives in Israel to minimize deaths and bring our families home, I’d love to hear how you think this can be done better from the safety and security of your home here,” Gutman said in her post addressing Simmons.
Several other Facebook and Instagram users also criticized the commissioner’s remarks about the Israeli government and Palestinian civilians. Simmons drew praise for his post from several users on Instagram as well.
In response to Gutman’s Facebook post, Simmons replied:
“So, as I went over this statement, I thought deeply about how it would be viewed. As someone who has always stood with and stood up for Jewish people, I find it intriguing that my support is being called into question because I would rather not see ANYONE killed in a situation like this. Yes, Hamas is the reason all of this is happening. I’ve been clear about that. No one’s babies should be brutally murdered. No women should be raped and paraded around on social media. None of those things were okay, and I am not putting that blame anywhere other than Hamas. Clearly, I can make these statements from the safety of my home, just as you are doing the same with these posts.”
“I’m not Jewish, nor am I Palestinian. I could easily just say nothing at all times, but that’s not me and has never been me. So, if folks want to use this as an opportunity to try to jump on me for making inferences that aren’t there in my post, then ok. I understand. This is a scary time, I get that, and if Jewish citizens came under attack, I’d be right there in defense of. Just like when I heard there was supposed to be some online call to attack Jewish people on a certain day, I immediately called our Chief of Police to make sure we were at the ready. I wholeheartedly understand your angst and anger. But please know, I’m not afraid of anyone, nor am I afraid to speak my mind.”
I love everyone, and people who truly know me know that. I don’t say things to pander and don’t add to division. I always try to look through things with reason.”
In a reply to criticism from another commenter, Simmons wrote:
“Two things can be true at the same time. Hamas is a terrorist group and should be destroyed. The Israeli government’s retaliation has led to innocent deaths as well. That’s a fact. Just because I’m saying that doesn’t mean I disagree with destroying Hamas, nor does it mean I’m against Jewish people. None of that is true.”
Criticism of Simmons’ post comes amid concerns over rising antisemitism in the U.S.
Already increasing in recent years, antisemitism has surged globally and in the U.S. since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, with Jews targeted in physical attacks, acts of vandalism and intimidation, and antisemitic rhetoric on public streets and college campuses.
- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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