This is a detailed guide for learning about Israel and discussing it with your friends, family, and colleagues. Designed for anyone who is curious about the history and present moment of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, it is rigorous, informative, and crucial given the complicated web of disinformation that is circulating today.
Claim: I feel like the term “antisemitic” is thrown around a lot. Jews say everything is antisemitic these days. Truth: Yes, the word “antisemitism” gets thrown around with very little context. At its core, it is simply anti-Jewish bigotry–a form of bias against the Jewish people. There are statements and actions that are overtly antisemitic, such as chanting “gas the Jews” as protestors in Sydney said in late October, and then there are statements and actions that are covertly antisemitic.
Let’s dive into calling Jews “privileged white people.” In the Western world, the far Right attacks Jews for perverting the white race, while the far Left ironically attacks Jews for being privileged, white oppressors. While many Jews in America present as white, racializing Jews as white erases our lived experience as victims of white supremacist persecution all over the world. People who try to categorize all Jews as “white” reinforce white supremacy, which at its core is antisemitic. Such people also ignore the rich histories of Jews of color; in fact, half the world’s Jews are from Middle Eastern countries.
Secondly, I hear the term “Zionist Oppressors” thrown out a lot. By equating the term “Zionism” and libelously associating it with oppression, apartheid, and/or colonialism, some have found a “politically correct” way to attack Jews as “Zionists.” Around 95% of Jews are Zionists. However, this term simply describes those who support national self-determination and safety for Jews while upholding the democratic principle of citizenship rights for all. So saying “I don’t hate Jews; I just hate Zionists” is like saying “I don’t hate Tibetans; I just hate Tibet.”
Claim: I simply criticized Israel’s policies and now people are calling me antisemitic. WTF? Truth: Criticizing specific policies of any government, from a place of knowledge, is always appropriate. By the way, Israelis love to do it in Israel just like we do in North America. However, common criticism of Israel usually grossly oversimplifies the situation, ignores crucial context behind tough decisions Israel has to make, falls prey to manufactured victimization of Israel’s enemies, and holds Israel to a higher standard than all other nations have been in the past and present (including the USA). These intellectual shortcuts are all biased in one direction – against Israel. This is the antisemitic bias.
Claim: Zionism is Racism/Colonialism. Therefore, the October 7th Attacks were justified because of Israeli colonialism. Truth: Actually, the need for Zionism emerged out of racism against Jews, during the time that colonialism was disintegrating worldwide. The Zionist movement began in the late 1800s when many culturally coherent groups around the world fought for political sovereignty (commonly known as nationalist movements). Jewish communities across Europe and the Middle East experienced oppression for centuries, and the Zionist movement sought to solve this problem in the way many other nationalist movements were developing at the time – to found an independent nation.
The Ottoman empire, which covered the entire eastern Mediterranean from Tunisia to Croatia since the 1500s, was defeated by the Allies in WWI. Britain and France, which had been extending their influence in the Middle East throughout the 1800s, carved up the conquered Ottoman territory. This area was split into Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the British Mandate of Palestine. Jews and Arabs lived there under British rule for three decades. The last chapter of British rule was during WWII and the Holocaust, when 6 million Jews that stayed in Europe were murdered. The UN Partition Plan (the precursor to the two-state solution) divided Israel roughly in half – half for the Jews and half for the Arabs. The Jews accepted it, and the Arabs rejected the plan. Striving to get 100% of the land rather than the allocated half given, Arabs within Israel along with five surrounding Arab nations launched invasions, and Israel emerged victorious, capturing more territory than initially outlined in the partition – a common outcome in postcolonial conflicts worldwide, albeit one that draws exceptional scrutiny in the case of Israel.
Examples of this: Following the British colonial withdrawal, the Turkey/Greece conflict in Cyprus spanned five decades, characterized by persistent and bloody strife. Similarly, after the British colonial withdrawal, the India/Pakistan conflict in Kashmir has endured seven decades, resulting in hundreds of thousands killed, tens of millions displaced, and a recurring pattern of shattered ceasefires. During the Algerian War of Independence from the French, hundreds of thousands were killed. During the Independence of Kenya from the British, tens of thousands were killed. During the Angolan War of Independence from the Portuguese, tens of thousands were killed. And the list goes on. As said before, this is a common outcome in postcolonial conflicts worldwide.
Thus, Zionism is actually anti-colonialism. It is the removal of the British colonial powers and the return of the land to indigenous people, the Jewish people, in the same geographic location of the original Jewish civilization thousands of years ago. Zionism as a concept does not specify specific borders (there’s room for two states!), and it simply is the idea that Jews as a people have the right to self-determination. This movement must be contextualized within the postcolonial context in which nations across the globe demanded and achieved independence from broader empires. There is nothing in the Zionist charter that calls for this violence. Contemporary realpolitik demands this.
Claim: Jews use the Holocaust as a justification for everything. That was 75 years ago and isn’t relevant anymore. Truth: The Holocaust is the most well known Jewish genocide and resulted in by far the most deaths of any genocide in history. Some survivors are still alive today. Therefore it is extremely present in the Jewish psyche, and should be present in any moral person’s psyche. However, even omitting the Holocaust, there is a disgustingly long list of Jewish genocides from the past 2000 years, and the Holocaust isn’t even the most recent. To help you understand, Hitler’s proposed Jew-hatred caught on so quickly because he was recycling ancient tropes about Jews. Nothing he said was new or novel.
Here’s a highlight reel of why Jews are so insistent on needing their own state:
Hadrianic Genocide (132): The Romans demolished 985 Jewish villages, and Jews were enslaved and transported to Egypt.
Rhineland Massacres (1096): During the Crusades, mobs of French and German Christians committed a series of mass murders of Jews.
Blood Libels & Inquisition (1200-1400): This era was characterized by the persistence of blood libels (accusations that Jews killed Christians and drank their blood.) These accusations, combined with the Black Plague, led to widespread targeting and killing of Jews across Europe. The Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions forced the exile of Jews and led to the mass execution of approximately 33,000 Jews, even those who had converted to Christianity, as the notion of “dirty Jewish blood” took hold.
Russian Partition of Poland (1770-1881): Roughly three million Jews were forcibly relocated in modern-day Poland and Lithuania.
Eastern European Pogroms (1881-1920): An estimated 100,000 Jewish people were killed, maimed, or tortured in government-sanctioned attacks and massacres against Jewish communities.
The Holocaust (1940-1945): Prior to the Holocaust, the global Jewish population numbered 16.6 million, with six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. Even today, the worldwide Jewish population has not yet fully recovered to pre-Holocaust levels.
Middle Eastern Pogroms (1940-1970): After World War II, nationalist movements emerged in the Middle East, promoting the concept of one nation, one state. These concepts often excluded Jews, leading to pogroms – coordinated violent persecutions. As a result, a vast majority of Jewish populations from various Middle Eastern countries, including majority from Morocco’s 265K Jews, Iraq’s 150K Jews, Algeria’s 140K Jews, Iran’s 100K Jews, Egypt’s 75K Jews, Yemen’s 55K Jews, Syria’s 40K Jews, fled to Israel to escape violence and persecution.
Claim: Israel doesn’t want peace with the Palestinians. In fact, Israel is a war-mongering regime that hates Arabs. Truth about Arab peace: Israel achieved a peace agreement with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. In recent years, Israel has also achieved peace with four other Arab nations: the UAE, Morocco, Bahrain, and Sudan. Prior to Oct 7th, Israel and Saudi Arabia were on the cusp of a historic peace treaty. In contrast, Gaza is still under the governance of Hamas, which flagrantly disregards its own civilians’ lives and calls for the complete destruction of Israel. The suffering of Gaza is due to the fact that it has been run by a death cult against which Israel has had to defend itself continuously.
Truth about Palestinian peace: Palestinians haven’t made peace with anyone (including themselves) but instead have rejected peace offers almost 20 times. Here are the highlights:
1936: Peel Partition Plan (via British Commission): proposes 20% of land to Jews, 80% to Arabs – Jews accept the plan, Arabs rejected.
1947: UN Partition Plan: proposes 55% of land to Jews, 42% to Arabs, Jerusalem international – Jews accept the plan, Arabs rejected.
1967: Khartoum Resolution: Israel proposes return of conquered land from 6-Day War – Arabs have “Three Nos” – no to peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel.
2000: Camp David Summit (via Bill Clinton): 96% of West Bank, half of Jerusalem, full control of Gaza to Arabs in exchange for the removal of all settlements in the West Bank- Jews accept the plan, Arabs rejected.
2005: Withdrawal from Gaza – Israel fully withdraws from Gaza and removes all Jews from Gaza. Israel forfeits land, and Hamas is still fighting to take over the rest of Israel.
2018: U.S.-Brokered Negotiations – Palestinians are offered $50B to recognize the borders of Israel post-1967 and land swaps of settlements. Jews accept the plan, Arabs rejected.
Claim: Why is there so much focus on Israel always? Truth: The disturbing and clear explanations for the extra focus on Israel are multi-pronged:
1) It’s the holy land for over 50% of all humans on earth. The conflict is a focal point of the larger conflict between Judeo-Christian and Islamic culture worldwide.
2) It’s a mask for antisemitism: Anti-Zionism is just a mask for a deeply rooted antisemitism. Focusing on the state of Israel allows people to become emboldened in their anti-Jewish biases and to “other” Jews.
3) White (ish!) people in power against non-whites with less power is sexy for progressives.
4) Supporting the “underdog” to be popular: People want to be liked. Keep the peace. Say the right things. By supporting the ostensible “underdog” – the “Palestinians” – people can achieve these goals, seeming to be good people supportive of causes abroad. Ironically, the most supportive thing people can do abroad for Palestinians is to promote internal Palestinian peace, get Hamas out of the region, and work toward a two-state solution. With the reality of a terrorist organization like Hamas, this is not an option.
5) Lack of context and historical education: Most people do not understand the historical context of colonization before they claim that Israel is a “colonial” state that must be fought. Our universities are crumbling at the seams because they ignore (at best) and condone (at worst) this kind of intellectual laziness. In order to support a “cause,” it should be a precondition that people actually understand the factors at play in that issue.
Claim: There are millions of Palestinian refugees left stateless because of displacement at the hands of Israel. Truth: The Arabs in Palestine under the British Mandate opposed the peace treaty and land partition into Jewish and Arab states, leading to an unnecessary war. They chose an “all or nothing” approach, thereby effectively forfeiting their own state to prevent a Jewish one. War and fear caused Arab displacement, but those who stayed within the Jewish state are still there as fully functioning citizens of Israeli society. Think of the modern city of Jaffa adjacent to Tel Aviv; Haifa; and countless others. Many brutal wars in the 20th century saw refugees who resettled in foreign lands and eventually forwent their refugee status, but Palestinians maintain their refugee status to perpetuate the 1948 conflict and resist the existence of a Jewish state in any part of the land.
The Palestinian refugees are left stateless also at the hands of Hamas and all former leadership that fails to lead via peace and constructive negotiation. The Palestinian refugees are left stateless also at the hands of Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon who refuse to accept them. For example, in 1970 the Jordanian government fought against Palestinian refugees in Jordan, killing thousands. The cherry on top: Palestinians are the only people whose refugee status is automatically passed down to their descendants. The reported number of Palestinian “refugees” is 20x what it should be because of this. The UN should fix this. Also, 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, and millions more were displaced in Europe and the Middle East. Israel was the solution to this refugee problem. Do these refugees matter less because they are now established?
Claim: Israel stole the land from the Palestinians. Truth: The land was the Ottoman province of Syria from 1516 until 1918, ruled by Turkish (not Arab) Sultans. Then it was ruled by Britain until 1948. Then the U.N. proposed that it be split into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, which the Palestinians rejected. Prior to 1948, no nation or state or governing entity of Palestinians ever existed. The term “Palestine” was used for millennia without a precise geographic definition. (Think of how Americans refer to the Midwest!) The concept of Palestinians as a people is extremely new, and Palestinian nationalism was formed only in the face of Israeli sovereignty – not until the 1960s.
Claim: Does the “Nakba-Catastrophe” of 1948, in which 700,000 Palestinians fled territories that Israel was given by the British and much of the international community, justify attacks on Israel? Truth: When offered 42% of the land in modern-day Israel (including the major population centers), the Arabs rejected this plan, wanted 100% of the land, and waged war on Israel. Despite being one-day-old and attacked on all sides, Israel won the war. The term “Nakba-Catastrophe” is used to describe the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled the new Israeli state at wartime. It describes what many saw as the humiliating Arab failure (described as “impotence” by Zuraiq who coined the term “Nakba”) to defeat the Jews. The perpetuation and near-constant reinvention of the modern “Nakba” narrative seeks to erase any memory of Arabs waging an unnecessary war and to turn Palestinians into innocent bystanders rather than people who pursued a clear objective of denying another people a state, fought a war, and failed. (IDK where this started but apparently I have to say this: Any narratives about Israelis raping Palestinians or beheading babies then is false disinformation today.)
Claim: The Jewish “Right to Return” is colonization as Israel continues to settle Palestinian land. Truth: Jews like myself can make Aliyah and go to Israel and get citizenship. This is called the “Right to Return.” Palestinians indeed do not have a “Right of Return” to Israel under any kind of international law. However, there is no precedent of a country being forced to accept a group of people against its will, and Palestinians, despite wanting this specific chunk of land, cannot make up laws that give them something that does not exist anywhere in the world. Furthermore, since Gaza was controlled by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan in the postcolonial period after British rule ended, “Right of Return” might allow people in those territories to return to the home countries that then ruled the areas. Unfortunately, Egypt and Jordan have shown no interest in allowing such a thing.
The continued Israeli settlement expansion is a challenging issue that has valid criticism. I’ve been protesting for a year against this. Just as people in America protest the overturn of Roe v Wade, our countries have flaws. Israelis and Jews worldwide are divided on the issue of settlements in the West Bank. But there are no settlements in Gaza. At all. So any talk about settlements as a justification for reckless and barbaric murder, rape, and kidnapping is abhorrently false.
Claim: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is not a call for the destruction of Israel. Truth: The meaning of this phrase is unambiguous: it proposes that the region spanning from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, encompassing Israel, should be named “Palestine” and devoid of a Jewish population. Let me ask you – where do the Jews go? At worst it is a call for genocide, and at best it calls for the displacement and exile of 10 million Jews (which likely would lead to death of many considering Israel’s neighboring countries aren’t the biggest fans of Jews). Also, this phrase suggests there was a time when Palestine was free before Israel came along. Historically, no Palestinian state has ever existed.
When I, a Jewish person living in Israel, say that this phrase is highly antisemitic, why do you doubt my perspective? When other minority groups identify something as a micro-aggression, we typically accept it without question. Why isn’t my perspective being treated the same way?
Claim: Calling for Intifada is not a call for genocide of Jews. Truth: Translated literally, intifada means Intifada means “shaking off” or “uprising.” Rarely applied to any other events in the Middle East, Intifada is almost exclusively used to describe periods of intense Palestinian protest against Israel, mainly in the form of violent terrorism: The 1st Intifada from 1987-1990 and the 2nd Intifada from 2000-2005. The Intifadas in Israel were characterized by widespread protests, demonstrations, and suicide bombings, with close to 1,000 Israelis killed or injured by Palestinian terror attacks, including frequent suicide bombings in civilian areas and passenger bus bombings. So let’s be clear: this is not a phrase calling for peaceful protest. This is a call to extremely violent action. Chants calling to “globalize the intifada” call for widespread violent actions against synagogues, Jewish homes, cultural centers and individuals that may have no relation to Israel, yet are done “in the name of resisting Israel.” So I’ll concede, “Intifada” might not be a call for genocide in America, but it is a call for likely genocide in Israel. At any level, It’s an explicit call for violence against Jews that should be condemned without hesitation (or context).
Let me ask this again: When I, a Jewish person living in Israel, say that this phrase is highly antisemitic, violent, and dangerous, why do you doubt my perspective? When other minority groups identify something as a micro-aggression, we typically accept it without question. Why isn’t my perspective being treated the same way?
The Oct 7th War, in Israel
Claim: Israel should respond in a “proportionate” manner and not “indiscriminately” bomb Gaza. Truth: This claim tries to simplify something that is not simple because people like quick and easy stories. This is not one of them. According to the Geneva Conventions, Proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians killed, but rather by the risk posed. When a Hamas rocket hits a kindergarten in Israel, even if the students are hiding in a bomb shelter and no one is hurt, under international law, Israel is not required to allow Hamas to play Russian roulette with its children’s lives. Moreover, Israel has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, civilian casualty rates in the history of human warfare. Israel goes above and beyond to warn Gaza residents of pending attacks, evacuate civilians before striking Hamas targets, and publicize safe zones where civilians can get to safety. Israel is targeting terrorists and their weapons. Israel goes to great lengths to prevent civilian casualties. However, Hamas intentionally places weapons stockpiles and strategic headquarters under civilian centers (such as hospitals) because they want more civilians to die just so that YOU will make this argument. Hamas prevents civilians from fleeing after an IDF warning. The concept of “human shields” is not covered widely by the media, so people just assume civilian casualties are civilian casualties at the hands of the IDF. This is simply a falsehood perpetuated by news cycles that favor simplistic, sometimes one-sided, even untruthful narratives. It’s intellectual laziness once again – the kind that our nation’s universities need to condemn.
There is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killings of Hamas combatants, who have as their charter a mission to kill Jews. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent the killing of even one innocent civilian. International law defines the war crime perfidy as the act of creating a situation in which one military entity makes it impossible for its opponent to succeed without committing war crimes. This is what Hamas is doing with human shields, locating its armaments in civilian areas, and preventing civilians from fleeing. This is a war crime, masterfully executed by Hamas, to make Israel’s actions appear unjust.
My short take: Hamas has fired 8500+ rockets in the first month of the war. If Iron Dome didn’t work, tens of thousands of people would’ve died by now in this war. So should Israel disable Iron Dome to let more Israelis die so that the numbers are more even?
Claim: Israel is known for having one of the best and most advanced armies in the world, I feel like they could be more precise in their actions without causing so many civilian casualties. Truth: Many people think that Israel is so advanced that they have other ways to target specific Hamas leadership without these bombings. This is a perplexing double standard that is almost anti-semitic in a complementary sort of way. Why would Israel be so much better than other militaries at this? This demand is basically impossible, and no other military entity including the US, is capable of this. I also would bet that the person saying this doesn’t have any military experience. Moreover, Israel has a responsibility to protect its own citizens. By bombing targets first instead of a massive ground invasion, Israel is learning from its mistakes in 2014 and saving thousands of Israeli soldiers’ lives. Israel is at war. Its first priority is protecting its own citizens.
Claim: Regardless of how horrific Hamas is, and how terrible the Oct 7th attack was, or that Jews are a minority in the Middle East, or whose land it originally was—the Israeli response and ensuing conditions in Gaza are inhumane and unjustifiable. Truth: Hamas is a death cult with a specific charter that calls for the destruction of Israel. It is unclear to what extent Hamas enjoys support among civilians in Gaza, but it nonetheless runs the place and has made peaceful coexistence with Israel completely impossible. The latest attacks are a brutal statement of this reality. The ensuing actions Israel has been forced to take to ensure security for its own people is Hamas’s fault. The implication that this situation could be handled gracefully and peacefully is naive. war is horrible: bloody, violent, and filled with tragedy. Every genuine civilian and young child that is killed is a tragedy in itself – but these tragedies are entirely the fault and responsibility of Hamas. When Hamas decided to invade Israel and murder and kidnap its civilians, it knew that Israel would have to respond militarily and that Palestinian civilians would inevitably, and unfortunately, become collateral victims.
Not only did Hamas know its attack would lead to the death of Palestinians; Hamas intended this outcome as part of its “dead baby” playbook. Hamas knows that Israel never deliberately targets innocent babies. Why would Israel? Israel loses every time a dead Palestinian is displayed on TV cameras, as it is losing now in public opinion. Hamas also knows that despite Israel’s extensive efforts to avoid and reduce civilian casualties, some will occur, mostly because Hamas uses civilians as human shields to protect its terrorists.
Above all, let us not forget Hamas is holding over 130 Israeli citizens (as of Dec 19th) – men, women, children, babies, and the elderly – hostage right now. If Hamas cared about the humanitarian problem, they would release the hostages so that its citizens could be taken care of. But it won’t. So no, Israel cannot pursue a “humanitarian ceasefire” and prioritize the citizens of Gaza at this very moment over its own citizens, whose brothers and wives and daughters are held captive in tunnels by a deadly terrorist organization.
My short answer: We are lucky in life to often not face a situation where we are caught between a bad decision and a horrible decision. But that is what Israel is facing right now. Any notion that Israel is doing this intentionally, or could do better, is both naive and also probably antisemitic.
Claim: Israel is an Apartheid state. Truth: The comparison between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa, used by everyday unrigorous storytellers and antisemites alike, is unjust and offensive. In South Africa, an official policy enforced racial segregation and discrimination against non-whites in various aspects of life. In contrast, Israel’s non-Jewish minority, including Arabs, Christians, Bedouin, Druze, Baha’i, etc., enjoys full citizenship, voting rights, and representation in government. Israeli law prohibits racial discrimination (just as in America). Arabs participate in various sectors, including diplomacy, government, and the judiciary. Israel is committed to equal citizenship and representation for its Arab minority.
My short answer: google the Israeli senate. 11% of it is Arab. Because Arabs voted for them. Because they can vote! (Also, my commander in the army was an Arab Muslim from Syria. And he’s an Israeli citizen!) In the West Bank, 94% of Palestinians are governed by their own government, the Palestinian Authority. In Gaza, there is no Israeli governance at all. And by the way, the degree of independence awarded to Gaza is how terrorists in the region planned and carried out a large-scale surprise attack on October 7th.
Claim: “Free Palestine” / Gaza is an “open-air prison.” Truth: It is a prison. But it’s not Israel’s fault. Hamas is the prison warden. One whole side of the prison wall is with Egypt. Israel left the Gaza Strip entirely in 2005 (while forcibly removing 9,000 Israelis that were living there), and turned it over to the Palestinian Authority, which was subsequently overthrown by Hamas in a bloody coup. Israel has provided Gaza with food, electricity, and money for the past 18 years, even though Hamas, the governing body, states that they want to annihilate every Jew in Israel and around the world. (Can you tell me any other country that does that?) Gaza receives billions of dollars in aid each year. I’m sure you’ve seen the infographics that say the leader of Hamas lives in Qatar. It’s true. And it’s because Hamas leadership siphons the money for themselves, leaving the Palestinians in squalor, and Hamas doesn’t use the money to build infrastructure or schools or parks, but instead builds an underground network of tunnels for purchasing and smuggling weapons. Gaza could’ve been the Singapore of the Middle East if the Palestinians put in place a government that wants to create instead of destroy. If only there was a government that cared about its own people more than they hated its neighbors.
Claim: Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. Genocide implies the deliberate murdering of individuals due to their race, ethnicity, or nationality. Israel only engages in military action for defense and security. If the Palestinians laid down their weapons, so would Israel. If Israel laid down its weapons, Hamas and Hezbollah would attack.
Truth for 2005-2023: The population of Gaza on Oct 6th, 2023 was 2.1 million. When Israel fully withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the population in Gaza then was 1.3 million. The population grew 61% in the past 18 years – doesn’t seem like a genocide to me… Also, the Jewish population worldwide is still lower than it was before the Holocaust, 78 years ago.
Truth for Oct 7th 2023-present: I’ll also answer with a story. During the Nuremberg Trials (trials of Nazi leadership post WW2) some Nazi officials claimed that what they did to Jews was no different than what the US did to Dresden (intense carpet-bombing of the city). AKA a defense of “I shouldn’t be punished because they did it too.” The Nuremberg judges ruled: A city is bombed for tactical purposes… It inevitably happens that nonmilitary persons are killed. This is an incident, a grave incident to be sure, but an unavoidable corollary of battle action. The civilians are not individualized. The bomb falls, it is aimed at the railroad yards, houses along the tracks are hit and many of their occupants killed. But that is entirely different, both in fact and in law, from an armed force marching up to these same railroad tracks, entering those houses abutting thereon, dragging out the men, women and children and shooting them.”
My short answer: the Nuremberg trials emphasized a crucial distinction (both legally and ethically): all civilian lives hold equal value, but there is a difference between deliberate killings of civilians, considered a crime, and unintentional deaths. Mistakes made by a bomber squadron can’t be equated with murders by a death squad. This distinction is only exacerbated when civilians suffer torture, rape, and mutilation before being killed, as Hamas did on Oct 7th.
Claim: I know the Gaza Health Ministry is corrupt, but I get my numbers from an independently verified source. Truth: The “independently verified” sources are simply regurgitating the reports and statistics from the Gaza propaganda war machine. There is no free speech in Gaza and there is no organization that can operate independently within Gaza on their own fact-finding missions. The UK Prime Minister this month said, “If we don’t treat what comes out of the Kremlin as the gospel truth, we should not do the same with Hamas.”
A former AP journalist, Matty Friedman, wrote about reporting in Gaza: “Intimidation is real, and I saw it in action myself as an editor on the AP news desk. During the 2008-2009 Gaza fighting I personally erased a key detail—that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and being counted as civilians in the death toll—because of a threat to our reporter in Gaza. Reporters [in Gaza] are often at risk, and many don’t speak the language and have only the most tenuous grip on what is going on. They are dependent on Palestinian colleagues and fixers who either fear Hamas, support Hamas, or both.”
The implication that the death count is a morality scoreboard is absurd. If Israel were to simply seek to tally an equal death count, the conflict would never end because Hamas would remain, regroup and commit more atrocities, and the cycle would continue. Israel is trying to figure out how to end this forever, for the sake of peace and security for all.
My short answer: remember when North Korea said they had zero cases of Covid in 2020? That’s what it’s like when someone cites the Gaza Health Ministry.
Claim: By bombing Gaza, Israel is perpetuating the cycle of violence and further radicalizing Palestinians in Gaza. Truth: Israel has been in lengthy wars with both Egypt and Jordan. Now, Israel has deep, lasting peace treaties with both countries that have been in effect for over 20+ years. Just because you bomb someone, it does not mean they will be your enemy forever. The US dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan, and now Japan is one of the US’s strongest allies. The pivotal point here is not how many bombs are dropped, but how Israel (and the US and the world) will help to fill the power vacuum that is left in Gaza after the war.
My short answer: Hamas states in its charter that it aims to destroy Israel and any form of its existence. Completely. It is Israel’s mere existence, not Israel’s actions, that provokes Hamas’s violence.
Claim: Israel says it will destroy Hamas. Can it calm down? Why “destroy?” What about just rescuing the hostages and GTFO? Truth: Tactically speaking, it is virtually impossible to rescue the hundreds of hostages without almost entirely dismantling Hamas. Any notion that the IDF can do otherwise is naive and probably antisemitic. Hamas has been a problem in the region for almost 20 years now, and other Arab countries in the region have not joined the war yet because they want Hamas gone too. But more importantly, Israel’s civilians were just brutally and barbarically targeted and murdered. Israel has to assure its citizens that Hamas can never again carry out these atrocities against Israeli families; otherwise, Israeli life as we know it will have evaporated. This isn’t a war of Israel’s choosing, but a war Hamas and Iran made necessary. This is an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel and consequently requires an unprecedented response.
My short answer: Everyone’s a pacifist until someone walks up to you in a bar and then punches your mom in the face, in front of everyone.
Claim: Israel says it will destroy Hamas. What’s the difference between Hamas and Palestinians? Isn’t Israel basically saying it wants to kill all Palestinians? Truth: Hamas states in its charter that it aims to destroy Israel and any form of existence. Completely. In any form. It is Israel’s existence, not Israel’s actions, that provokes Hamas’s violence. Hamas is not the Palestinian Liberation Organization (est. 1964). Hamas is not the Palestinian Authority (est. 1994) either. Hamas is a terrorist organization aiming to destroy Israel, not revitalize the Palestinian people. Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields and is prepared to offer up civilians to be killed in the name of destroying the state of Israel at any time. So, what is the difference between Palestinians and Hamas? Palestinians are students at Hebrew University. They are doctors, lawyers, students, my neighbors, and recipients of aid when Hamas does not intercept it. They are my military commander. Many of them are pro-peace and want nothing more than to escape Hamas’s rule. Some have been unfortunately sucked into the Jihadist propaganda that Hamas cultivates in their community. The only Palestinians targeted by Israel are those that target Israel.
Claim: I want peace. These bombings in Gaza are horrible. Both sides should stop and have a ceasefire. Truth: There was a ceasefire on October 6th. How did that hold up? Calling for a ceasefire now is to deny Israel’s right to defend its citizens from terrorism. It also keeps the status quo allowing Hamas to continue to use Gaza as a launching pad for terrorism against Israel. Hamas is still launching rockets at Israel and holding over 130 Israelis and foreign nationals hostage (as of Dec 19th). Israel has every right to wage a defensive war and there will never be peace while Hamas is in control of Gaza.
For consistency, you should be protesting for ceasefires in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan too. If you’re not, or feel like that’s “implied,” or didn’t even know about those wars, you’ve fallen prey to blatant antisemitism.
Claim: Israel’s war tactics are inhumane. Truth: As mentioned before, this is Hamas’s fault. Hamas steals billions of dollars from international aid to fund terrorism, and then builds its military offices and weapons stockpiles intentionally under schools and hospitals. International law defines the war crime perfidy as the act of creating a situation in which one military entity makes it impossible for its opponent to succeed without committing war crimes. This is what Hamas is doing with human shields, locating its armaments in civilian areas, and preventing civilians from fleeing. This is a war crime, masterfully executed by Hamas, to make Israel’s actions appear inhumane.
Israel goes out of its way to safeguard Gaza residents, including advance warnings of impending attacks, evacuating civilians prior to targeting Hamas sites, and publicizing safe zones. The U.S. and Israel jointly created a secure area in southern Gaza supplying essential items like food, water, and medical resources through Egypt. However, on October 16th, Hamas seized humanitarian fuel and medical equipment, stole from civilians, and instead used them for terror. Under international law, a military is not required to provide resources to its enemy. Other countries (including the US) must ensure that aid reaches civilians as intended and isn’t misappropriated by Hamas for terrorism.
Claim: Israel bombed the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City. Truth: there is an overwhelming abundance of proof that it was not an Israeli bomb and instead was a misfired rocket from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (another terrorist group that operates in Gaza). A conversation between two Hamas terrorists, intercepted by the IDF, shows them realizing it was a misfired rocket by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and explicitly not Israel, that hit the hospital. Moreover, it was a parking lot next to a hospital, and not the hospital itself.
But more importantly, the lack of due diligence from reputable publications and the unprecedented speed at which the world accepted Hamas’s lie was shocking and heartbreaking for me. Within hours of the al-Ahli bombing, Israel and the US revealed the truth behind it, but still, almost no one in the media apologized. Bots on social media pushed the blame on Israel further (in the first 24 hours after the attack 1 in 3 accounts claiming it was Israel’s fault were fake bot accounts. The NYT published my report on Nov 3rd about this). Again, this is blatant and egregious antisemitism.
My short take: how did it take Israel 5 weeks to compile 1200+ names of the dead from Oct 7th, yet Hamas can confirm 500 names and IDs only 30 minutes after the hospital “missile strike”?
Claim: Israel bombed the Jabalia Refugee camp. Clearly Israel is targeting civilians. Truth: Let me start with this: every civilian death is a tragedy. Hamas intentionally inflicts such deaths, both on its own people and on Israelis. Israel, on the other hand, does what it can to avoid them. Now, to the issue at hand. It would be reasonable to hear the phrase “refugee camp” and assume that these are people who have set up temporary tent camps as refugees in the current crisis. However, that would be miles and miles from the truth. The Jabalia Refugee camp, built 75 years ago, now resembles a densely populated city with buildings of over 100,000 permanent residents. Originally created for refugees, it has evolved into an urban area under corrupt leadership, diverting aid for personal gain. The residents, descendants of refugees, were misled by Arab leaders in 1948, leading to their displacement. Despite numerous offers for a Palestinian state, their leaders have maintained the refugee narrative for personal benefit, leaving citizens in poverty and hopelessness. The attacks killed the leading Hamas military commander in the north of Gaza as well as dozens of Hamas militants who were all holed up in an underground tunnel system built below Jabalia. It is Hamas’s fault for intentionally building a massive network of tunnels directly below this population center.
The fact that these terrorists put themselves here is a war crime in itself. International law defines the war crime perfidy as the act of creating a situation in which one military entity makes it impossible for its opponent to succeed without committing war crimes. This is what Hamas is doing with human shields, locating its armaments in civilian areas, and preventing civilians from fleeing. This is a war crime, masterfully executed by Hamas, to make Israel’s actions appear inhumane.
Claim: By attacking Gaza hospitals Israel is committing a war crime. Truth: The media has focused attention on Israel’s assault on hospitals in Gaza. Critics reflexively accused the government of war crimes, which many journalists then repeat uncritically. Yes, according to international law, hospitals have special protection and are considered sacrosanct in wartime; however, there is a clear exception under which hospitals lose that protection: A hospital or medical facility can lose its special legal status if it is used for a military purpose that is “harmful to the enemy,” rather than just for medical care. I’ll leave this link here for your convenience: Proof of Weapons in Shifa Hospital.
Claim: Palestinians won’t flee because if they leave, the Israelis will “take over” their homes and they will never be able to return. Truth: This is simply not true. Israel fully withdrew from Gaza in 2005, including 22 settlements with over 9,000 residents. If Israel desired the land, they would not have relinquished control. Hamas seems to be failing in securing a prosperous future for Palestinians in Gaza. Because the Palestinians in Gaza weren’t doing it on their own, Israel needs to remove Hamas from control, so as to help the people of Gaza to live on their land for decades and centuries to come.
Claim: Israel gives Palestinians heads-ups before bombing and then destroys their path to safety and/or it is not feasible to leave. Truth: Any hindrance of Palestinians’ ability to flee danger lies entirely with Hamas, not Israel. As reiterated throughout this document, Hamas deliberately locates its military operation centers in civilian areas, aiming to increase the Palestinian death toll. If all civilians were able to flee, then the death count wouldn’t be as high and Hamas would not be able to wage the PR battle that we are seeing today. Hamas has been lying to north Gazans about the IDF’s warnings about the area, and told them to stay put. When the IDF contacted Gazans directly and they tried to leave, they were held by Hamas blockades meant to keep them within danger zones. When Gazans still tried to flee, Hamas shot and killed those who insisted. When the IDF tried opening a corridor to let Gazans leave, Hamas started an attack, and the IDF was forced to close the corridor. On Nov 7th, the IDF finally managed to take some control and help get thousands of Gaza civilians to safety. And there are tons of videos of this.
The Hostage Crisis
Claim: The hostage trade was equal because it was Israeli women and children for Palestinian women and children. Truth: There is a clear distinction: The Palestinians held in Israeli jails made an active choice to commit a crime, while the only “crime” committed by the Israeli and other foreign hostages was that they were Jewish or were in Israel. Even though they were youth or women, the Palestinian prisoners who were released by Israel were convicted of attempted murder, assaulting police officers, rock-throwing, hurling firebombs, arson, and/or possession of firearms or explosives. A number of Palestinian prisoners belong to internationally designated terrorist groups, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Claim: The Palestinians released were unjustly arrested in the first place. Truth: At least 55 % of the 117 Palestinian prisoners released during the first three days of the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas had been held for violent crimes, including 10 for attempted murder, 13 for inflicting serious bodily harm, 19 for placing a bomb or throwing an incendiary device, seven for shooting at people, and five for assault. 21% of the released prisoners were listed as affiliated with a recognized terrorist organization, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Want more examples? One of the female prisoners released is Misoun Mussa, who was sentenced to 15 years for stabbing an Israeli soldier in Jerusalem in 2015. Another is Marah Bakeer, who was arrested in October 2015 when she was 16 after stabbing an Israeli Border Police officer. Asra Jabas, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, blew up a gas cylinder at a checkpoint near the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in 2015, wounding an Israeli police officer. Another prisoner released was Nurhan Awad, who was 17 when she was sentenced to 13 and a half years in prison in 2016 for attempting to stab passersby with a pair of scissors with her cousin, Hadil Award, who was shot dead during the 2015 attack.
Claim: The 3 for 1 ratio of Palestinians to Israelis traded shows that Israel values Israelis higher than Palestinians. Truth: What does Israel value above all else? Life. For this reason alone, Israel has a long-standing policy of doing whatever it takes to secure the safe release of hostages kidnapped by terrorists. Israel will do anything for its citizens (which can’t be said of Hamas towards Palestinians). And that is why in exchange for the innocent hostages taken on October 7 so many more Palestinian prisoners have been released despite the blood on their hands. As part of the agreement, for every one Israeli hostage released, three Palestinian security prisoners are released.
Hamas knows that Israel values its citizens so highly, and factors that into its plans. They learned this in 2011, after more than five years of negotiating, Corporal Gilad Shalit became the first soldier to be released alive by anti-Israel terrorists in more than a quarter century. Israel swapped more than 1,000 prisoners for his return.
Claim: The hostages are prisoners of war. Truth: Nope! Just nope! The laws on prisoners of war apply only in armed conflicts between states. Hamas is not a state organ. Therefore, regardless of the status of the Palestinian Authority and regardless of whether the conflict between Israel and Hamas is classified as an international armed conflict or a non-international armed conflict, it is not an armed conflict between states. Accordingly, the laws on prisoners of war do not apply. Thus, holding both civilian and soldier hostages constitutes a violation of the laws of war and a war crime.
Claim: Taking civilians hostage is a part of the Palestinian resistance against Israel. Truth: The taking of hostages is a violation of international law, a war crime, and defined as a crime against humanity. Here’s the proof: 1) The taking of hostages is prohibited in international armed conflict under Article 34 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV which also renders the act a grave breach of the Convention. 2) Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) defines hostage-taking as a war crime. 3) The term “crimes against humanity” as defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute refers to acts carried out as part of a “widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population.”
Claim: The hostages were treated well! Truth: I’m gonna quote Jennifer Rubin for this one: “This is factually and morally ridiculous.” Without even speaking to the way they were actually treated, we’re talking about civilians who were kidnapped from their homes. This is not legal in any way whatsoever. Any attempt to justify this is ludicrous and ethically unachievable. Now, let’s delve into the actual treatment they received. The hostages endured starvation, beatings, physical torture, psychological torment, and, in some instances, even sexual abuse. 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz, a former hostage, mentioned on the news that Hamas provided her with food and decent treatment. Did you know her husband is still being held hostage by them?
Claim: On December 15th, Israeli soldiers accidentally killed 3 of their own hostages. This is proof of the IDF’s recklessness and flagrant disregard it has for civilian life. Truth: Let’s slow down and back up. Did you know that right now, thousands of Hamas terrorists in Gaza are wearing IDF uniforms to confuse the IDF? International Humanitarian Law says “improper use of the flags or military emblems, insignia or uniforms of the enemy is prohibited. Practice Volume II, Chapter 18, Section F.” Did you know that tons of Hamas terrorists intentionally dress as civilians to confuse the IDF? Did you know that doctor ID badges and scrubs have been found at Hamas leaders’ homes? Did you know that an UNWRA official held a hostage and collaborated with Hamas? Did you know that Hamas has used white flags to draw soldiers closer and then use suicide vests to detonate once in their vicinity? So now that you have the proper context, can you understand why the IDF was extremely distrustful of the good intentions of the hostages? Prior to December 15th, this scenario was not a scenario we even knew was possible. No soldiers had ever been trained for something like this. Now that we know, you can bet though it won’t happen again.
The Oct 7th War, Internationally
Claim: Why do the neighboring Arab countries not help and take the Palestinians in? Why do they hate the Palestinians so much? Truth: Many of the surrounding Arab countries are poor, fraught with conflict, and a myriad of internal issues. Accepting thousands, if not millions, of refugees could potentially exacerbate the existing instability in these already fragile nations. But even more than that, I’ll answer with two examples as to why the Palestinians aren’t the most popular.
Palestinians that sought refuge 50 years ago in Lebanon went to “refugee” camps. These camps were taken over by armed organizations, from the PLO to ISIS, including Hamas, the Popular Front, and Salafist jihadist organizations. These groups acted viciously toward the surrounding Lebanese citizens, and in 1975 brought on a civil war that lasted for 14 long years of bloodshed and destruction.
In Jordan in the 1970s, Palestinian terror groups sought to establish autonomous regions in northern Jordan, setting up roadblocks and challenging the monarchy with armed Palestinian Arabs. In September of that year, a conflict known as “Black September” erupted as King Hussein decided to assert his authority in Jordan. The resulting war claimed thousands of lives on both Jordanian and Palestinian sides.
Claim: How did October 7th even happen? Where was the IDF? And how does the terror still continue to happen 3 weeks later? Truth: 94% of Hamas’s budget comes from Iran, the remaining 6% from Qatar. Iran wants to build covert nuclear weapons. On October 7th, Israel was on the cusp of signing a historic peace treaty with Saudi Arabia, a sworn enemy of Iran. To prevent their two enemies from becoming friends, Iran activated their proxy army, Hamas, to enact a violent attack that would force Israel to respond aggressively and effectively derail the peace treaty with Saudi Arabia.
As a former IDF soldier, I can attest that the attack on October 7th was truly unimaginable. The success of the attack underscores the extensive training and funding provided by Iran to Hamas to carry out an unprecedented operation on a global military power like Israel. In other words, the success of the attack shows how desperately Iran and Hamas don’t want peace in the region.
Claim: The news keeps reporting an increase in antisemitism, and we’re seeing pictures of swastikas being painted on doors. Is this truly a rise in antisemitism, or could it just be a reaction to anti-Israel policies stemming from the recent conflict? Truth: In this specific case, anti-Zionism IS necessarily antisemitism because of the exceptional standards applied to Israel’s military strategy and tactics relative to the massacre it just experienced. In the United States, since so many University presidents are issuing statements about attacks on innocent Gazans, I am curious: where are all the university statements about the 1.7M Afghans getting kicked out of Pakistan this week? Where are the infographics on the 15,000 Palestinians killed by the Assad regime in Syria? (PS, they are nowhere. It’s all just about Israel, always.)
Claim: I’m a Jew in America. Israel’s controversial military tactics are causing a rise in antisemitism and I feel unsafe. That’s why I want Israel to stop the violence, so the world quiets down and stops criticizing it. Truth: 150K Jews were kicked out of Iraq in the ‘50s; 250K Jews were kicked out of Morocco in the ‘60s; 1.2M Jews fled the USSR in the ‘90s. The list goes on with Ethiopians, French, and now Ukrainians today. Israel views itself as a refuge and safe haven for Jews everywhere. Israel’s central and most important task is protecting Jews that reside within its borders.
This is actually part and parcel of a broader mission to safeguard Jewish cultural life in all lands. By undergoing a horrible military battle where tons of Israeli soldiers will die, Israel is ensuring that Jews around the world will continue to have a safe haven within its borders. For Jews from Morocco, Yemen, Syria, and more, Israel’s existence has not only ensured their physical safety but also protected and perpetuated their traditions and cultures, allowing them to continue to thrive.
Claim: I don’t want to be Jewish or support Israel. The whole world is against it and I will never feel safe. Truth: Let’s toast to the continued existence of the State of Israel, which stands as a diverse, democratic country in the Middle East. It serves as a safe haven for Jews worldwide, offering a sanctuary and homeland for those escaping persecution, seeking refuge, and connection to their heritage. Despite what TikTok says, Israel plays a crucial role as a peacekeeper in a region fraught with conflict, contributing to stability and diplomacy which is why the US consistently supports it. Like any nation, Israel is not without its imperfections, striving to uphold principles of justice, equality, and democracy, much like the United States and the broader Western world. It is renowned for its innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, and continues to strive to be better. Beyond its regional significance, Israel stands as a leader among other countries, navigating the challenges of rebuilding and self-determination and democracy. Jews have been persecuted for 2000 years but we’re still here. So here’s to another 2000.
The Red Cross International Humanitarian Law, The Geneva Conventions, AIPAC, Jewish Virtual Library, Bring Them Home Now, Zioness, Matty Friedman, Ariel Berger, Adam Gross