Orel Tamari
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Anger at Gaza must not be a policy

Rallying broad support for the war risks blinding Israelis to Gazans' humanity and dashing hopes for a post-war peace
Palestinians look for survivors after what they say was Israeli bombardment in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza Strip, on Oct. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa, File)
Palestinians look for survivors after what they say was Israeli bombardment in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza Strip, on Oct. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa, File)

Ahmed Alnaouq, a 25-year-old Palestinian journalist, had a dream: to bring daily life in Gaza closer to Israelis. In 2019, he joined forces with Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham to turn that dream into reality, launching the Facebook page called, in Hebrew, “We Beyond the Fence.” There, unfiltered, day-to-day stories from Gaza are openly shared

In the About section of the ‘We Beyond the Fence’ Facebook page, Alnaouq wrote: “We want our voice to reach you directly, unfiltered, as we feel that Gaza is represented superficially in the Israeli media. I hope that these translations will raise your awareness of what is happening with us – we who live beyond the fence – and hope that in doing so, we can promote peace between our peoples and change the policy that divides us.”

He concluded with the statement, “All of us – Israelis and Palestinians, human beings residing between the river and the sea – deserve to coexist in peace and equality, free from any form of discrimination or oppression.”

Throughout the years, he has shared numerous stories on the page: young people compelled to migrate to Europe because their aspirations and dreams could not be realized in Gaza; the alarming suicide rate in the Strip, where at least half of the young population contemplates suicide; uplifting moments, such as the admiration of Gaza children for a “tall man” who performs acrobatic acts across the Strip; and glimpses into life during wartime, navigating bombings and confronting the constant, ominous presence of death.

Alnaouq, and others involved in the effort, wanted to connect Gaza with the Israeli public, often seen as enemy territory, especially during conflicts. Their goal was to show that there are people in Gaza with dreams and hopes for the future – individuals who, just like Israelis, value life and want to celebrate it.

Throughout their posts, Alnaouq (who is currently based in London) and fellow writers emphasized their shared desire for peace and social justice, grounded in equality between the two peoples from the river to the sea. They aimed to show that, despite the bombings and hostility between the sides, they refused to see all Israelis as enemies.

On October 25, three weeks into the war, a Facebook post announced the death of Ahmed Alnaouq’s entire family in Gaza. The post read, “The entire family in Gaza of this page’s founder, who has written countless messages to Israelis for peace and a just future over the years, was bombed to death this week by the air force.”

The devastating toll came to 23 individuals, including Alnaouq’s father, little sisters, brother, nephews, and even babies in the house. The post detailed the discovery of some bodies being burned or torn to pieces, while most remained buried under the rubble in Deir al-Balah. It concluded by announcing that “the posts on the page will stop for now.”

Since the war began, following Hamas’s actions on October 7th, which involved the killing, rape, and abduction of civilians and soldiers into Gaza, the toll in Gaza has risen to at least 15,000 Palestinian casualties, with approximately 6,000 of them being children and minors. The high child and adolescent population in the Strip, combined with intensive bombings during the war’s early weeks, contributes significantly to this loss.

The terrible images are being widely viewed throughout the world, with the notable exception of Israel, leading to a widening information and exposure gap. Testimonies by Gazans or images from within Gaza are not being shared with the Israeli public. This lack of exposure can be attributed to a desire across the Israeli political spectrum to maintain a unified front for decisive retaliation for the October 7th atrocities. Sympathy stirred by the suffering of Gazans could dampen such support.

In recent years, and particularly since the October 7th attack, there has been a growing dehumanization of Gazans. This has escalated to the point of calls for transfer, no longer confined to the radical right. Simultaneously, there are radical-right appeals to resume settlement activity in the Strip and ‘crush Gaza,’ without distinguishing between civilians and terrorists. These calls sometimes extend to soldiers on the ground, as documented instances show soldiers planting trees accompanied by calls to return to Gush Katif or a video of a soldier destroying merchandise in a Jabalia supermarket.

The primary accusation against the civilian population in Gaza revolves around their voting and support for Hamas, including in the last elections held in 2006. However, a survey conducted just before the war, published in Foreign Affairs magazine, refutes these claims and presents sharp internal criticism against Hamas.

According to the survey, approximately 67% of respondents expressed little or no trust in the organization that controls the Strip, with 80% stating that Hamas either minimally or does not respond at all to the needs of Gaza residents. Additionally, 48% of Gazans indicated a preference for democracy over any other form of government, with Hamas being perceived as responsible for the suffering of Gazans.

Regarding the crisis of food security in Gaza, around 31% identified Hamas as the primary culprit, while 26% blamed rising prices, and only 16% attributed it to external sanctions imposed by entities such as the State of Israel.

In addition to the noteworthy data obtained from within the Strip, the authors of the article highlighted that, based on historical patterns in military operations and past wars in Gaza, such events tend to bolster Hamas’s popularity among residents. This phenomenon is attributed to a “closing ranks” dynamic, where the military operation is perceived as an attack on all Palestinians.

In the aftermath of such a horrifically cruel attack, it’s important to acknowledge and understand the anger of Israelis. But it is also crucial to prevent this anger from turning into a policy on the ground, one that unites right and so-called left in animosity for all Palestinians, and garners support for any and all steps taken against them, whether in Gaza, the West Bank, or within Israel proper.

Now more than ever, as questions about the future arise and the notion that the conflict could be “managed” without a diplomatic solution has collapsed, there needs to be a growing consensus that, despite the strength of the Israeli military, achieving peace and prosperity necessitates a political process and instilling hope for all residents of Gaza. Because, ultimately, much like their Israeli counterparts, most of them want to live in peace and tranquility.

A Hebrew version of this article was published on Zman.

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