Nadav Hod

Debunking Myths: The 2023 Israel-Hamas War

(Image courtesy of author)

Myth Number 1: Israel occupies the Gaza Strip

Gaza is not presently under Israeli occupation. In fact, the situation in the Middle East changed nearly two decades ago when Israel withdrew its settlements from Gaza in 2005. Since then, the Gaza Strip has been governed by Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, which has exercised control over the territory. Hamas’s governance has been characterized by ongoing rocket attacks, launched from within the Gaza Strip and intended to target innocent Israeli civilians. 

The initial Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was carried out in order to provide the Palestinians who were living there with an opportunity to create a prosperous and culturally vibrant residential area. However, the outcome turned out to be the opposite, as Hamas assumed de facto control over the Gaza Strip, effectively establishing a form of a terrorist dictatorship.

It is important to note that despite the complex geopolitical situation, many Gazans still work in Israel, with Israel permitting their entry on a regular basis, subject to security considerations. Additionally, Israel continues to supply Gaza with essential resources such as fuel, electricity, and water throughout the year.

Myth Number 2: Hamas is working in favor of the Palestinian people, and it genuinely seeks a two-state solution

The rockets fired by Hamas towards Israeli territory are not by any means the weapons of “freedom fighters”, but a way to target the citizens of Israel, irrespective of their background or their societal role. These rockets are effectively fired from bases strategically located by Hamas beneath schools, hospitals, and residential buildings in Gaza, thus using innocent civilians as human shields. Hamas is an internationally-recognized terrorist organization, receiving funding from regimes associated with terrorism, such as Iran and Qatar. On October 7th, 2023, Hamas committed actions that exposed its true face and nature. These actions included the kidnapping of infants, rape of women, slaughter of teenagers, and the burning alive of entire families.

Hamas not only deliberately places the people of Gaza at risk by using them as human shields, but also imposes an Orwellian curriculum in schools throughout Gaza, aiming to incite hatred and indoctrinate innocent Palestinians with its radical Islamic ideology. In reality, Hamas has never concealed its primary objective: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it,” as outlined in its covenant.

Therefore, the truth remains that Gaza is indeed occupied, though not by Israel, but by Hamas. Two million innocent Palestinians reside in this territory, and they deserve to be liberated from the oppressive rule of non-other than Hamas itself.

Regarding the two-state solution, while it is an appealing concept in theory, it faces insurmountable challenges in the current Middle Eastern context. While many Israelis – like the majority of Westerners – aspire to lead peaceful lives by sending their children to university and enjoying personal freedoms, the presence of various terrorist organizations poses substantial obstacles. These organizations, such as Hezbollah in the North and Hamas in Gaza, alongside numerous unorganized groups – aligned with both factions – scattered across the West Bank, are by no means interested in a two-state solution. 

The unorganized nature of the terrorist groups in the West Bank is primarily attributed to the presence of Israel’s defense forces in the West Bank, as this presence serves to mitigate terrorist activities, preventing unorganized terrorist groups from becoming even more powerful and aggressive. Therefore, Israel’s hesitation to withdraw its military presence and settlements from the area is rooted in concerns that such a move could create additional security challenges, as it will allow these existing terrorist organizations to consolidate and intensify their operations. Despite their concentration in the Middle East, it is imperative to note that these terrorist organizations not only challenge Israel but also represent a broader challenge to the values and principles upheld by the entire Western world.

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Myth Number 3: Israel targets innocent civilians living in the Gaza Strip

In an effort to safeguard non-combatants while demilitarizing Hamas’ launching bases, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) consistently issues warnings to Palestinian civilians. These warnings take the form of leaflets written in Arabic, radio broadcasts, and countless warning phone calls. Additionally, even during periods of heightened conflict, the IDF allows for the delivery of supplies and humanitarian aid into Gaza.

In the current ongoing conflict, the IDF has facilitated the evacuation of Gaza civilians by directing them towards humanitarian zones, as well as by assisting them cross the border into Egypt. In stark contrast, Hamas seeks to retain its human shield; it works to prevent the movement of civilians, effectively trapping innocent people in targeted areas.

Another example of the IDF’s efforts to limit civilian casualties is its use of a notable tactic known as “roof knocking” (Hakesh BaGag). This tactic includes placing non-explosive or low-yield devices on the roofs of civilian residences in Gaza that are marked for bombing. The primary goal of this method is to offer an advanced warning to civilians residing within these homes or residential structures. By implementing  it, the IDF gives civilians a crucial opportunity to safely evacuate the premises before any impending attack. 

As can be observed, the IDF has consistently adopted extraordinary measures to uphold its moral standing, surpassing the practices of any other military force in the history of modern warfare. These actions are driven by the crucial goal of minimizing civilian casualties, and they are taken by the IDF on a regular basis – even during a relentless fight against barbaric terrorism. Still, it is striking that despite these rigorous efforts, the IDF remains under constant international scrutiny, and is ceaselessly faced with unwarranted criticisms and allegations, many of which condemn the IDF for carrying out war crimes, as well as for violating international humanitarian laws.

To better understand the true nature of these allegations, let’s compare the IDF to the US military, particularly focusing on the civilian casualties they have both caused over the years. The US military has a track record of significant civilian casualties in conflicts such as Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the fight against ISIS (not to mention the deployment of atomic bombs on two major Japanese cities during World War II). Remarkably, despite these actions, the US has not faced widespread criticism from the international community, including the media. Therefore, this contrast raises important questions about the consistency of international reactions to civilian casualties in conflicts.

Now, consider the case of Great Britain during World War II. While fighting against the Nazis, Britain specifically targeted major German cities, resulting in countless civilian casualties. On such grounds, it is worth asking whether the United States and Great Britain took significant measures to limit the casualties to non-combatants during these wars. In fact, the opposite was true. 

Furthermore, both the USA and Great Britain caused civilian casualties in areas distant from their own territories while fighting against enemies that didn’t necessarily pose them existential threats, as Hamas does to Israel.

In conclusion, it is essential to acknowledge that Israel stands out in the history of modern warfare for its efforts to prevent civilian casualties, which have gone above and beyond what might be expected.

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Myth Number 4: Hamas does not represent a legitimate threat to Israel’s existence, making a harsh response by Israel unnecessary

The reality in the Middle East presents a recurring pattern, as approximately every year or so a round of conflict ensues. During these so-called rounds, Hamas consistently initiates ceaseless attacks on Israeli territory, invariably prompting retaliatory measures by Israel. These episodes routinely conclude with ceasefire agreements. That being said, the perplexing aspect lies in the fact that such ceasefires and negotiations are conducted on an annual basis with Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, that in fact needs to be “disbanded immediately” (to quote New York City’s Mayor, Eric Adams). By now, however, it should be clear that Hamas, much like ISIS, is an entity ill-suited for negotiations.

In recent years, the majority of Hamas rockets have been successfully intercepted, thanks to the Iron Dome defense system that protects the skies of Israel. But beyond these cyclical rounds of conflict, throughout the year there are sporadic terrorist attacks carried out by individuals. These attacks predominantly occur in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem areas, but occasionally extend deep into Israel’s territory and even to its major cities, including Haifa and Tel-Aviv. On an annual basis, terrorists do manage to inflict casualties upon Israeli civilians, yet the defense forces respond promptly to minimize the impact. However, the events of October 7th, 2023 were unimaginable by all means, and more so they revealed a significant breakdown in the deterrence capabilities of the Israeli security apparatus. This immense failure resulted not only in a tragic loss of over 1400 citizens and the taking of over 200 hostages, but also contributed to a widespread erosion of trust between Israeli citizens and their government. 

Yet the harsh truth of all reveals that Hamas has surprisingly been contained and tolerated by Israel throughout the years. In actuality, Israel has given Hamas essential supplies – including water, fuel, and electricity. Moreover, Hamas has been able to access financial support from Iran, which practically allowed it to grow over time. An example of such growth can be found when taking into consideration the fact that until 2014, Hamas’ rockets primarily targeted Israeli towns in the Gaza Envelope. However, their range has since expanded. By now they easily reach areas as far from Gaza as Tel-Aviv, and this poses a threat to many more Israeli civilians. From a logical standpoint this scenario is undeniably absurd, as it presents a terrorist organization that has managed to sit on a sovereign nation’s back for nearly two decades, while no real attempt to eradicate it was being implemented.

This shocking scenario can be attributed, in part, to the fact that Israel’s attempts to defend its citizens from ongoing rocket attacks are constantly met with significant global criticism, alongside the widespread dissemination of false narratives and propaganda by many media outlets worldwide. These circumstances give rise to concerns of anti-Zionism and, in some cases, even antisemitism, as is evidenced by the recent escalation of attacks against Jews and Israelis globally. This concerning trend includes incidents such as the vandalization of a kosher restaurant in London, an attack on an employee at the Israeli embassy in China, an assault on an Israeli student at Columbia University, the display of swastikas at a Free Palestine rally in NYC, the murder of a Detroit synagogue president, and the marking of the doors of Jewish families in Berlin in a manner reminiscent of the Holocaust. So far the response of feminists, progressives, and so-called liberals to these horrifying events – including to the acts committed by Hamas – has been rather silent. Sadly, this has raised questions and concerns among many Jews, Israelis, and Zionists throughout the world.

About the Author
Nadav Hod is a former IDF soldier (2018-2022), a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as a freelance writer - composing content in both Hebrew and English. Throughout the ongoing conflict, Nadav is working alongside a team of journalists from The Sun newspaper (UK) as they navigate the war-torn areas of Israel. His role is to enhance the newspaper's international coverage by conducting research, offering on-site logistical support, providing translation services, and contributing local expertise.
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