David I. Roytenberg

Different Realities

I’ve continued my online conversations with some of my left wing associates over the 10 days I’ve been in Israel and I have to constantly remind myself of what I know. Much of what seems obvious to me and (I claim) to most Israelis and the majority of Jews in the world, is not seen as true by many of the people around us. We are constantly exposed to arguments in the news media that assume the truth of things we believe to be false. It is worth reviewing these facts in order to keep our grip on what we believe, in a world where others believe otherwise.

  1. Israel was invaded from Gaza by a lawless army on October 7. The invasion was long planned and was deliberately focused on killing, abusing and terrorizing the population. The goal was not to place them under Palestinian rule, but rather to kill or capture everyone, with the aim of eliminating the communities that were attacked. The victims were civilian, police and military, young and old, male and female. Many of the female victims were targeted sexually. There was no mercy shown, even for the very young. In my judgment these actions meet the definition of genocide.
    • Enemy propaganda has sought to throw doubt on every aspect of this. International bodies devoted to the welfare of women took weeks to even acknowledge that sexual violence was committed by Hamas in Israel, while maintaining a longstanding litany of claims that Israel is responsible for harms to women in Gaza.
    • In the immediate aftermath of the attack, false stories that the deaths at the Nova Music Festival were caused by IDF helicopters were disseminated in anti-Israel channels. The Electronic Intifada web site reported these stories as truth. Canada Talks Israel Palestine, the anti-Zionist web site maintained by Ottawa resident Peter Larson echoed these claims that Israel, rather than Hamas might be responsible for the killings in Israel.
    • Although an act of genocide was committed by Hamas, every demonstration from the moment of the attack accused Israel and not Hamas of genocide. South Africa and a number of other hostile states brought charges of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice. Although the court did not make any finding of genocide, Israel’s enemies in Canada have acted as if they did, demanding changes in Canadian policy and an arms embargo against Israel.
  2. Israel is fighting Hamas in Gaza as an act of legitimate self-defense. Israel’s goal of removing the criminal Hamas regime is legitimate and proportionate to the harms inflicted by the October 7 attacks, and the stated intention of Hamas to repeat them again and again.Israel’s military operation has been conducted lawfully. Israeli soldiers from the most senior commanders down to the newest recruits are trained in the laws of war and are required to distinguish between civilian and military targets. Experts on the laws of war, such as Brian W. Cox, visiting Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa have explained the legal basis of Israel’s actions and have explained repeatedly that civilian deaths in Gaza, while terrible, are not evidence of Israeli war crimes.

    The laws of war forbid indiscriminate attacks and disproportionate attacks. Legal experts have explained that Israeli attacks which are targeted at legitimate military targets are, by definition, not indiscriminate. They have explained that institutions such as hospitals, schools and mosques lose their protection under the laws of war when they are used for military purposes. Israel has demonstrated repeatedly that in Gaza every hospital was also a military base. Every school was an arms depot. Every mosque contained military assets. Israeli attacks on these targets are legitimate because they are being used by Hamas for military purposes.Hamas military infrastructure is largely underground. They have built a network of tunnels in Gaza larger than the London Underground. There are thousands of entrances to these tunnels in residential buildings all over Gaza. The tunnels are used exclusively for military purposes. Ordinary residents of Gaza are not permitted to shelter in them during times of war.

    • Institutions that command the respect of many Canadians have been working to convince the people of Canada that in spite of the facts enumerated above, Israel is at fault in its war in Gaza. One of those institutions is CTV News. Academic Nader Hashemi, cited as an expert on the Middle East and interviewed on CTV News Network stated that Israel is committing war crimes as a fact and the interviewer, Akshay Tandon did not challenge this. He was interviewed twice in the span of two days.

      On December 28 I sent the following email to Bell Media’s feedback address:

Dear CTV News Network,

Your commentator Nader Hashemi is obviously knowlegable about political science and the Middle East, but he is constantly mixing in his own opinions on the rights and wrongs of the war with facts about the situation on the ground.

When asked on December 26, about the potential for Israel and Hamas to fight on, he spoke only about Israel and didn't say a word about the obstacles facing Hamas.  He throws in his opinion that Israel is committing war crimes as often as he can, as he did in the interview you showed on December 27, but not everyone agrees.  Other commentators are clear that Israel is fighting the war lawfully.

If you bring him in for his expertise on politics, he should stick to his field.  If he wants to hold forth on the laws of war, it would be worth consulting Brian L Cox who is currently a visiting scholar at Ottawa University.  I recently heard him speak about the laws of war as they apply to the conflict in Gaza.  He is very clear that Israel is fighting the war lawfully and that many people talking about the laws of war don't know what they are talking about.  

I'd appreciate if you would interview him as often as you interview Mr Hashemi.

I'm a loyal nightly viewer of CTV National News, but I've found your coverage of the war focusses mostly on the harm being suffered by the people of Gaza.  While that is certainly an important part of the story, I think you should also be covering the ongoing war crimes of Hamas and the Israeli perspective on why their operation in Gaza is of existential importance in the face of an Islamist movement dedicated to the destruction of Israel.  An Israeli account of what they are doing in Gaza and why, should be sought out to balance the views of those who think Israel is in the wrong.


David Roytenberg 

While Israel was advancing toward the Shefa hospital in the early weeks of the ground campaign, CTV news interviewed representatives of other organizations which have credibility with many Canadians.A representative of Doctors without Borders, speaking from Shefa hospital claimed that the Israeli approach to the hospital was causing fuel shortages which he said was threatening the lives of premature babies at the hospital. When Israeli forces dropped off fuel near the entrance to the hospital, the personnel at the hospital did not pick it up. Hospital officials later admitted that Hamas had forbidden them to take the fuel.

On another occasion the same Doctors Without Borders spokesperson assured viewers that there was no Hamas presence in the hospital. However Hamas fighters attacked Israelis from the hospital compound. When Israel entered the compound they found weapons and other military equipment next to medical facilities, and Hamas tunnels underneath the compound, where hostages had been held. The bodies of hostages were found in the compound. As a result of these developments I published this article on November 14:


A Plea for Better Journalism Watching the Canadian news and the Israeli news can leave you disoriented. It’s like you are hearing about two different wars. Canadian news is full of interviews of people with family in Gaza and people who have worked in Gaza and people from organizations who are trying to operate in Gaza. Their message is always the same…

Read full story

Discussing the Israeli incursion into Shefa hospital, a representative of Human Rights Watch interviewed on CTV news stated that even if a hospital is being used for military purposes, Israel can’t “go in with guns blazing”.Of course Israel was doing nothing of the kind. They were so concerned not to cause unnecessary damage that they took up positions around the Shefa hospital and waited until the Hamas fighters in the hospital escaped before going in. Today, Shefa hospital has been evacuated by the IDF and continues to operate in Northern Gaza.Human Rights Watch is no friend of Israel. It is noted for its unsubstantiated report claiming that Israel is committing “the crime of Apartheid”. Nevertheless, many Canadians still see them as a respectable organization, due to their good works in other places and in earlier decades.

  1. Israel will not be safe unless Hamas is removed from power. The Israeli leadership thought that by enabling the flow of money and resources into Gaza, they could encourage economic development and deter the terrorist regime from acting on its stated aim of “ending the occupation”, by which they meant the replacement of Israel with an Islamic State of Palestine. The events of October 7 have demonstrated that these measures were deeply misguided. Every action Israel took to try to help improve life in Gaza was subverted, to the singular purpose of striking a staggering blow at Israel. On the day, it was revealed that Palestinians who were employed in the settlements near Gaza had acted as spies. Hamas knew where the guns were stored and where the chief of security at the kibbutz lived. At the Nova Festival, Hamas had gunmen waiting on the only road out of the festival where they lay in ambush to massacre the party goers as they fled the attack. Over 300 people were murdered at the festival alone.
    In the days after the massacre, the Hamas leadership crowed about how they had fooled the Israelis and boasted about how they would perpetrate similar attacks again and again. Clearly it was not safe for Israelis to continue living next door to a territory ruled by Hamas.
    • In spite of the clear necessity of removing Hamas, the external pressure against Israel achieving that end appeared immediately and has persisted relentlessly. The demands for an immediate ceasefire began as soon as Israel began the bombing of Gaza on the day the war began. In Canada the interviews with people identifying as pro-Palestinian focused on the impact of Israeli attacks on the people of Gaza, with not a word about the responsibility of Hamas in bringing disaster down on the people of Gaza
    • On October 20, 33 Canadian MPs from the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc signed a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire. This was before any Israeli ground troops had entered Gaza and would have handed a clear victory to Hamas. On November 8, the NDP and Bloc parties made the same call. On December 12, the Canada voted for a resolution at the UN General Assembly calling for a ceasefire. On the same day, the PM appeared at a press conference demanding the immediate release of the hostages before any cessation of hostilities. It seemed like the Canadian government was trying to advocate for two contradictory policies at the same time. Compliance by Israel with any of these demands would have handed a victory to Hamas.
    • Large weekly demonstrations have been staged in western capitals and in Toronto, all of them calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities. These demonstrations often promote rhetoric which demonizes Zionism and calls for the elimination of Israel, and have been seen as celebrating rather than denouncing the Hamas atrocities of October 7.
    • The United States administration has been among the few foreign governments that have resisted calls for a ceasefire, supporting Israel’s goal of removing Hamas from power. However the level of American criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war has been steadily increasing, making it increasingly difficult for Israel to achieve its military objectives.

In addition to these core truths, we have seen a proliferation of all too familiar rhetoric calling Israel’s legitimacy into question. These are longer discussions which will require many more articles. There has also been an upsurge in antisemitism, both in word and deed all over the world. Accompanying this has been an escalation of rhetoric accusing Jews of weaponizing antisemitism to suppress criticism of Israel. This too is a topic that calls for separate articles.

Looming large in American rhetoric is a call on Israel to agree to a “path to a Palestinian State”. This is linked with the prospect of Saudi normalization. For an Israel reeling from the trauma of October 7, this seems like a bizarre subject to be discussing now. Shouldn’t the Palestinians be expected to engage in demonstrations of peaceful intent and confidence building measures before Israel is expected to make more concessions? This too is something that seems obvious to many of us, but is clearly not so clear in other minds, even those of the Americans who have been Israel’s staunchest supporters in the current war.

While we shake our heads at the strange way that the world looks at the conflict, we have the progress of Israel’s ground operation to provide some encouragement.

As of this date (Feb 11), Israel reports having killed over 10,000 Hamas fighters which amounts to one third to one quarter of the armed strength of Hamas at the beginning of the war. The original armed strength of Hamas is disputed, with claims that they had as many as 30,000 armed fighters called into question in this Dec 1 2023 article from the Guardian.

However with the completion of the major fighting in Khan Younis, they report having disabled all of the Hamas fighting units north of Rafah. The Americans have been reacting with alarm at the prospect of the IDF moving into Rafah, which is where much of Gaza’s population has taken refuge from the fighting further north. The Egyptians have likewise expressed alarm, fearing that large numbers of Palestinians may flee into Egypt if Israel attacks Rafah. News reports today have Netanyahu assuring the Americans that they will evacuate the civilian population before moving into Rafah on the ground.

On the other objective of the war, the release of Israeli hostages, there has been no progress for many weeks. In fact the news has all been bad lately with reports that 31 of the remaining hostages are no longer alive and a report that 20 more may also have been killed. Negotiations for a new pause in the fighting in return for further hostage releases have stalled, as Hamas responded with demands that would amount to Israeli surrender.

Israel has maintained for weeks that the Hamas senior leadership along with many of the remaining hostages are hiding somewhere under Khan Younis. But although Hamas capabilities in the city have been largely destroyed, the leadership and the hostages remain elusive.

In this, our second week in Ashkelon, we continue to be amazed by Israeli resilience. My sister and brother in law visited us in Ashkelon for Shabbat. The marina, near the place where we are staying was bustling on Friday and we enjoyed two long walks along the waterfront during our family visit.

May be an image of boat
View of the marina in Ashkelon — photo by David Roytenberg

The strength and resolve of Israelis is a reality that can’t be disputed. May the upcoming week bring continuing success to the IDF and may we see the return of the captives in the near future.

This article was originally published on October 11, the day before Israel’s successful operation to free two captives from Rafah, on Canadian Zionist Forum.

About the Author
David Roytenberg is a Canadian living in Ottawa, Canada, with a lifelong interest in Israel and Zionism. He spent 9 months in Israel in 1974-75 on Kibbutz Kfar Glickson and is a frequent visitor to friends and family in Israel. He is married and the father of two sons. David is Secretary of MERCAZ Canada and the chair of Adult Education for Kehillat Beth Israel in Ottawa. He wrote monthly about Israel and Zionism for the Canadian Jewish News from 2017 to 2020.
Related Topics
Related Posts