Alex Zhitnitsky

Israelis and Palestinians are more aligned than you think

With all the grief surrounding us, it’s time to focus on universal human values and rise above our differences. The way to do that may be counterintuitive
Aftermath of Hamas rocket attack in Ramat Gan on October 28, 2023. Smoke rises over Ramat Gan as a result of a fire initiated by a rocket from Gaza. (Photo credits: Meital Zhitnitsky)
Aftermath of Hamas rocket attack in Ramat Gan on October 28, 2023. Smoke rises over Ramat Gan as a result of a fire initiated by a rocket from Gaza. (Photo credits: Meital Zhitnitsky)

When I called my mom the other morning, a rocket alarm went off so she had to run for shelter. 

A day before that, a rocket hit my sister’s neighborhood in Ramat Gan. Running for shelter has become more common than getting coffee. Once again, it’s cloudy with a chance of rockets for millions of Israelis.

However bleak it may sound, I’m grateful that my personal experience with the horrors of the Israel-Hamas war has been mostly limited to rocket alarms.

On 10/7 Hamas carried out an unthinkable attack, murdering 1,400 people and kidnapping 240, including a baby as young as 9 months old. Entire families were wiped out. At the time of writing this, the hostages are entering their second month in Hamas captivity, caged in underground tunnels with no clear resolution in sight. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for those kids, taken from their homes; separated from their families at the break of dawn.

For Israelis, Jews, and affected families worldwide, not a single day or sleepless night goes by without thinking about the atrocities that happened on 10/7 and the events that followed. This was the biggest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.

The gruesome attack also opened the floodgates on a worldwide surge of antisemitism. Protests in support of Hamas started the same day, inciting more violence against Jews. Over here in the US, Jews are advised to keep a low profile and stay vigilant as tensions are rising. Even daycares are ramping up security, while parents take turns sitting outside to keep an eye out for potential threats. 

Universities and downtowns in major cities have become filled with hatred, with crowds regularly glorifying or justifying Hamas’s atrocities and chanting slogans calling — whether implicitly or explicitly — for the destruction of Israel and expulsion of Jews. While the reality of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has many sides to it, it feels like the very basic nature of humanity is currently under attack. This is beyond any government policy or political affiliation —we’re talking about hate speech that openly targets Jews and promotes the destruction of the state of Israel. This isn’t about the complex political landscape as much as it is about universal human values.

In the midst of the media maelstrom, many are trying to decide whether they’re pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, and are brought to believe the two are at odds. In practice, Israelis, Palestinians, and Israeli-Arabs are more aligned than it seems. Those of us who value human life accept that Hamas and other violent extremists need to be stopped. One of those voices is Mosab Hassan, son of Hamas co-founder, who is a vocal advocate for dismantling the terror organization. He is putting thoughts into words that many Palestinian victims of Hamas avoid expressing publicly out of fear for their lives. More of these heart-wrenching stories were captured in the animated series ‘Whispered in Gaza,’ amplifying testimonies of those who can’t freely speak their mind. 

On the surface, advocating for a ceasefire sounds very appealing. It seems like the safest option. My family is under the threat of rocket fire every single day, so I have every reason to want to put an end to this dangerous situation. I deeply empathize with the intention behind calls for a ceasefire. But those of us who have lived through multiple rounds of violence followed by ceasefires know that with every ceasefire Hamas grows stronger, its training and the sophistication of its weaponry continuously bolstered by its patron, Iran. Hamas does not try to conceal its motivation to rid the world of Jews and anyone else who opposes their extremist views; they celebrate and institutionalize it.

Instead of calling for a ceasefire, we should be calling for Hamas to surrender and free the hostages.

A ceasefire was already in place on 10/6 and numerous times before that — we’ve been here before. Giving Hamas time to regroup and come back stronger will be an incentive to destroy more Palestinian and Israeli lives. A ceasefire now ignores Hamas’s clear intentions and the history of how it has used past ceasefires. There’s no evidence that this time it would be any different since Hamas officials explicitly called out that similar attacks will follow. Counterintuitively, ceasefires with terror organizations like Hamas put more lives in jeopardy. Hamas must be stopped — we owe it to the kids on both sides of the fence.

The sensible response here is “never again.”

Never again can Hamas be allowed to slaughter innocent Jews, and never again can Hamas disregard Palestinians’ lives for the benefit of its corrupt leaders — leading to an impossible reality that is forced on millions of people who want to lead normal, peaceful lives. 

Hamas’s violence, with support from Iran, has set the region back by many years, but it has not broken the will for peace. Those of us who want peace will continue to strive for it, no matter how many more years it will take.

Some 50 years ago there used to be bus and train routes from Gaza to Tel Aviv. For a little while before the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israelis and Palestinians would shop for groceries side by side in the Gaza market. Only time will tell what the region will look like in the next 50 years. It’s my hope that no human being — Israeli, Jew, Palestinian, or Muslim — will need to experience anything remotely close to what transpired in October 2023.

About the Author
Alex Zhitnitsky is a proud father of 2, born in Ukraine, raised in Israel, and currently living in the US. He served as an intelligence analyst in the IDF, graduated from the Technion, and spent the past decade working in tech to bring products to market.
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