Seven weeks into the war that was imposed on Israel on the 7th of October, the deluge of misinformation and disinformation floating around demands a return to the fundamental facts. Amidst the haze, clarity is crucial in order to grasp the stark reality — this is a battle of good against evil. Before rushing to cast judgment or inflict criticism based on distorted truths, it is imperative to set aside preconceived notions and understand the unvarnished actualities behind the war that was thrust upon the State of Israel.
Firstly, it is essential to understand the broader context: Israel, in fact, was attacked by the Palestinian army of an extremist Islamist Jihadist state: Iran. For generations, Iran and its terrorist proxies; Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, have openly vowed to eradicate Israel, and are actively pursuing their goal through various means
At 6:30 am on Saturday, the 7th of October — the Jewish Sabbath and the holiday of Simchat Torah — an army of 3,000 Hamas terrorists, armed to the teeth, used the cover of a massive rocket attack they launched on the Israeli home front to infiltrate the sovereign territory of Israel. They destroyed the border fence at multiple points and drove into the nearest civilian villages, kibbutzim, and cities. In an inhuman and barbaric massacre that killed more Jews in any single day since the Holocaust, the terrorists tortured, raped, mutilated and butchered 1200 infants, women, men, elderly people, and young partygoers at a music festival. Their targets included Israeli Arabs and foreign citizens from numerous countries. Many victims were beheaded and burned alive. Two hundred-forty innocent people, including dozens of children and Holocaust survivors, were then abducted into Gaza to be used as human shields and bargaining chips in anticipation of the Israeli response.
For perspective, let us compare the magnitude of this horrific terrorist attack to the attacks of 9/11 perpetrated on the United States, in which Al Qaeda terrorists killed 2,977 American citizens and soldiers. When we adjust for the population size of the respective countries at that time, the loss of 1,200 Israeli lives in this massacre is equivalent to the loss of 34,000 American lives.
September 11 prompted a legitimate American defensive war against Al-Qaeda and their supporters, with the United States sending troops to Iraq and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, more than 7,000 miles from American mainland. Israel was forced into its own legitimate defensive war in the neighboring enemy territory of Gaza, all the while being simultaneously attacked on all fronts by Iranian proxies, Hezbollah on its northern border with Lebanon, Shi’ite militias from Syria, the Houthis from Yemen, and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from Gaza, with their ongoing rocket campaign.
The Israeli government made a solemn vow to its citizens, especially to the families of the victims and the hostages, and the citizens of the villages bordering Gaza, that every effort would be made to rescue their loved ones kidnapped by Hamas. It also pledged to eliminate the continued threat emanating from Iran’s proxies in Gaza.
To this end, Israel launched an incursion into Gaza, targeting the 3,000 terrorists that took part in the October 7th massacre, alongside other Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists and their leaders. The IDF set to work destroying rocket launchers, military facilities, bases and headquarters, and the underground fortified military city that has been built up by Hamas over the years.
The terrorists expected this. They knew that Israel would not turn a blind eye to the enormous threat they pose to its citizens.
And that is why Hamas (with Iran’s guidance and backing) has consistently misappropriated the billions of dollars funneled to it by the international community for the welfare of the residents of Gaza. Hamas took this fortune, and, rather than utilizing it for the betterment of the lives of its citizens, invested in the construction of an extensive network of underground military compounds, spanning dozens of miles. These structures are deliberately placed beneath civilian facilities such as hospitals, mosques, and schools, in one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Hamas, as has been well-documented, uses Palestinian civilians as human shields above these facilities, and is now holding Israeli hostages inside their underground compounds.
Under these incredibly challenging conditions, Israel is striving to maintain as clear a distinction as possible between terrorists and civilians, issuing early warnings before initiating any military action. The IDF actively instructs Palestinian civilians to evacuate the areas in which the military operations are going to be conducted. Hamas, in stark contrast, threatens these civilians at gunpoint, preventing them from leaving these areas.
In its efforts to neutralize Hamas’s military capabilities, Israel, is not only abiding by the requirements of international law but is exceeding them by taking additional measures to minimize civilian harm and uphold humanitarian considerations in its actions.
To once again draw a parallel to the American context, the United States invaded Afghanistan after 9/11, trying to smoke Al-Qaeda out of their hideouts in caves and tunnels. More than 906,000 people, including 387,000 civilians, died in the post-9/11 military campaign. Another 38 million people were displaced or made refugees. Comparatively, according to Hamas authorities (an untrustworthy source to begin with) there have been approximately 10,000 Palestinian casualties (a number that includes Hamas terrorists themselves) since Israel launched its military campaign in Gaza — a fraction of the post-9/11 casualties.
This is not the “Israeli narrative.” These are verifiable truths. With these facts in mind, one can decide where their support lies: with the axis of evil led by the Islamic Republic of Iran and their terrorist proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, or with the democratic State of Israel, which is responding to one of the most brutal and lethal crimes against humanity in the history of the modern civilization and fighting a defensive war in order to protect its citizens.
Prof. Boaz Ganor is the President of Reichman University.