By: Sarah L, Staff Writer
Hamas’ vicious surprise attack against Israeli civilians on Saturday, October 7th was the biggest and most evil attack Israel has ever experienced. Hamas’ massacre and tactics were unprecedented in scope and brutality, targeting women and children. Yet sadly, Israel is not only mourning its dead and fighting for its survival – internationally, Israel must also fight for its legitimacy to do so.
This is a Holocaust moment – a massacre of innocent Jewish people. And it is a Holocaust moment in that rather than condemn Hamas and gather behind Israel in support, the world continues to look the other way, just as they did when Jews were being sent to the gas chambers.
It is imperative to hold on to moral clarity and to counteract the many vicious lies which have been circulating about Israel, about Gaza, about Hamas, and about their unhuman and horrendously brutal massacre of innocent Israelis, including many who held foreign citizenship. The latter point matters, because many of the governments of these same individuals – including Russia and China – are the very same ones who now point the finger of blame towards Israel!
While you may already know the truth, those around you may not. We hope that this article will give you the tools you need to counter the lies you meet every day. Here are five myths about the current conflict and the facts you need to disprove them.
Myth #1: Israel is to blame for the war, since it has oppressed Palestinians for decades.
Firstly, let’s look at Hamas’ methods on October 7th. If they had only targeted Israeli soldiers, this is a claim which could be defended, even if untrue. However, Hamas terrorists intentionally targeted civilians, including children and babies, the elderly and pregnant women. It is impossible to argue that these Israelis were in any way responsible for the situation of the Palestinian people.
Secondly, let’s look at the historical reality. When accusing Israel of oppressing Palestinians, it is important to differentiate between Israeli Arabs (who hold full Israeli citizenship), Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, and Palestinians in Gaza.
When Israel declared independence in 1948, it offered full rights and citizenship to Palestinian Arabs who chose to remain within the Jewish State. The descendants of the Arabs who stayed today have the right to vote, to hold elected office, obtain higher education and every other right of a citizen.
In Judea and Samaria, Israel has military control, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority who controls civil government and police forces in some areas. Since the Israeli military does operate here, this is the only area where it is possible to make an established argument for Israeli “oppression” of Palestinians. However, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for civil affairs in Judea and Samaria, the low quality of life is certainly their fault, not Israel’s.
It is important to note here that the IDF does not oppress Palestinians in Judea and Samaria; Israel maintains a military presence in these areas for the safety of Israeli civilians in the area and to prevent the spreading of terror. Additionally, Israeli soldiers are regulated by strict guidelines in terms of how they respond to disturbances and threats and also how they treat arrested Palestinians. Every incident of conflict between a soldier and a Palestinian is investigated afterwards, and misuses of power by soldiers are treated seriously.
In Gaza, however, there is no case to make today for Israeli “oppression”. In 2005, in an attempt to make peace and allow for the creation of a Palestinian state, Israel withdrew completely from Gaza. It has not controlled any of Gaza’s internal affairs since. In January, 2006, Hamas was elected to govern Gaza by its people. Hamas quickly (and violently) stamped out any opposition and established the dictatorial regime under the Gazans still suffer today.
Gaza is known for its beautiful beaches, and the Palestinians there receive hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money a year from UN member nations alone, to say nothing of Arab nations’ contributions. Had Hamas wanted to, they could have built a successful resort economy in Gaza as well as building up fishing exports and more. Instead, Hamas funnels the international aid money sent to Gaza towards destroying Israel. For this reason, Israel does maintain tight security on the border between Israel and Gaza. After the events of October 7th, it is clear why this is the case.
Myth #2: Israel is breaking international law during its airstrikes in Gaza
Israel actually goes to great lengths to prevent civilian death even during airstrikes. Their efforts include dropping fliers in Arabic on buildings warning civilians to leave before they bomb a building in Gaza as well as “knocker bombs” which makes noise but does not destroy anything. According to the BBC, the IDF also contacts civilians directly to warn them to evacuate. This is one more way that Israel warns civilians to get out of the way.
If one is versed in international humanitarian law (IHL), one might argue that although Israel is attempting to prevent civilian casualties, civilian property is also protected under IHL; one could also argue that starving people into evacuating is illegal. Let’s address these two issues.
Firstly, the existence of civilian property or assets at all in Gaza is debatable. It is well known that Hamas uses civilians and civilian infrastructure as a shield for its despicable actions in order to accuse Israel of war crimes. (One of Hamas’ main command centers is even located under Shifa Hospital!) According to international law, even hospitals forfeit their immunity in war if they are used for military purposes.
So while it might appear that Israel is targeting so-called “civilian” infrastructure in Gaza, in reality Israel is destroying military targets. It does not mean that civilian property isn’t damaged. But this is Hamas’ fault for locating their bases in civilian areas, not Israel’s for destroying the base.
The second accusation, that Israel starved civilians in northern Gaza into evacuating, is based on Israel’s blockade of Gaza during the first weeks of the current war. During this period, international aid wasn’t going into Gaza. Subsequently, Israel allowed water and international aid only into southern Gaza and requested civilians to evacuate south.
Before passing judgement, Israel’s policy must be examined in context. This context, according to western legal systems, assumes innocence and considers the motive and the rights of the accused before passing judgement. In this case, Israel has the right under international law to self-defense against Hamas. It was also in the best interest of the civilians involved for them to move south.
It is a complicated situation. But the purpose of Israel’s actions is to save human lives, and therefore this cannot be looked at as a war crime.
Myth #3: Israel is responsible for the humanitarian situation in Gaza
As photos of injured Gazan children and neighborhoods reduced to rubble flood the internet, this accusation seems legitimate. However, there are a few things that should be considered before passing judgement. Firstly, who was responsible for Gaza before the war and what was the average quality of life for Gazans then? The first answer is of course “Hamas,” and the second is “not great.” Then we must ask, “Did Hamas have the ability to help Gazans?” The answer to this question is yes.
UNRWA, the special UN organization responsible for Palestinian refugees, has so far received over $430 million this year in voluntary funding from UN member states. Israel itself, when it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, gave tens of millions to the Palestinian Authority for the development of civilian infrastructure. Gaza also receives concrete humanitarian aid such as fuel, food and medical supplies. All this funding is supposed to better the standard of living for Palestinians in Gaza.
Israel has laid 4 massive water pipes into Gaza, the latest of which was installed in 2019, and even during the war continues to provide around 28 million liters of water a day to the Strip. Israel has also laid 10 electrical lines from its territory into Gaza.
Israel allows thousands of Gazans to cross the border each day during peace time to work in Israeli industries where they earn salaries exponentially higher than what they could earn in Gaza. Every year, Israeli hospitals treat numerous Gazans whose conditions are too rare or serious to be treated in Gaza.
Sadly, Hamas confiscates and misuses both funding and infrastructure freely given by international actors for its own purposes. For example, it is known that Hamas dug up the water pipes in Gaza to use as rocket tubes. Additionally, at the beginning of the war, UNRWA admitted on X (formerly Twitter) that Hamas terrorists had broken into UN storage facilities and stolen what they found there.
In other words, while Israel did its best to raise the standard of living for Gaza over the last 20 years, ultimately it was Hamas who controlled the Gaza Strip and chose how to use the resources available to it. Unfortunately, Hamas does not govern in a way that benefits Gazans.
This is the background for the current conflict and the status quo under which it broke out. Hamas attacked Israel on October 7th, meaning that they began the war and are responsible for any ensuing damage. This is all the truer since Hamas is known to hide behind civilian human shields. So while it is true that the humanitarian situation in Gaza has deteriorated since the war broke out, it is not right or accurate to blame Israel for this.
Myth #4: Hamas doesn’t represent Gaza
In 2007, two years after Israel withdrew from Gaza, elections were held in Gaza – the last time elections were held in any Palestinian-controlled area. During these elections, the Gazan people voted for Hamas. Hamas is a “democratically-elected” regime – as of 2007.
Since then, the quality of living for Gazans has deteriorated significantly and most people estimate that Gazan civilians would be happy were Hamas to be toppled from power. The Gazan civilians are certainly victimized by Hamas, who uses them as human shields and embezzles humanitarian aid and funds to further its goal of destroying Israel.
However, many Gazan civilians do still support Hamas. Some of these followed Hamas militants into Israel on October 7th in order to rob the homes of murdered Israelis. In Judea and Samaria around 70% of Palestinians – who know what Gaza has become under Hamas – would still prefer to have Hamas in power than the Palestinian Authority.
So does Hamas manipulate and abuse Gazan civilians? Yes. Does Hamas represent the viewpoint of all Palestinians? No. But it is also untrue to say that Hamas doesn’t represent Gaza when not only was Hamas elected democratically in 2007, but a considerable percentage of Gazan civilians do still support Hamas.
Myth #5: The Myth of Moral Equivalence
“My heart is breaking for all the innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives being lost.”
“I call on all parties to exercise restraint and conform to international law.”
When people say things like this, they are saying that there is no difference between civilians killed intentionally and civilians killed accidentally. Only in the case of Israel do critics compare between collateral civilian deaths (which are of course still tragic) and civilians being targeted intentionally (which is terrorism).
When Hamas attacked Israel on October 7th, they didn’t kill or kidnap only soldiers, which, though horrible, would be considered a legitimate act of war under international law. They intentionally targeted Israeli civilians including babies, pregnant women and Holocaust survivors and murdered them brutally. This is terrorism and a clear violation of international law.
When Israel targets the perpetrators of this evil in Gaza, AKA Hamas terrorists, they make every possible effort not to harm civilians, including warning them to leave the area or building about to be targeted. However, sometimes civilians are killed accidentally in the strikes. Sometimes Israeli soldiers are also killed or injured in friendly fire incidents. Both are tragic, but neither friendly fire incidents nor collateral civilian deaths are considered a war crime.
Israel’s actions can also be defended by looking at historical standards set in previous wars. In World War 2, Allied bombers bombed German cities and sadly, many civilians were killed. Yet after the war NO ONE claimed moral equivalence (for example) between German civilian casualties and those murdered in Nazi camps.
More recently, when fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, US troops sadly killed many Iraqi civilians, often because it was difficult to determine who was party to the conflict but dressed in civilian clothes and who was truly innocent. But al-Qaeda had just intentionally murdered thousands of innocent civilians in an unprovoked attack on the Twin Towers and it was therefore accepted that the actions of the United States were morally justified, even when some civilians were tragically killed.
Again, there is a moral difference between the intentional targeting of civilians (which is terrorism) and the unintentional death of civilians as a result of morally justified conflict between two armed parties. If the same principle were applied to Israel’s war against Hamas today as has been to past conflicts, no one could pretend a parallel between Israeli and Gazan civilian casualties.
There is no moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas. There never has been and there never will be.
There are three other things to address before concluding. Firstly, is the accusation that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinians. This claim doesn’t have its own section because it is immediately disproved by looking at impartial population stats. In 1948, there were around 700,000 Palestinian refugees. Today, there are millions. If Israel was committing genocide, there would be fewer Palestinians today than there were 1948.
Secondly, it is important to differentiate between legitimate criticism of Israeli policy and delegitimization of Israel as a state or as a people. Many critics of Israel today have gone so far as to say for example that October 7th didn’t occur in a “vacuum,” which is a diplomatic way to blame Israel for the deaths of its own civilians. This is a serious accusation to make towards any government, and after reading the above article, you will agree that it is nearly as unfounded an argument as saying that Jews caused the Black Death or the economic crisis in Germany following World War One. Ignoring or excusing Hamas’ human rights abuses while assuming that Gazan suffering is Israel’s responsibility is not legitimate criticism of Israeli policy and should not be accepted as such.
Finally, it is important to acknowledge that war is messy, especially when one is dealing with terrorist organizations. Nothing written here is meant to minimize or ignore the fact that innocent Gazans are suffering. However, before you accuse Israel of oppressing Palestinians, please consider that Israel has not controlled Gaza for nearly 20 years. 20 years is ample time to build a functioning state and improve the lives of its citizens. Israel itself did so in far less, while simultaneously absorbing hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Hamas, the government of Gaza has not done so and is therefore to blame for the suffering of its civilians, not Israel.
So while it is true that Gazans are victimized, it is impossible to find a solution without recognizing the nature of the problem. As long as the world continues to blame Israel for Hamas’ crimes, Gazans will continue to suffer. Hamas must be held accountable for its war crimes not only against Israeli civilians but against Gazans as well. It’s time to wake up. #HamasIsWorseThanISIS
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