Photo Credit: Doron Horowitz/Flash90

There can be multiple perspectives regarding Israel. We ought to acknowledge and accept that different people will have different perceptions of Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There is a value in listening to Palestinians/Israeli Arabs, understanding their varying views, and why they hold those beliefs. I have engaged in such conversations in the past.

That said, perspectives need to be grounded in facts. At a time when twenty-five self-identifying Jewish rabbis and hundreds of their followers storm the U.S. Capitol, essentially declaring their allegiance with Gaza with nary a word of context or understanding of the Israeli position, it is critical to remind ourselves what the facts are. To be sure, it is not worth speaking with anyone who cannot unequivocally condemn the savage, barbaric slaughter of innocents that took place on Simchat Torah. But it is vital that we share facts – in a calm, respectful but firm fashion – with our colleagues/neighbors who likely will not hear them elsewhere, and are confused by such “Jewish” events and conflicting news reports.

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Many outlets engaging in Israel advocacy are discussing the rampant hypocrisy and double standards applied against Israel in the current war, but few are discussing facts from not-too-distant history.

Critical facts commonly cited during the first Gaza war in 2008 are no longer heard. Worse still, most media outlets deliberately distort many items or report them without necessary context. The most egregious examples of these are those that attribute intention of genocide or ethnic cleansing to Israel.

Fact #1: Israel unilaterally pulled out of Gaza in 2005 to advance peace. Multiple, fully established agricultural communities were uprooted from their homes for this cause.

Fact #2: Gazans destroyed the agricultural infrastructure left for them and voted in Hamas as their government in 2006, which then proceeded to build a terrorist enclave.

Fact #3: The blockade of Gaza’s border crossings is as much Egypt’s responsibility as it is Israel’s. Egypt controls a major crossing into the Gaza Strip – the Rafah Crossing – but has blockaded it since Hamas forcibly wrested control of Gaza in 2007 via a civil war with Fatah. As an aside, surely a country whose citizens are not regularly attacked and murdered from Gaza (Egypt) has a greater moral obligation to open its Gaza border than a country whose citizens are regularly attacked and murdered from Gaza (Israel).

Fact #4: Hamas and Islamic Jihad have infiltrated the UNWRA camps, as documented by the Nahum Bedein Center based on rigorous investigative reporting of Arabic media. UNWRA textbooks glorify Dalal Mugrahbi (a female terrorist who murdered 38 Israelis), rockets are fired from UNWRA refugee camps, and key UNWRA administrative positions are held by Hamas/Islamic Jihad officials.

Fact #5: Gaza could easily minimize civilian casualties if it had bomb shelters. Gaza does not have bomb shelters, however, because Hamas does not value life and chooses not to build them. The miles upon miles of concrete terror tunnels provide ample evidence that Hamas had the resources to build bomb shelters if desired.

Fact #6: Fewer civilians die in Israel because Israel invests significantly in protecting her civilians. Civilian deaths in Gaza are a tragic loss of life; they also mostly stem from Hamas using them as human shields, most blatantly illustrated by the hospital attack last week which US intelligence concluded was a Hamas/Islamic Jihad failed rocket launch. Relatedly, unlike any other army, Israel frequently provides advance warning to its attacks. The fact remains that the casualties in Gaza-Israel conflicts represent one of the lowest civilian:terrorist death ratios of all recent global conflicts.

Fact #7: If the people who speak out against Israel now cared about Palestinians, they ought to have spoken out against Syria’s murder of Palestinians. Or against Hamas’s execution of Gazan people. Or against the undemocratic cancellation of elections in the PA and Gaza (Abbas is in the 18th year of a 4-year term).

Fact #8: If all the people who now speak out against Israel cared about Muslims and genocide, they would speak out against the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs by China or the Rohingya by Myanmar.

Fact #9: There is no genocide in Gaza, much less so in Israel or the PA. Raphael Lemkin, who introduced the concept to international law, defined it as “signifying a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.” Israel has never engaged in such an approach.

The Palestinian population has grown five-fold over the last 70 years. That is the exact opposite of what genocide aims to do.

Palestinians and Arabs throughout Gaza, the PA, and Israel own property that is not disputed. That is the exact opposite of what genocide aims to do.

(Prof. Douglas Burgess, a scholar of genocide and international terrorism, has reviewed the above facts.)

Fact #10: The 2021 land dispute in Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTzaddik, and other similar land disputes, have zero connection to genocide or ethnic cleansing. To begin with, the only people with ownership titles of that property are Jews. One can argue the case’s merits or lack thereof, the validity of squatter’s rights, other relevant legal aspects or even the question of timing. The critical point here is that it was a civil dispute between two parties who, after failing to reach an agreement, brought the case to a civil court. There was zero involvement of Israel as a nation or the Israeli government in this case. The terms ethnic cleansing or genocide are only relevant when actions are taken by one nation/people against another nation/ethnicity, not actions taken by private citizens (which, incidentally, many of their fellow countrymen are opposed to).

There are many aspects of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict which are complex.

The savagery of Hamas’s rule in Gaza and the corresponding morality of Israel’s defense against its massacre, however, is pretty straightforward. As is the perverse usage of “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” in contemporary discourse surrounding Israel.

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Rabbi Chaim Goldberg has semicha from RIETS and a graduate degree in child clinical psychology from Hebrew University. Aside from practicing psychology and teaching Torah at various yeshivot/seminaries, he runs Mussar Links, a non-profit dedicated to publishing the Torah writings of Rabbi Hillel Goldberg.