In a news cycle increasingly dominated by social media hashtags and 140-character sentence fragments, much of the debate about Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza consists of buzzwords, jargon and loaded statements full of falsehoods. Here are a few of the more jarring misconceptions making the rounds:
I care about what happens in Israel because the U.S. gives a lot of aid to Israel. Therefore, what they do is “on my hands.”
Really? The United States gives foreign aid to a large number of countries, many of which use it for some fairly dubious purposes. There were few if any protests or hashtags against Pakistan for sheltering Osama bin Laden, Egypt for using American-made weapons to firebomb Coptic Christian churches and jail journalists, Saudi Arabia for prohibiting women from driving or the Gulf States for using U.S.-made Blackhawk helicopters to fire at peaceful protesters. And ISIS is running through a huge swath of the Middle East, picking up American weapons left behind by the Iraqi army and using them to invade areas populated by ethnic and religious minorities who are forced to convert to Islam or be beheaded. Yet there was no flurry of hashtags for the Christians of Mosul or the Yazidis.
I care about what is happening in Israel/Gaza because I feel the Israelis have used disproportionate force against the Palestinians.
Really? Turkey’s air force has been carpet-bombing Kurdish regions in the east of the country, while Bahrain kills peaceful protesters, and Syria’s Bashar Assad continues his civilian massacre, which now totals nearly 180,000 people, many of whom are Palestinian. I realize Israel holds itself to a higher standard than these regimes, but what about the United States? In Iraq, the United States is air-bombing ISIS, a group 7,500 miles away that has not fired a single shot at American soil. Where are the calls cautioning the U.S. to use “proportional force” or calling U.S. actions “disproportionate”? Intellectual honesty, as opposed to moral relativism, requires calling out all injustice equally, not simply when it fits a certain ideology.
Because of “the occupation,” any “resistance” is justified.
Really? I’ll be the first to say that for Israel’s internal reasons and for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, Israel should be better at advancing a two-state solution. Only through shared responsibility will we be able to work together to arrive at a conclusion.
Here is my issue: The Palestinians appear unwilling to take any responsibility for their own predicament, finding it a lot easier to blame “the occupation” for everything. It is time the Palestinians realize their own rejectionist narrative is the reason they don’t have a state. To frame this debate as an indigenous population vs. a colonialist regime is false, inaccurate and intellectually lazy. Say no to terms like “give back,” “return” and “colonialist.” Call out those who use terms like “apartheid” and “Nazi” as liars and anti-Semites. The facts just don’t match up, and use of these terms is offensive.
How can I be pro-Palestinian and anti-Hamas? Look at Israel’s blockade of Gaza!
Really? My experience with Palestinians is that they are good people. Hamas, on the other hand, states its goals very clearly in its charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel and annihilation of Israel’s Jewish inhabitants. There is no conflict between being a supporter of Palestinian self-determination and being anti-Hamas, a terrorist organization akin to al-Qaida, ISIS and Hezbollah. I wish the Palestinian leadership would make the distinction.
When members of Fatah (Mahmoud Abbas’ party) refuse to point a finger at Hamas as responsible for civilian casualties, I can see clearly that their hatred of Israel is far greater than their love of their own people. Accusing Hamas of firing from the cover of Palestinian civilians does not dehumanize the Palestinians; what dehumanizes the Palestinians is to not expect them to hold their leadership accountable for these crimes. It is not dehumanizing to call out the teaching of anti-Semitism in schools; it is dehumanizing to expect it.
It was not until 2007 that the people of Gaza elected Hamas and Israel imposed the blockade. It would seem odd for Israel to even think about opening up its border with a territory governed by an entity committed to its destruction. Egypt is also imposing a blockade of Gaza — another bit of moral relativism that we never hear about it. The true tragedy is that in 2005, when Israel left Gaza, uprooting settlements and their own citizens and leaving an entire agricultural infrastructure, there was a free flow of goods and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians commuting into Israel from Gaza for work each day.
How should we respond?
Support freedom of speech, press and religion. Support Israel, which protects these rights and wants to live in peace. Be unequivocally against those who infect worthwhile debates and conversations with untruths, labels and anecdotes that prove nothing. Question the motives of those who turn their criticism of Israel into anti-Semitism. This not only shows their own racism, but the flimsy nature of their case against Israel. Put pressure on the media to authenticate and properly contextualize the reports and images coming out of Gaza.
As a proud member of the Jewish people, I can say that we don’t always get it right and we don’t always have the answers. But we place a huge premium on making sure we ask all of the right questions.
Daniel Frankenstein is a managing partner at JANVEST Technologies, focused on Israel’s emerging technology market. He lived in Tel Aviv from 2008 to 2012; he serves on the Business Leadership Council steering committee of the S.F-based Jewish Community Federation and on AIPAC’s Young Leadership Council.