Hamas, Palestinians, Israel, and the “West”

Updated Dec 22, 2023

The  satiric post Israeli, Palestinian officials commit to ensuring kids grow up hating one another underscores the current war between Hamas and Israel will have no winners, just losers. More civilians will be killed. Two populations with be polarized even more. The next generation of Palestinians are prepped to hate and Israelis are prepped to respond aggressively. Hamas “wins” even if it is destroyed because peace is now less likely.

Some Background

The Athens of Asia: A History of Gaza is a short article which traces changes in Gaza since the first century. Picking up toward the end of the story… from the 16th century through the early 20th century, this area was ruled by the Ottoman Empire which was a Sunni Muslim monarchy. The population was predominantly Muslim, but unlike many of our current Islamic regimes, freedom of worship was permitted and there was generally peace between Jews, Christians and Muslims and between people who were part of different cultural / people groups. As the empire disintegrated in the 19th century one of the consequences was this starting to break down, resulting in genocides committed against minority groups (like the Armenians) in other regions of the empire.

During most of the Ottoman Empire people had their cultural identity AND they thought of themselves as part of the empire. People didn’t have a “national” identity.  No one thought of themselves as a “Palestinian”. Rather, people identified themselves by their tribe (such as Bedouin), their religious sect (Sunni Muslim), and/or ethic group (Arab).

WWI was the end of the Ottoman Empire. The European powers divided up the remains of the Ottoman Empire to suit their needs and desires. Countries were created where none existed such as Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine.

Before these arbitrary lines were drawn, there were numerous people groups who lived in these areas. Many of these people groups were semi nomadic. Many groups found their population bisected  by they newly created national borders. For example, the Kurdish people were split between Turkey, Iraq, and several other regions, unwelcome in all the countries.

To make matters worse, national status was offered to multiple groups whose “homes” overlapped, insuring future conflicts.

Between 1910-1948 there there was significant changes in the population in Palestine.  Most people are aware that Jews from Europe came to the area but many people are unaware that a significant number of the Arabs came into this area from neighboring countries in search of a better life, and than many Jews came from neighboring countries when they were ejected from Arab countries after the formation of Israel.

There is an article which details some of the objective numbers with a Jewish interpretation see myths and facts about the british mandate period. [FIXME: Include good source with factional numbers with Palastinian interpretation or find something trying to be even handed]

Two days after the UN finalized the Partition plan which called for the creation of a Jewish and Palestine state a war broke out. Militant Palestines were joined by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq in attacking the newly created state of Israel. Israel fought for is very existence. The attack on Israel failed. Rather than destroying the new nation, the borders of Israel grew. During the war homes were destroy, and more than 700,000 Palestinians were displaced. What was to be a Palestinian state was divided between Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Israel.

There are two different narratives about the displaced Palestinians. The Palestinian narrative is that Zionist Jews purposely drove them off their land, e.g. ethnic cleansing, and that the Jews tried to destroy their culture. This is referred to as the Nakba. The Jews narrative is different. They note that they were attacked, and targeted for destruction. It was a war and they were fighting for their lives. They did not purposefully engage in ethnic cleansing… that much of the movement was the natural outcome of a war, people fleeing the violence. Israeli also claim that many people left their homes because they did not want to be part of a Jewish state. To support this Israelis will point to the fact that there are Arab Israelis who stayed and have full citizenship.

Did ethnic cleansing happen? My belief is that it did, but it wasn’t an official government policy. Without something like a truth and reconciliation process we will not know the details. Too much time has passed. The key actors in this conflict have died. Documents have been lost or destroyed. This is a topic which could be debated endlessly and likely will.

When the war ended, none of the Arab nations, nor the Palestinians who were displaced were willing to acknowledge that Israel was a legitimate nations as mandated by the UN. This is the seeds for the conflict today.


The Hamas attack on Israel Oct 7, 2023 was an evil act. This was a terrorist attack. No actions justify the killing and kidnapping of civilians. This is a direct violation of the Geneva Convention, e.g. this can’t even be excused by saying “it’s a war”.

Hamas is an extremist organization that believes killing civilians is a legitimate  “tool of change”.  It’s one thing to fight against a power you view as oppressive, it’s quite another to purposely target children and other civilians and to purposely disrupt attempts to find a peaceful solutions. They could take lessons from Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela who accomplished much more than Hamas has or likely will ever accomplish. I call Hamas’ approach evil. It will bring more death and suffering, not liberation and certainly not the Palestinians thriving.

Hamas was founded on the idea that Israel as a nation must be ended and the Jews be removed or killed. Hamas was formed when members of the Muslim Brotherhood decided that the PLO was compromising too much by recognizing Israel. The original Hamas Charter released in 1988 called for the obliteration of Israel through violent jihad. There was an updated 2017 charter which soften the wording, but didn’t change the substance of their objectives.  Hamas’ tools of charge include suicide bombers, rockets attacks, murder, rape and kidnapping. 

I have heard people say that Hamas isn’t a terrorist organization. They are the elected representatives of the people of Gaza and are trying to improve the conditions of the people in Gaza.  All I can say is that while they were claiming to improve the conditions of the Palestinians in Gaza, they were  actively planning the Oct 7 attack and were using the aid they were receiving to spend everything else on making war on Israel. This is not the actions of an organization that wants any sort of peace or is trying to care for it’s people. Alas, Israeli official grossly misread Hamas’ capabilities and intent.

I would encourage everyone to listen to the interview  between Ezra Klein and Tareq Baconi.  Ezra is an award winning journalist and liberal Jew who has advocated for peace. Tareq is a sympathetic expert on Hamas.

Tareq did his best to advocate for Hamas, stated that Israel did not negotiate in good faith.  He has some good points. In particular the continued building and support of the settlements. Tareq noted that core to Hamas’ demand is the repatriation of the Palestinians who were displaced in 1948 which they accuse Israel of not taking seriously. It is clear that Hamas idea of repatriation would never be accepted by Israel, because Hamas idea of return requires the destruction of Israel. He acknowledged Hamas purposely sabotaged peace talk by sending suicide bombers into public spaces and agitating for armed uprisings. This was done so Hamas could shift the starting point of the negotiations which stopped the negotiations rather than shifted them.

Hamas’ “minimum requirement” for peace would result in the elimination of Israel. Hamas and Israel cannot negotiating anything significant until something changes. If/when Israel was ready to have an authentic negotiation today the biggest issue is there is there is no one on the Palestinian side they could engage with. I pray that a new leadership would emerge that could represent all Palestinians and would put their people before their own agenda.


I feel compassion for the peace loving Palestinians who live in all the occupied lands, especially in Gaza. They, or their ancestors were displaced from their homes by a war. They have few opportunities for work, infrastructure we all take for granted in the developed world is non-existent or failing apart, and that was before the war destroyed what was working. They have suffered injustice and one indignity after another. They have been a tool wielded by their neighbors to attack Israel rather than a people to be helped. Their leaders have been corrupt and power hungry, exploited them, hoarding resources and brutally suppress anyone who opposes them. They are subject to inter-faction violence within the Palestine community. They get caught in the cross fire between the violent elements of their society and the Israeli Defense Force and have their freedoms restricted. I haven’t fact checked all the claims in Paul Biggar’s post I Can’t Sleep, but I believe it captures many of the ways Israel has treated Gaza as a hostile neighbor. Trauma and violence are a way of life.

A slice of life about Palestinian climbers in the West Bank illustrates a bit of what it’s like to live in an occupied territory and the impact Jewish settlements have on the people living nearby. It should how daily life is effected, even when there are no active conflicts. There are many more stories that I could share.

I have numerous friends who have visited either Gaza or the West Bank in the last thirty years. All of them talk about the poverty they saw in contrast to the flourishing they saw in Israel. Many indicated that the occupied territories were worse than their experiences doing relief projects in parts of Africa and South America.

A friend shared that a number of years ago he attended a summit to build bridges between businessmen in Gaza and Israel. Everyone who attended the meeting was a young, successful, professional. Nicely groomed, multi-lingual, educated, desiring dialog and solutions. He noticed something else. All the Israelis (both Jewish and Arab) had 4G smart phones. Nearly everyone from Gaza had 2G feature phones. This sort of difference is taken for granted.

I used to believe that the majority of people in Gaza wanted peace, to be able to live a “normal” life, and were unhappy with Hamas. People in my social network from the occupied territories hate Hamas. News reports I hear in the US media like CNN’s  voice of the people in Gaza  suggest that the majority of the people in Gaza wanted Hamas to be replaced. I thought that there are many people in the occupied territories that would accept a two state solution provided they could have their own land, rule themselves, have dignified work, and raise their families.  Maybe I was wrong.

Survey data from pcpsr shows 52% approval of Hamas in Gaza, and a 85% approval rating of Hamas in the West Bank. Results from the Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) which was removed from their website showed a 75% approval rating of Hamas, 85% support Islamic Jiahad, and 74% of the respondence favored a “river to the sea” solution which was defined as a single state which was Palestinian, with only 17% opting for a two state solution. In other words, the majority of the people responding to the survey want Israel to cease to exist. Maybe people were afraid to voice their viewpoints. I hope this is the case, but I fear I am wrong.  This viewpoint has been rooted in history.

A peace accord was signed in 1949 between Israel and Egypt after Israel successfully defended itself from attacks which came from militant Palestinians and military units sent from five Arab nations. Rather than conceding defeat and beginning a new life the Palestinians were encouraged by their “allies” to think of themselves as temporary refugees. They were encouraged to hold on until the next war would remove Israel and give them back their land. These nations provided little support other than providing weapons and training so they could attack Israel once again.  Obviously this hasn’t worked out so well. These Palastianians have been waiting to get their land back for more than 70 years.

Since then Gaza has been administered by both Egypt and Israel. Before Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, Israel attempted to turn Gaza back to Egypt. Egypt didn’t want the trouble. During the current war Israel has request Egypt to permit civilians to flee the conflict into Egyptian lands. Egypt is not interested.

It has been said without vision the people perish. Palestinians need a vision, a real hope.  Not the hope that if they wait (be it a few more years, or maybe another 70 years) Israel will be defeated and they will take back their land. Rather a hope that they can have a meaningful life where they can work, eat, love in peace.

I would encourage people to give to organizations that help Palestinians and have a record of not being diverted to Hamas projects. Two organizations that come to my mind and MSF/Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children. I am sure there are others, but make sure they actually help.

Return the Land?

There can be no peace give the current positions of Israel and Hamas.  Israel will insist that it continues to exist as a nation, where there is at least one country that Jews can be secure. Hamas will insist that that everything from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea be ruled by Islamists, which means Israel no longer exists as a nation. These are completely incompatible.

In fact, most Palastinians seem to favor a one state solution. One example of this is Lex Fridman’s interview with Mohammed el Kurd who describes past and current injustices, especially around homes being confiscated. He’s only solution is a one state with all the land being returned.

One of the key desires of the Palestinians is that they can be repatriated, by which many seem to want to get their land back. The right to return to ones country is called out in the UN’s universal human rights (article 13) but does not say they are able to re-acquiring their specific land. It has been noted by Human Rights Watch Israel Campaign that it is not feasible for Palestinians to return to their original homes, they propose they should be provided land in the general proximity OR if they settle in other locations that they should be welcomed as full citizens which has not been universally offered by the neighboring Arab countries.

I understand wanting their original land and homes back. This would have been a reasonable position when the first treaties were signed, but after 70 years there is no practical way to implement this. Too much time has gone by for people to return to their, or in most cases their ancestors homes. What used to be a one bedroom cottage has been torn down and replaced by a multi-story apartment or a business complex. Villages have become cities. The people living on these formerly Palestinian lands are likely several generations removed. It’s not any more fair to take their homes, than for the home and land to have been taken from the Palestinians.

Realistically the Palestinians need to accept that in the case of wars or major partitioning such as between India and Pakistan there will be people who are displaced. While it’s unjust, there isn’t a practical solution to return the specific land when significant time has passed. A portion of the Palestinian people tried to destroy Israel and failed. They lost the war and many suffered the consequences. As a result a large number of Palestinian people found themselves displaced, their land and homes now occupied by Israel. Is that right? No. Is it just? No. This is why war is never a good thing.

I am unaware of any time in the last 100 years where land or property was returned to a population that was displaced in a war between a people’s allies and the nation holding the property. The closest analogy from a Palestinian mind is that the Israelis were a colonial power which took their land like the white colonialist took land from the native people of South Africa. Once apartheid was ended there were attempts to engage in land reform. This has proved to be very difficult and the results fall short of what Palestinians seem to desire. How to fix it? That’s is very difficult. Through history the most common resolution is that the people who lost move on and make a new life. In other cases grudges are held until the victors can be attack. The world is filled with examples of how this cycle can last centuries and brings nothing but destruction, with the pen-ultimate example being WWII.

Personally I see the resolution with Germany as a glimmer of hope. Germany was treated badly at the end of WWI. They wanted everything back that was taken from them. They fought to retake it and lost. Along the way they did horrible things. When they were defeated a second time rather than vowing to keep their fight alive the vast majority of the people repented, changed their mind and were ashamed of many things they did in the name of nationalism. Thankfully, rather than oppressing the Germans, the victors of the war responded compassionately, most exemplified by the Marshall plan which help rebuild Germany, and turned it into what is arguably the strongest nation in Europe. It’s worth nothing that after the war Germany was split into two pieces. Germany didn’t become whole by war, but by economic and political realities.

I would also note that many of the ancestors of the people in Israel lost their possessions, homes, businesses, and in some cases loved ones who were murdered before coming to Israel. If land is going to be returned to the Palestinians in what is now Israel, will what was taken in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Germany, France, Poland, etc be returned to the Jewish decedents that are now in Israel?  I think not. Here is Bill Maher’s reality check on the conflict in Palestine

Israel and the Jews

There is no secret cabal of powerful Jews manipulating our world. Rather, Jews as a people have faced systematic discrimination. The most extreme version of this was under the Nazis during WWII. 6 million Jews, nearly 66% of the Jewish population of Europe was murdered in just five years!! While this is horrible, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. For generations there has been a pattern. A group of Jews is welcomes to a town or country. They start with little. In a couple of generations they have established their lives. They build homes, start businesses, and establish good lives. And then people in power become jealous of what the Jews have built or feel “threatened” by this small minority. These leaders demonize the Jews, which ultimate leads to the Jews’ property being confiscated and the Jews either kicked out of the area or killed. Nowhere has been safe for more than a few generations.

There are Jews with influence and power. I have heard people noted that Jews with a lot of money are using that money to black ball people who speak out against Israel. There are some well documented examples of this such as a $100M grant tentatively withdrawn from Penn State. Likewise I have heard that some high-tech Israeli companies are making some business deals contingent on the participants stances on issues related to Israel. This is not a sign of a conspiracy or that Jews have enormous power. If you examine business associated with numerous countries including France, the USA, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, etc you will see the same thing. Somehow, when it’s Jews using their wealth to influence it’s somehow much worse than when any other group does this.

After the Holocaust, I understand the Jews’ desire for a country of their own. A place they could build homes, live their lives, and not have someone take it all away from them. It makes sense for that home to be Israel which was their ancestral lands, and has had a portion of the Jewish people in residence for thousands of years.

I appreciate the British government and the UN helped create a modern Jewish state. Yet I regret how it played out. Before the decree forming Israel, Jews had been purchasing land and moving into the area that is now Israel. When it was happening as a grassroots movement few objected, though there was opposition (which included killing the Jews that had moved in) in some locations like Gaza. Many people were delighted to sell their land and to use their profits to enhance their lives in the land they retained or move to a location they preferred. Often the land the Jews purchased was considered sub-standard. 

The serious conflicts started when the British declared that two states was to be formed. Something that many people fail to note is that this contested land was just 30% of the land the British control. What is now Jordan was designated to be for Palestinians only. Jews were forbidden to move into that area. Much of the land assigned to Israel was majority Jewish (by land purchased) or was land that no one wanted at the time. Many of these lands are desired now because decades of investment by Israelis have resulted in what was poor land is now rich farmland.

Once Israel became a nation, many more Jews came from neighboring countries. Why? Because they were kicked out of the Arab nations they lived in, or feared for their lives. Much like the Palestinians, they often lost their homes, possessions and livelihoods.

Israel is often accused of being expansionist. People should pay attention to how / when those expansions happened. Just two days after Israel was formed, 5 neighbors (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq) attack the new nation attempting to prevent a Jewish state from coming into existence. Israel found back and when the war ended they take taken more land. A sad truism is to the victor goes the spoils. The actions taken to prevent Israel from coming into existence resulted in it growing. Since then Israel has been repeatedly attacked. In each case Israel defended itself, and when the war ended they had expanded. See a short article by the BBC for a bit more information. Israel has attempted to return the acquired land for a guaranteed peace, but their neighbors were unwilling to offer peace in exchange for the land. In fact, when a peace deal was signed with Egypt, Egypt refused take Gaza back. One snarky observation I can’t help but make… attacking Israel seems to be counter productive. They grow the most when defending themselves.

I don’t think the majority of the Israelis are expansionist but there is a vocal minority who are. Some would say that the expansionists are in the extreme right wing parties. While it’s true that the right wing tends to be the expansionist, it’s also clear the more liberal governments were at best passive, and at worse quietly colluded with the settlers to take land that was rightfully the Palestinians. In 2005 the last of the settlements were removed from Gaza, but many still exist in the West Bank. I know people who have been part of some of these settlements. They are lovely people just trying to build a life. They aren’t trying to hurt others, but I think building the settlements was wrong and that the settlements shouldn’t have been permitted. Ultimately I would hope that these settlement would either be opened (be a join venture with Palestinians) which a blessing to their neighborsmbe turned over to Palestinians, or remove so they are no longer symbols of injustice and oppression.

Last week I was chatting with a supporter of Israel who noted that years ago sections of Gaza were beautiful. Filled with greenhouses and other signs of life. They noted it looks like a wasteland even before this wars bombs and missile attacks. They blame the Palestinians, but fail to see Israel’s part in this. For example, when Israel pulled people back from the settlements, they didn’t identify a moderate group of Palestinians who would been good stewards of what had been built and would keep things blooming. Rather, they destroyed all the infrastructure that had been built rather than letting Palestinians from getting it. Israelis have pushed against me saying “even if there were moderates who would have taken care of what we left, Hamas would have rolled in, taken over, and used whatever resources were there to attack us.”

There is no question that Israel has deal harshly with the people in the occupied territories. Palestinians have had their human rights violated. Israel has been an oppressor. A small sampling of complaints raised by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Norwegian Refugee Council regarding Israel’s treatment of the people in the occupied territories.

Furthermore, it’s clear that Israel is using its superior military power against Hamas and other groups that attack it. Israel’s attempts to end attacks on their people have resulting in significantly larger civilian loss of life among the Palestinians compared to the loses suffered by Israeli civilians. UN OCHAOPT shows a roughly a 10 to 1 ratio of Palestine civilians killed for each Israeli civilian and an order of magnitude more injured. The current response to the the Hamas attack on Oct 7 looks to be even more intense. Many characterize Israel’s response as being at best an overreaction and at worst ethnic cleansing or genocide, the actions of a bully and of an oppressor.

I am honestly of two minds. On one hand, Israel was attacked. They are defending themselves and striking back at an opponent that routinely uses terror and kills innocent people. The organization they are fighting against stated goal is the destruction of Israel. The IDF is a modern armies fighting a guerrilla force that is embedded inside a civilian population in an urban environment. These type of conflicts are always ugly. An example of this was the battle for Mosul between the Islamic State and the US + Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Mosul covered around half the area of Gaza with a similar population. The primary battle lasted 9 months. The death told in Mosul is unknown with number estimates ranging from 11,000 and 40,000, the majority being civilian casualty. Hamas reports to have 40,000 fighters which is at least 4x the number of Isis fighters in Mosul. In both Mosul and Gaza the attempt to use “precise strikes” proved to be anything but precise. This was due to the mobility of guerrilla force and how well dug in they were compared to the surrounding civilians. There are numerous studies examining the battle for Mosul and the lessons learn. I will leave this as an exercise for the reader. Bottom line, in these sort of battles, civilians suffer tremendously. If a force such as Hamas is to be removed, there will be a high cost. Is the cost worth the objective? There was a paper by RAND about the trouble with a ceasefire which I found thought provoking.

Some people have suggested that Hamas is over reporting the death toll of the civilians and under reporting their loses. The counter narrative is that that five major humanitarian organizations are also characterizing this as one of the most destructive siege they have witnesses and that in a study published in The Lancet that Hamas has not previously inflated the morality numbers. I personally believe the reports coming out of Gaza. This war has been brutal to the Palastinian civilians.

On the one hand, I see the history of the Jews. They have been the oppressed for centuries. One would think that given this history they would tread lightly, be unusually compassionate because they understand what it means to have their land taken away, to be oppressed. My Christian ethics talk about turning the other cheek, and going the extra mile. Doing this isn’t to be “fair” or “just”, but it is loving. This is a long game. Throughout history we have seen with perseverance, this sort of non-violent response will be successful, but it comes at a high cost. I want to say to my Israeli friends be more compassionate, even to the people who want to you dead. It’s easy for me to say that, sitting safely in the USA. It would be much harder to say this when being attacked and talking to someone who just lost their child or parent. When I see Israel act in what I concern an oppressive way I can’t help think about how common it is for a abused and traumatized individual to become an abuser later in their lives because that is what the world taught them to do.

An example of how Israel could have gone the extra mile was how to approach the hospitals in Gaza. The strategy seems to be isolating the hospitals with a priority to eliminated Hamas command centers and to show the world how Hamas was evilly using the hospitals as a staging ground. I wonder if a better strategy would have been to support the hospitals. To swiftly move in with doctors and medics from IDF who would bring with them much needed supplies.  This would have risks. Undoubtedly the initial reactions would be negative and some Israelis might lose their lives… but it would be a great opportunity to change the narrative and ultimately defuse some of the hostility and win support. The current actions might temporarily hurt Hamas, but it will likely recruit even more people to Hamas or similar organizations.

I believe the current war is Israel’s attempting to remove the ability to make war from Gaza. The attack on Oct 7 was a shock and made many Israelis feel unsafe. The Israeli leadership isn’t worried what the Palestinian people think of them or what the rest of the world feels. They expect to be hated. They know that many schools (some funded by the UNRWA) teach the students to hate Israel and the Jews. They don’t care. What they care about are attacks from Gaza that hurt Israelis. Take out the leadership of Hamas, take out the infrastructure, and all you have to worry about will be knife, or maybe gun wielding individuals.  That’s manageable.  Israel isn’t intent on destroying the Palestinians… they just want to make sure they can’t attack.

Given the long history of antisemitism, being a tiny country in a sea of relatively hostile Arab nations (only 6 out of 22 recognize Israel as a nation), that of the countries than attack Israel only Egypt and Jordan recognize it, and that the people in Gaza would eliminate Israel if it was possible, they see little option but to respond. They feel like they are fighting for their existence, and Hamas is only the tip of the spear. I can’t say that they are wrong to feel that. I can only plead for them to raise above this. I know it’s a big ask.

Responses in the West

Before getting into the responses in the “West” I think we need to acknowledge that Western Europe generally, England particularly, and the United States has played a significant role in creating the conditions which have lead to this conflict. Everyone has blood on their hands. There are no easy solutions.  People who have a nuanced view of the occupied regions are not supporting of Hamas. A prominent national periodical critiquing Obama, saying he failed to criticize Hamas. Personally, I think his statement was appropriate.

I have been amazed at how ignorant many folks are about this conflict. I participated in a salon which invited people from all perspectives to come together for a respectful and meaningful conversation. The Jews who attended were well informed, unsurprisingly somewhat biased (but reasonable), and had strong opinions. Most of the other people were fairly liberal / “progressive”. They wanted to condemn the 10/7 attack and also wanted to condemn Israel military response… but the dialogue didn’t produce a particularly meaningful conversation because the majority of people lacked so much context that they were not even able to ask useful questions.  I wrote this post to force me to go a bit deeper and to hopefully help others who are looking to grow their understanding.

The protests on college campuses has demonstrated to me that we have failed to educate our youth. I can understand, and respect people who are protesting how Israel is conducting the war in Gaza. I hope these people are consistent,  and also protested the US activities in Iraq and Afghanistan which had a simular flavor. What about advocating that the homes and business that were taken from the Japanese in California and other US states during WWII be returned to them? If not, these protests looks suspiciously antisemitic.

What troubles me are the people who were supporting Hamas, and stating that Hamas was justified in their attack, often blaming Israel for the entire conflict.  Even more shocking was the protestors chanting “from the river to the sea”, which in the context of Hamas, is a call for the destruction of Israel and a removal of Jews from not just Gaza and the West Bank, but all of Israel. I have heard people say “oh, those students don’t know what those word mean.” That might be truth, but it seems from the Harris poll mentioned below that many seem to believe that Israel has no right to exist which is at the heart of the river to the sea.

Apparently this viewpoint isn’t just an elite university things. The  results from a recent Harris poll found that among the 18-24y demographic in the USA

  • 60%  think that Hamas killing of 1200 Israeli civilians and the kidnapping of another 250 civilians can be justified by the grievances of Palestinians!
  • 67% believe that “Jews are a class of oppressors or hold to an ideology of oppression” and should be treated as oppressors. Not clear to me whether this is just about their conduct with the Palestinians (which I could accept) or a general belief (which would be very troubling)
  • 69% believe that Israel has not right to exist

I am amazed by these numbers. Has our youth not learned of the systematic persecution of the Jews for centuries? Do they fail to recognize that Hamas is an extremist organization that cares nothing about progressive, liberal values… certainly not free speech these students so love? Never mind… knowing history isn’t the answer. I know of 20-something Jews in the USA who are aware of how the Jews have been persecuted over the centuries AND who fully support Hamas! They have experienced some antisemitism but aren’t worried about that, they still feel safe living in the USA.

My theory is these students are so used to associating those with less power (the underdog) as “good” and the people with dominate power as “evil” that they have stopped paying attention to what the underdogs are actually doing.  A WSJ opinion piece suggests something similar saying these protests are driven by an ideology of intersectionality. Hamas is the underdog. Hamas was also the aggressor, purposely killing civilians, raping women, kidnapping children and the elderly. Hamas use innocence people as human shields. No matter what motivated Hamas, we must call these evil acts, and must stand again the celebration of these acts!

I have been troubled by the inadequate responses of the university administrators. The hearing (c-span video) with the presidents of MIT, Harvard, and Penn demonstrated they are not prepared to lead their organizations in the midst of a crisis. I have had people observe that these presidents were being bullied. Well, anyone who had watched C-SPAN over the last 43 years would have expected the questioning they got. Their fumbling answers, and failures to get to better questions demonstrated their lack of preparation, if not deeper problems. Based on the Harris polls I mention earlier, it seems like they have been pandering to their students and have failed to get them to engage in deep thinking. Thankfully there are schools like Dartmouth has been able to promote meaningful dialog.

For people in the West who support Hamas, be aware that if they ever succeed in destroying Israel, you and your freedom will be next. Hamas won’t rest until every nation is an Islamic state. Their idea of an Islamic state is not like those in history that allow all faiths (or no faith) to flourish, but a state intolerant like Iran or ISIS.


I don’t have a magic solution and only a thimble worth of hope. I appreciated the discussion in calmly considered: the israeli palestinian conflict which suggested that this conflict won’t get resolved until we stop looking backward and look forward and how nationalism is a poison to civil society. The Economist offered some ideas of how to move forward.

It’s presumptuous in the extreme for me to suggest could identify a solution, living half a world away, in relative security and privilege, but I feel I need to do what I can to bring an end to this tragic cycle of violence. Hamas, nor any other group that advocate the use of unconstrained violence will never bring about lasting peace nor justice.

The first step is to understand there is fault on all sides of this conflict and work to find common ground such as the what’s being promoted by groups like Sharakango. I think the principles of Non Violent Communication would be key.

The second step requires a demonstration that the parties are serious about bring an end to the conflict. Israel needs to either open up or remove the settlements from the West Bank and put measures into place that enables Palestinians to stay in east Jerusalem. Israel needs to explicitly acknowledge that many Palestinians were driven from their lands, and whether this was by design and a side-effect of the war that they are entitled to restitution. The Palestinian’s need to acknowledge that Israel is a legitimate nation and agree to stop attacking it.

The third step is create the Palestinian state that was suppose to come into existence when Israel was formed but never developed. Whether this is a separate nation or autonomy zones as part of Israel or one of the neighboring countries I would leave up to the Palestinians to determine democratically. The Palestinians would be free to stay in Gaza / West Bank or emigrate to nearby nations that were part of the war which resulted in them being displaced. Those nations should be obligated to take the Palastinians in since they started that war that resulted in this displacement. A path should be constructed such that once relationships are normalized and trust has been built, that Palestinians would be free to emigrated to Israel if they desired.

The fourth step is that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza need to transition from refugees to a people who have autonomy and opportunities. I think the most important change would be the creation of jobs doing useful work. The Marshall plan after WWII would be a great model for this. I believe Israel, Arab nations that have previous attacked Israel, the USA, and West Europe should fund the plan. The Marshall plan was highly effective but did have a pre-condition. Germany repented of its war. It would make no sense to fund such a plan if the Palestinians intend to attack Israel or reject Israel’s right to exist.

Some of my acquaintances have suggested that the biggest problem right now is the UNRWA (2022 reports) because their services remove incentives for the Palestinians living in the occupied regions to change their immediate situation. Rather, it encourages them to be “taken care of” until Israel is finally eliminated and they can take their land back.

I am not so cynical, but I will share what I witnesses with humanitarian projects in Africa. Several organizations went into areas that had terrible problems. The initial solution was to offer a wide variety of relief programs. After many years things didn’t improve. As these organizations examined the dynamics they concluded that unemployment was at the root of nearly all the problems. The organizations scaled back or eliminated most of their programs and put nearly all their energy into job creation. Within five years most of the social issues went from significant to minor. Quality of life improved significantly. We were made to work, and feel like we are doing something that matters. When people have no work, and don’t have some way to contribute to general flourishing, they will turn their energy toward things which harm society. As the saying goes the devil finds uses for idle hands.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 

I Tim 2:1-2 (ESV)


  1. I find your analysis to be very thoughtful and fair, Mark! This is a deep issue that has existed in the area for more than 3000 years. But I believe that there is actually a spiritual warfare going on to cause people to be so anti-semitic, as has happened and continues to happen ever since God called Abraham to be his people.


    It is clear to me that the combatants in this conflict are not in any way balanced. Yes, Hamas is horrible and evil. But their ability to seriously inflict damage on Israel is proportionally negligible. The Israeli government continues a policy of retribution upon the civilian population, throwing up a justification that it is trying to “destroy” Hamas. You can’t destroy a guerrilla/resistance/terrorist group by massive bombing. we proved that in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Israel uses warnings to evacuate as a fig leaf to cover their attacks on civilians. Evacuate? to where? No other country will take them. Refugee camps, many existing for tow or three generations, are overfull.
    Technically, it may not be genocide. I’ll give you that. But it is a decades long campaign of ethnic cleansing.

    1. It’s a terrible situation. Thanks for the links and your perspective. I will update some of my thoughts to reflect this additional information and add your linking into this post in the next day or so. I think the most of the articles your provided are accurate, but the Statista chart looks wrong. I will do some digging to understand why it’s different from other charts I have seen.

      As I noted, I think Israel is not actually trying to destroy Hamas / stop a guerrilla group. They are trying to remove the infrastructure that allows Hamas to wage a sophisticated? (not the right word.. not sure what is) campaign. They are trying to make people with hostile intend in Gaza irrelevant. It seems like something they “successfully” achieved in the West Bank.

      I have trouble calling it ethnic cleansing since there are more Palestinians in that area now there there were in 1967. That’s not to say it’s good. I find what is going on terrible and dehumanizing. Sorry to be so touching about vocabulary, but it seems like we are using words that used to have very specific meaning to intensify our concerns. I want to make sure the words retain their true horror and descriptive power.

      An accusation that comes up repeatedly is that the IDF targets not just militants but their families as well, excessive violence, etc. I am waiting for some input from some folks I know with deep knowledge of like conflicts to understand if compared to other engagement the IDF has been unusually aggressive / brutal / pick an appropriate word, or if this is the nature of these sorts of wars.

      What I find incredibly sad are the Arab nations that support Hamas with weapons and other resources to wage their war, but are unwilling to help the Palestinians in any substantial way. Jordan has become hostile to Palestinians and Egypt left Israel holding the bag and has been unwilling to provide a place for the people from Gaza to evacuate.

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