Article | MYTHS AND FACTS in the Israel-Hamas conflict

October 17th, 2023

By Rabbi Alan Silverstein, Ph.D. MERCAZ Olami, President

In the film “Ground Hog,” for protagonist Bill Murray, each day’s 24 hours are quite similar to what had transpired the day before – He is stuck in a repetitive cycle.

Israel’s conflict with Hamas [ever since Hamas forcibly assumed control of Gaza in 2007] has been quite similar.

Every few years, relentless Hamas terror attacks against Israeli civilians – rockets, missiles, terror tunnels, and so forth – require Israeli responses.

When the Israeli self-defense takes place, Hamas employs Gaza’s civilians as “human shields.”

Hamas then inflates the number of casualties in order to galvanize international support for “humanitarian concerns.”

At a certain point. Israel succumbs to mounting global pressure, and a cease-fire takes place.

Hamas remains in power, rearms, and the violence renews a few years later.

This time, the barbaric nature of the October 7 Hamas invasion [rape, decapitating bodies, burning people alive, taking children, women, and the elderly as hostages, etc.] mandates an end to this vicious cycle.

Over 1300 civilian deaths, thousands wounded, and 200+ taken captive have affected virtually every Israeli extended family and friendship network.

The IDF must bring about the downfall of Hama's control over Gaza and do so while minimizing civilian casualties...

As IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus explained: “They [Gaza civilians] are not our enemy. We are not trying to kill or injure any civilians. We are only fighting against Hamas. That needs to be abundantly clear. We are targeting Hamas’ infrastructure [ wherever it is.”

So this past Saturday, the IDF sent a warning to Northern Gaza civilians urging them to move south in advance of a likely ground invasion of the North. Indeed, hundreds of thousands have heeded the evacuation order despite Hamas’ threats not to do so.

Regrettably, the Jerusalem Post reports that “Israel has released aerial footage of Hamas putting up roadblocks to prevent people from leaving to use them as human shields.”  

Due to Hamas's “culture of death” – killing Israelis and causing the death of Gazans, a humanitarian crisis is in the making.  

As noted by visiting US Senator Mitt Romney: “You are going to see pictures of Palestinian civilians that are going to be injured, killed… I hope you realize they are being killed because of Hamas, not Israel.”

Throughout 16 years of similar Hamas-Israel conflicts, Mitchell Bard’s volume entitled MYTHS AND FACTS has provided useful explanations of The Case For Israel.

The following are but a few relevant examples directly quoting from Bard’s assessments:

NOTE: This is too long, but you need to know all the facts


MYTH - Hamas bombards Israel with rockets to end the “occupation.”

FACT - “The Palestinians are only resisting occupation” is a favorite talking point of apologists for Palestinian terrorism, and Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel’s civilian population are no exception.

This fallacy was proven when Israel evacuated all troops and civilians from Gaza in 2005 and was rewarded with increased terrorism instead of peace. Still, Palestinians and their advocates maintain that “the occupation” is the primary motivation for terrorism against Israel.

The message of Hamas is unequivocal and consistent.

The organization’s covenant states that the Islamic Resistance Movement “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” and “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad.”

The head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshal, spoke plainly during a 2012 rally in Gaza: Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on any inch of the land...We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation [e.g. every inch of the State of Israel], and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel [to exist].5


MYTH  - Israel indiscriminately attacks Palestinian targets in Gaza.

FACT -  Casualties of war are unfortunate but inevitable.

Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties when responding to terror attacks from Gaza. Soldiers drop warning leaflets, use “roof-knocking” rockets [devoid of explosives] and warning shells to alert civilians in buildings, make phone calls to let Palestinians know an attack is coming, maintain lists of protected sites like UN facilities, and fly drones to search targets for civilians before an airstrike.

Palestinian propagandists learned a long time ago that they need only throw a casualty figure out to the media, and it will be published worldwide as fact.

In Gaza, the Hamas-run Health Ministry fabricates the number of civilian casualties, and the information is not verified before being disseminated. Hamas is incentivized to falsify the casualty figures because it knows the death of civilians provokes global outrage and prompts accusations that Israel committed “war crimes.”

During Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021, Hamas claimed 248 civilians, including 66 children, were killed by Israel. The Health Ministry does not identify any victims as terrorists or distinguish between civilians killed in Israeli airstrikes and those who died from rockets that misfired or landed inside Gaza. Hamas also counts adolescents as children, some of whom are terrorists.

Yet the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that 128, not 248, civilians were killed… The IDF said it killed at least 160 terrorists.

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which meticulously examines the identities of the dead, checked 74 names and found that 16 were killed by misfired [Hamas] rockets, and at least 42 were terrorist operatives. Instead of 74 dead civilians, the number was 16.


FACT - EXAMINING DATA FROM the 2008/9 CONFLICT reveals the same Hamas inflation of data:

In Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9, Israel was accused of killing more than 1,400 Palestinians. The IDF acknowledged 1,166 deaths, 295 civilians, 709 terrorists, and 162 who could not be identified. Israel was disbelieved, but Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad later admitted it lost between 600 and 700 men.

The director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) operations in Gaza, no shill for Israel, acknowledged that the IDF’s attacks were precise and directed at military targets.

He was subsequently pilloried by Hamas, forced to recant, and withdrawn from Gaza in a case study of the consequences of telling the truth. Fear of similar treatment is one explanation for the bias of journalists reporting from Gaza.

[CONCLUSION] No innocent Palestinians would be in danger if the Palestinian Authority took the long-promised steps to stop terrorism or if the international community, especially the Arab world, pressured Hamas to stop attacking Israel. No civilians would be in danger if Hamas terrorists did not deliberately hide among them. Israel would also have no reason to target those areas if peace-seeking Palestinians prevented the terrorists from living in their midst and firing rockets from their neighborhoods.


MYTH -  Hamas protects Palestinian civilians.

FACT  - [No!] Hamas has been shown to use mosques, hospitals, ambulances, and schools to conceal and transport weapons and as bases and hiding places for its fighters on multiple occasions. [e.g., HAMAS EMPLOYS CIVILIANS AS HUMAN SHIELDS FOR THEIR TERRORISTS].

Many rockets are also fired from near these normally sacrosanct places to attract Israeli fire in the hope that civilians will be killed. Hamas then offers journalists, whose freedom is otherwise constrained to what the terrorists want them to see, “telegenic victims,” children whenever possible.

One story even the media could not ignore was the discovery of 20 rockets hidden in a school run by UNRWA.

The story does not end with the discovery of the rockets. UNRWA had to remove them once it became public knowledge that they were on UNRWA property. Rather than destroy the weapons cache, turn it over to Israeli forces, or give them to a neutral institution, UNRWA returned them to Hamas.

More projectiles were later found in a second school. This did not stop Hamas from using UNRWA facilities to hide their weapons and tunnels. In December 2022, for example, a tunnel was discovered below an elementary school it operates.

The UNRWA cases are proof of Israel’s claim that civilian institutions are being used to store weapons and conceal terror tunnels. Additional evidence demonstrates that rockets are fired from positions near these institutions. Using civilians as shields and sites such as schools and hospitals to store and fire weapons are war crimes


FACT - In contrast to Israel, Hamas engages in the Intentional murder of Israeli civilians

While Israelis lament the loss of innocent Palestinian lives, Hamas rejoices whenever Israelis are murdered.

For example, on July 13, 2014, Hamas released a music video celebrating the bombing of an Israeli school bus that killed 16-year-old Daniel Viflic.6

This is not the behavior of resistance fighters grudgingly forced to take up arms to defend their homes and families but a culture of martyrdom in which killing the enemy’s children is praised and admired.

The intentional murder of civilians is a horrendous abuse of human rights and a war crime;

The group’s true objective is expressed in the title of a book written by the political adviser to then-Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas: “The End of the Jewish State: Just a Matter of Time.”


MYTH  - Israel was guilty of war crimes in its operations in Gaza.

FACT - The [Anti-Israel] Goldstone Commission was created to investigate alleged war crimes during the conflict between Israel and Hamas during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December 2008/January 2009.

The four-person panel, led by Judge Richard Goldstone, based virtually all its 575-page report on unverified accounts by Palestinians and NGOs. The Goldstone Commission fixated on Israel’s incursion into Gaza while failing to adequately address the provocation – three years of Hamas rocket bombardment of Israeli towns and villages – that led to the Israeli operation. When interviewing Gazans, the Commission was chaperoned by Hamas officials.

It was unremarkable for the [biased] commission to report that it found no evidence that Hamas fired rockets from civilian homes, that terrorists hid among the civilian population, fired mortars, anti-tank missiles, and machine guns into Palestinian villages when IDF forces were in proximity, or that they seized and booby-trapped civilian homes to ambush IDF soldiers.

This directly contradicts the ample photos, videos, and reports by journalists depicting Hamas militants participating in these illegal activities.46 Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said the report was “deeply flawed” and “we did not see evidence that the Israeli government intentionally targeted civilians.”

Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, later testified to the Goldstone committee in 2009, “The IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

In 2011, Goldstone wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that his original mandate was “skewed against Israel” and retracted his accusations that Israel intentionally targeted civilians and was guilty of war crimes.

Goldstone acknowledged that “civilians were not intentionally targeted [by Israel] as a matter of policy” and that in the aftermath of having thousands of rockets and missiles fired at its cities, Israel had the “right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against such attacks.”

Goldstone criticized Hamas for failing to investigate any of the war crimes accusations. By contrast, Goldstone acknowledged that Israel has “dedicated significant resources to investigate” misconduct allegations. Renouncing his report did not stem the tide of anti-Israel propaganda based on its mendacious claims.


FACT - The 2014 Conflict between Israel-Hamas was investigated, too

[UN BIAS] The HRC issued another report following the 2014 Gaza conflict. Given the HRC’s historical bias against Israel, it was not surprising that the investigators equated the firefighters of the IDF with the Hamas arsonists.

[BUT] The independent High-Level International Military Group, comprised of 11 top generals and former diplomats, came to a different conclusion.

The group, led by former Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Klaus Naumann, found that “Israeli forces acted proportionately as required by the laws of armed conflict and often went beyond the required legal principles of proportionality, necessity, and discrimination.” In some cases, their report said, “Israel’s scrupulous adherence to the laws of war cost Israeli soldiers’ and [Israeli] civilians’ lives.”

The generals did not dispute that the Palestinians suffered a high number of civilian casualties and acknowledged that some were “caused by error and misjudgment;” however, they concluded that “the majority of deaths were the tragic inevitability of defending against an enemy that deliberately carries out attacks from within the civilian population [a war crime].”

Colonel Kemp told the UN Commission, “The IDF took exceptional measures to adhere to the Laws of Armed Conflict and to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza.” He also criticized those who suggested that Israel make greater efforts to minimize civilian casualties because none of them knew how to do this. “I conclude this was because Israel was taking all feasible steps.”

According to the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, “Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.” He was so impressed with Israel’s conduct of the war that he sent a team to Israel to study Israel’s strategies, including lessons about how to limit civilian casualties

[HAMAS WAR CRIMES] By contrast, Kemp said, Hamas defied the Laws of Armed Conflict by “deliberately targeting the Israeli civilian population, using their civilian population as human shields and seeking to entice the IDF to take military action that would kill large numbers of Gaza civilians for their propaganda purposes. There was no accountability or investigation of allegations against Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza.”

[ISRAELI CODE OF ETHICS IN WARFARE]  The people of Israel expect their soldiers to uphold the highest moral standards and demand that misconduct allegations be promptly and thoroughly probed, even when the results may be embarrassing. The wars in Gaza were no exception. “I am not aware of any nation that has conducted more comprehensive or resolute investigations into its military activities than Israel during and following the 2014 Gaza conflict,” Col. Kemp testified.


MYTH - Israel uses disproportionate force.

FACT -  Israel is routinely pilloried for using “disproportionate force” in response to terrorist attacks. Critics never put themselves in Israel’s shoes.

Author and peace activist Amos Oz made the point in an interview about Israel’s response to Hamas rocket attacks in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge:

What would you do if your neighbor across the street sat down on the balcony, put his little boy on his lap, and started shooting machine gun fire into your nursery? What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery to blow up your home or kidnap your family?58 The question he left unasked is: What would you consider a proportionate response to those attacks? It is easy to condemn Israel from afar but imagine if terrorists fired thousands of rockets at Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, or any other city. What would the governments do? Would the targets of those rockets demand their governments respond – but only if they could do so without killing civilians?

It’s not just hypothetical. After 9/11, the United States used overwhelming force in the war in Iraq, and though civilians were not targeted, thousands were killed. There was no discussion of the need for proportionality.

The IDF Ethics Code mandates that, whenever possible, soldiers must warn non-combatants that they are in an area where it is dangerous to stay. During its operations in Gaza, the IDF employed a variety of unprecedented efforts to minimize injury to non-combatants, including warning leaflets, phone calls, and nonlethal warning fires.

Is there another army in the world that warns people to leave an area they intend to attack even though it gives up the element of surprise and allows the terrorists to escape with the civilians? How many other militaries order their pilots to abort bombing missions if civilians are detected in the area?

Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reserves the right to self-defense against armed attacks to every nation. “The claim that Israel has violated the principle of proportionality – by killing more Hamas terrorists than the number of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets – is absurd,” according to legal scholar Alan Dershowitz. “First, there is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killing of Hamas combatants. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent killing even one innocent civilian. Second, proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk posed.”

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs adds: Under the Geneva Conventions, as well as customary international law, if a military objective, such as a missile launcher or weapons stockpile, is placed in the heart of a civilian area, it does not cease being a lawful military objective.

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