Debunking Popular Claims Against Israel
Due to the recent war between Israel and Hamas, there has been a drastic increase in the number of people spreading anti-Israel and anti-Jewish myths, both online and all over the world at pro-Palestine rallies. Many of my peers at secular universities have expressed their desire to counter these claims and defend Israel, but do not feel well-versed enough to do so. In this article, I hope to disprove some of the arguments being used to attack Israel.
Myth #1: “Anti-Zionism” is just a political movement, not a form of “antisemitism.”
The anti-Zionism that we are currently witnessing, both online and in-person, is absolutely antisemitism. It is not just the open and shameless antisemitism we are seeing, such as the display of swastikas and chants calling for “death to the Jews;” it is also what Israeli politician and humans rights activist Natan Sharansky has coined the “Three D’s”: delegitimization, demonization, and holding Israel to a double standard. These, he states, demonstrate when anti-Zionism crosses into antisemitism. All three of these are being forcefully employed by pro-Palestinian protesters. Palestinian activists delegitimize Jewish claims to Israel by claiming they have no historical ties to the land, demonize Israel when they claim they are responsible for ethnically cleansing Palestinians and scrutinize Israel more critically than they do other countries.
Myth #2: Israel is a colonialist state, settled by white, European colonialists and there is no proof of Jews living in Israel before 1948.
The Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel, as evidenced by various archaeological artifacts. One pertinent example is the Ketef Hinom Silver Scrolls: Found among the graves in the Valley of Hinnom in Jerusalem, these scrolls contain Torah fragments from the 7th century. Another critical archaeological find are the Dead Sea Scrolls, a series of documents from the 3rd century BCE (nearly 1000 years before Islam was even founded). They contain preserved collections of Torah books, accounts of day-to-day affairs, several pairs of tefillin and more. A final piece of evidence worth considering is the Tel Dan Stele, found in Northern Israel. This artifact (dated to the 9th century BC) explicitly mentions the “King of Israel” and the “House of David.”
Additionally, Jews have lived in Israel continuously since before Islam was founded in 610 CE. There has never been a land called “Palestine” that was ruled by Palestinians, and before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the land was known as the British Mandate of Palestine, and was considered to be a part of the British Empire.
The name “Palestine” is not even of Arabic origin and instead originates from “Syria Palaestina,” (originating from the Pelishtim, a historical Aegean enemy of the Jewish people) the name given to the land by the Romans after they had destroyed the Second Temple and killed/expelled the Jews from the land. The land was previously known as Judea, named after the tribe of Judah, from which the kings of Israel were born. So how can Palestinians claim that they lived in the land before Jews if their own name originated after the Jews had been living and then expelled from the land of Israel?
In addition, the myth that modern Jews are descendants of Khazars who converted to Judaism, not the Jews of ancient Israel, lacks reliable evidentiary support. Professor Shaul Stampfer argues that “The silence of so many sources about the Khazars’ Judaism is very suspicious” as there are no mentions by the ge’onim, the Byzantines or the Egyptians of this mass conversion.
Myth #3: Israel is an apartheid state, similar to South African apartheid.
In the South African system of apartheid, certain racial groups were denied access to the political and judicial systems in their country, forced to live in inferior living spaces and given worse educational opportunities and medical care. Israel does not meet the criteria of being an apartheid state, as Arabs living in Israel have the same rights as Jewish Israelis.
In South Africa, Nelson Mandela fought for the rights of black people to live where they chose, have equal access to medical care and have equal education. In Israel, these rights are already given to all Israeli citizens, including Arab Israelis. Arab Israelis have the right to serve in the government and Arab political parties have even had a place on the Israeli Knesset.
Israel is the opposite of an apartheid state, and is the only democratic country in the Middle East. In the case of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel is not practicing apartheid, because these areas wish to be considered Palestinian territory, with their own governing authority, and are thereby not considered to be Israeli citizens. The security barriers around the West Bank and Gaza are not there to separate people based on ethnicity or religion, but rather to protect the citizens of Israel from terror groups like Hamas.
Myth #4: Palestinians are subject to ethnic cleansing and/or genocide by Israel.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ethnic cleansing is defined as “the expulsion, imprisonment, or killing of an ethnic minority by a dominant majority in order to achieve ethnic homogeneity.” There are no policies or plans in place in Israel that call for the extermination or expulsion of Palestinian populations. In addition, Israel handed over the land of Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005, even forcibly removing Israeli families who were living there so that the Palestinians would have their own land.
On the contrary, it is often Arab/Islamic countries surrounding Israel that are guilty of ethnic cleansing. According to the UN Commission of Experts, ethnic cleansing also consists of “coercive practices used to remove the civilian population.” This includes but is not limited to torture, murder, arbitrary arrest and detention, extrajudicial executions, destruction of property and confinement of civilian populations. The 1941 Farhud pogrom of Iraq, in which Jews were killed, injured and had their homes destroyed, is just one example of violence perpetrated by Arabs against Jews; similar acts of violence took place in the countries of Syria, Egypt, Libya and more. In addition to this violent treatment, Jews were discriminated against. They were not permitted to hold public office, travel freely, wear religious articles or speak Hebrew.
Eventually, these Jews were expelled from the Muslim countries that they lived in, or were forced to leave because of the discrimination and abuse they faced.
Myth #5: Hamas is not a terrorist organization, they are a group of freedom fighters fighting for the Palestinian people.
In the past few days, this terrorist group has taken Israeli hostages, tortured and raped Israelis, directed attacks towards innocent civilians, desecrated dead bodies and much more, all of which are considered war crimes under the Geneva Convention of 1949. Hamas has made it clear that they are not fighting for the people of Gaza nor are they fighting for the freedom of Palestinians. Rather, they are fighting to kill all Jews, not just in Israel, but around the world.
This conflict is not a conflict of Israel versus Palestine, or even Jews versus Arabs. This is a conflict of Jews versus extremist Islamic terrorists. This is evident when reading the original Hamas charter, which directs the killing of Jews, stating “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them.”
In a 2023 poll, only 45% of Gazans said that they would vote for Hamas. Hamas uses its own citizens, including Gazan children, as human shields, placing their weapons and military equipment beneath or within schools and other public places, so that if Israelis target their weapons, they can publicize the number of civilians killed. They have no regard for their own people’s safety. They train their kids to participate in terrorism and violence against Jews from the time that they are young children. There are many videos showing Palestinian children in the Gaza strip being taught to hate Jews and being trained to use guns, throw rocks, and participate in violent riots and attacks.
Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the founders of Hamas who later left his radical upbringing stated that “Hamas does not care about the lives of Palestinians, does not care about the lives of Israelis or Americans.” He added that members of Hamas do not care about their own lives, believing that self-sacrifice is a form of worship. He further notes that Hamas is not looking for co-existence or compromise, but to conquer and implement a global Islamic state.
Myth #6: Israel has been doing the same thing as Hamas to Palestinians for years.
There is no documented evidence that the Israeli government has ever called for the IDF to act in any of the ways that Hamas has acted towards Israelis within the past few days, or evidence of similar atrocities.
In the rare case that Palestinians are attacked by Israeli citizens, these actions are never government-backed, instead they are performed by a few rogue individuals, and their actions are quickly condemned by both the Israeli government and its people, who prosecute them with the full power of the law.
The IDF has a clear code of conduct that obligates them to preserve human life and dignity, prevent unnecessary harm, and only use necessary force to subdue the enemy. Hamas, on the other hand, has no such code of conduct.
As previously mentioned, Palestinians in Gaza are under their own jurisdiction and are therefore not Israeli citizens. Therefore, there is no obligation for Israel to help the citizens of Gaza. Despite this, Israel has helped Gazan citizens in a myriad of ways. They have treated thousands of Gazans for various medical conditions, and have, on occasion, even treated injured members of Hamas, a group that has constantly attacked and harmed them. Israel further allows the passage of humanitarian goods such as water and electricity into Gaza, and even provides some of these goods themselves. For example, Israel supplies Gaza with about 50 percent of its electricity. Israel allows Gazans to cross the border to work in Israel, issuing about 17,000 work permits to Gazan civilians as of 2022. These activities can hardly be said to be characteristic of an apartheid state. Probably the most important thing to know is that the Israeli army warns Gazans of incoming attacks to give them time to evacuate. This puts Israel at a military disadvantage, as they cannot use sneak attacks on Hamas, but Israel continues to warn civilians because of their commitment to humanitarian principles. This is in sharp contrast to Hamas, who gave no warning before raining bombs upon civilian villages and homes. Additionally, there have been reports that Hamas is telling Gazans to ignore warnings from the IDF. They claim the warnings are a form of psychological warfare that are being sent randomly to instill panic. They have even set up blockades to prevent Gazans from evacuating.
In conclusion, many claims that are used to attack Israel are myths, based on misinformation and false propaganda. I hope that this article clearly explains the counter-claims to these myths, and that through it, people will feel more confident in educating others about Israel’s history.
Photo Caption: A group of people holding up Israeli flags and signs with sayings such as “Hamas = terror”
Photo Credit: BruceEmmerling / Pixabay