RESOURCE: FACTS AND FICTION ABOUT ISRAEL, GAZA AND PALESTINE
Table of Contents
Israel is not a majority white nation. Only 35% of Israelis are Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of European and Russian ancestry), 35% Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish (Jews who trace their immediate ancestry from North Africa, the Middle East and Iran), 5% African Jews , 20% non-Jewish and 5% other.
Israel Was Not Created by European Colonialism: In addition to Jews already in the region for over 2,000 years, those Jews that emigrated back to there, even prior to the Holocaust, were fleeing colonialism and persecution.
While there has been a Jewish presence in Israel for over 4,000 years, the return of populations from Europe and North Africa was the result of economic decline, fleeing persecution, war and colonial powers, not encouraged or conducted by the European colonial powers, much like the trends of European and Middle Eastern immigration throughout the 1800s to today in places like Kosovo, Northern Iraq and Syria.
The Jewish community in Israel goes back over 4,000 years and Jews have immigrated back and forth out of the region for over 2,000 years due to forced expulsions, occupations and re-entries. By 1517 after Roman forced expulsions, Muslim, Mongol, Crusader, Seljuk Turk and Mameluk occupation, intermarriage, massacres and forced conversions the Jewish population had dwindled to 5,000 families in a population of 157,000 or so (estimates vary as high as 300.000 persons lived in the region).
Under Ottoman rule, the area that is now Israel and the West Bank was not a stand-alone district and the Ottomans did not keep census counts by the region from 1517 until the nineteenth century. Life for Jews under the Ottoman Empire was mixed. All non-Muslims had to pay a separate tax as "Dhimmi" to enjoy rights and even then there were waves of violence in the region against Jews, sometimes sanctioned by Ottoman rulers throughout the late 1800s, including violence, persecution and arrests in Damascus, Baghdad and throughout what is now Tunisia, Libya and Morrocco. Much of the Jewish return to what eventually became the Palestinian Mandate (Ottomans divided the "Beyrut" and Jerusalem region into three districts of Nablus, Acre and Jerusalem) ) was a result of Jews as refugees or fleeing Ottoman violence and European colonialism and persecution from inquisitions, pogroms and violence. They were refugees. In the early 1800s, increased immigration to Israel came from Sephardic Jews in North Africa fleeing French colonization and other parts of the Ottoman Empire that were in economic decline as populations began to move out of inland areas. As Ashkenazi Jews began to flee persecution in Russia, Poland and Germany in the 1840s to 1900s, they moved to the United States and Palestine. By 1880, Jerusalem was majority Jewish and Jews made up over 8% of the population of the region. As European Jews began to feel unsafe in England, France and Germany due to questioning their loyalties (see the Dreyfus Affair), Western European Jews also left to go to the United States and what is now Israel and by 1914, nearly 95,000 Jews lived in the southern Beyrut districts, making them 14% of the population. It is during this period that Zionism, the desire for a Jewish homeland to protect against Antisemitism began. The last Ottoman Emperor Hamid II, attempted to limit immigration by restricting visas and refusing entry to Jewish refugees (and some forcible relocation of Arabs from Syria) until being overthrown by the Young Turks and losing the empire to the French, British and Russians as a result of World War I.
Emigration continued to be limited under British rule, but Jewish refugees continued to flee Europe and North Africa, and by 1931, over 174,000 Jews lived in the Palestinian Mandate as Jews fled Nazi occupation. By 1940 there were over 451,000 Jews, making up 31% of the population. Anti-immigration sentiment was encouraged by the British occupiers who appointed a Amin al-Husayni, a noted anti-Jewish immigration opponent and Arab nationalist leader as the leading religious religious figure (Waqf), who organized anti-Jewish riots in Nablus, Haifa and Acre throughout the 1920s and cooperated with the Nazis to keep Jewish refugees out of the Palestinian Mandate).
From 1921 to 1948, there were efforts by both Jews and Arabs to intimidate each other out of communities. The first ethnic cleaning actions were undertaken by Arab nationalists who objected to Jewish immigration organized by Hajj Amin al-Husayni. From 1921 to 1948 there were over 111 acts of Arab-Jewish/Jewish-Arab violence, including riots against Jews in Hebron (West Bank), Haifa and Jaffa, (organized by al-Husayni and others) killing over 283 Jews and thousands wounded. Palestinian Nationalists would attack Jewish communities and uprooted thousands of trees planted by Jewish immigrants. Jewish militias formed in the 1930s and engaged in their own attacks on Arab villages. When the United Nations converted the British Palestine Mandate into two states, Israel and Palestine, Arab militias and the surrounding Arab governments rejected the proposal and sought to destroy Israel and drive out the 635,000 Jewish residents. The first acts of violence against the partition of Israel and Palestine into two states were Arab sniper attacks by eight Palestinian nationalists against Jewish civilians in Kfar Sirkin and Hadera. During the 1947-48 Arab-Israeli hard line Jewish militias such as the Irgun and Lehi Gang engaged in retribution to Arab militia resistance and cleansing operations in cities like Deir Yassin and Haifa, Arab militias and armies also did plenty of ethnic cleansing operations as Jewish civilians were killed in Sheik Jarrah, Kfar Etzion and driven out of East Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah, Gush Etzion, Hebron, Nablus and many other towns in the Palestinian mandate. More than 750,000 Palestinians were driven out of or fled from what is today the recognized Pre-1967 borders of Israel and placed under the jurisdiction of UNRWA, another 250,000 fled the 1967 Six Day War when Israel captured the West Bank and Golan from Jordan and Syria (There was no independent Palestinian state at that time). From 1948 to 1972, 850,000 Jews were displaced from the West Bank and surrounding countries that sought retribution against Jews (Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Algeria and Egypt) many of which settled in Israel. More Jews fled Iran after the 1980 Islamic Revolution. Of course based on whose story they want to tell, historians continue to debate the extent of which sides were most to blame. Illan Pappe as a "New Historian" takes a position that Israel was the primary aggressor almost to an extreme length. Efraim Karsh takes the opposite approach claiming that a majority of Palestinians were advised to leave by Arab leaders. Benny Morris takes a more nuanced approach stating that in the war, a combination of people fleeing battle zones, leaving on advice from leaders and ethnic cleansing occurred in various degrees throughout the war.
While Arab/Palestinian Israel's Can Vote in Israeli National Elections, East Jerusalem and West Bank Palestinians Can Not Because The Oslo Accords Makes them Palestinian Citizens, not Israeli Citizens.
Israel guarantees the right to vote, the right to own property and all other civil rights for all citizens of Israel, including the 1.29 million Arab/Palestinian Israelis that live inside Israel's borders, but those Palestinians residing in the West Bank are supposed to be citizens of the Palestinian Authority (and were Jordanian citizens before that). From 1948, when Jordan occupied and annexed the West Bank and Jerusalem until 1988 when the Oslo Accords were commenced, Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank were considered Jordanian citizens and voted in Jordanian elections. East Jerusalem residents can vote in Jerusalem municipal elections (but are pressured by Palestinian activists not to) and both East Jerusalem and West Bank residents can vote in Palestinian Elections while the status of East Jerusalem was to be negotiated, per the Oslo Accords. It is correct that Palestinians don't have a say in the administration of Area C (the Jordan Valley and outside Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah and Bethlehem), but those are the terms their leaders negotiated. The only way West Bank Palestinians would be able to vote would be if the West Bank were annexed, which most of the international community opposes. This does lead to substantial inequalities such as getting access to building permits and movement between West Bank towns for West Bank and East Jerusalem Palestinians/Arabs.
As with many other democratic countries, there is racism and there are inequalities for Palestinian/Arabs, as well as African and Yemeni Jews that are Israeli citizens as there are for African-Americans and Latinos in the U.S. At the request of the Arab community, Israel has a three track education system one for Secular, one for Ultra-Orthodox Jews and one for Palestinian/Arabs. As a minority group with low voter turnout, Arab/Palestinian towns do not get the same resources that majority Jewish towns receive and crime is higher in these communities, but a number of Arab/Palestinian Knesset candidates ran and were elected on the issue of addressing these disparities as well as changing the mostly symbolic "Nation State Law" passed by the Israel Right that declares Israel a state for the Jewish people and removed Arabic from being an official language to giving it "special status." Another group of Non-Jews, the Druze, who follow a religion related to Islam are very active in society. They serve in the Israel Defense Forces and have members of the Knesset in right and left-wing parties.
This is one of the more insidious and false claims that have been made without substantiation. After the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police, a person noted that Israel Defense Forces (which is different than the Israeli Police Force or the Israel Border Police that) used a similar tactic and noted that Minnesota Police had attended seminars with Israeli Police. However, various U.S. police forces, including Minneapolis Police have been using the tactic since at least 2002 or earlier and these trainings (which focuses exclusively on counter-terrorism and explosives response), took place in 2012.
Hamas is a religious fundamentalist organization that depends on guerrilla urban warfare tactics. Originally accepted by Israel as a religious alternative to the secular PLO, it soon morphed into an even more radical organization that provided its own set of social services paired with militias. Elected to a majority in Gaza in 2006 (which is the last election held in Gaza), they also run the government in one of the densest urban areas in the world with an iron fist. Homosexuality is punishable by 10 years in prison or death, women can not travel without a male chaperone. They are also known for environmental warfare, sending flaming balloons to start brushfires in Israel. Hamas won elections in Gaza in 2006 and then proceeded to kill or torture political opponents. While the Oslo Accords created a structure for peaceful negotiation for two states, Hamas refused to join in any negotiations with Israel and continued to stay at war with Israel. It continues to call for the elimination of all Jews or Killing from the region and the killing of Jews. It sent militants into Israel to shoot or kidnap Israeli civilians, and bomb town centers, usually delivered by militants who would blow themselves and the people around them up. Israel and Egypt then imposed a blockade of Gaza to prevent the flow of arms and explosives into Gaza. Hamas was caught then stealing aid money, humanitarian aid and supplies to make rockets, stole cement to make tunnels to get into Israel and stole food as well. The blockade now focuses on both military and dual-use technologies since Hamas has tried to use whatever it can to make weapons instead of helping Gazans, but at times Israeli-Right politicians have hardened the blockade or used it in a heavy-handed fashion more to look tough, even though it hurts Gazans. That being said, Israel provides access to emergency health care, water and electricity into Gaza. Gaza's own infrastructure decayed under Hamas, and worsened due to damage caused by fighting Israel, the blockade and corruption have also hurt both the economy and the rebuilding of Gaza.
Hamas is a fundamentalist organization that depends on guerrilla urban warfare tactics that used to rely on suicide bombing and armed attacks on civilians until the security wall prevented such attacks (it also has had other effects including cutting of Palestinians from their land and preventing regular contacts between Arabs and Israelis)
Since they are no longer able to send suicide bombers into Israel, their primary form of attacking Israel is to send cheaply made, rockets either supplied by Qatar or Iran or by repurposing oxygen tanks and fertilizer provided as international aid. Not only is the firing of rockets into civilian areas by Hamas possibly a war crime, but Hamas also locates their military operations headquarters in or beneath hospitals, and have deliberately located munitions and rockets in UNWRA schools, over and over again (and apparently was locating attack tunnels under schools in 2021 as well).
They also deliberately place their operations in dense urban areas, and place tunnels under residential areas for troops and munitions to move, which has resulted in them being accused of using civilians as shields. This well-documented placement deep within Gaza means that it is impossible to take out rockets or operations without hitting densely populated areas and the easy mobility of the rockets make a ground operation impossible. Israel does try to warn residents of targeted areas and has called off several high risk operations that could affect children. Further, Hamas' rockets frequently do not make it out of Gaza. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that at least 11 of the 128 civilian casualties from Gaza in 2021 were killed by Hamas' own rockets (the claim of 245 casualties produced by Hamas to the United Nations Office of the Coordinator includes over 128 militia members).