c/o Los Angeles Times

c/o Los Angeles Times

As I begin my third rewrite of this piece, pushing it back yet another production deadline, I have finally realized that I must go about this piece as personally and explicitly as possible. I have tried words of passivity and words of questioning and words of anger, like many of us regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, and I have finally settled on words of hope.

We are all hoping for the same thing: peace and justice. Just because I hold an opinion does not serve to deny anyone else’s feelings or sentiments. We can think of our sentiments and feelings as aligned, as people who care. Still, I think this article is necessary because my personal research has led me to a specific view of the situation, that I believe some might be missing because they are not getting a full enough picture of what is happening in Gaza and Israel. Without a common understanding of what is happening, discussion and agreement become impossible, the truth becomes more vague, and violence continues in Gaza and the West Bank. As I said, I write this article with hope—the hope that, on this campus, we can really hear each other, mourn together and work as a community to end the suffering. My hope is not to start an argument with this piece, but a dialogue. That being said, here is the situation as I see it.

Hamas is currently the leading party of Gaza, but has been more widely defined as a terrorist organization, further proven by the terrible murders and gratuitous violence they enacted on the south of Israel on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, killing around 1,400 innocent civilians. The impact of this crime resounded through Israel and around the world. Israel was supposed to be a safe haven for a community that has experienced generations of persecution. The performative violence of Hamas is heart-wrenching in consideration of this history. 

Though Israeli citizens are certainly the victims of Hamas, the Israeli government cannot be seen as the defenders in this situation. Like Hamas, it is violent and antagonistic. This is for two reasons. Firstly, Israel’s treatment toward Palestinians has been highly oppressive. To be clear, Israel’s oppression does not excuse Hamas’ barbarity, but that should not mean we should turn a blind eye to the treatment of the Palestinian people. Secondly, while wiping out Hamas would have been a natural response of the Israeli government to these attacks, it has since gone far beyond that aim, killing at least 9,700 innocent Palestinians. The Israeli government’s response has been disproportionate, and therefore unjustifiable.  

We know Hamas’ extremist aims, we know the extent of what they are willing to do, and we know now that they are no match at all for Israel’s military power. The question now becomes what are Israel’s aims, and what is the extent of what it is willing to do, considering it has the power to do it. The answer, I believe, is in the rhetoric used by the government in light of its recent actions. 

“The enemy will pay an unprecedented price,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on the day of the Hamas attacks. He later said that Israel would turn Gaza into a “deserted island.” 

Netanyahu’s aims are not to hold Hamas accountable, but to hold the whole of Gaza accountable. At the time, the enemy seemed to refer to Hamas, but considering that every Palestinian in Gaza is now paying the price, this seems not to be the case. 

It appears now, considering the Israeli government’s ensuing actions, that Netanyahu’s aims were never solely against Hamas. Gaza is slowly becoming the deserted island—or rather, an island of ruins and corpses—promised by Netanyahu. As well as unprecedented, we are seeing how the aims of Netanyahu’s extreme, right-wing government were more calculated than imagined initially, and no longer limited to a so-called response. This government has made it clear that it seeks not to defend, but to eradicate. This is portrayed by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s words on Sunday, March 19, 2023.

“There is no such thing as a Palestinian nation,” Smotrich said. “There is no Palestinian history. There is no Palestinian language.”

It is particularly striking that this was stated in front of a map that included the West Bank, Gaza, and Jordan as part of Israel. This tells us that prior even to Hamas’ attacks, members of the Israeli government intended directly to deny the humanity and very existence of Palestine, propounding an ideology that would allow them to forcibly remove Palestinians from Gaza without consideration for fundamental human rights. 

The quotes taken by the Times of Israel from the Heritage Minister of Israel Amichai Eliyahu indicate the mindset of the Israeli government now, as their attacks on Gaza continue. It has been widely covered that he claimed that dropping a nuclear bomb on Palestinians was an option, but his belligerent hostility towards Palestinian citizens is even more shocking. 

“[Palestinians] can go to Ireland or deserts, the monsters in Gaza should find a solution themselves,” Eliyahu said. “We wouldn’t hand the Nazis humanitarian aid. There is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza.”

Many Palestinians do not agree with the actions of Hamas, nor the extremist manifesto. A poll in June 2023 by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research revealed that a third of Palestinians view Hamas’ election to be the most damaging development for their people since the development of Israel in 1948. More than half of Gazans agreed with the statement, “Hamas should stop calling for Israel’s destruction, and instead accept a permanent two-state solution based on the 1967 borders” in July 2023.

Yet this appears irrelevant to Eliyahu, who groups together all Gazans as somehow fascist, discriminatory, and worthy of death. I want simply to state that Palestinians are not Nazis. The Jewish community has been the victim before. Eliyahu knows he is stirring up fear and a certain view of Palestinians by comparing them to Nazis, though they have very little relation. See “Vengeful Pathologies” by Adam Shatz for more on Nazification. 

I would also like to add that, though Netanyahu suspended said minister for boasting of using a Nuclear bomb, his reasons are most likely more diplomatic than moral, for he shares an aggressive and inhumane approach to Palestine. This is clear from a leaked interview from all the way back in 2010, once again indicating that Israel’s approach is more than just reactionary. 

“Beat [the Palestinians] up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable,” Netanyahu said.

If support for Hamas, or a shared threatening ideology of Palestinians in Gaza is not the driver of this cold indifference to civilian Palestinian life, then what is? For it seems prominent figures in the Israeli government are problematizing the existence of Palestinian lives themselves. 

“We are fighting human animals,” Israel’s Defense Minister Yaov Gallant said.

This is dehumanizing racial rhetoric that seems inherent in the right wing view of Palestine that is not only excusing but promoting violence towards Palestinians. 

“When the colonist speaks of the colonized he uses zoological terms [and] refers constantly to the bestiary,” psychoanalyst and philosopher Frantz Fanon said.

The Israeli government has held control over the majority of Gaza for years. Israel has occupied areas that have been officially deemed Palestinian territory, and imposed its authority. Resources and taxation are controlled by the Israeli government. Resources and opportunity for Palestinians run thin, and many Palestinians still live in liminal encampments. Legally, Palestinians are tried and treated differently than the Jewish Israelis in Gaza. When people say “colonization” and “apartheid” when talking about the crisis in Gaza now, it is not in reference to what could happen or an anti-Israel perception, it is what has already been happening in Gaza. The 2022 Report of New UN Special Rapporteur, released in October, communicates this.

[The UN needs] a plan to end the Israeli settler-colonial occupation and apartheid regime,” the report said. “The violations described in the present report expose the nature of the Israeli occupation, that of an intentionally acquisitive, segregationist and repressive regime designed to prevent the realization of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.”

These are experts in the human rights field, specializing particularly in Gaza. To me, this proves the point that there is a lack of real understanding of what is happening in Gaza from the international perspective, that is causing the staunch divide in views of the situation. This can be blamed in part by the confused reporting of social media, the highly removed and Western-centric reporting of mainstream news sources, and also by the fact that Israeli forces are blocking international correspondence from Gaza.

Despite the difficulty in following the truth surrounding what is happening in Gaza, the United Nations is urging us to pay closer attention and to do more, in a statement released by a collective of UN experts.

“We remain convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide,” the experts said. “The time for action is now. Israel’s allies also bear responsibility and must act now to prevent its disastrous course of action.”

These experts cite the airstrike on a residential complex in the Jabalia refugee camp as a brazen war crime, and note the dire state in which Gazans currently live. Two million of them are going without drinking water, for example.

I will conclude by again saying that every person affected by this crisis, regardless of nationality, deserves the deepest sympathy. It is a terrible and confusing time. I don’t think one should really say either “I stand with Israel,” or “I stand with Palestine,” because one should really stand with the people of both, not against one or the other. But it has now come to a point where each of us should be standing up for those dying in Gaza, and standing against the Israeli government. Thank you for caring as much as to finish this piece, and I will thank you in advance for going forward wanting to learn and do more. 

If you are reading this in print and want to see my sources for this article, go to the online version where they will be linked. Also, check out @wesleyansjp on Instagram to join the conversation and get involved.
Charlotte Seal is a member of the class of 2026 and can be reached at cseal@wesleyan.edu.  

  • Anonymous

    I liked many points brought up in this piece but I did want to highlight some inaccuracies and problems I had. When talking about claims of Israeli apartheid against Palestinians the author notes, “Legally, Palestinians are tried and treated differently than the Jewish Israelis in Gaza.” There are no Jewish Israelis in Gaza. Jewish settlements in Gaza ended in 2005 and there now are no Jews currently residing there. In fact, in Hamas’ charter itself is highly antisemitic, so any Jew going into Gaza puts their life at extreme risk.

    If you meant to talk about Arab Israelis, whom the Israel government does have responsibility over as citizens of the land, they have the same legal protections as Jewish Israelis in Israel. While there are instances of discrimination, like in prioritizing housing loans to Jews over Arabs in certain areas, discrimination of Arab Israelis is not widespread enough in Israeli institutions to constitute apartheid as Arabs still have the same rights as Jews in Israel.

    I don’t find it fair to bring up legal rights and treatment that Gazans vs. Jewish Israelis face as they are under different governments. Gazans are treated differently than Israelis because they are under control of Hamas. You noted early that Hamas is the leading party in Gaza. Thus, it is Hamas’ responsibility as the government of Gaza to provide for its citizens. If Israelis have more legal rights in their country than Gazans have, it is because Hamas does not provide these rights for them. It is not fair to blame Israel for the legal rights Israelis have that Gazans don’t, as Israel is not ruling over Gaza.

    Yes, Israeli and Egypt blockade Gaza which makes it hard for its citizens to leave, and goods to come into the territory which greatly deprives their quality of life. But Israel and Egypt did this after Hamas started shooting rockets at Israelis. It is fair for Israel to employ these security measures to prevent rockets from entering Gaza to keep its own citizens safe. It is sad that it comes at the cost of Palestinians freedom in Gaza, but that is up to Hamas to solve–as Gaza’s government–not Israel, when ending the blockade would allow rockets to enter that directly threatens Israel’s citizens. There was no blockade before the rockets were fired. If Hamas cares about its citizens, it will provide for and protect them. The sad fact is that Hamas does not care about its citizens. If Hamas did, it would engage in peace conversations. If Hamas cared, it would not break ceasefires with Israel that puts its citizens at direct risk of Israeli retaliation. If Hamas cared, it would not use citizens as human shields, put its headquarters in hospitals, and build tunnels under civilian areas. Why is Israel to blame for Hamas’ human rights violations in Gaza when this very same government is trying to wipe Israel’s citizens off the face of the Earth?

    Also I found the point of Eliyahu discussing the nuclear bomb to be overstated. Netanyahu suspended him. It’s not fair to speculate that he “suspended him out of diplomacy not morality” if the end result of denouncing this option is the same. Yes, it is fair to bring this up, as a nuclear bomb should in no way be used in this war. Yet, the Israeli government proved that they agree so I don’t see how this can be used as an example of the Israeli government’s ill intent in the war in Gaza when Netanyahu, the prime minister with authority over this decision, rejected this idea.

    I found it hypocritical to discuss Eliyahu for six paragraphs for his racism against Palestinians as he was suspended. Using him as a reflection of the Israeli government is not fair when this article makes no mention of the way the Israeli government is trying to minimize civilian casualties. They have been informing civilians of danger zones and encouraging them to move south to stay safe. The government has also stated numerous times how killing civilians is not their intention.

    Yet, Hamas has told these civilians to remain in place. Hamas has also misfired rockets that have caused the death of many Palestinians. They actively endanger their citizens by putting their headquarters in civilian areas. The reason Hamas does this is because it garners them sympathy. Hamas wants the Palestinian death toll to rise because it wants to demonize Israel by turning the international community against it, and it does this by putting its civilians in harm’s way. Under international law, civilian areas like hospitals, schools, and residential areas are given immunity under war. Striking in these areas constitutes a war crime. However, it stipulates that if a government imbeds its military in these zones, they then lose their immunity and that government then bears the war crimes of civilian casualties. Thus, in this situation, Hamas bears much of the blame in this humanitarian crisis. Ignoring this component, as the article does, minimizes understanding the situation and unfairly demonizes Israel while Hamas is also responsible for the humanitarian crisis.

    I also found this to be hypocritical:
    “I don’t think one should really say either “I stand with Israel,” or “I stand with Palestine,” because one should really stand with the people of both, not against one or the other. But it has now come to a point where each of us should be standing up for those dying in Gaza, and standing against the Israeli government.” The author condemns taking sides, then encourages siding with Palestinian civilians and against the Israeli government. But this argument ignores where Israeli citizens fall into this narrative. Hamas has continued to fire rockets at Israeli citizens since Oct. 7th, putting their lives in danger too. Hamas not only murdered 1,400 Israeli citizens, but tortured them to unthinkable extents. Heads were cut off, Holocaust survivors were shot dead, babies were burned alive, women were raped so brutally their pelvises broke, and some body parts were found so mutilated and unrecognizable that they still have not been identified.

    Thus, condemning the Israeli government in an effort to wipe out the terrorists who just committed a genocidal act against its citizens, is certainly taking a side and fails to acknowledge how to prevent this atrocity from happening to Israeli citizens again. I understand that this does not justify violence against innocent Palestinian civilians, but I think it is important to understand why Israelis feel their government must act to protect their safety. Completely condemning the Israeli government without doing so for Hamas and their tragedies against Israelis and Palestinians is a reduction of the conflict, and ignores the humanitarian threat Israelis face. I do agree that any Palestinian civilian death in the hands of the IDF is abhorrent and should not be condoned but I don’t think it is fair to completely fault Israel for Gaza’s humanitarian crisis. I hope you will take the time to consider my comments.

  • Hostages

    How can this whole piece not once mention the Israeli hostages? They are an integral part of the international news surrounding the war.