A recent survey reported that most 18- to-24-year-old Americans think that “Israel should be ended and given to Hamas and the Palestinians,” setting off alarm bells throughout the Jewish community. As the Jewish state fights for its existence, news organizations, and particularly, social media often misrepresent images and exaggerate or ignore key reasons for the tragic consequences. In the fog of an ongoing war, it is challenging for Americans to understand the complexities of modern warfare and rally behind Israel.
Survey Confusion: ‘Hamas Should Rule Israel but Not Gaza’
Reactions in the United States are fueled by the images of the Israeli Defense Forces’ continuing campaign on the densely populated urban battlefield in Gaza. The troubling survey headlines reveal a very negative picture about the perceptions of younger Americans. Survey data from several firms continue to show a generational decline in support for Israel and American Jews.
Some of the Harvard CAPS Harris survey results sound downright scary. Among young Americans:
- 60% think that the Oct. 7 attacks can be justified by the grievance of Palestinians.
- 50% support Hamas more than Israel.
- 67% state that Jews are oppressors and should be treated as oppressors.
However, other statistics in the same data, from the same age group, show conflicting results:
- 51% think Israel should be ended and given to Hamas, but 69% support Israel’s right to exist, and 58% think that Hamas should be removed from running Gaza.
- 66% support the false assertation that Israel is committing genocide, but 70% think that Israel is trying to avoid civilian casualties.
- 67% think that the university presidents testifying before Congress sufficiently condemned anti-Jewish hatred, but 73% think that the university presidents should resign for failing to condemn calls for the genocide of Jews without context.
A separate Wall Street Journal survey also showed that young Americans have very little understanding about the conflict. A massive 86% of American university students support the chant, ‘From the River to the Sea,’ which excludes the existence of Israel. Yet less than half of students were able to correctly identify the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as the boundaries. Answers included the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, highlighting the utter lack of knowledge many have about the geography of the Middle East. When presented with some basic facts, 68% of the chant supporters rejected the anti-Israel message.
Fog of War: ‘IDF Does Not Target Civilians’
Every war has tragic unintended consequences, including the unfortunate and accidental killing of civilians. The IDF does not intentionally kill civilians, but Hamas welcomes it. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh justifies dead Palestinian civilians: “We need the blood of the children, women and elderly” to “ignite within us the spirit of revolution.” The depths that Hamas will go to lure Israeli soldiers into a trap are frightening: Hamas terrorists connected dolls to speakers playing crying sounds and set them up in an area rigged with explosives.
More than 130 Israeli soldiers have already died battling Hamas terrorists. About 20% of these deaths are the result of: “friendly fire” from rifles, tank shells and airstrikes; IDF explosive shrapnel; accidental misfires; and vehicle accidents. The most gut-wrenching example was the recent acknowledgement that the IDF accidentally killed three Israeli hostages who escaped Hamas captivity.
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi described the “difficult and painful” tragedy: “I try to place myself in the head of the soldier in Gaza, after days of hard fighting, close encounters with terrorists dressed in civilian clothes, who arrive in various deceitful ways. The shooting at the hostages was carried out contrary to the open-fire regulations. It is forbidden to shoot at those who raise a white flag and ask to surrender. But this shooting was carried out during combat and under pressure.”
The IDF chief recognized the importance of even respecting Hamas terrorists: “And I want to tell you something no less important. What if it is two Gazans with a white flag who come out to surrender? Do we shoot at them? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Even those who fought and now put down their weapons and raise their hands—we capture them, we don’t shoot them.”
In response to an allegation that an IDF sniper killed two Palestinian Christians sheltering at a Gaza church, the IDF stressed that it “does not target civilians, no matter their religion. A review of the IDF’s operational findings support” that the church was not hit by the IDF.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry is reporting about 20,000 Palestinian deaths—numbers that cannot be independently verified—and includes both terrorists and civilians. This number is believed to include about 7,000 Hamas terrorists and civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets. Another 1,000-plus Hamas terrorists died in the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel.
Hamas Continues to Wage an Active War Against Israel
More than two months after the Oct. 7 attacks, Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel, a fact that is rarely reported in international media. Hamas again fired rockets at Jerusalem on Dec. 15, including one that flew over the third holiest site in Islam—the Al-Aqsa mosque—that was intercepted by an Iron Dome missile. Undoubtedly, Israel would have been blamed if the Hamas rocket struck the mosque.
The IDF recently uncovered the largest-ever Hamas tunnel, which was wide enough for cars and trucks. Hamas terrorists used a boring machine to build the 2.5-mile long terror tunnel that reaches 165 feet beneath the surface. The tunnel includes plumbing, electric power and communication lines. IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said: “This is no ordinary tunnel. It’s a city. A terrorist city underground that Hamas dug and built instead of investing money in the residents of Gaza.” The IDF also found more than $1 million in cash stored in the home of a senior Hamas leader in the West Bank. Videos also emerged of gunmen capturing and looting aid trucks crossing into Gaza.
Points to consider:
- Many Americans do not understand the war between Israel and Hamas.
The current Hamas war against Israel shows that many Americans, even those closely following events, do not comprehend the dynamics, history and context of the conflict. The complex geopolitical issues also make it challenging for many Americans to fully grasp the narratives and phrases used by either side. Proportionality, genocide and apartheid are intentionally used in an attempt to smear the Jewish state without regard for the actual meaning of these terms. Their unwarranted use diminishes historical events. Apartheid was a term specific to the systematic government-sponsored oppression of black Africans in South Africa. Leaders of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel have stated that they know these terms do not describe Israel but intentionally use them anyway because of the negative connotations and images they paint.
- War is horrific and complex; innocents are often unintended casualties.
The stark reality of war is marked by unforeseen circumstances, accidental loss of civilian lives and brave soldiers killed or wounded by friendly fire. This does not diminish the importance of individuals accountable for their actions and seeking ways to minimize harm. The very nature of war emphasizes the importance of finding a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Promoting peaceful relations, as Israel has done successfully with the Abraham Accords, shows how former adversaries can promote dialogue and live together in peace.
- The IDF takes responsibility for its actions. Hamas never does.
The IDF prioritizes accountability for its actions, often conducting internal investigations and acknowledging mistakes to uphold transparency and ethical standards. However, Hamas terrorists do not take similar responsibility and promote death and destruction, even against the Palestinians they govern. The use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes by Hamas, including launching attacks from populated areas, poses challenges in distinguishing combatants from non-combatants. This crucial distinction underscores the ethical obligations of armed groups. Hamas terrorists proudly filmed the atrocities they committed on Oct. 7 because they promote a culture of death and destruction.