Home News Many Israelis blame Hamas for Gaza’s suffering, but they have no sympathy

Many Israelis blame Hamas for Gaza’s suffering, but they have no sympathy

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Netivot, a southern Israeli city about 10 miles from the Gaza border and a working-class center of mystical rabbis, escaped the worst of the Hamas-led assault on Oct. 7, with many residents attributing the incident to the miraculous intervention of a Jewish sage buried there.

Yet many here seem unconcerned about the suffering of Palestinian civilians — indeed, neighbors — across the Gaza fence.

Michael Zigdon, who runs a small food store in Netivot’s run-down market and employed two workers from Gaza before the attack, has little sympathy for Gazans, who have suffered heavy attacks by Israeli forces over the past eight months.

“Who wants this war, who doesn’t?” Zigden said, wiping away red food dye spilled from the crushed-ice soda machine in his shed. “It wasn’t us who attacked them on Oct. 7.”

Like many Israelis, Mr. Ziegden accuses Hamas of infiltrating residential areas and endangering the safety of Gaza civilians, while he himself blurs the line between Hamas fighters and ordinary people, as if everyone is complicit.

Israelis are still recovering from the tragedy on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led gunmen crossed the border and killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and about 250 more were taken back to Gaza, according to Israeli officials. It was the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.

The pain remains, but the anger is growing. Much of the Israeli collective psyche is wrapped in self-protective indignation as Israel faces international condemnation for the war and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Most Israelis seem to realize that the Israeli army’s subsequent air and ground offensive in Gaza has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians — many of them children, according to Gaza health officials — and caused Massive destruction But they have also seen videos of dozens of civilians looting and attacking Israeli rural residents during Hamas attacks. Gaza’s broad support In response to the October 7 attack, some Palestinians publicly condemned the atrocities committed by Hamas and its allies that day.

Netivot is a bastion of political and religious conservatism: in the November 2022 elections, nearly 92% of the city’s votes went to parties in the hard-line government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Launching rockets The city has been hit by hurricanes over the years. On October 7, a hurricane hit Netivot. Killed a 12-year-old boy, his father and grandfather.

But the lack of sympathy for the plight of Gazans is not confined to Israel’s traditional right-wing strongholds. Rachel Riemer, 72, a longtime resident of Urim, a liberal, left-wing kibbutz, or communal village, about 10 miles south of Netivot and about the same distance from the Gaza border, recalled donating money to buy blankets for Gazan children during the last round of fighting.

“This time, there is no place in my heart for them,” she said of Gaza’s civilians. “I know there is a lot of sympathy, and intellectually, I understand. But emotionally, I can’t do it.”

Many Israelis — conservatives and liberals alike — accuse Hamas of waging war and placing its fighters in Gaza, where, according to the military, it uses schools, hospitals and mosques to conduct its operations. In the tunnels beneath Gaza’s homes.

Many also believe that, at least ideologically, Gaza civilians were complicit in the October 7 atrocities and that they were the ones who brought Hamas to power in the first place. 2006 Palestinian electionsand they have not expressed much remorse – even though Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007 and tolerates little dissent, let alone new elections. As the war drags on, more and more Gazans willing Risk reprisals by speaking out against Hamas.

The death toll in Gaza has risen to at least 37,000 since Israel launched its ferocious offensive, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Hamas officials deny that Israel is using public facilities such as hospitals as cover for military operations, although Some evidence to the contrary. and Almost no chance For most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, it is a state of terror, trapped in a crowded, narrow strip of land, tightly sealed off by Israel and Egypt, with their backs to the sea, where a naval blockade remains in place.

International organizations have also accused Israel of restricting the flow of aid, contributing to the spread of famine, but Israeli officials said they had opened more crossings to deliver goods and accused humanitarian organizations of failing to Distribute aid efficientlyMost Displaced people in Gaza More than half of the homes along the coastal area were reportedly damaged or destroyed.

Avi Shilon, an Israeli historian based in Tel Aviv, said that for most Israelis, this war is very different from previous Arab-Israeli conflicts, which explains their indifference to the suffering of the Palestinians. He said that this conflict is more like the 1948 war over the founding of modern Israel, or the Nazi genocide in Europe, than the 1967 or 1973 wars, which were fought between national armies.

Mr. Shillong said he considered every accidental death a “tragedy.” But the attack on October 7 — in which the attacker Killing someone in the home,exist Music Carnivalexist Roadside air raid shelter and attacks on military bases — widely seen in Israel as “almost killing Jews,” Mr. Shillon said, turning the ensuing war into an internal battle: “It’s either us or them.”

Rony Baruch, 67, a potato farmer in Urim, who also escaped the Oct. 7 attack, said the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was “terrible” and “painful” and that it was time to end the war. But he said his views were not representative. He also stressed that Israel was not the “bad guy” in the conflict.

Many Israelis remain in the dark. The Hebrew news media is still abuzz with stories of loss and courage from October 7. They have watched horrific video footage of the October 7 atrocity shot by Hamas gunmen and videos of hostage-taking released by armed groups.

Some survivors said they recognized some of the infiltrators as Gazans they had hired before. Video footage showed hostages being mocked and abused by some people as they marched through Gaza on October 7. Rescue four hostages On June 8, after months of reports that hostages had been killed in captivity and that the military had returned some of their remains to Israel for burial, Israelis generally paid little attention to the high death toll on the Gaza side of the rescue operation. Gaza health officials reported more than 270 deaths, including children.

Mainstream Israeli news media pay little attention to the suffering of Gaza’s civilian population, instead frequently reporting on funerals and profiles of fallen soldiers in news broadcasts. This year there was a poll87% of Israeli Jews said they had seen at least a few photos or videos of the destruction in Gaza.

Israelis are divided over their political stance and sometimes even among themselves over issues such as the provision of humanitarian aid.

“I have mixed feelings,” said Sarah Brien, 42, a Urim resident. “On the one hand, as a country you have obligations to abide by international conventions. On the other hand, you get nothing in return. Has any reliable organization seen the hostages? Who is taking care of them?” The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had Inaccessible Hand it over to the hostage.

Israelis acknowledge there is famine in Gaza but accuse Hamas of stealing or misappropriating aid. Hamas officials deny stealing aid, saying a minority of desperate people looted it. Many Israelis have seen images of hungry Gazans swarming aid trucks. But many say they are also outraged by images of Gazans flocking to beaches for respite while hostages remain in the dark.

Some Israelis say the rest of the world acted too quickly after Oct. 7.

“For the world, it feels like the story started on Oct. 8,” said Tamar Hermann, a political science professor and public opinion expert at the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Jerusalem. “They feel that not only are the people in Gaza unrepentant, but the whole world is undermining Israel’s suffering.”

Meanwhile, Israel has little desire to see Gaza children starve.

“We don’t have such thoughts,” said Hen Kerman, 32, from the southern city of Beersheba.

Ms. Kerman, who works in a private investigation office, and her partner, Rani Kerman, 32, came to Netivot to pray at the grave of Baba Sali, a revered saint. They described themselves as far-right extremists.

But like many Israelis, they appear to have no illusions about how the war is going after Netanyahu and his right-wing government pledged eight months ago to wipe out Hamas.

“Soldiers are dying, but Hamas is still there,” Mr. Kerman said.

Some, like Mr. Kerman, believe the Israeli military should inflict more destruction on the Gaza Strip. Others say Israel should agree to a deal that brings the hostages home, whatever the cost, and focus on developing an evacuation plan.

Tali Medina, 52, who runs a dairy farm in Urim, was shot and wounded on Oct. 7 when her husband, Haim, and a friend were out on their bicycles.

“I did not start this war, nor did I hold hostages for more than 200 days,” said Ms. Medina, who was wearing a T-shirt with the logo of Band of Brothers, an anti-government protest group led by military reservists. Although she opposes Israel’s hawkish government, Ms. Medina, like most Israelis, blames Hamas for the war.

“It’s a harsh reality, but it’s not my responsibility,” she said.

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