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Many Israelis blame Hamas for the suffering in Gaza and feel little sympathy

The southern Israeli city of Netivot, a working-class center for mystical rabbis about 10 miles from the Gaza border, escaped the worst of the Hamas-led attacks on May 7. 10, a stroke of luck that many residents attributed to the miraculous intervention of buried Jewish sages. This.

Yet many here seem to show little concern for the current suffering of Palestinian civilians – in fact, neighbors – across the fence in Gaza.

Michael Zigdon, who ran a small food stall in Netivot’s shabby market and employed two men from Gaza until the attack, expressed little sympathy for Gazans, who has endured fierce attacks from the Israeli army over the past eight months.

“Who wants this war and who doesn’t?” Mr. Zigdon said as he cleaned up red food dye spilled from the crushed ice machine in his shack. “It wasn’t us who attacked them on October 7.”

Like many Israelis, Mr. Zigdon blames Hamas for infiltrating residential areas, endangering Gaza civilians, and blurring the distinction between Hamas fighters and the general population, as Maybe everyone is complicit.

According to Israeli officials, Israelis are still traumatized by what happened on October 7 – when gunmen led by Hamas swept across the border, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and killing more. about 250 people returned to Gaza. It was the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.

The pain, still raw, was increasingly covered by anger. Much of Israel’s collective psyche is encased in layers of self-protective outrage as Israel faces international criticism for prosecuting the war and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

According to health officials in Gaza, most Israelis seem to know that their army’s subsequent ground and air offensive in Gaza killed tens of thousands of Palestinians – many of them young. children, according to health officials in Gaza. widespread destruction on coastal lands. But they have also seen videos of people in civilian clothes looting and attacking residents of rural Israeli villages in Hamas raids. While the Palestinian polls demonstrates the widespread support of the people of Gaza regarding the October 7 attack, some Palestinians spoke out against the atrocities committed by Hamas and its allies that day.

Netivot is a bastion of political and religious conservatism: In the November 2022 election, nearly 92% of the city’s votes went to the parties that make up the hardline government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leader. Armed groups from Gaza have fire a series of missiles towards the city over the years. One attacked Netivot on October 7 and killing a 12-year-old boy, his father and grandfather.

But the lack of sympathy for the plight of Gazans extends beyond Israel’s traditional right-wing strongholds. Rachel Riemer, 72, a longtime resident of Urim, a liberal, left-leaning kibbutz, or community village, about 10 miles south of Netivot and about the same distance from the Gaza border, recalls that, in a During the previous fighting, she was asked to donate money to buy blankets for Gazan children.

“This time, I have no more room in my heart to pity them,” she said of the people of Gaza. “I know there are many regrettable things, rationally, I understand. But emotionally I can’t.”

Many Israelis – both conservative and liberal – blame Hamas for starting the war and sending its fighters into Gaza’s civilian population, operating, according to the military, out of schools, hospitals and homes. mosque, and in tunnels beneath the homes of Gazans.

Many also see Gaza civilians as complicit, at least ideologically, in the October 7 atrocities, saying they brought Hamas to power in the first place, in the 2006 Palestinian elections, and that they have not expressed much remorse – even though Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007 with little tolerance for any dissent, let alone a vote new. As the war dragged on, more and more Gazans was willing speak out against Hamas, risking sanctions.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the death toll in Gaza has risen to at least 37,000 since Israel began its onslaught, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians.

Hamas officials deny Israel’s claim that it uses public facilities such as hospitals as cover for its military operations. some evidence to the contrary. And there is little escape for most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, scared and trapped in a narrow, crowded strip of land – tightly blockaded by Israel and Egypt – and retreating to the sea, where orders are in place naval blockade.

International organizations also accused Israel of restricting aid, causing widespread famine, although Israeli officials said they had opened more ports of entry for goods and blamed humanitarian groups for not done. distribute aid effectively. Most of Gazans were displaced and more than half of the homes in the coastal area were said to have been damaged or destroyed.

For much of the Israeli public, this war is very different from previous Arab-Israeli conflicts, said Avi Shilon, an Israeli historian based in Tel Aviv, explaining the apparent indifference before the war. Palestinian suffering. Unlike the much shorter wars of 1967 or 1973, he said, when state troops fought state troops, this conflict resembles the 1948 war over the creation of Israel. modernity, or through the lens of Nazi genocide in Europe.

Mr. Shilon said he considers every unintended death a “tragedy.” But the October 7 attack — when the attackers murder people in their homesat one music fanaticIN roadside bomb shelter and at military bases — widely seen in Israel as “just about killing Jews,” Mr. Shilon said, turning the ensuing war into a visceral battle: “It was either us or them.”

Rony Baruch, 67, a potato farmer in Urim, which also escaped the brunt of the October 7 attack, said the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was “terrible” and “painful” and It’s time to end the war. But he said he did not think his opinions were representative. He also emphasized that Israel is not the “bad guy” in this confrontation.

Many Israelis are still in a dark place. The Jewish news media is still filled with stories of loss and courage from October 7. They have seen horrific videos of the October 7 atrocities by terrorists. guns shot by Hamas as well as videos of hostages released by the armed groups holding them.

Some survivors said they recognized Gazans they had previously recruited among the infiltrators. Video shows some of the crowd taunting and abusing hostages as they marched through Gaza on October 7. This rescue four hostages on June 8 came after months of reports of hostages being killed in captivity and of the military taking the remains of some for burial in Israel. Israelis often pay little attention to the high death toll the rescue mission caused on the Gazan side. Gaza health officials reported more than 270 people killed, including children.

Israel’s mainstream media rarely focuses on the suffering of Gaza’s civilians and frequently leads news programs on funerals and profiles of soldiers who died in battle. However, according to a poll this year87% of Jewish Israelis reported seeing at least some images or videos of the devastation in Gaza.

Israelis are divided, generally along political lines, and sometimes within themselves, on issues such as providing humanitarian aid.

“I have mixed emotions,” said Sarah Brien, 42, a Urim resident. “On the one hand, as a country, you have an obligation to comply with international conventions. Otherwise, you won’t get anything in return. Did any credible organization see any of the hostages? Who is taking care of them?” The International Committee of the Red Cross said they were inaccessible to the hostages.

Israelis acknowledge famine in Gaza but accuse Hamas of stealing or diverting aid. Hamas officials denied stealing aid, saying some desperate people looted it. Many Israelis watched as hungry Gazans flooded aid trucks. But many said they were also upset by images of Gazans rushing to the beach to find some respite, while the hostages remained in the dark.

And some Israelis say the rest of the world moved on too quickly after October 7.

“For the world, the story begins on October 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 of Gaza showing no remorse, but the whole world is undermining Israel’s suffering.”

At the same time, Israelis have little desire to meet Gazan children starve.

“We don’t have the heart to do it,” 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, a taxi driver, went to Netivot to pray at the mausoleum of a revered sage called is Baba Sali. They identify themselves as far-rightists.

But like many Israelis, they appear to have little illusions about how the war will play out after Netanyahu and his right-wing government pledged eight months ago to destroy Hamas.

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

Some, like Mr. Kerman, say they believe the Israeli military should wreak more havoc on Gaza. Others say Israel should agree to a deal, no matter the cost, to bring the hostages home and focus on an exit plan.

Tali Medina, 52 years old, manages a dairy farm in Urim. Her husband, Haim, was shot and injured by gunmen on October 7 while he was cycling with a friend.

“I have not started this war or held hostages for more than 200 days,” Ms. Medina said, wearing a T-shirt with the “Brothers in Arms” logo of an anti-government protest group led by military reservists. . While she opposes Israel’s hawkish government, Ms. Medina – like most Israelis – blames Hamas for the war.

“Reality is very difficult but it is not my responsibility,” she said.


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