The Heavy Price the Palestinians Have Paid in Gaza

The Heavy Price the Palestinians Have Paid in Gaza

by Nick Gier, the Palouse Pundit

On October 7 last month, Hamas fighters invaded kibbutzim, communal villages known for their peace activists near the Gazan border. In Be’eri Hamas killed 100 people, including Vivian Silver, age 74. Out of the 1,200 murdered, this is the highest death toll of any village.

Silver’s son said that “she would drive sick Palestinians from Gaza to Israeli hospitals.” Anat Saragusti, an Israeli writer and feminist activist, declared that Silver was “a woman of infinite, deep, ongoing compassion, humanity and dedication to Arab-Jewish partnership and peace.”

Where are They to Go?

There are of course heart-wrenching stories from Gaza about Palestinian suffering. They were told to leave their homes in the North and move south, but 40 percent of those who have been killed are the result of indiscriminate bombings in the South.

Israeli aircraft have now dropped leaflets urging these poor souls to move one more time. Where to, all good people ask? All borders to Gaza have essentially been closed for 17 years.

As of December 11, Palestinian casualties now stand at 18,000 dead (70% women and children) and 49,500 injured. Aid organizations claim that Gazan health authorities have generally been accurate, and the U.S. admits that the toll is probably much higher.

The Israeli incursion in 2014 killed 2,200 Gazans and destroyed 11,000 homes. Current satellite imaging indicates about 100,000 buildings have now been razed, including 104 cultural heritage sites. Prominent among them was Gaza’s oldest mosque. I wrote about the 2014 war at

A Palestinian Genocide?

The number of Hamas fighters who have been killed is unknown as Gazan authorities do not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. On November 4, an unnamed Israeli official claimed “that around 20,000 people had been killed in Gaza, most of them terrorists.”

The Israeli army now puts the lie to this claim by reporting (on December 10) that 14,500 Hamas fighters have been killed. Estimates of total Gazan paramilitaries (including those other than Hamas) are as high as 50,000. There is no question that young recruits, after the decimation of their families and destruction of their homes and cities, are lining up to replace those killed.

The goal, therefore, of eliminating Hamas may be won only at the cost of a Palestinian genocide. Professor Janina Dill, a co-director of Oxford University’s Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, reports that “statements by Israeli officials suggested they believed that not all Palestinian civilians deserve protection.”

Israel as Colonizer

A common argument goes like this: both the Jews and Palestinians are indigenous to the area, so they have an equal right to the land. The correct parallel, however, is that with British support, the European Zionists became colonizers in Muslim Palestine with all the attendant repercussions.

Since then, Israel has acted in ways similar to the British colonial policy of divide and conquer. Early on, Israel favored Islamist Hamas over the secular Palestinian Liberation Organization. The Netanyahu government had allowed aid, now amounting to $35 million a month, to flow from the rich oil state of Qatar to Hamas. Hamas skimmed off millions to arm themselves to the teeth.

According to reports, he was cynically hoping that Hamas will be strong but not capable enough to invade Israel. This miscalculation, including ignoring clear evidence of such an incursion, has led to devastating consequences. It may also lead to his defeat in the next election and the long-delayed charges of corruption against him to be adjudicated.

The Dubious Abraham Accords

Republicans praise the Abraham Accords, negotiated by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner in 2020. The principal problem with this agreement is that the Palestinians were excluded from the talks. The Arab signatories received a promise from Israel that more settlements in the West Bank would cease, but they continue unabated.

Alon Liel, former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry, remarks that “with unprecedented diplomatic capabilities, Israel could have said, ‘Let’s be generous to the Palestinians,’ but instead it said, ‘We can do whatever suits us.’”

Writing for the journal Foreign Policy, Ben Lynfield writes this about the Abraham Accords: “Rather than becoming more open to Arabs, Israeli chauvinism is increasing; far-right politicians who advocate the expulsion of Arabs are becoming mainstream.”

Writing for the Israel newspaper Haaretz, Sheren Falah Saab reports: “The poison and hatred against Arabs is so palpable and is only growing stronger.” Polls in the Arab world show very little support for or hope from the Abraham Accords.

Economic ties between the signatories—Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates—have flourished. Israel is doing a brisk business selling security equipment to Arab countries that want to surveil their populations. When new clashes in Gaza broke out in 2021, these Arab countries criticized Israel’s harsh tactics, but they made no moves to end this economically lucrative agreement.

A Vietnam Parallel

An instructive parallel could be drawn from the Vietnam war. During this equally tragic conflict, 13,000 out of 21,000 communities were destroyed either by carpet bombing or by direct attack in the South. The given reason for destroying the villages in the South was the belief that Viet Cong soldiers were hidden there.

Just as in Gaza, the Viet Cong had vast complexes of tunnels with the largest extending 130 miles in and around Saigon. (I walked with back bent 200 feet through one of these on a visit in 2010.) Many villages had their own tunnel system so that the Viet Cong and civilians could escape into them when a village was attacked.

Also, just as in Gaza, tens of thousands of civilians were killed in countless futile attempts to dispatch the combatants. Finally, just as in Gaza, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army, surviving bombing after bombing, came back stronger than ever. They eventually drove us out of the country.

More Bombs than Afghanistan

During the first week of the war, according to reporters from NBC, the Israeli military “dropped 6,000 bombs in Gaza. In 2019, the U.S. dropped 7,400 bombs in Afghanistan over the course of an entire year.” Most of these munitions weigh between 1,000 to 2,000 pounds. U.S. military analysts have concluded that even 500-pound bombs are too heavy for “efficient” urban warfare. This is revenge pure and simple.

A Jewish journalist, whose family survived the Holocaust, wrote: “I refuse to believe that the lesson of Hamas’ atrocities is that a Jewish state can commit its own genocide. That so many American Jews seem to think otherwise is disturbing and disappointing, not to mention dangerous.”

Hope for a Permanent Ceasefire

As I write this, a temporary ceasefire has been called to release the Hamas hostages in stages in return for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. It is my hope that this will be the first step towards a permanent ceasefire and a serious return to a two-state solution.

The problem, however, is that the Netanyahu government has made such a result much, much more difficult. Adding to this dilemma is the fact that the U.S. just vetoed a call for ceasefire in the UN Security Council. It is shameful that we have never been a neutral mediator in this tragic conflict.

Nick Gier taught religion and philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years. He was a senior fellow at the Martin Peace Institute from 1990 to 2000. His research there resulted in a book on Gandhi (, and a book entitled The Origins of Religious Violence: An Asian Perspective. Email him at

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