The ‘whole truth’ about the Hamas-Israel war

by Nick Gier, the Palouse Pundit

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Mahatma Gandhi

The murderous attack by Hamas in Southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 innocent men, women and children, was a war crime on several counts. The 1949 Geneva Convention prohibits, among other things, indiscriminate attacks on civilians and the holding of hostages. Placing troops in hospitals or schools also violates the rules of war.

Israel, now and previously, has violated the principle of distinction and proportionality. Commanders must carefully distinguish between combatants and civilians, and then weigh targeting military targets in civilian areas in proportion to noncombatant casualties.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that Israel’s “instruction for hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes, coupled with the complete siege explicitly denying them food, water, and electricity, are not compatible with international humanitarian law.”

An Israeli spokesman essentially admitted these violations: “In the past, the idea was to use this force with restraint and maintain a weak Hamas. But when Hamas executed its diabolical plan, it changed the rules of the game. So, Israel is changing its own.” In truth, they changed the rules of warfare a long time ago.

In a letter to President Biden, 24 Senate Democrats condemned Hamas’ attack, but they requested that, as a condition of military aid, Israel must abide by “the laws of war.” The letter warns that Israel must “learn from the mistakes we made in our fight against terrorism” and provide for “the protection of civilians.”

Israel can and must do this. Their intelligence services have, and newspapers have published, detailed maps of Hamas’ tunnels. They have technology to detect movement in them, so there is no reason why the buildings and hospitals above them need to be destroyed.

One of the most evocative political cartoons published during this war depicts two Palestinian children, amid ruined buildings, hugging each other in fear. One is saying, as if to console the other, “they say it is complicated.” Folks, there is nothing complicated about deliberate attacks on innocent people. Palestinian casualties now stand at 18,000 dead, 70 percent of which are women and children.

On Oct. 24, UN General Secretary Antonio Guiterrez was severely criticized by Israel for stating that “the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.” In the same vein, former president Barack Obama warned that we should seek the “whole truth” in the Hamas-Israeli war, because everyone has been “complicit to some degree.”

The U.S. has never been an honest broker in the Middle East, but the Trump administration essentially gave Israel everything it wanted. Moving our embassy to Jerusalem eliminated an essential bargaining chip in negotiations.

Trump said nothing about the illegal settlements in the West Bank, and the Israelis who have moved there have become more militant. For years Palestinians have been denied access to their fields and orchards, and since the Hamas attack, 271 have been killed.

The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din has reported that only “seven percent of settler attacks have led to criminal charges with only three percent of investigations leading to a conviction.”

In 1947-48, about 700,000 Palestinians either fled or were evicted from their homes by Zionist militias. Many left out of fear of being killed by these paramilitary fighters, who on April 9, 1948, murdered 107 Palestinians in the village of Deir Yassin.

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The Palestinians call this the Nakba (“the catastrophe”) and every year on May 15 they commemorate this massacre. Citing the “right of return” as international law, Palestinians claim that they have the right to recover their homes and their lands.

Jews once lived, with few exceptions, in peace with their Arab neighbors for about 1,800 years. Then European Zionists came and declared, with the support of Britain but against the wishes of the Palestinian Arabs, that Palestine was their land. This was true only in biblical times.

In a speech to an American audience in 1948, Jordanian King Abdulla I concluded with a compelling observation. Britain, France, and the U.S. had refused to take but a few Jewish refugees, but they expected the Palestinian Arabs to receive them. Here is the historical seed of the current conflict — what Obama means by “the whole truth.”

Gier is professor emeritus at the University of Idaho. To see how little has changed read this at Email him at

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