Ze’ev Jabotinsky once described a conversation he had with Dr. Max Nordau, Herzl’s partner in launching the Zionist movement. Frustrated by the passivity of the Jewish people at a time when Jewish action was desperately needed to attain their homeland, he asked Nordau how it was possible for the Jews to do nothing. Nordau explained: “The Jew learns not by way of reason but from catastrophes. He won’t buy an umbrella merely because he sees clouds in the sky; he waits until he is drenched and catches pneumonia – then he makes up his mind.”
We Jews are, for better and for worse, a stiff-necked people. Our stubbornness is the source of our strength and the key to our survival. But at the same time, it means we are often slow learners who cling to ideologies and illusions that were long ago shattered by the ugly realities of this still unredeemed world.
Religious Jews are no exception. “Who is blind but My servant, and deaf as My messenger whom I will send?” (Isaiah 42:19).
Even after October 7 revealed the sickening evil of our enemies and their genocide-loving supporters throughout the world, too many of us refuse to draw logical and necessary conclusions. But now, as the shadow of war hangs over all of us, we can no longer afford the luxury of “respectability” or “balance.” Now is the time to speak the truth. We must begin saying out loud what we know, in our hearts, to be true.
The Imaginary “Innocent Palestinians”
A few weeks before October 7, a well-meaning friend of mine – let’s call him Daniel – who lives in New York wrote to me by WhatsApp:
“I don’t blame the Palestinians generally, it’s more their leadership and other ‘allies’ that have left them in a position where there isn’t much else to root for beyond terrorism… What is the average Palestinian’s alternative to believe in for their kids?… The leaders are garbage and the terrorists are garbage but there are plenty of people who just want a better life for their kids, and the only option they see as possible is armed resistance. Not that different from how we saw it not so long ago. That doesn’t make it right, it’s just normal and we should try to provide a better alternative because no one else is…”
Since October 7, Daniel has doubled down on his view that most Palestinians are good people who just want a better life for their families. As my family ran to our bomb shelter, I read more texts from him asserting that only Hamas and the other terrorist groups were to blame.
I understand the desire to believe this. I’ve had Arab workers in my home, and at least a few of them seemed friendly. We want to believe, and I am no exception, that Palestinians are a good people ruled by evil terrorists. If only we could free them from their leadership!
To consider the alternative – that the people themselves are guilty – is both terrifying and difficult for good Jews to absorb. Jews are raised to be kind and merciful; it’s hard for us to believe that average Palestinian mothers and fathers raise their children to hate and murder Jews, simply because they are Jews. We are accustomed to looking inwards, to blaming ourselves. And so Daniel has convinced himself of a comforting narrative, that most Palestinians are innocent.
But this is not a time for wishful thinking. Our very lives depend on seeing the world clearly and looking evil in the eye. When you live in Judea as I do, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Arabs, this is no exaggeration. And these days, as mass crowds of Palestinians and their supporters call for Jewish genocide all over America, delusional perspectives like Daniel’s are putting the lives of American Jews at risk as well.
Who are these “innocent” Palestinians, really?
Hamas terrorists don’t fall from the sky. Hamas terrorists – and the reports say over 40,000 of them are hiding in tunnels in Gaza – were raised and educated in a society of men, women, and children that is obsessively focused on murdering Jews and erasing Israel from the map.
What kind of culture produces thousands of men who proudly video themselves raping teen girls before executing them? What kind of society glorifies baby killers who burn the bodies of their infant victims, crowning them as heroes? Terrorists are not a guilty minority terrorizing an innocent majority. They are not “lone actors,” but rather the messengers and representatives of their people – just as I am a representative and messenger of the Jewish people.
In 2006, in a democratic election, Hamas – a terrorist group whose charter openly calls for the genocide of Jews and the eradication of Israel – won a majority of 74 of 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. As recently as this past July, polling by the Washington Institute shows that 57% of Palestinians in Gaza expressed a positive view of Hamas, despite the destruction they have brought upon the Gaza Strip. Hamas is unquestionably the chosen and preferred leadership of the people of Gaza.
A large majority of Palestinians support terrorism and the murder of Jews, a fact repeatedly proven through surveys. After the murder of Jewish brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv in Huwara this year, a survey by the Palestinian Center for Research on Policy and Investigations (PCPSR) showed that 71% of Palestinians said they supported the murders. Another poll from PCPSR shows that, by a margin of 58 percent to 20 percent, Palestinians would prefer a renewal of the intifada. ”From the river to the sea” is not a Hamas slogan. It is a Palestinian slogan. These are the “innocent” Palestinians we constantly hear about in the media!
But if numbers don’t move you, consider the following: Since October 7, Israeli authorities have detained and interrogated over 4,000 Gazan Arabs who had work visas in Israel and worked in the communities where Hamas terrorists committed their inhuman atrocities. These “average Palestinians” are the people who provided the necessary intelligence to Hamas. There are reports of former workers mapping out the communities that they raided, identifying homes of security personnel, which families had dogs, and even how many children lived in each home.
The Washington Free Beacon reported on the mob of ordinary Palestinians who spontaneously joined in the murder, rape, and kidnapping of innocent Jews on October 7. Thousands of Gazan civilians rushed into Israeli towns to assist Hamas, decapitating Jewish children and raping Jewish women. This is a fact, confirmed by IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus.
Gadi Yarkoni, who was elected mayor of the Eshkol Regional Council under the center-left Blue and White party, lost his legs in a mortar attack during the 2014 Gaza war. His idealism has been shattered: “The second wave of Arabs who came into the country were just as cruel as the terrorists of the first wave. We saw that it was not only Hamas who came to slaughter us. It was all the residents of Gaza, including people who worked in our kibbutzim.”
On Israel’s Channel 12 news, Yarkoni responded to the TV anchor’s claim that most Palestinians are innocent, saying: “I have changed. I don’t talk like you. I don’t know what’s going on with our hostages and missing people. Their families are crying out, and the people of Gaza, who we once thought were good, are responsible. It’s not just Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Ordinary people from Gaza took [our citizens].”
The “poor mothers” of Gaza are not innocent. Journalist Jotam Confino reported on a Hamas terrorist who called his mother on the day of the attack. “I killed 10 Jews with my own hands. I’m using the dead Jewish woman’s phone to call you now.” His mother replied, “May God protect you.”
Though ignored by the media, Arabs in Judea and Samaria have made it clear that they side with Hamas. The Arab villages adjacent to the Jewish community of Karmei Tzur in Judea have repeatedly sounded fake rocket sirens over loudspeakers at a high volume to terrify their Jewish neighbors. The muezzins of their local mosques are openly blasting calls for revenge and the murder of Jews. In Shlomo Ne’eman’s words: “The Arabs of Judea and Samaria have chosen to side with the most despicable murderers that walk the earth today.”
If the Israeli soldiers and volunteer security guards protecting my town of Efrat from the Arabs of nearby Bethlehem were to abandon their posts, does anyone doubt that thousands – tens of thousands – of “innocent Palestinians” would attack Efrat and slaughter us all?
Dr. Einat WIlf, a former member of the Labor Party and a self-described feminist and atheist, is willing to see what so many religious Jews refuse to accept. “We are told that most Palestinians do not support Hamas. Very well. Where then are the large-scale Palestinian protests demanding Hamas release the abducted hostages – children, toddlers, grandparents, civilians – immediately and unconditionally? Where then is the sole Palestinian protester standing in Times or Trafalgar Square with a sign that says “Not in My Name”? Where is the one Palestinian intellectual who will write an op-ed expressing deep shame that acts of the greatest cruelty in human history were carried out in the name of “Free Palestine” and “From the River to the Sea”? If the PLO, Fatah, and Palestinian Authority represent moderate Palestinians, where is the outcry? The horror? The heartfelt denunciations? Why must international pressure be fruitlessly brought to bear to try to elicit even a pale shadow of them? If Hamas is not supported in Gaza, where then is the Palestinian in Gaza who will come forth with information about the hostages? Even in Nazi Germany, when some Germans understood that Hitler was bringing disaster to their country, there were those who attempted to assassinate him. Where are the Palestinians in Gaza who will take action against Hamas? And why is it that the instinctive response of so many to these questions is to make excuses as to why not even one of these things should be expected of any Palestinian anywhere?”
What about Israeli Arabs, Israel’s third rail issue that no one wants to mention? Have we forgotten the uprising of May 2021, when thousands of Israeli Arabs rioted and destroyed Jewish neighborhoods and synagogues? Have we forgotten that the majority of Israeli Arabs vote for terror-supporting parties like the Joint List?
On October 19, the Israeli Arab bus drivers of the Extra bus company in Jerusalem went on strike. They claimed that their strike was in response to an incident in which a passenger cursed Muhammad in front of a driver. A telling video shows a representative of the municipality apologizing to the drivers at length, after which the leader of the Arab strikers ordered the drivers to go back to work. But then he switched to Arabic, and spoke the truth: that they were striking in support of Hamas terrorists.
Yet we continue to delude ourselves. We so desperately want to believe that the Palestinians, as a people, want peace. And it’s not just my friend Daniel.
The Teaneck, New Jersey Town Council apparently drinks the same Kool-Aid. In its proclamation in response to the massacre of October 7, the council declared: “WHEREAS, the actions of Hamas, do not represent the Palestinian people or the entire international Muslim community; and WHEREAS, the Township recognizes that residents are hurting, in pain, and in need of compassion and understanding…” If we are not clear about the truth, can we expect the Gentiles to understand?
The great tragedy of the Oslo Agreements was built upon this delusion of “innocent Palestinians who want peace.” Thousands of Jews have died over the last 30 years because we refused to accept the truth. We cannot defeat an enemy we refuse to see.
The Chief Rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, recently wrote, “We believed that if we stroked the snake softly and kindly enough, the snake would transform into a lamb. But when you pet a snake, it bites you. How many more Jews must die before we realize that a snake is truly a snake?”
Why did God command us to remember Amalek’s attack for all generations, even though Amalek ceased to exist as a nation thousands of years ago? I believe that God foresaw that His people would struggle to confront the painful truth of evil. The lesson from Amalek is not that we practically can or should kill millions of Palestinians. The lesson of Amalek is that a society can become so corrupt, so sick and evil, that it is worthy of destruction.
We are facing Amalekites – and it’s not just Hamas. The majority of Palestinians support the murder of Jewish children. In mass crowds of tens of thousands, Arabs celebrate throughout Judea and Samaria. This so-called “Palestinian people” is a people of evil.
Daniel, my dear 5 Towns friend who believes so deeply in the goodness of the Palestinian people, please answer this: If you lived in southern Israel, if you personally knew the 1,400 people brutally slaughtered – many of them by “innocent Palestinians” – would you still believe in the fundamental goodness of the Palestinian people? Would you watch their celebrations in the streets of Bethlehem and Jenin and maintain your delusion that this is a good people who truly want peace? Are you willing to test your belief in Palestinian innocence by walking alone and unarmed through any Palestinian village? How long would it take for them to slaughter you? Five minutes? Seven minutes?
Of course, there are exceptions. There are good individual Arabs who want to live in peace. But the nation, the society, is evil. We must be clear and speak this truth!
What does this mean, practically, for the future of Israel?
Gaza, Judea, and Samaria must be emptied of corrupt and evil people. They must leave, one way or another. European countries welcomed tens of millions of refugees over the last 8 years. A few million Gazans should be comparatively easy to absorb when divided among many nations.
We in Israel must stop employing these people in our homes and businesses. If necessary, we must bring 100,000 foreign workers to Israel, to do the jobs that Jews won’t do. We must give these evil people no incentive to stay. It won’t happen overnight, but we must begin the process of removing them from the land. It is us or them; our lives depend on it.
“But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the Land from before you, then those whom you leave over will be as spikes in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they will harass you in the land in which you settle” (Bamidbar 33:55).
We have ignored God’s will for far too long, and we have paid an unbelievably painful price. It is time to repent – for His sake, and for our own.
“And on that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and out of the obscurity and out of darkness shall the eyes of the blind see” (Isaiah 29:18).
May that day come soon.
Elie Mischel is Director of Education at Israel365.