A multiple-choice question: Who is Israel’s greatest enemy?

A multiple-choice question: Who is Israel’s greatest enemy? July 2, 2024

Sharpen your pencil for today’s one-question quiz. You may use the clues provided. There is an opportunity for extra credit at the bottom.

THE QUESTION: Who is Israel’s greatest enemy?

A. Pro-Israel members of the US Government

B. Pro-Israel Evangelical Christians

C. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

D. Hamas

Before you rush to answer, take a moment to peruse the following factual information (follow the links for details).

A. Is the answer “pro-Israel members of the US government”? How could pro-Israel politicians be enemies of Israel? After all, they have the key to the coffers, and most of them have supported Israel unconditionally during the current war on Gaza. For example:

  • President Biden has been famously tolerant of Israel’s efforts in Gaza, drawing and erasingred lines” since the war on Gaza began.
  • The Biden admin has fast-tracked two major weapons sales to Israel, one worth $106 million and the other worth $147.5 million, bypassing Congress by invoking an emergency authority. These transactions took place in spite of Americans’ objections to the war.
  • In addition, the US has “quietly approved and delivered more than 100 separate foreign military sales to Israel” since October 7th.
  • Both the president and Congress have condemned peaceful pro-Palestine demonstrations across the country; Congressional hearings have put pressure on university administrators to crack down on similar protests by characterizing them (inaccurately) as “antisemitic“; they have also denounced efforts by the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court to hold Israel accountable.
  • Pro-Israel Congress members have voted to protect the most violent Israeli settlers (who live illegally on Palestinian land), and to shield Israel from consequences when it uses our weapons to commit atrocities (which it already has done).
  • Pro-Israel Congress members have voted to prohibit funding “for the State Department to cite statistics obtained from the Gaza Health Ministry.” (That way, we can ignore the scale of the destruction in Gaza, subsidized by our tax dollars. The Gaza Health Ministry is the only official source of death toll statistics – it is widely believed to be seriously under-estimating the casualty figures for the war, which currently stand at over 37,000 dead and 87,000 injured.)
  • Pro-Israel Congress members have voted to block the US from funding the reconstruction of Gaza, although we financed its destruction.
  • Another bill in Congress would extend some US military benefits to the estimated 20,000 Americans currently fighting as members of the Israeli military.
  • Pro-Israel Congress members also de-funded UNRWA, the UN agency that supports the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees, after Israel alleged that members of its staff had participated in the October 7th attacks. The de-funding came before any Israel provided evidence to back up its claims; in fact, investigations showed Israel’s claims to be unsubstantiated. But UNRWA remains de-funded.

These are just a few of many pieces of legislation that, in one way or another, appear to support Israel and undermine the cause of the Palestinian people. Is this the work of an enemy, or a friend of Israel?

B. Is the answer “pro-Israel Evangelical Christians? Certainly Evangelical Christians are a great friend of Israel, right? They have gone out of their way to support the Jewish State. Interestingly, Israel is the largest recipient of both American foreign aid and evangelical funding. Some have estimated that the evangelical community contributes $175-$200 million annually to Israel. For example:

  • Evangelicals mobilized in support of Israel within hours of the October 7th attacks, holding fundraisers, calling for prayer, and keeping the plight of Israeli prisoners in the public eye – often while ignoring Palestinian deaths. They claim to have raised millions of dollars in the first days of the war.
  • Donations have gone to paramilitary groups, the Israeli military, and illegal settlers, and have provided bomb shelters and surveillance drones for settlements – settlements that are illegal under international law.
  • Shortly after October 7th, thousands of pastors, theologians, and academics signed a statement, created by the Southern Baptist Convention, in support of Israel’s “right to defend itself.”
  • Many evangelical Christians believe that Israel has an open-ended right to respond to the events of October 7th, and that “calls for a ceasefire are tantamount to forcing Israel to live with these heinous violations.”
  • In evangelical circles, anyone who simply takes issue with Israel’s decades-long military occupation of the Palestinian territories (which contain many Palestinian Christians) or advocates for Palestinian rights is likely to be labeled as “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic.”

While young evangelical support for Israel is declining, overall the community is unreservedly pro-Israel. Is this the position of a friend, or a foe?

C. Is the answer “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu”? While Israelis have been holding massive protests against PM Netanyahu, demanding that he step down, he has remained firmly entrenched as head of Israel’s government, and led his country in the fight for “total victory” over Hamas. For example:

  • Even in the face of his own military leaders’ (and the Biden administration’s) insistence that Hamas can not be eradicated, and even with the possibility of losing all allies, he has remained unmoved in his resolve.
  • A recent rescue operation liberated four Israeli prisoners, but also caused the deaths of one Israeli officer, three prisoners, and at least 274 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and almost seven hundred injuries – but the Prime Minister (and American leaders) stayed focused on the good news. Netanyahu promised, “We’ll do whatever it takes to get [all of the prisoners] back home,” and commended the Israeli soldiers for “performing in the most valiant and moral way to end this war with a victory.”

He may not be perfect, but he is passionately committed to the survival of the State of Israel. Friend, or foe?

D. Is the answer “Hamas”? What can be said about Hamas? Hamas is the resistance group (some would say “terrorist group” – but that is a political, not a fact-base choice)  that Israel created (yes, you read that right – see this). In the words of truth-teller Mehdi Hasan, Hamas is “an enemy that Israel spent more than twenty years helping to build up, and then spent the next twenty years – the past twenty years, that is, trying to  bombbesiege, and blockade out of existence.” Hamas, the thorn in Israel’s side, of course led the offensive against Israel on October 7th.

Hamas is, many believe, a murderous, genocidal, antisemitic group of human garbage bent on destroying the only “Jewish State” in the world. Is that really true, though?

Here is what Hamas says (paraphrased for brevity from the revised Hamas Charter, 2017):

  • The world has failed for decades to secure the rights and the land that were taken from the Palestinians, so the people have taken that work it upon themselves (they are right – the global community has done little to restore what was taken from the Palestinians).
  • Hamas is not in conflict with Jews, but with Zionists who occupy Palestinian land, “yet, it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project [Israel]” (so, “antisemitic?” – nope; “bent on destroying the Jewish State [ of which 20% of the residents are non-Jews]? – nope; “genocidal”? – nope [see chart below]).
  • There can be no real peace while Palestinians are oppressed and exiled from their land – Hamas will not let Israel rest until there is liberation. Their right to return “is confirmed by all divine laws as well as by the basic principles of human rights and international law” (again, they are right – the right of return is enshrined in international law).
  • Hamas as a group recognizes the duty to stand up to aggression and support the oppressed. The liberation of Palestine is “a legitimate activity, it is an act of self-defense, and it is the expression of the natural right of all peoples to self-determination” (right again – Israel has been the aggressor since its creation, and even before; self-defense and self-determination are human rights).
  • Hamas is willing to give up 78% of historic Palestine in order to establish of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, with Jerusalem; the PLO had already accepted this concept in 1989 (that’s right – a permanent peace plan has been on the table for a long, long time).

In summary, Hamas is pursuing Palestinian human rights, not the genocide of Jews. Hamas demands the only kind of peace that is durable: a just peace – a peace that the world should have demanded decades ago, but did not.

Hamas’ methods may be worthy of critique, but their cause is rooted in international law. Their attack on October 7th was a response to Israel’s constant violations of Palestinian human rights.

Israel complains about Hamas rockets constantly “raining down on Israel.” Hamas has been launching rockets toward Israel since 2000, killing an average of two Israelis per year – the majority of them during times of war.

For those who cry, “but the hostages!” keep in mind: only a few days after the attack, Hamas reportedly offered to release all of the hostages, if Israel would forego its planned ground invasion of Gaza. Israeli leaders refused.

As I have written elsewhere, Israel’s cause is indefensible. Israeli leaders may say they are defending their people, but as long as Israel withholds basic rights from Palestinians, Palestinians will likely never stop resisting, and Israel will not be safe.

Without further ado, who is Israel’s greatest enemy?

The correct answer is…

Trick question: there are several correct answers. They are:

A. Pro-Israel members of the US Government: for providing nearly unlimited weapons and diplomatic support for Israel as it perpetrates genocide on the Palestinian people; for failing to hold Israel to international laws and norms; for rejecting international bodies’ attempts to hold Israel accountable and cease its genocidal actions.

B. Pro-Israel Evangelical Christians: for providing financial assistance to Israeli groups that are participating in the oppression of the Palestinian people; for failing to uphold the teachings of Jesus to care for the needy.

C. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: for recklessly advancing a war that has made his country a pariah; for perpetrating genocide in the name of Jews; for scorning even minor admonitions to exercise moderation.

D. Hamas is not the correct answer. Hamas is demanding no more and no less for the Palestinian people than Israel demands for its own people. Hamas is holding Israel accountable to international law and calling for a just peace – the only kind of peace that will bring an end to the conflict. 

Hamas is the only party that is agitating for peace.

Palestinians killed by Israel
Palestinians killed by Israel before October 7th (from https://ifamericansknew.org/stat/deaths.html)

Since October 7th, Israel has killed at least 37,900 Palestinians in Gaza alone – not including at least 10,000 buried beneath the rubble and presumed dead.

Since October 7th, Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups have killed about 1,473 Israelis.

It behooves all of us, whether we adhere to a religious belief system or not, to interrogate our assumptions, fact-check our convictions, and act responsibly.

Extra credit opportunity:

Consider contacting the people in Washington DC who (allegedly) work for you and telling them, “ENOUGH. CEASEFIRE NOW. NO MORE WEAPONS TO ISRAEL. STOP THE GENOCIDE. NOW – OR YOU’RE FIRED.”

Reach your Representative here, and your Senator here. Email President Biden here.

As I recently wrote, I have for the time being washed my hands of Christians who refuse to engage with the issue of Palestine, and for now (at least until the end of this horrific war) I will be writing about the significance of what is going on “over there” from a global and historic perspective.

I’m here for anyone who cares to have an intelligent conversation about reality, instead of living in a silo of confirmation bias.

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter. I write about the Palestine-Israel issue regularly, and other issues relevant to progressives or those considering becoming progressive. If you would like to comment on this post, please pop over to my Facebook page. All of my posts are there and open to constructive comment. I welcome your thoughts.

I also commend to you If Americans Knew (full disclosure: I am a writer and editor there), where you can get factual reporting on the Palestine-Israel issue. I can personally vouch for its accuracy.

If you are interested, here are some of my earlier posts on the Palestine issue:

Further reading on the Palestine-Israel issue:

Posts about my family in Gaza (in chronological order):

FEATURED IMAGE: by Filip Andrejevic via Unsplash

About Kathryn Shihadah
I was raised as a conservative Christian, and was perfectly content to stay that way – until the day my stable, predictable world was rocked. A curtain was pulled back on conservative Christianity, and instead of ignoring the ugliness I saw, I confronted it. I began to ask questions I never thought I’d ask, and found answers I’d never expected. Old things began to fall away, and – behold! – the new me has come. What a gift to be a new, still-evolving creation. I found out that it’s better to look at the world through Progressive Lenses, with Grace-Colored Glasses. You can read more about the author here.

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