The Facts on Palestine

Disinformation from Israel perpetuates the Gaza conflict

By Josh Fattal 

The facts about the war on Palestine should be familiar — more than 14,800 dead, the vast majority of whom are women, children and elderly. The U.N.’s human rights chief, Volker Türk, says outbreaks of disease and hunger in Gaza now appear “inevitable.” 

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA’s chief said Thursday, Nov. 16, “I do believe there is a deliberate attempt to strangle our operation.” Doctors Without Borders says that “Health care workers are regularly being attacked by the Israeli military while ambulances cannot move freely to reach the injured and ill.” 

The Israeli government is doing its best to stop the media from reporting on its horrors. A Reuters journalist, Issam Abdallah, was targeted and killed near the Lebanon border, according to Reporters without Borders. Beirut-based TV channel Al Mayadeen says that Israel targeted and killed two of its journalists recently. The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 53 journalists and media workers have been killed since Oct. 7. 

More than 100 Israelis were arrested just in the first week of the bombardment for social media posts deemed sympathetic to Palestinians. In the U.S., professionals had to step down, resign, renege or be canceled for expressing even the slightest sympathy for Palestinians. Universities have canceled film showings, public talks and student groups that are critical of Israel. 

The disinformation is nonstop from Israel. Israel’s army accuses Palestinian olive pickers of being Hamas; its diplomats accuse journalists and U.N.’s refugee agency of being Hamas. Israel’s claims that a misfired rocket from Islamic Jihad bombed a hospital has been proven false, and Israel’s claim that a major Hamas command center existed under al-Shifa hospital is also false. 

Israel controls all entry and exits of the 25 mile by five mile Gaza Strip, and it has not been letting in significant amounts of food, water or fuel, with the stated intent to cause mass suffering. Roughly 70 percent of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million is displaced. The real casualty numbers are likely much much higher than the Gaza health ministry reports.

How are we to frame our understanding of this? People who know about war crimes — crimes against humanity, proportionality, collective punishment — are in agreement that Israel is obviously guilty. “Genocide is staring us in the face,” the prominent Israeli-American scholar of the Holocaust, Omer Bartov, said Nov. 3, weeks before various supplies of potable water, food and fuel for hospitals have run out. 

Others, like Israel’s Minister for Agriculture and former head of the Shin Bet, Avi Dichter, compare this bombing to the nakba or “catastrophe” of 1947-1949 when 720,000 Palestinian civilians became refugees. On Nov. 11 the Israeli minister matter-of-factly stated: “We are now rolling out the Gaza Nakba.” 

Others use “ethnic cleansing.” “Palestinians are in grave danger of mass ethnic cleansing,” said a U.N. human rights expert on Oct. 14 before five weeks of continuous bombing and a ground invasion. For those disposed to reference the history of the U.S. to understand the conflict in Palestine, they use “settler colonialism” — a framework that describes the process of Indigenous dispossession by settlers and governments. Some strident critics of Israel make the case that the country has become a fascist state that is now controlled by the heirs of Ze’ev Jabotinsky (grandfather of the ruling Likud party) and Meir Kahane (an inspiration for a coalition partner, the Jewish Home party). Jabotinsky and Kahane were often called fascist by notable Israeli and Jewish contemporaries.

There was a four-day cease-fire for a hostage exchange that began on Nov. 24 and has been extended for two days as of press time. The cease-fire needs to be permanent. Over 75 percent — and growing — of Democrats support a cease-fire. Over 66 percent of Americans support a cease-fire. The vast majority of the world’s population wants a cease-fire. Millions of protesters have filled the world’s cities calling for a cease-fire. 

Rep. Val Hoyle and the Eugene City Council must support a lasting cease-fire and an end to U.S. military aid to Israel. On Monday, Nov.27, Eugene residents called on the City Council to pass such a resolution. Hoyle must sign on to the Ceasefire Now Resolution H.R. 786 and support Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for U.S. aid (currently $3.8 billion per year, and President Joe Biden is pledging $14 billion more) to Israel to be conditioned on Israel following international law. 

Josh Fattal is a former hostage of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He co-wrote A Sliver of Light: 3 Americans detained in Iran with Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd.

UPDATE: A three-part Zoom presentation that was scheduled for January Weaving FATTAL’S personal experience with Middle East history HAS SINCE been cANCELED.

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