After spending a great deal of time online, I read and watched endless virtual conversations about who’s at fault and who’s not in the wake of the over 60 casualties in Gaza on Monday. Discussions varied from whether Israel is exercising a righteous act of self-defense, or if Palestinians are legitimately organizing a peaceful protest; whether it is a conflict between two equals who are both guilty, or it is between an army of a state and an occupied territory packed with civilians?
It’s mind-blowing how people have the energy to keep repeating the same claims over and over again for days and weeks, ignoring outside information. That is why I have decided to spare others the time, effort, and emotion, by writing out the most common claims I have seen regarding the events of the Great March of Return, followed by my responses. Those interested in fact-checking these common falsehoods, can find them in one place.
The one claim that I will not deal with, one of the most popular, is that of: “The Bible say God give the land of Israel to the Jewish people?” Fundamentalists, regardless of faith, will never see beyond their own holy books. This list isn’t for them and I won’t bother trying to change their minds.
Claim 1: Israel acted with “restraint” towards protesters in Gaza.
Speaking at the United Nations on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, “[W]ho among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”
Even harder it was to listen to an Israeli official saying how “We have Israeli civilian communities, farms, and homesteads just 100 meters away from the border. If we’re allowing that borderer to be porous we’ll have dead Israelis.”
First thing I can think of is, what border? Israel is the only country in the world with no defined borders, as they keep expanding into others’ land. The line between Gaza and Israel is an armistice line from 1949 and 1967, not an internationally recognized border.
Second, Palestinians are not crossing the armistice line and killing Israelis living right across the fence once they are “unleashed.” They are not animals, neither are they cannibals! Palestinians are the not encaged blood-thirsty animals that will prey the first thing they witness once they are out. Yes, they are trying to cross the fence into 1948 areas, but this is about realizing their right of return to the land many of them were forced to leave. Seventy percent of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees from cities and towns in Israel. These people are trying to go home. They are trying to get to the houses they still have keys and official documents for! They are not embarking on a secret murderous mission.
Claim 2: Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years ago. Moving the embassy is just a recognition of that reality.
At the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “In Jerusalem, King David established our capital 3,000 years ago.” Several members of the Trump administration have stated in recent weeks that Jerusalem is already the capital of Israel and moving the embassy is a “recognition of reality.”
King David is described in the Bible as the second king to preside over the United Monarchy, a unified territory of all Jewish tribes that lasted for about 100 years. Most of what is known about Kind David comes from religious readings, not archeological evidence.
According to religious tradition, King David reigned around 3,000 years ago. His capital was considered to be where the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan is located in East Jerusalem, along with the Israeli settlement and Bible park called the “City of David.”
Claim 3: This Great March of Return is totally organized by Hamas, a terrorist group.
It’s quite funny how this claim gives a huge deal of legitimacy to Hamas. They do Hamas a favor when they say that it could actually mobilize more than 40,000 people in one day for one goal.
The Great March of Return was organized by a grassroots group of Palestinians in Gaza. Here’s one of the founders of the protests, Nabeel Diab, telling Mondoweiss that it is a lie that Hamas is behind this movement.
Claim 4: Hamas paid each Palestinian protesters a whopping $1,000 to cross into Israel.
Alt-right personality Laura Loomer has circulated the claim that “Hamas is paying $1000 to every Palestinian who tries to break the Gaza border with Israel and murder Israelis.”
Hamas was created in 1987. Palestinians had been resisting Israel since 1948. Who paid them before that?
Also, the assumption that Palestinians are nothing but a bunch of immoral mercenaries, is quite insulting to the nation that still comes up with new creative ways to prove its right in a better life.
Fact-check: relatives of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces were offered $3,000, and injured Palestinians were reportedly paid between $200 and $500. In reality these funds cover funerals, hospital bills, and provide a modest welfare stipend to the bereaved. More importantly, no Palestinian is being offered cash to kill Israelis.
Claim 5: Palestinians hate Israelis more than they love their kids.
This is a tired argument that keeps resurfacing one way or another ever since former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Mier said the first iteration, “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” The line was just as offensive back then as it is now.
I am not sure how I can explain that no sane human being feels at ease endangering their kids, no matter what outcome they are expecting. No one can do this. None. I hardly think this kind of statements are meant to be discussed with logic. These are dehumanizing cruel insults I have no interest in wasting time on.
Claim 6: Live ammunition was only used to stop the ones crossing the fence. Israel used tear gas and rubber bullets for the most part. The casualties of journalists and minors are totally unintended mistakes.
I won’t say a word here. I’d rather let the IDF official Twitter account respond to this one (note: the IDF later removed the tweet):
Claim 7: This is Israel’s land and it will always be Israel’s, deal with it.
We are dealing with it, trust me. You took territory by force and ethnic-cleansing. We are trying reclaim our rights as civil and bloodless as possible in regular non-violent civil disobedience and boycotts.
Claim 8: The humanitarian crisis in Gaza must be solved.
Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted yesterday, “The United States must play an aggressive role in bringing Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and the international community together to address Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and stop this escalating violence.”
While I appreciate these attempts to educate Americans on the Palestinian plight, and I understand how hard it is to maneuver while trying to avoid backlash, or in Bernie Sander’s case being smeared as “a self-hating Jew,” it is not very effective to call on an end to only the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, although it is getting worse by day.
The core problem is occupation and injustice. Without an end to the blockade, the humanitarian crisis will never end. Palestinians do not only demand food, water, and medication. They need full freedom, just like everybody else in the world.
Claim 9: Why should Israel give the Palestinians a state? Israel gave them Gaza and look what they have done with it? They are even split up between Fatah and Hamas.
This usually comes in response to any mention of a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. This logic that says we do things better, we have to train them first, they can’t run their own affairs, is quite similar to the colonial narrative that says brown people always need supervision from the others who know better, as if we are underage teenagers who can’t control our own fates. I don’t really have anything to say to counter this claim except, “If you are going to use this statement, then don’t get mad when we call Israel a colonial-settler state.”