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Everything you need to know about Israel and Hamas and how it started

Israel is a country that everyone seems to have an opinion about. What’s unfortunate is that most form their opinions based on a headline, social media post or Facebook news feed that does not give context to events or the players.

Israel undeniably takes center stage in our news cycles. Even when there is an absence of open conflict, there are more American news correspondents in the country than in the entire European Union. Every argument between a Muslim and Jew over a backyard fence becomes an “incident” while the fact that most Jewish and Muslim citizens living and working peaceably together is ignored.

Dwight Widaman, Metro Voice Editor

And while Israel has one of the freest and most independent press environments in the west, the vast majority of its neighbors are less fortunate.

For example, in last week’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israeli officials were vigorously questioned by both Israeli and Western media outlets. That’s not a bad thing. Done correctly (and honestly), a healthy, free and unbiased press can serve as a tool for government accountability. That’s true in America as it is in Israel.

Not so for the antagonists in the conflict. Hamas, which is labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S., Canada, the European Union, and other allies such as Australia and Japan, controls the Gaza strip and is ruled by shadowy military figures with deep ties to Iran. It’s a piece of land whose borders are jointly secured by Israel and Egypt, who enforce international law prohibiting weapons from being smuggled into the region. Gaza was previously considered part of the Palestinian Authority but in elections a few years ago, the PA was removed from power and Hamas took over. Currently, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has no control or power over Gaza. But Hamas has considerable power in The West Bank and the PA.

Hamas also controls access to all information in Gaza. Western reporters and news organizations operate under threat and are most often reluctant or unable to provide the kind of accountability they require of anyone else.

Western press, including American media outlets, readily accept Hamas statements that say “fill in number” of innocent civilians were killed in the Israeli military response. Never does news media question those accounts, or ask Hamas why they use Palestinians as human shields. Hamas is incentivized to inflate civilian casualties because it causes public opinion to turn against Israel. And that’s part of the Hamas game plan.

That’s a little background. Here’s a primer with 15 points on what just happened in the Middle East and a bit more history to put it into perspective.

1) In 1947 the U.N. partitions what is known as “Palestine” or the British Mandate. Remember, the first time the name Palestine was used was in 70 AD when the Roman occupiers destroyed the Jewish Temple after a Jewish revolt, then committed genocide against the Jews. Rome renamed it “Palestine,” wiping the name Israel off the map until 1948.

  • The new 1947 U.N. borders effectively divide the area between a new Jewish State and a new Arab state. Jerusalem becomes an international city.
  • Arab nations attack. Immediately after Israel re-declares itself a nation in 1948, Jordan (and several other Arab nations) attack and invade the new Jewish state and divide Jerusalem, occupying the eastern half which now becomes known as “East” Jerusalem. The area of Samaria and Judea becomes known as the “West Bank” – a concocted name given it by Jordan which is on the “Eastern” side of the Jordan River.
  • Arab radio announcements told Arabs in Israel to flee their homes for they could return when the Jews were exterminated (You can listen to the Arab radio announcements online). Israel on the other hand encourages its Arab population to stay and build a pluralistic society. Many Arabs do stay. Many leave their homes for Jordan, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt.

2) Jordanian occupation: Jewish families are evicted from their homes in the Old City and other parts of “East Jerusalem” and the West Bank. All across the Middle East, Jews are evicted from their homes. Perhaps one million Jews are forced out of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, North Africa and the Gulf states. Some go to Israel, many migrate to the U.S. and Europe.

3) 1967 Six-Day War. Israel is again attacked and invaded by the Arab nations of Jordan, Syria, Egypt. After what many call a miracle, Israel defeats all of them and reunites all of Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem. They also push Jordan out of the “West Bank” (Judea & Samaria), Syria from the Golan Heights (from which Syria would bomb Israeli villages in the north) and Egypt from the Sinai Peninsula (a huge defeat for Egypt which had the largest army in the Middle East at the time). Israel could have invaded Egypt and totally defeated them but halts at the Red Sea. The armies of Syria and Egypt were obliterated. Jordan withdrew at the very end to save what remained of its army and air force.

4) Israel reunites Jerusalem. The world says it is “occupying” East Jerusalem and the West Bank which is really Samaria and Judea of the Bible – the Biblical heartland of Jewish and Christian faith.

5) A sign of goodwill. In an effort to respect the Muslim religion, Israel allows Jordan to retain control and administration of the Temple Mount which Muslims consider their third most holy site.

6) Israel allows Arabs to stay. They also allow some Arabs that had taken the Jewish homes to continue living in them even in the face of the Jewish families who demand they be returned to them. The Jewish families take the Arabs to court and it has been working its way through the Israeli court system for several decades. They wanted a democratic solution to allow them to return to their homes.

7) Weeks ago: an expulsion order is given to remove the Arab “squatters” from the Jewish homes. The Supreme Court delays enforcement to avoid confrontation. The Jewish families go to their homes and demand the Arabs leave. American news outlets label the Jewish families returning to their homes as “settlers.”

8) Mid-May: riots break out on the Temple Mount.

  • Palestinian police cannot or will not stop them.
  • Riots spread across Israel in Arab neighborhoods after the police move into the Temple Mount to stop the riots and put out the arson fires Arabs have lit there.
  • This is happening, coincidentally or not, on the week in which Israelis celebrate their 1948 independence – their “Fourth of July.”

9)  Palestinian elections. During all this, the Palestinian Authority postponed elections because polling showed that Hamas was going to oust Mahmoud Abbas and the PA and replace it with the Islamist Resistance Movement – the political party of Hamas.

  • Abbas is President of the PA and Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
  • The PLO, you might remember, was a terrorist organization that attacked the Munich Olympics and executed the Israeli wrestling team and their coaches.
  • The PLO is also responsible for dozens of airliner hijackings in the 1970s and 80s that killed airline passengers (including American and other Jewish passengers).

10) Mahmoud Abbas really does not control the West Bank or PA. He has the title but no power.

  • Israel really has no one to negotiate with but prefers Abbas over Hamas, of course.
  • Polling showed Hamas was going to trounce the PA.

11) Hamas attacks.  Funded by Iran, Hamas takes advantage of the unrest and launches an all-out attack on Israel using rockets and weapons built with smuggled parts and designs given to them by Iran.

  • Hamas aims its rockets at Israeli cities with no warnings.
  • Israel responds by attacking Hamas offices, military infrastructure, convoys and tunnels. 60 miles of terrorist tunnels are destroyed.

12) Cease fire deal reached. Brokered by Egypt, with virtually no American input.

  • The Biden administration claims it “quietly” negotiated with Abbas to get a ceasefire but Abbas had no power to stop Hamas.
  • In fact, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is on video stating he heard there was a ceasefire but could not confirm.

13) Biden administration supports Israel AND Hamas. The Biden administration, while acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself, also commits hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Hamas for “rebuilding,” thus beginning a new cycle where Hamas finds the money for weapons. It is well-documented that it funnels humanitarian aid into weapons production and terrorist activities.

14) Public opinion.  Favorable opinion of Israel drops after incessant negative media coverage that often distorts the facts while ignoring history.

15) Hamas declares victory. Having won the social media war with Israel, and successfully used its own people as pawns in its war (and stated goals in its charter) to destroy Israel, Hamas declares victory and asks the world to help it rebuild.

I hope this has been helpful. My wife and I have traveled to Israel 18 times between the two of us and Anita has lived there on two different occasions in the 1980s. We have considerable contacts in the region with both Israelis and even Palestinians who now live in Jordan. Our goal is to bring you  a more complete picture that allows you to understand and filter all the news that is coming at you at a rapid pace.

If you have questions please contact me. We are happy to speak to your church or civic group. Just call 816-524-4522.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice