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Meet the Hamas massacre survivors opposing Israeli brutality in Gaza
"Vengeance isn't a strategy."
On Oct. 12, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described calls for a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine, which were made by Democratic Reps. Ayanna Presley, Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib, as “repugnant” and “disgraceful,” underscoring the extent to which the U.S. is complicit in the horrors unfolding in Gaza.
This stands in stark contrast to the views of some of those who lost loved ones and survived the vicious Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on southern Israel, who are refusing to have their grief weaponized by Israel’s far-right government to commit even more dastardly acts in Gaza.
Israel has cut off Gaza’s power, water1 and fuel, ethnically cleansed northern Gaza, killing 1,000 Palestinian children and counting, and wiping out 50 families. As I was writing, news broke that Israel killed 471 people in one strike on al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City.2
Raz Segal, a Holocaust and genocide studies scholar at Stockton University in New Jersey, wrote an article in Jewish Currents calling Israel’s policies in Gaza a “textbook case of genocide unfolding in front of our eyes.”
The Israeli voices urging restraint and reconciliation are by no means a majority — I’ve found just nine — but their voices of compassion as Israeli government officials openly declare their intentions to make Gaza inhabitable and commit a second Nakba ought to be heeded.
I compiled a list of them, which I hope will inspire people who might fear baseless accusations of supporting Hamas violence or antisemitism to speak out against the carnage in Gaza. If they can do it, so can you.
Highlighting Israeli opposition to this war, I should emphasize, ought not to come at the expense of elevating Palestinian perspectives. But it’s nonetheless worth noting that Israelis aren’t monolithic.
Israeli-Canadian peace activist Vivian Silver, who vocally opposed the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and helped bring Palestinians from Gaza into Israel for medical treatment, was kidnapped by Hamas fighters in Kibbutz Be’eri. It’s unclear whether she’s still alive or is being held hostage.
“You can’t cure killed babies with more dead babies. We need peace. That’s what she was working for all her life,” Ziegen said.
Ziegen acknowledged that space for advocating reconciliation with Palestinians Israel has narrowed considerably and that he can’t have these conversations with many of his friends.
“Pain is pain. I talk to people from the kibbutz and we cry together. You can’t mend that, but the only way to have safety and to live good lives is with peace,” said Ziegen. “Vengeance isn’t a strategy.”
After her 84-year-old mother Ditza Heiman was taken into Hamas captivity, Noa Heiman wrote an Oct. 12 op-ed in the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz’s English edition expressing her opposition to an assault on Gaza.
While Heiman expressed anger at Ditza’s captors and their Iranian backers, she saved the bulk of the blame for the Israeli government:
I’m furious at the Israeli government, and the accursed members of the government who, because of them, the army was patrolling in the West Bank village of Hawara over the Sukkot holiday, instead of guarding and protecting my mother. I’m furious at this government, that has for almost a year been doing everything they can to escalate the situation in the Gaza border area. This colossal failure, this chaos, is on their shoulders, is their fault – as is the fact that even now, four days later, a government representative has still not visited most of the families of the hostages…
I’m angry at all of the Israeli governments since 2000 that have done absolutely nothing to try to end this terrible conflict…
So, from this terrifying place we are now in, I call out to the government that will rise after the nightmare is over and I say: Do not destroy the Gaza Strip; that won’t help anyone and will only bring an even more ferocious round of violence the next time. And when the moment for negotiations on a cease-fire arrives, take advantage of that moment to also bring about an agreement between the two sides – not an “arrangement,” but a true peace agreement
For some odd reason, when CNN posted an interview with Heiman on its Instagram page, it added an addendum, noting that she is a “member of the Israeli chapter of the Women Wage Peace organization,” as if this somehow makes her perspective less valuable.
Hailing from Kibbutz Kfar Azza, Ziv Stahl is the director of Yesh Din — an Israeli human rights organization that has condemned the state’s apartheid policies in the West Bank. She was visiting her family in Kfar Azza when the massacre occurred, losing friends and family in the attack.
I have no idea how this will influence the rest of my life. If I will ever be able not to fear every small noise, not to imagine gunshots in the depths of the night. But one thing I feel more strongly than ever: we must stop this cycle of death. We must invest all of our power and energy in the end game, how to build a peaceful and secure future for all who live in this place.
It will not end with words like “deterrence,” “a final blow,” “decisive.” Quiet will arrive only through political means.
I have no need of revenge, nothing will return those who are gone– my sister-in-law Mira; Tal from my class (the “Shaked” group); Bilha, my mother’s childhood best friend, and her grandson and her son in law; Livnat and Aviv, whose parents were our neighbors forever, and their children; Michal, who was my counselor as a teen and her son; Liron’s sister Smadar and her husband; Eli, Avner’s father; and hundreds of others.
Indiscriminate bombing in Gaza and the killing of civilians uninvolved with these horrible crimes are no solution. Rather, this is the surest way to prolong the violence, terror, sorrow, and bereavement.
I need to know that there are those who think and worry even now about the future of those who remain, the future of Kfar Azza and the perimeter, the future of all of the human beings who live here, Israelis and Palestinians.
She concluded with the acknowledgement that “as the last twenty years, and even more so the events of this horrific Shabbat, prove, all the military might on earth will not provide defense and security.”
David Zonsheine is a board member of the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, which has gone even further than Yesh Din in concluding that Israel practices apartheid, not just in the West Bank but “from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”
On Oct. 7, his uncle was killed and his cousin was taken captive by Hamas.
In an Oct. 15 X post, Zonsheine condemned the Israeli government’s campaign of “revenge that will kill hundreds or thousands of soldiers who have already killed thousands of civilians in Gaza and that will inevitably bring about the next attack on the Otaf.”
Otaf refers to the towns near the Gaza border that were attacked on Oct. 7.
“Revenge is not a vision. Killing civilians is not a plan,” Zonsheine added.
He rejected the notion that the Israeli government is committed to overthrowing Hamas, rather than collectively punishing Gaza.
Israel, he said, “needs Hamas for the separation policy (with two heads the Palestinian people have no international pressure for a settlement). And so, after the horrific disaster on Shabbat, and the death of countless more soldiers and thousands of Gaza residents, the plan of the State of Israel is what it was, what it will be.”
In recent years, the Times of Israel reported on Oct. 8, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to strengthen Hamas by negotiating with it to facilitate permits for Palestinians in Gaza to work in Israel and allowing millions of dollars in Qatari money to enter Gaza.
In a 2019 meeting with members of his Likud party, Netanyahu admitted he sought to strengthen Hamas to sow division between them and Fatah, which nominally governs Palestinian population centres in the West Bank.
But this also makes the notion of negotiations with Hamas, which is the clear alternative to war, a lot harder to dismiss.
Unidentified Kibbutz Be’eri survivor
On Oct. 11, independent Israeli journalist Or-ly Barlev spoke to a 19-year-old survivor of the Hamas massacre in Kibbutz Be’eri, who recounted the horrors of Oct. 7 at length, which is worth watching in full.
She added that the military and U.S.-funded Iron Dome missile defence as a “band-aid” solution before saying this:
How am I supposed to get up in the morning, knowing that 4.5 km from Kibbutz Be’eri in Gaza, there are people for whom this event has not ended? For me, it was over after 12 hours because there was a place to be evacuated to. I’m at the Dead Sea. Those speaking of revenge should be ashamed. There is a lot of pain, that’s true. I myself, after everything I’ve been through, keep losing energy every time I hear the word ‘revenge.’ For people to go through what I went through and not have anyone to extract them — it cannot be…
For years, we’ve been asking for a political solution. I’m 19 years old. I have friends who have fallen on the battlefield as soldiers over the past few days. When they were in kindergarten, they knew what they wanted to do in the military. Am I to raise my own children like this? Shameful. Disgraceful…
What I do know is that Be’eri suffers, Nahal Oz suffers, Kfar Aza, Sderot and Gaza suffer. Believe me, every missile launched with only 4.5 kilometres between Gaza and Be’eri, causes the ground to shake the exact same way in both places. The exact same way…
Now I know there is much anger towards Bibi [Netanyahu], because I feel it. I feel it very strongly in the moments I am able to feel anything at all, because as of late, it’s not easy…
I blame him 100% for everything. It is true … Our blood is on his hands, but it’s not just him. He is the root of a much deeper problem, but it’s not just him.
If my words are heard by anyone, take a good look at yourselves, look deep inside, ask yourselves, what are your values? Ask yourselves, in light of everything you see around you, how do your values, the ones you know you hold, fit in with what you see? Ask yourselves that question, really ask yourselves. Ask yourselves who it is you vote for, as yourselves what [are] you demanding of them?
I know what I am demanding. I am demanding a just peace.
Maoz Inon, whose parents Bilha and Yakov were murdered by Hamas in Netiv HaAsara, appeared on BBC News on Oct. 15, where he said: “I’m not crying for my parents, I’m crying for those who are going to lose their [lives] in this war. We must stop the war.”
He urged viewers to “to do all the things in their power to put pressure over everyone that is relevant, to stop the war immediately, to freeze the situation.”
“Revenge will lead to more suffering and more casualties,” Inon added.
He expressed fear “for the soldiers, for the civilians on both sides in Gaza and in Israel” who are going to die.
“This is why I am crying and why it was very important to me, in this very hard time, to go to these interviews, to cry to the world, ‘Stop the war. Please. Just stop the war.’”
Yaakov (Jacob) Argamani
The day after Noa Argamani was abducted by Hamas fighters from the Supernova rave in Re’im, her father Yaakov told Israeli TV:
Let us make peace with our neighbors, in any way possible. I want there to be peace; I want my daughter to come back. Enough with the wars. They too have casualties, they too have captives, and they have mothers who weep. We are two peoples to one Father. Let’s make real peace.
On Oct. 12, the day Chaim Katzman was buried, his brother Noi appeared on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper.
He concluded the interview with what he emphasized was “most important” for himself and his brother — “that his death won’t be used to kill innocent people.”
Katzman told Tapper:
Sadly, my government is cynically using this to just kill. They promised us that this was going to bring us security, but of course it’s not security. They tell us always that, ‘Oh, if we kill enough Palestinians, it’s going to be better for us,’ but of course it never brings us peace and it never brings us better lives. It just brings more and more terror and more and more people killed like my brother. I don’t want anything to happen to people in Gaza like what happened to my brother, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have either.
The mother of an Israeli soldier slain on Oct. 7, Elana Kaminka, appeared on CNN to discuss her son’s death on Oct. 16:
Nobody wants anyone more to die.3 We lost the most important thing to us and the idea of additional lives being lost — I don’t care who they are — if they are another mother losing their child, to me it’s something that I don’t want to see and I can’t bear.
On the one hand, this was a horrible attack on innocent civilians. You can’t fix that. The idea of more lives lost just tears me apart, because I know what it means to lose your child.
A member of the left-wing activist group Looking Occupation in the Eye, Yaacov Godo’s son, Tom was killed in Kibbutz Kissufim.
Tom barricaded himself and his family in their safe room for 25 hours. When Hamas fighters entered his home and fired at the safe room windows, he held the door shut and was shot twice as his wife and daughters escaped.
Yaacov, who used to transport children form Gaza to Israel for medical treatment, lamented how some of them are likely dead from Israeli bombardment or lack of medical care.
Yaacov has spent the last few years volunteering in the occupied West Bank to protect Palestinian shepherds from fanatical Jewish settlers who are in the process of ethnically cleansing their villages.
“I maintain that we must not move towards vengeance. Vengeance is weakness. I just do not believe in it,” he said.
Musa and Huda Darawshe
Awad Darawshe, Musa and Huda’s 23-year-old son, was an ambulance driver killed while treating victims at the Nova rave in Re’im.
Musa and Huda, who live near the Israeli-Arab town of Nazareth, told +972 that they were able to recover Awad’s phone and see the final text messages to his boss as he hid under a stage. One of them read: “Where is the army, we are going to die. Come save us, I am dead.”
“I lost my son. Enough! Let him be the last one,” said Musa. “Until when does one kill another? I turn to all those responsible in this state, in Gaza, and everywhere: enough of this. Let us make peace. We will live together, sit together.”
This piece has been updated with two more Oct. 7 victims who oppose the assault on Gaza.
Additionally, the reference to the Al Ahli Hospital bombing has been updated to reflect its precise death toll, according to Palestinian health officials, as well as updated information on allegations about who was responsible.
Speaking of Israeli government propagandists, they claim that the hospital strike came from a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket and that the strike killed far less people, but haven’t provided an estimate of casualty figures. The video Israel provided as evidence of a rocket from Gaza that its spokespeople claim hit the hospital courtyard, which was accepted as gospel by U.S., Canadian and French intelligence, shows a rocket instead coming from Israel, an Oct. 24 New York Times investigation found.
Sadly, this isn’t true.