Discover more from News Not Noise
The News Not Noise Letter: Israel at War
Answering your questions about Israel, Hamas, the terror and what comes next.
War in Israel:
It’s been a painful weekend to cover the news. As a journalist, it’s my obligation to witness brutal images and firsthand accounts to bring you accurate stories. But as a Jewish person, it is challenging to encounter so many people who try to justify the terror visited on Israelis – many of whom protested their own government’s policies and work for peace – as disposable casualties of war. In this newsletter I aim to answer your most common questions and correct some misconceptions. I will inevitably fail to capture the full complexity, depth and nuance of this situation. This is an ancient struggle; thousands of books have been written on this topic. We are writing one newsletter that we hope will be succinct, clear and empathetic. Please show us grace if you have a different interpretation of an event we cover. If we fail to add nuance that is important to you, please kindly share your perspective in comments.
Warning: we discuss some incredibly sensitive content here, including murder and rape.
On Saturday morning at 6:30am local time, the Palestinian terror organization Hamas invaded Israel by land, water and air – even flying motorized hang gliders over a security fence. They took the normally well-fortified nation by surprise.
Hamas unleashed terror on civilians, breaking into the homes of Israelis in the rural South – many of whom work with peace-seeking NGOs – and massacring families in their sleep. They terrorized party goers at a rave in the desert, slaughtering 260 people and taking more hostage. There are firsthand accounts of terrorists raping girls next to the dead bodies of their friends and then executing them. Videos show the beheading of Israeli soldiers and women getting dragged through the streets. They took a Holocaust survivor captive, and a child as young as 9 months old. The Atlantic published disturbing images of violence against civilians here.
As of publication here is the Israeli death toll:
900+ civilians, including 11 Americans confirmed dead.
At least 100 hostages — mostly Israelis, but some foreign nationals as well, likely including Americans.
2300 are injured.
Israel has cut off Gaza and launched reprisal rocket strikes. Here is the Palestinian death toll to date:
Hamas says more than 680 Palestinians have been killed.
140 are children.
2900 are injured.
These numbers will rise.
News Not Noise is a reader-supported publication. Your support makes our work possible. Please consider a paid subscription so we can bring you even more information.
What next? Israel:
Israel declared a state of war and mobilized 300,000 reservists, pulling some out of morning prayers.
Vowing to gain the return of all hostages, Israel launched a complete blockade of Gaza, closing it off to food, fuel, electricity, and other critical supplies. Gaza will have to get that from other neighbors, like Egypt.
Israel is bombing buildings in Gaza which they call strategic targets. A note: Hamas often uses civilian sites like residential buildings and hospitals as its bases of operations. This is a devastating tactic – for Israel it means either they leave Hamas command untouched or they imperil civilians. As a matter of policy they say they warn residents – often by drone – before targeting a building. This means Palestinian civilians are displaced if not killed, furthering their suffering. Israel blames Hamas for putting its citizens in this horrific position; Palestinians blame Israel for firing despite the civilian presence.
What next? Hamas:
Hamas is vowing to kill a hostage on camera every time Israel launches an airstrike. And they say their first executions have begun — we have seen video, it’s unverified and we are not sharing it here.
How are other nations responding?
The leaders of the US, UK, Germany, France, and Italy released a joint statement expressing “steadfast and united support to the State of Israel.” They also condemned Hamas, which they said “offers nothing for the Palestinian people other than more terror and bloodshed.”
The US is sending the world’s largest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, to Israel with “additional equipment and resources, including munitions.” The executive branch can extend this aid unilaterally, but any further aid would have to be approved by Congress. Congress can’t appropriate additional funds until a Speaker of the House has been elected.
What is Gaza and What’s Happening There?
Gaza is a strip of land the size of Washington, DC (~140 square miles) with a population of 2 million. Many NGOs call the Gaza Strip an “open-air prison.” It is one of the most densely populated regions in the world with very little movement allowed in or out. According to UNICEF, 96% of Gaza’s water is “unfit for human consumption.” Hundreds of thousands of Gazans already rely on the UN for food assistance.
There’s a long history of control and conflict here which you can read about here. In 2005, Israel withdrew from the area to allow Palestinian self-governance. In 2006, Palestinians elected Hamas and in 2007, Hamas pushed out other Palestinian political leaders and seized total control, preventing elections ever since.
Before Hamas, Palestinian leadership recognized Israel and the goal of a negotiated peace. In contrast, Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and extermination of the Jews “until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realized.” Because Hamas is a terrorist organization viewed as an existential threat to Israel, ever since Hamas came to power, Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on Gaza by land, air, and sea. This means it’s extremely difficult for residents to leave Gaza, and for aid to get in. This is a key part of the suffering Gaza residents endure. Israel says it is essential for its security.
Why are people calling this Israel’s 9/11?
Israel has a population of 9.3 million. That’s the size of New Jersey. They are calling this Israel’s Pearl Harbor or 9/11 because as a percent of population, the death toll is comparable, and because they were so totally caught off guard. The attack happened on Shabbat, on a Jewish holiday called Simchat Torah, and on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when many Arab nations backed by the USSR also assaulted Israel in a surprise attack.
Hamas says that they are responding to Israeli crackdowns at the Al-Aqsa Mosque – a site considered holy by both sides – and the oppression of Palestinian people who live in Gaza.
From a strategic perspective there are other reasons for this invasion. All year Israel has been rocked by massive protests because so many Israelis object to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies and his partnership with hard-right extremists. The majority of Israelis did not vote for Netanyahu. In the 2022 elections, Netanyahu’s party got less than a quarter of all votes — most Israelis oppose this government and its policies. Because Israel is so internally divided and the Prime Minister is so unpopular, the government is seen as weak and vulnerable. Therefore, speaking strategically, this was an opportune time for Hamas to attack.
Additionally, Israel has been pursuing a deal with Saudi Arabia to normalize relations between the two countries. Iran and Hamas would both be deeply threatened by such a deal and the attack is also seen as a way to put that normalization on ice.
Other things to note:
Netanyahu’s extremist government has been trying to dismantle aspects of Israel’s democracy and pursue cruel and provocative policies against the Palestinian people. The UN finds that the policies pursued by Netanyahu's hard-right government violate international law with “patterns of systematic discrimination in law, policy and practice, encompassing almost every sphere of life.”
Israel’s biggest newspaper, Haaretz, published an editorial blaming Netanyahu for this war. The editorial board says that he “completely failed to identify the dangers he was consciously leading Israel into when establishing a government of annexation and dispossession.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that Iran helped plan and coordinate the invasion. This has not been confirmed by the Biden Administration.
Russia is also aligned with Iran and Hamas. Putin has a lot to gain if the West is distracted from Ukraine by a war in Israel.
Here’s what we don’t know:
Will Hezbollah, the terrorist group to Israel’s north also join the fight opening a multi-front war? Skirmishes here are already breaking out.
How will the world respond if we’re watching videos of executions?
How will Israel, caught so off guard by this attack, be able to locate the hostages?
If they launch a ground invasion to do it, how does that end?
Who else will get involved? The US has sent a carrier group (i.e., a ship with aircraft and support) to the region, as a warning to other nations (i.e., Iran) not to get involved.
Will violence break out in the West Bank as well?
Tonight, as we finish this newsletter, I’m looking at video from Australia that shows pro-Palestinian demonstrators chant “gas the Jews” on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. I don’t know if this will lead to antisemitic violence in other countries.
Finally, it shouldn’t be hard to say that rape and murder are bad. I shared this on Instagram but it bears repeating. What is about to unfold is unthinkable. Whatever faith you hold, however you pray, this is a time to see humanity in all those who are suffering no matter their faith, politics, or the history of a contested and ancient land.
Want more information?
Find us on Instagram and Threads @jessicayellin. Please share this newsletter with family, friends, and anyone who wants to get the news and turn down the noise.