Nearly one month after Hamas’ brutal attacks on Israel that started a war, you may discover that you have many questions about what is going on in Israel, who exactly Hamas is, and what JCJ’s position is on the conflict. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the unfolding situation, as well as answers to these questions.

Updated: November 15, 2023

Question: Why do people keep saying Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians?

First, it’s crucial to understand the definition of genocide. Genocide is the intentional destruction of a people in whole or in part. In 1948, the United Nations Genocide Convention defined genocide as any of five “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Groups and individuals who say that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians because in the process of defending itself following the worst single-day death toll for Jews since the Holocaust, Israel has bombed parts of Gaza in order to root out the Hamas terrorists.

However, the charge that Israel is committing a genocide against the people of Gaza is Hamas-sponsored propaganda. The truth is that while Israel has bombed large areas of Gaza, Hamas has engineered this result by placing their military operations near highly-populated civilian centers. By intentionally putting its own people in harm’s way, Hamas is gaslighting the world to cover up for its own atrocities, not just on October 7, but against Jews throughout the years, as well as the LGBTQ community and women.

Further, Israel and its military go to extreme lengths to prevent civilian casualties by notifying Gazans before impending strikes and helping them leave through northern Gaza.Don’t be fooled by Hamas propaganda. Nearly 80 years ago, Jews suffered one of the worst genocides in modern history. Jews know what is and is not genocide. What is happening in Gaza is not a genocide.

Question: Why are prisoner swaps lopsided when it comes to Israel?

Over the past few decades, Israel has agreed to one-sided swaps in order to bring Israeli hostages home. It is estimated that over the past several decades Israel has returned over 7,000 convicted Palestinians prisoners for 16 kidnapped Israelis. Now, with over 200 Israelis still being held hostage following the October 7 attack, Hamas is requesting the return of over 6,000 convicted murderers and more.

Sadly, Israel’s enemies know that the Jewish state values human life. As a result, they are able to take advantage of this and is why far more Hamas militants have been returned in exchange for Israelis.

Updated: November 2, 2023

Question: Why is there a rise in antisemitism occurring right now?

There is never a good reason for antisemitism –  full stop. Still, allow us to try and explain why we are seeing so much hate.

Hamas’ massacre of over 1,300 Israelis (and non Israelis) last month represented the largest loss of civilian life in Israel’s 75 year history. The magnitude of such an attack has created a deep wedge in our sociopolitical climate, causing the worst of our tribal elements to come to the fore.

As a result, adherents to the anti-Israel side have dug in their heels when it comes to their belief that Israel is an apartheid state that must be eliminated in order for Palestinians to be free. And since Israel is the only sovereign Jewish nation in the world, the vitriol, hate, and even violence against Jews have been on display like we’ve not seen in several generations.

Question: Is Israel responsible for the Gaza humanitarian crisis?

Despite intense propaganda pushing this narrative, it could not be further from fact. Still, as Jews, we believe that we should never turn our back on those who are suffering.  At the same time, there needs to be a clear understanding that Israel left Gaza in September 2005, and in June 2007, Hamas took control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority. Since then, Hamas, which is designated by the U.S. as a terror organization, has not worked with the international community to improve the lives of those living in Gaza. Instead, as reported by the New York Times and others, Hamas has consistently used international aid money to enrich its leaders, secure weapons, and build tunnels into Israel instead of developing an independent power grid or creating a clean water supply.

Question: As the war between Israel and Hamas rages on, will JCJ continue to advocate for social justice at home?

Yes, 100%! At this very moment, JCJ is advocating for a number of bills in congress, and looking to Sacramento for the next legislative session.  We have the capacity to care for Israel and our Jewish community during this hour of need while also focusing on our Jewish mandate of tikkun olam.

Question: What gives JCJ hope right now?

For the last 2,000 years, Jews have seen viciously dark moments, including extermination, expulsion, and an overall deep hatred of us just for existing. Despite all of this, we have always survived, in many instances without a Jewish state. Today we have a Jewish State, and that will always give us hope.

Question: How do you push back against those who say hateful things, whether on college campuses or online?

While we all have a constitutional right to speech and to make our case, we do not believe in arguing with anyone who is yelling, or anyone who has questioned our right to exist. At this moment in time, we must engage in difficult conversations, but only with those who agree to the following points:

  1. Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.
  2. Hamas is a terrorist organization.
  3. Antisemitism is unacceptable and must be denounced unequivocally.

Question: Is the process of educating others about our pain exhausting in the face of so much hate toward our people?

While it can be onerous, we know that this is how it is. If our ancestors taught us anything, it’s how to manage struggle during moments of darkness, how not to lose hope, and how to move forward. Being Jewish is not easy, but it is meaningful. As Jews, we are proud to wake up every morning and say our daily prayers. Even if you are not particularly religious, prayers can take the form of self-care, which is needed at this moment. As a community, we know that we are outnumbered, but we also must take time to turn off social media and support those closest to us. Every moment can be an educational moment if people are willing to listen, and that’s why we will never stop educating people about our pain.

Questions & Answers posted October 24

Question: Is Hamas a liberation organization?

No. The United States has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization that uses innocent Palestinian people as shields in its pursuit to crush Israel and eliminate Jewish people. 

Question: I went to a peaceful ‘Free Palestine’ rally and saw the sign “From the River to the Sea?” What does this mean?

Sadly, that slogan, written or chanted, is not peaceful nor is it a call for liberation or freedom of any kind. Those who display or chant “From the River to the Sea”—most often followed by “Palestine will be free”—are calling for a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This is a dog whistle calling for the elimination of Israel.

Question: Why isn’t the Jewish Center for Justice, a left-leaning and progressive organization, calling for a ceasefire?

As Jews, we are mandated to pursue peace. However, we also believe that Israel—and any sovereign nation—has the right to defend itself against threats, both foreign and domestic. Since Hamas is a terrorist organization with a mandate in its charter to crush Israel and eliminate all Jews, our values inform the belief that fighting back is both valid and critical for our people’s survival. 

What is JCJ’s position on Israel?

Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in peace, security, and prosperity. Israel lies at the center of the Jewish story; there is no Jewish people without Israel, and no Israel without the Jewish people. We support efforts to engage American leadership in bringing the Israelis and Palestinians together, but only when the Palestinian leadership can ensure our safety from terrorism. 

Question: Does JCJ believe in a two-state solution?

The violence perpetrated against Jews and Israel, from the 20th century until today, underscores the critical need for a Jewish homeland — a place that is open to Jewish immigration, buoyed by military might, and guarantees freedom of religion and practice to all people. There is only one path to that outcome: A region that includes two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace, security, and prosperity. This Jewish state must be governed by the ideals of justice and compassion, pluralistic in its vision, and engaged in the work of forging common bonds with its Palestinian and Arab neighbors.

Question: Do Jews believe in war?

Rabbi Elliot Dorf, Distinguished Professor of Jewish Theology at the American Jewish University, has said the following on the depth of Jewish thought regarding times of war.

“While Judaism abhors war and yearns for a Messianic world in which it will cease, it recognizes that our world is unfortunately not Messianic.  It provides guidelines for determining when it is indeed “a time for war” and when not, and it establishes rules for the just conduct of wars ‑‑ all the time seeking to avoid war and to work for peace.   It recognizes that sometimes justice requires even violence, not only in personal self-defense but in the military action of a nation.”

Question: Okay, but who actually has claim to the land?

There has always been a Jewish claim to the land of Israel, dating back to our Torah and to other holy books. While multiple tribes, empires, and countries have ruled the region over the course of millenia, Jewish connection has remained a constant. To deny a Jewish connection to the land is to deny our religious tradition and the factual history of Jewish roots.  

Question: What if I cannot give a perfect answer for why I care about Israel when people ask me?

First, this is an understandable and common feeling. Many Jews around the world have never been to Israel, and don’t have a direct connection. However, Israel is a part of the Jewish tradition. You are never required to validate your support of Israel to anyone at any time. However, if choose to,  here are some points to mention: 

  1. As Jews, we have a religious, historical, and cultural connection to the land of Israel. 
  2. We know that we need a safe space to live our lives as Jews—Israel is that space. Throughout our history, we have suffered so many traumas, moments of violence, and attempts at annihilation that we need a country governed by Jews and protected by Jews in order to feel safe and secure.  
  3. Even though I am a proud American citizen, I want to make sure there is always a refuge for Jews who need to flee persecution. Israel is that refuge. When it was not safe to be a Jew in the former Soviet Union, Israel was that refuge.  When antisemitism was on the rise in South America, Israel was that refuge.  When antisemitism started to show its ugly face in France, Israel was that refuge. And so has been the case in many other instances for the past 75 years.

Question: Is Israel a majority-white, colonialist country that practices apartheid?

No. Israel’s current population of Jews is over 50 percent people of color, including Mizrahi Jews who fled persecution from the Middle East and North Africa in the late 1940s and early 1950s, as well as Ethiopian Jews/Beta Israel. Nor is Israel a “racist ethno-state.” Over 20 percent of Israel’s citizens are Arabs who have full and equal rights under the law. While Arabs, like minorities in many other countries, including the US, still face discrimination, they participate in all aspects of life, including voting and serving in government. Read more here.

Question: Is there a good timeline of events about Israel’s creation? As a modern state in 1948?

Yes! Check out these three:

  1. My Jewish Learning
  2. Hey Alma
  3. Hey Alma