Resource Page: Understanding and addressing the Israel-Hamas War

Updated May 8, 2024

JCRC is here to support the community during this horrific time. We are compiling resources here to support students, parents, employees, and others in communicating about and responding to the atrocities committed by Hamas and the resulting war. This is a dynamic situation; this page will be updated as events develop.

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Reach out to JCRC

  • Report an antisemitic, bias, or discriminatory incident.
  • Request a speaker from JCRC for an educational discussion in your classroom, business, or community about the Hamas terror attacks and what they mean for Israel and the world. 
  • Reach out if there is any other way we can support you. 

Understanding the basics

  • Hamas is internationally recognized as an Iranian-backed terrorist army driven by genocidal racism against Jews. It seeks to destroy Israel and replace it with a brutal regime of Islamic supremacy. Read them in their own words: The truth of Hamas is in its charter.
  • Hamas deliberately embeds its military infrastructure in civilian areas of Gaza. Their leaders and soldiers hide, store weapons, and fire rockets at Israel from homes, schools, hospitals, and mosques. These are war crimes against Israelis and Palestinians alike.
  • In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all its citizens and military from Gaza. The Palestinian Authority (PA) began to govern, but in 2007, Hamas violently took control of Gaza from the PA and has ruled it since. Israel and Egypt – with international support – put into effect a land and sea blockade to prevent Hamas from smuggling arms from Iran and other sources.

Israel, a multiethnic, multiracial democracy, is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people and is home today to over 9 million Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze. In part, Israel was established to serve as a refuge for Jews fleeing antisemitism and persecution. Since Israel did not exist during the Holocaust, millions of European Jews had no place to go and were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1948, Israel has provided refuge for Jews from the Middle East, North Africa, Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, and other troubled places where Jews faced persecution simply for being Jewish.

Every country’s first obligation is the safety of its citizens. This is as true for Israel as it is for our own country. The atrocities Hamas committed against the people of Israel are unforgivable and can never happen again.

  • Because Hamas terrorists deliberately embed themselves within crowded neighborhoods and use civilians as human shields, Israel is being forced to take extraordinary measures to complete their mission of defeating Hamas while minimizing the loss of innocent Palestinian life.
  • As is true with all wars, these measures are imperfect. However, in this war, which Israel did not choose but was forced by Hamas, Israel must do what any nation would do, including our own, to ensure the safety of its people.

Yes, a late January 2024 poll indicates that a strong majority of Americans continue to support Israel in its war against Hamas. Key findings, starting at page 50, include:

  • Overall, 67% of respondents said a ceasefire should only happen if the hostages are released and Hamas is removed from power in Gaza — Israel’s key aims in the war.
  • 80% of all respondents also said they support Israel more over Hamas.
  • Most respondents, 69%, said Israel was trying to avoid civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip, and 66% said Israel was just trying to defend itself.
  • 83% of respondents said October 7 was a terror attack, while 17% said it was not.
  • 74% of respondents said Hamas’s attack was genocidal and 75% of all respondents said the assault could not be justified by Palestinian grievances. 
  • Some 74% of total respondents also said Hamas would like to commit genocide against Jews in Israel.

According to a December 2023 poll, “81% of American Jews support Israel continuing its military operation to “recover all Israeli hostages and remove Hamas from power.” Only 12% of respondents said they preferred “an immediate ceasefire to save Palestinian lives, even if that means “Israeli hostages aren’t recovered, and Hamas remains in power.”

The “river” refers to the Jordan River and the “sea” refers to the Mediterranean Sea. The land between those two bodies of water includes the State of Israel (i.e. the land inside the “Green Line”), the West Bank, and Gaza. This chant is not talking about ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Instead, they are stating that they want to “free” Israel from Jews and make all of it a Palestinian state instead. To many Jews, this is heard as a call for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state and can feel aggressive or threatening.

The JCRC, as well as national groups such as the ADL and AJC, have designated this slogan to be antisemitic for the reasons stated above.

The most frequent meaning of “Free Palestine” is removal of Jews from the land and destruction of the State of Israel, replacing it with a Palestinian state. Some believe this chant is calling for human rights for Palestinians, or an end to the occupation of the West Bank. 

However, you will often see pictures of the entire State of Israel, West Bank and Gaza labeled as “Palestine” on signs, T-shirts and in literature. This language is a rejection of the two-state solution. Many Jews find this language violent and threatening, and for those with Israeli family and friends, this may feel all the more aggressive and threatening.

Intifada means “uprising” in Arabic. The last intifada occurred in the early 2000s when Palestinian terrorists attacked Jewish civilians inside of Israel, using suicide bombers in buses, cafes, nightclubs, and other locations. Many Israelis died or were injured. This call to “intifada” evokes those murders and does not represent a call for peaceful or civil protest. Instead, whether intentionally or not, it is an inciting call to violence against Jews. Some protests even have signs calling for a “global intifada,” which implies that American Jews are targets, as well.

This is an accusation leveled at Israel regarding its policies inside the Green Line and in the West Bank for the purpose of making an analogy between Israel and South Africa and promoting a boycott. Israel may not always live up to its ideals, but it cannot be an “apartheid state” by definition since minorities are part of its democratic system and represented in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), Supreme Court, military (including senior officers), and are well represented in prestigious fields such as medicine. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t discrimination.

The West Bank is a military occupation with partial Palestinian self-rule, and its status is complicated. Many Jews see this label as an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

Further, accusing Israel of “apartheid” or even “occupation” in Gaza is completely nonsensical. Israel withdrew all soldiers and civilians from Gaza in 2005. No Israelis have lived there since then. Hamas, a terrorist organization which also runs a political party, won local elections in 2006. In 2007, it took over full control of Gaza, violently removing the rival Fatah faction (which heads the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank) and setting up an autocratic system in Gaza. The Israeli government has no control over Gaza’s governance whatsoever although it and Egypt have maintained a blockade of Gaza to try to limit weapons from entering the territory since Hamas took over.

This phrase rejects the legitimacy of Israel as it was established by the United Nations’ Partition Plan in 1947. Referring to the “occupation” as starting 75 years ago is referring to the creation of the State of Israel. Not only is this a factually inaccurate read of history, but when someone calls for an end to the occupation starting in 1948 that is a call for the destruction of Israel.

From 1948-1967, Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt occupied Gaza. Israel only gained control of those territories after a defensive war, the Six Day War, against the surrounding Arab countries in 1967. Those using this language want the entirety of the land that is today Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza to be replaced by a Palestinian state.

Calling Israel a “settler-colonialist state” (or sometimes a “European-colonialist state”) refers to the idea that Israel “colonized” or “stole” the land, which is false for three main reasons:

  • Jews who settled in what was then part of the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s and early 1900s purchased land from the landowners. They did not attack or steal the land. Israel was established in 1948 following the United Nations’ partition plan, which defined two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Additional land was gained by Israel in a defensive war after Israel declared independence and was attacked by surrounding Arab countries. Israel gained control over the West Bank and Gaza from Jordan and Egypt, which occupied them after the 1948 war, after it was attacked in the Six Day War. Israel pulled all soldiers and civilians out of Gaza in 2005 and turned the territory over to the Palestinian Authority. 
  • Jews were never acting on behalf of a European colonial power. Instead, they were fleeing discrimination from Europe and were part of a nationalist movement called Zionism, which supported self-determination for Jews in their ancestral homeland of Israel – where small communities of Jews have always lived.
  • Over half of the current population of Jewish Israelis were not from Europe but came as refugees from Middle Eastern or North African countries, where their families had lived for centuries and often faced terrible persecution from their Muslim governments.
  • Sometimes, the statement that “all Israelis are settlers” is heard, meaning that all Jewish Israelis, including those living inside the State of Israel, i.e., not just those living in the West Bank, are considered “settlers.” This essentially denies Israel’s legitimacy and right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. It also is used to justify terrorism against Israeli civilians by dehumanizing them as “settlers.” For example, on October 7 many of the Hamas terrorists are recorded describing their Israeli victims as “settlers.” Notably, all of the Israelis killed lived within Israel’s internationally recognized borders.

Educator and workplace resources

  1. JCRC’s ERG support group is here to support navigating challenges in your workplace. Email to request a link to join the WhatsApp group.
  2. Discussing the Israel-Hamas War with Young People (ADL)
  3. Workplace Toolkit: Navigating the Hamas attacks + supporting your Jewish employees (Shine A Light on Antisemitism)
  4. 6 Tips for Supporting Jewish Students in the Classroom (ADL)

Sources for news and analysis

  1. Times of Israel (based in Jerusalem)
  2. JTA (based in New York)
  3. TC Jewfolk (based in the Twin Cities)
  4. JCRC in the media

  1. JCRC statements
  2. 'We Have a Mass Movement of Young People Advancing Horrifying Ideas' by Evan Goldstein (May 13, 2024/ The Chronicle of Higher Education)
  3. Digital antisemitism: The largest propaganda machine since the Holocaust by Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler (May 6, 2024 / Times of Israel)
  4. There Are Two Sets of Rules for Speech by Abigail Shrier (May 3, 2024 / The Free Press)
  5. Message From a Gazan to Campus Protesters: You're Hurting the Palestinian Cause by Hamza Howidy (Apr. 25 / Newsweek)
  6. Why the Most Educated People In America Fall for Antisemitic Lies by Dara Horn (Feb. 15 / The Atlantic)
  7. The World’s Feminists Need to Show Up for Israeli Victims by Dahlia Lithwick, Mimi Roach, Tamara Sepper, Jennifer Taub, Joyce White Vance, and Julie Zebrak (Nov. 30, 2023 / Slate)
  8. It’s fair to compare Oct. 7 to Kristallnacht by Rabbi Alexander Davis (Nov. 8, 2023 / Star Tribune)
  9. Counterpoint: Mourn all innocents. Don’t excuse murderers. by Susie Kaufman (Nov. 2, 2023 / Star Tribune)
  10. My friends on the left want a cease-fire. Why aren’t they demanding that Hamas surrender, instead? by Carly Pildis (Nov. 2, 2023 / Forward)
  11. Dear world: I don’t care by Avi Lewis (Oct. 30, 2023 / Times of Israel)
  12. VideoOur hearts are big enough to hold the humanity and heartache of Jews and Palestinians Rabbi Sharon Brous (Oct. 27, 2023 / MSNBC)
  13. A War Against the Jews by Michael Oren (Oct. 26, 2023 / The Free Press)
  14. Why Jews Cannot Stop Shaking Right Now, by Dara Horn (Oct. 22, 2023 / New York Times)
  15. Pro-Israel progressives begin to crack down on growing far-left extremism toward Israel by Matthew Kassel (Oct. 19, 2023 / Jewish Insider)
  16. Abandoned by Progressives, American Jews Will Rethink Their Priorities by Michael Koplow (Oct. 19, 2023 / The Messenger)
  17. Why we can’t support DSA-backed City Council candidates, by several DFL leaders, in an open letter to fellow DFL leaders (October 16, 2023 / Star Tribune)

  1. The ‘improbable friend’: For true progressives, Israel is an exemplar, says Ritchie Torres by David Horovitz (Apr. 2, 2024 / Times of Israel)
  2. October 7 and a renewed sense of ‘we’ by Sally Abrams (Mar. 18, 2024 / Times of Israel)
  3. What we saw in Israel by MJF Tikvateinu trip participants (Mar. 14, 2024 / Sar Tribune)
  4. The Road to Ceasefire Leads Through the Rafah Offensive by Jacob Stoil & John Spencer (Mar. 11, 2024 / Newsweek)
  5. Poll: Overwhelming majority of American Jews support Israel’s fight against Hamas by
    Haley Cohen (Dec. 21, 2023 / Jewish Insider)
  6. The Rescuers by Tom Friedman (Nov. 22, 2023 / New York Times)
  7. In Israel, There Is Grief and There Is Fury. Beneath the Fury, Fear. by Bret Stephens (Nov. 10, 2023 / New York Times)
  8. It’s fair to compare Oct. 7 to Kristallnacht by Rabbi Alexander Davis (Nov. 8, 2023 / Star Tribune)
  9. Ecstasy and Amnesia in the Gaza Strip by Shany Mor (Nov. 6, 2023 / Mosaic)
  10. Counterpoint: Mourn all innocents. Don’t excuse murderers. by Susie Kaufman (Nov. 2, 2023 / Star Tribune)
  11. VideoOur hearts are big enough to hold the humanity and heartache of Jews and Palestinians Rabbi Sharon Brous (Oct. 27, 2023 / MSNBC)
  12. What this war is about by Yossi Klein Halevi (Oct. 17, 2023 / Times of Israel)
  13. Hamas does not yet understand the depth of Israeli resolve by Haviv Rettig Gur (Oct. 16, 2023 / Times of Israel)
  14. What It Would Mean to Treat Hamas Like ISIS by David French (Oct. 12, 2023 / New York Times)

  1. Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi (Be sure to purchase 2nd Edition in paperback, which includes an extensive epilogue of Palestinian responses)
  2. Can We Talk About Israel?: A Guide for the Curious, Confused, and Conflicted by Daniel Sokatch
  3. Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth by Noa Tishby

  1. Times of Israel Daily Briefing
  2. For Heavean's Sake (hosted by Yossi Klein Halevi & Donniel Hartman)
  3. What Matters Now (hosted by Amanda Borschel-Dan)
  4. Call Me Back (hosted by Dan Senor)
  5. Identity/Crisis (hosted by Yehuda Kurtzer)
  6. Unpacking Israeli History (hosted by Noam Weissman)
  7. We Should All Be Zionists (hosted by Einat Wilf & Blake Flayton)

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As the consensus public affairs voice of the Jewish community, JCRC builds relationships to fight antisemitism and bigotry; educates about Judaism, Israel, antisemitism, and the Holocaust; advocates for Jewish values and priorities; and safeguards our community.