Israelis United in Response to Hamas Attack, But Most Blame Netanyahu for Failing to Protect the Nation

Interview with Ofer Neiman, a Jewish Israeli anti-apartheid peace activist living in Jerusalem, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

In retribution for Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack against Israel that killed some 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, the Israeli government vowed to exterminate Hamas, and launched an all-out missile and bombing campaign targeting Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of Oct. 17, more than 3,000 civilians in Gaza have been killed and thousands more injured.

On Oct. 16, the UN Security Council failed to adopt a resolution proposed by Russia that called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, release of all hostages, access to aid and safe evacuation of civilians. Members were divided over the lack of specific condemnation of extremist group Hamas.  Meanwhile, progressive Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed a resolution calling for a ceasefire and permitting humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Ofer Neiman, a Jewish Israeli anti-apartheid activist in Jerusalem, who works against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza through the group BDS from Within. BDS is Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. Here Neiman describes the mood of many Israelis who are clamoring for revenge after the murder of fellow Jews by Hamas, and some who are outraged by their own government’s all-out assault on Gaza. He says that while Israel is united in response to Hamas, he predicts that Benjamin Netanyahu’s days as Israel’s prime minister are numbered.

[Web editor’s note: The broadcast version of this interview has been edited to fit time limit constraints.]

OFER NEIMAN: People are not really rallying behind him. People are rallying behind Israel and the concept of Israel big time. Of course, I feel like an outsider to this whole experience.

They’re rallying around the flag, the army, whatever, but not Netanyahu. As far as I know he hasn’t come out yet to a hospital, for example. The ministers who tried doing so were booed and pretty much heckled away. We have Likud ministers encountering extreme anger, public fury.

The Yom Kippur war of 1973, of course it’s regarded as a failure. There was shock at a surprise blow by Egypt and Syria, but back then it was a military battle between two armies. Here you have so many civilians getting killed, so this is much worse. And as we probably know, the Israeli prime minister at the time, Golda Meir, was forced to resign after the war. There was also a national commission of inquiry.

Of course, we’re going to have a similar commission after this thing and I don’t see a way for Netanyahu to hold onto power. And the failure here is colossal. It’s so much more than 1973, because 1973 was just about the Egyptians being able to cross the Suez Canal and the Syrians entering the Golan Heights, capturing some territory, then Israel pushed back.

But here the failure, and the horror, is infinitely worse.

MELINDA TUHUS: How much appetite is there for a military operation to go in and wipe out Hamas and do people care if tens of thousands, or more civilians in Gaza die?

OFER NEIMAN: Yes, obviously there is this general sentiment, not everyone, but many people saying, yeah, we should wipe out Gaza, we should destroy the city or maybe push all of them out. Of course, there are not any significant anti-war voices. Of course, here and there we are trying to do something, and we try to work together with our allies and our international allies.

But I do think there are lots of people who are sort of confused; they’re not so keen on all this genocide – and I think that’s the relevant term here: genocide. And I think this is what we’re already seeing in Gaza. That’s something to emphasize. But we’re not seeing a great deal of opposition. I don’t know if many Israelis are supportive of this even crazier idea of going into Gaza and trying to demolish Gaza City itself.

MELINDA TUHUS: Can you say more about Israel as an apartheid state? Like are there specific things that go into that designation?

OFER NEIMAN: The term apartheid comes from South Africa, that’s the official term. And there are two kinds, two basic categories, of apartheid. One is called petty apartheid, which would be the smaller things, like separate toilets for Black people and white people, etc. And then there is the notion of grand apartheid, the bigger things, for example who has the right to vote, the allocation of resources, if people are forced to live separately.

So in Israel, we don’t have so much of that petty apartheid, but we have a grand apartheid on steroids. I mean, if you look at Gaza, again an open air prison basically under Israeli patrol. Also in Gaza, most of the water is not really suitable, shortage of potable water, people getting sick in the West Bank. A very clear form of grand apartheid, illegal Israeli settlements with privileged settlers who are Israeli citizens alongside millions of disenfranchised Palestinian civilians living under Israeli state violence facing risks such as detention without trial, torture, controlled directly by the Israeli military, not by the Israeli police. Of course, they cannot vote in the Israeli elections.

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