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A Primer for the Perplexed: The Nine Big Lies Against Israel and What They Really Mean

Clearly, the Palestinians and their propagandists have developed a whole lexicon, a series of talking points and slogans that distorts words, negates history, and obscures Palestinian intentions. Israel went along with these lies for too long.
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November 9, 2023
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In 1917, California’s isolationist senator Hiram W. Johnson captured the cynicism of politics – especially during wartime. “The first casualty when war comes is truth,” he said, echoing earlier sages, as America embarked on a “war to end all wars,” which we now call World War I. 

While fabricating here and there may be every general’s pastime, Palestinian terrorists and their enablers have taken lying to a whole other level. Yet, despite building so much of their case on a foundation of falsehoods, they keep conning the world. Everyone “knows” that Israel occupies Gaza – despite disengaging from it in 2005; that “From the River to the Sea” envisions a democratic Palestine — when it envisions an exterminated Israel; and, most outrageously, that hundreds of innocent Israelis, young and old alike, deserved to be massacred, maimed, raped, and terrorized – while others denied all the evidence that the atrocities happened.

This primer picks nine of the most popular New Big Lies Palestinians and their enablers propagate. Let’s leave the number ten for more godly commandments, while stressing that despite being debunked repeatedly, these lies have countless lives.

“From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free.” Give the Palestinians credit here: at least they are honest. But I have to ask: If Palestine is free – meaning Jew-free – from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea – where is there room for me and 9 million other Israelis? “From the River to the Sea” is a one-state solution, meaning a no-Jewish state solution – and no Jews anywhere else, either. 

Some Palestinians prevaricate. They claim the slogan imagines a secular democratic state with Jews and Arabs living together. In fact, the phrase’s history is exclusionary and exterminationist.

In 1964, three years before the Six-Day War, the slogan was popularized by the Palestinian activists and terrorists who founded the Palestine Liberation Organization.  Their war aims were not to liberate the “occupied territories,” which Israel only secured three years later. They wanted – and want — to liberate the world from Israel itself. Similarly, since Hamas emerged in the late 1980s, the slogan has been a Hamas and Islamic Jihad mainstay.

October 7 offered at least one clear lesson: if your enemy calls for your destruction – your enemy is calling for your destruction. It’s actually bigoted not to take them at their word and decide they can’t really mean that.

October 7 offered at least one clear lesson: If your enemy calls for your destruction – your enemy is calling for your destruction. Jews should take the Palestinian death cries seriously, and Americans must start taking the Iranian mullahs’ death cries seriously. It’s actually bigoted not to take them at their word and decide they can’t really mean that. “Palestine from the River to the Sea” leaves no rooms for Jews – or the Jewish State.

“This is what decolonization looks like.” The world is a tough place. Over the centuries, powerful countries have colonized other places, sending explorers, then groups of settlers, away from the mother country to establish settlements, usually in order to extract resources. Inevitably, especially as national self-determination became a virtue, colonization led to decolonization. 

On one level, decolonization is simply an historical process, whereby people in the colonies rebel, or the empire collapses. Over the decades, scholars defined decolonization as a state of mind, too. Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), born in Martinique, helped make decolonization trendy among some of the most settled and privileged people in the world’s richest and most expensive universities. 

As a psychiatrist, Fanon observed that colonized people often internalized a sense of inferiority. As a revolutionary, he wanted those colonies to break free – even violently. Considering violence cleansing, restoring some balance, some dignity to the powerless, he called violence “man recreating himself.” 

Fanon built on Marx’s binary dividing the world between the oppressing ruling class and the oppressed proletariat. For Fanon, the forever-guilty oppressor was the colonizer, the forever-innocent oppressed was the decolonizer. For the colonized, Fanon preached, “there is no compromise, no possible coming to terms; colonization and decolonization is simply a question of strength.”

The oppressive colonizers in this Manichean, black-and-white world are always guilty, while the oppressed are forever pure and innocent, no matter what they do. Viewing the world through this distorting prism, Israel is always guilty, the Palestinians forever innocent.

Fanon remains remarkably influential today. Call them woke. Call them postmodern. Call them identitarians. Today’s campus commissars have forged Marx’s seesaw between the oppressor and the oppressed with Fanon’s colonizer-decolonizer dynamic and deification of violence. These people frame the world – and America – as caught in a zero-sum power struggle. The oppressive colonizers in this Manichean, black-and-white world are always guilty, while the oppressed are forever pure and innocent, no matter what they do.

Viewing the world through this distorting prism, Israel is always guilty, the Palestinians forever innocent. As a result, the October 7 barbarian bloodbath was exhilarating, joyous, justified. One influencer even injected the Hamas-romanticizing term “settler-babies” into the mix. 

To see the world this way requires much fanaticism, many simplifications, multiple distortions, and, at the end of the day, a very, very bruised soul. But those blinders explain how so many feminists failed to see Hamas’s rape culture and child abuse, how so many liberals failed to acknowledge the despotism, how so many humanists failed to cry out in shame and horror as Palestinian marauders crossed every civilizational red line.

“Israel is practicing apartheid.” The Jews seem to have magical powers. Over the centuries, Jews attracted all kinds of labels: Jews were too rich and too poor, too capitalist and too socialist, too traditional and too modern, too anxious to fit in and too eager to stand out. 

Today, the Jewish state has similar plastic powers. As trends change, Israel is deemed guilty of the most heinous of national sins. Today Israel is a white-supremacist or, even better, Jewish-supremacist state, and a settler-colonialist enterprise. In the 1990s, Israel was racist, colonialist, and imperialist, as well as guilty of “ethnic cleansing” once the Balkan mess introduced that phrase into the international vocabulary.  But since the 1970s, as the international community justifiably turned away in disgust from apartheid South Africa, Israel has been called an apartheid state.

Apartheid was a system of racial differentiation – apartness – based on all kinds of racial classifications and perverse beliefs that whites and blacks and colored people were not equal. The Apartheid Wall in Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum lists 148 laws sifting people into different racial categories to keep them apart and calibrate who deserved which privileges – and which restrictions. 

Israel has never passed one law defining people by racial categories. In fact, Israelis and Palestinians are involved in a national conflict, not a race war.

If Israel wants to be racist, and create an apartheid state, it’s doing an awful job. Israeli-Arabs enjoy equal rights and have served as Supreme Court judges, Knesset members, key members of the last coalition. With about 20% of the population, Israeli-Arabs are overly represented in Israel’s medical system.

Moreover, if Israel wants to be racist, and create an apartheid state, it’s doing an awful job. Israeli-Arabs enjoy equal rights and have served as Supreme Court judges, Knesset members, key members of the last coalition. With about 20% of the population, Israeli-Arabs are overly represented in Israel’s medical system: About 20% of the doctors, as much as 40% of the nurses, and 43% of the pharmacists are Israeli-Arab. Finally, if Israelis hate Arabs so much and see them as inferior, why was there so much excitement about the Abraham Accords, and why are Hamas and Iran trying to subvert a Saudi Arabian deal with Israel? 

Maybe Israelis don’t hate Arabs – but only pass laws protecting themselves against enemies who seek to destroy them?

“Israel is carrying out genocide.” Genocide, literally tribe-killing, is defined as a systematic series of violent acts “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” For decades, Palestinians have been crying “genocide,” claiming Israel seeks to wipe them out. Yet the Palestinian population has at least quintupled since 1967, from just over 1 million to nearly 5-and-a-half million people. Zionists are even worse at genocide than they are at apartheid.

Pure hatred often involves projection: You hate in others what you hate in yourself, you imagine your enemies would do to you what you would do to them if you had a chance. These false cries that Israelis are targeting Palestinians for genocide reflect the sweeping, categorical, and thus genocidal tendencies in the Hamas charter, in the October 7 sadism, and in too many twisted corners of the Palestinian national soul.

“Israel is engaged in disproportionate bombing.” The phrase “disproportionate bombing” is in many ways redundant, like fattening fudge – one goes with the other. When terrorists attack your civilians, then hide behind their civilians, what can a serious army do? Inevitably, some of those human shields will die. 

Moreover, when you have an air force, and you have a choice between bombing an enemy from the air and sending your troops in door-to-door, what’s the moral call? A leader’s primary moral responsibility is to the led – and a defender’s primary moral responsibility is to defend those unfairly and viciously attacked. In April, 2002, Israel chose to send reservists into Jenin to apprehend terrorists instead of bombing from the air, U.S.-style. The result was a Palestinian ambush that killed 23 Israelis. Israel’s supporters may have felt momentarily pure – but 23 families were scarred for life that day.

When an enemy attacks, then cowers in mosques and hospitals and kindergartens and schools, those protected places become military objectives. Complaining about a “disproportionate response” from a regular army when fighting terrorists embedded in a city is in essence complaining about any response from the army. When your enemy calls for your annihilation, tries acting on it, then vows to try again and again, it’s unrealistic to expect no collateral damage. 

Let’s be clear: the moral onus for every death, every injury, every misfire, remains on Hamas for initiating this round. It’s unfair to forget that ultimately war is a clash of powerful, ugly forces. If you want to win, it’s logical – and moral – for your own side to mobilize as much force as you can – within the bounds of reason of course, but not being immediately criticized, as Israel is.

“Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza since 1967.” In June, 1967, threatened by three Arab armies, Israel fought for its life and more than tripled its size. It won the Golan Heights in the north from Syria. It took over Gaza and the Sinai in the South from Egypt. And it reunited Jerusalem, while securing the Biblical lands of Judaea and Samaria from Jordan – which had, ahem, occupied what it called its “West Bank” territories, with no international authorization, since the Jordanian Legion invaded to its west during the 1948-1949 Israel War of Independence.

While Israeli governments over the years wavered, using different legal theories including the laws of occupation to define Israel’s relationship to all the territories, calling them “occupied” was triply problematic – especially to historians. 

Signs at Farragut Square during the National March on Washington for Palestine while calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on November 4, 2023 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

• First, in defending itself legitimately, Israel seized territory from a hostile neighbor – when those Jordanian-administered territories languished in a legal no-man’s-land. From 1949 to 1967, the Jordanian conquerors ignored the U.N. 1947 Partition Plan to make those areas an independent Arab state. The U.N. never recognized Jordanian sovereignty there, making the territories truly disputed, not occupied.  

• Second, this was no colonial expedition, going to some exotic locale in pith helmets and safari suits. Jews had international rights to the territories and a deep history there, especially the Biblical territories of Judaea and Samaria, which were deemed Jewish and open for Jewish settlement under the 1920 (often overlooked) San Remo conference and, subsequently, the British Mandate.

• Third, as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan presciently noted in 1980, calling Israel an “occupier” implicitly compared Israel’s far more benign, legitimate, and rooted policies “to the Nazi practice of deporting or murdering vast numbers of persons in Western Poland – as at Auschwitz – and plans for settling the territory with Germans.” This false comparison, Moynihan noted, played “perfectly into the Soviet propaganda position” and the Palestinian projection that “Zionism is present-day fascism.”

Today, alas, the occupation preoccupation has become the main launching pad not only for the Bash Israel Firsters, but those hyper-critical Jews who habitually doubt Israel.  Moreover, Palestinians use the words “occupation” and “settlements” promiscuously, to delegitimize anything Zionist. Israel is “occupied,” all of Israel. Every Israeli is a “settler.” The plundered kibbutzim of the southwest Negev are “settlements,” despite lying in pre-1967 Israel, within the “Green Line,” the borders from the 1949 armistice with Jordan, hastily drawn in green pencil. This sweeping Big Lie helped legitimize Hamas’s savagery, deeming every Israeli, every Thai volunteer, every tourist an “occupier,” and deserving of any violence Hamas and the other Palestinian murderers could mete out. 

“Israel’s so-called disengagement from Gaza just turned it into an open-air prison.” In 2005, Israel disengaged from Gaza, uprooting over 9,000 Israeli citizens living in 25 settlements scattered through Gaza and northern Samaria. Amid the anguish, military strategists lobbied intensely to keep a strip of land for defensive purposes – the Philadelphi corridor. The Duke of Disengagement, Ariel Sharon, resisted. He claimed that if Israel even retained one grain of Gazan sand, critics would claim it was still “occupied.” And he was confident that once Gaza was no longer occupied, Israel could live in peace as the Gazans prospered. 

If there is one word that best explains Israelis’ current frustration and fury, it is “disengagement.” Eighteen years ago, there were some weapons in Gaza, no tunnels, and a limited terrorist infrastructure, because Israel still retained some control. Yet, almost immediately after withdrawing from Gaza, primitive Qassam rockets started bombarding Israel – while critics kept bombarding Israel with the o-word, the occupation charge. The violence against Israel – and the criticism — intensified when Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007, killing fellow Palestinians brutally. 

Under the gun, now facing an implacable foe vowing to exterminate the Jewish state and the Jews – see the Hamas charter – Israel tried blockading Hamas. As a result, a whole series of lies burst forth: that Israel is occupying the territory it withdrew from completely (in fact, note how little control it had and how ineffectual its blockade was as Hamas built its deadly arsenal); that Gaza is the “most densely populated place on earth” (it doesn’t compare to Manhattan, Hong Kong, and other super-skyscrapered city centers); and that the Zionists have made it an “open air prison” or concentration camp (when you can see on a map that Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border, and know it keeps Gazans far, far away from Egyptians).

In short, Israel did everything it said it would when it disengaged. In doing so, Israel betrayed many of its own citizens. Nevertheless, Israel ended up with no peace, no peace of mind, and a piece of territory that became Hamasistan rather than the Mediterranean resort it could have been if its governing body had put its generous international aid to good use. Today, Israel has on its border a hostile, seething launching pad for tens of thousands of rockets and marauders, exporting so much trauma and misery – while those responsible treat their own people as cannon fodder, too.

In the Middle East today, that phrase [humanitarian ceasefire] may be the ultimate oxymoron – like a moral terrorist, a pragmatic Hamasnik, a feminist Islamic Jihadist, a liberal-democratic Palestinian Authority member, a healthy cancer.

 “Israel must agree to a humanitarian ceasefire.”  In the Middle East today, that phrase may be the ultimate oxymoron – like a moral terrorist, a pragmatic Hamasnik, a feminist Islamic Jihadist, a liberal-democratic Palestinian Authority member, a healthy cancer. For 18 years the world has yelled “disproportionate bombing” and keeps demanding “humanitarian ceasefires” whenever Israel tries defending itself. For 18 years, much humanitarian aid has been diverted to Hamas itself. After Hamas invaded and raided and shattered so many lives, from an Israeli perspective, what would be “humanitarian” about a premature ceasefire? 

Diplomats and pro-Palestinian demonstrators say “humanitarian ceasefire.” Israelis hear “a chance for Hamas to regroup” and “more of the same.” Many Israelis wonder: “When do the hostages get such a pause, especially those who might be tortured or enduring the agony of sexual slavery?” Until the hostages are released, Israel cannot relent.

Israel can move to ease the burden of the truly innocent stuck between Hamas and the IDF. Israel could set up field hospitals or temporary refuges in empty parts of Gaza, in Egypt, or even in isolated parts of the Negev. But let’s not kid ourselves. Hamas will take advantage of any break or kindness: at least one-third of the first wave of what was supposed to be foreign nationals evacuated to Egypt were wounded Hamas terrorists, trying to sneak away. Fuel delivered by international organizations has long been hijacked by Hamas for its war machine.

Some claim Hamas is a small group holding the peace-loving Gazans hostage. But if Hamas is abusing people, a humanitarian pause giving the terrorists a break increases Palestinian misery, too. It delays the liberation they need. In fact, most Gazans, like most Palestinians, celebrated the carnage on October 7, and many zealously participated.  

So, yes, try improvising ways to help, to minimize civilian suffering. But the phrase “humanitarian aid” sounds like resupplying Hamas, and “ceasefire” sounds like letting the killers regroup.

“Israel must pursue a two-state solution.” In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 181. It was epic, recognizing the Jewish right to a national home – a right rooted in the Bible, promised in the Balfour Declaration and San Remo redeemed through the blood, sweat, and tears of Zionist pioneers who had already built an impressive infrastructure for the state that would be declared in May, 1948. To treat – in the parlance of the time — the Palestinian Jews and the Palestinian Arabs fairly, the U.N. partitioned the area, envisioning a Jewish state and an Arab entity, while internationalizing Jerusalem, the Jewish people’s forever-capital.

The Jews found this compromise devastating. But Palestinian Jewry’s leadership, pushed by David Ben-Gurion, decided that half a loaf was better than none. Two years after the Holocaust ended, Ben-Gurion feared more bloodshed. The Jews needed a state. The day after the U.N. Resolution passed, as Jews finished singing and dancing, Arab rejectionists rioted, trashing Jerusalem’s commercial district. 

That started an historic pattern. Again and again, the Jews – and after 1948 what became the State of Israel — offered compromises, were willing to split territory, to cede territory. Yet again and again, the Palestinian leadership rejected it. No wonder the leading historian Efraim Karsh titled his book about the era, “Palestine Betrayed,” emphasizing that Hitlerian extremists like the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem betrayed their own Palestinian Arab people.

In 1974, the U.N. passed a resolution endorsing “two States, Israel and Palestine … side by side within secure and recognized borders.” Thus began this diplomatic Holy Grail, pursuing a “two-state solution.” The most dramatic attempt to achieve it – the Oslo Peace Process of the 1990s – ended in bloodshed, when after the Camp David Peace Talks in 2000 Yasir Arafat rejected any compromise and led his people from negotiation right back to terror.

So yes, for decades there has been talk of a “two-state solution,” and many Israelis would love to see a territorial split. But, especially after October 7, the phrase stings. It reeks of three lies – the lies they tell us, the lies the world buys, and the lies we tell ourselves. 

• First, when Palestinian diplomats and propagandists play the two-state game, they imply that once they have their territorial share, one of two states, the conflict will be solved. But the Palestinian leadership consistently refuses even to adjust its sweeping, all-or-nothing rhetoric promising to wipe Israel off the map. The Americans worked so hard in the 1990s to get Yasir Arafat to change the PLO charter calling for Israel’s destruction – and were so desperate to succeed — they overlooked what Arafat kept saying in Arabic, when he thought Bill Clinton and company weren’t paying attention. Again and again, especially Arafat in 2000, Mahmoud Abbas when he rejected Ehud Olmert’s compromise in 2008 and, most dramatically, Hamas in Gaza, showed no interest in a true “solution” that leaves Israel intact. Hamas’s charter is explicit about that.

• Today, the phrase is even more misleading and infuriating because it’s usually used as code in the international community and certain parts of the Jewish community for “Israel, just do the right thing, give them their territory ‘back’ and we will have peace.”  But, especially after October 7, most Israelis know that the call on the Palestinian side is a ruse. Gazans had the potential to make a state. Israel and the international community would have showered peaceful, constructive Palestinians with money. Instead, they turned their strip of land into a multi-layered stationary warship – and the international community still showered them with money. 

• Most upsetting, “the two-state solution” represents the lies we told ourselves. Admittedly under great international pressure (don’t just throw Bibi under the bus) Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s military, diplomatic, and intelligence establishment decided that Hamas was “pragmatic,” Hamas could be contained. After all, no credible person could really believe the rantings in Hamas’s charter using the Quaran to justify destroying Israel and killing the Jews. 

This is not to say that the problem is insoluble. At certain moments, no one imagined peace with Egypt or Jordan or the UAE. But that particular slogan is too compromised, and too associated with the lives and limbs and love and faith Israelis just lost.

Clearly, the Palestinians and their propagandists have developed a whole lexicon, a series of talking points and slogans that distorts words, negates history, and obscures Palestinian intentions. Israel went along with these lies for too long, often bullied into guilelessness by a gullible international community. October 7 was a nightmarish wake-up call. Israel must be moral – for its own sake, for its soldiers’ consciences and its national soul. But the game of buying into Palestinian lies and international niceties ended when those terrorists swarmed the peaceful kibbutzim and villages, sowing death and destruction. The challenge now is creating a new reality – and a new lexicon to acknowledge that reality—and build a better, fairer and genuinely safer new Middle East from there.


Professor Gil Troy, a Senior Fellow in Zionist Thought at the JPPI, the Global Think Tank of the Jewish People, is an American presidential historian, and, most recently, the editor of the three-volume set, Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings, the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People.

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