Rejecting Misconceptions: Hamas-Israel War

This content is developed by The Focus Project in partnership with Mercaz USA. The Focus Project distributes weekly news and talking points on timely issues concerning Israel and the Jewish people, including antisemitism, anti-Zionism and the delegitimization of Israel. It represents a consensus view across a spectrum of major American Jewish organizations. Mercaz USA recognizes and respects the diversity of views on these issues among its readers and the community at large.



More than 14 million civilians were killed in World War II – excluding the millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust. Nazis bombed and pillaged through most of Europe and dropped thousands of bombs in civilian areas in the UK. Allied bombers were responsible for untold numbers of civilian deaths. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted after the war, 75 years ago, to prevent the intentional killing of civilians during war. Now, Hamas terrorists violate the rules of war by sacrificing their own civilians – using them as human shields.

The Israeli Defense Forces follow specific rules of engagement in their battle with Hamas and other terrorists in an effort to avoid civilian casualties – a challenge made almost impossible as terrorist infrastructure is embedded in and under residential buildings, schools, mosques and hospitals – all protected by international law. International humanitarian law is being used to subvert the Jewish state’s defense against terrorists seeking to destroy Israel and murder Jews.

International Humanitarian Law Explained

The governing principles of proportionality, distinction, necessity and humanity constitute the tenets of the rules of warfare. These are key phrases that are regularly manipulated by opponents of Israel and misunderstood by Americans who do not have a detailed understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law published a fact sheet: International Humanitarian Law in Asymmetric Warfare.

The concept of proportionality is often wielded as a weapon against Israel. “Proportionality under international law is not tit for tat.” It bans excessive loss of civilian lives in attacks against military targets. It does not mean that the IDF is using disproportionate force if more Palestinian civilians die than Israelis.

The principle also “does not prohibit attacks resulting in the incidental loss of civilian life infrastructure, often referred to as ‘collateral damage.’ Proportionality refers only to the relationship between the military advantage gained in a strike and the expected collateral harm to non-military targets it causes. The attackers must also take precautions to minimize collateral damage.”

The IDF regularly warns Palestinians ahead of attacks, using phone calls, text messages and leaflet drops. White House National Security Council spokesperson and retired Rear Admiral John Kirby stated: “I don’t know that the U.S. would go so far as telegraphing its punches” to its enemies. Retired British Col. Richard Kemp concurs: “Never in the history of warfare has an army phoned its enemy and told them where they are going to drop their bombs.”

Hamas launched 12 rockets at Israeli civilians in southern Israel next to a humanitarian zone and a UN facility in Gaza on Dec. 7.

The principle of distinction requires the targeting only of combatants – not civilians – and the separation of armed forces from civilian areas. By placing terror tunnels under apartment buildings, storing weapons in UN schools and hiding terrorists in hospitals, international law allows the IDF to take action against Hamas in these locations since they are considered military sites. Also, the principle of necessity allows for attacks against military targets – even if civilians are likely to be harmed.

If Hamas fighters wore uniforms and separated themselves from civilians like Israel does, then the likelihood of Palestinian civilian casualties would decrease dramatically. Hamas leaders know that if its terrorist bases were in open areas located away from cities, it would be much easier for the IDF to respond to attacks. Hamas terrorists also recognize that the world’s perception of Israel will be damaged if it inflicts mass suffering on Palestinian civilians.

Hamas also violates the principle of distinction by intentionally targeting civilians. This was laid bare in the 10/7 atrocities committed against Israeli civilians and the thousands of rockets it continues to intentionally launch at Israeli cities.

Hamas places rocket launching sites next to schools in Gaza. Mo’ath Bin Jabal middle school educates hundreds of Palestinian children and is also a UN shelter for local residents. Image from Dec. 14, 2022.

Hamas Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Kahlot is the director of a Gaza hospital. He has been a Hamas member for 13 years. The Gaza hospital employed 16 Hamas terrorists – doctors, nurses and paramedics. Several Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists also have been employed at the Jabaliya hospital. The director admitted that Hamas directed terrorist operations from its offices inside the hospital and that the terrorist group operates its own fleet of private ambulances that are used for its mission.

Lt. Col. Kahlot describes how Hamas takes advantage of medical facilities: “Hamas brought a kidnapped soldier to the hospital. There is a designated space for interrogations, internal security and special security. They all have private phone lines within the hospital. They hide in hospitals because they believe that hospitals are a safe place. They will not be harmed if they are inside a hospital.”

IDF International Spokesman Maj. Doron Spielman: “The IDF is a moral group of people and it’s not perfect because this is war. But this is what makes us a Jewish army. It’s trying to balance those things at once. That’s how we are different from the people we are fighting.” Hamas is the polar opposite: “Anyone who dies, but them, is good. An Israeli dies, they celebrate. A Gazan dies, they celebrate.”

Al-Ansar Mosque in Jenin, West Bank: The images reveal weapons and grenades located next to a kindergarten and a command center. More weapons and two tunnel entrances were discovered on the 1st floor.

Col. Richard Kemp: ‘IDF is The Most Moral Army’

The following are statements made by retired 30-year British veteran Colonel Richard Kemp. He commanded UK forces in Afghanistan, and also served in Bosnia, Iraq, Macedonia and Northern Ireland. He recently visited Israel during Hanukkah and was embedded with the IDF troops in Gaza.

The IDF is the most moral army in the history of warfare and has done more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

I spoke to many Israeli soldiers in Gaza and saw some of them in action. What I found deeply impressed me. The standards of professionalism and battle discipline of these young conscripts are remarkable, especially when you consider that most are straight out of high school.

In almost every alleyway and every other house in Shijaiyah the IDF have found explosives, weapons and booby-traps, not to mention terror tunnel entrances. I entered one partly destroyed house and saw boxes of Iranian-supplied hand grenades that had been stored in a child’s bedroom.

Hamas wants to maximize the death of its civilian population. The purpose is to get the international community, the UN, the U.S., other governments around the world, to condemn Israel, to vilify Israel, to delegitimize Israel and undermine the Jewish state in that way.

The protests around the world are designed to intimidate Jews. That’s their purpose. They want to cow the Jewish community in our countries to abrogate any support for Israel.

I told the UN Human Rights Council that the Hamas objective is to slaughter and kidnap Israeli civilians. Hamas is the only army in history deliberately inciting its enemy to kill its own people. The UN has played straight into the hands of Hamas. The UNHRC has failed to condemn the oppressor of the Palestinian people – Hamas.

When I hear some of the lies, the propaganda and the malice that’s churned out in the international media, universities, high schools and so-called ‘human rights’ groups, I know it’s wrong. I know it’s wrong what’s being said in relation to the IDF.

Colonel Richard Kemp with 614th Battalion troops in Shijaiyah, Gaza. (Photo: Richard Kemp)


1.  Hamas intentionally commits war crimes and its supporters ignore this fact

Hamas terrorists target Israeli civilians and celebrate the deaths of Palestinian civilians: this is their official government policy. Hamas intentionally commits war crimes by using civilian infrastructure for military purposes, launching attacks from populated areas and employing tactics that put Palestinian civilians at risk. The actions of Hamas should bring condemnation from countries, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations. Protestors against the war should be laying the blame at the feet of Hamas. Instead, many deny and whitewash the 10/7 atrocities because it serves their purpose of harming the Jewish state. The deliberate use of civilians to protect terrorist sites and the targeting of Israeli civilians are clear violations of international law.

2.  Israel does NOT intentionally target civilians, Hamas does

Every loss of civilian life is tragic. In Judaism, whoever destroys a single life is considered to have destroyed a whole world. This sanctity of life contributes to the IDF’s ethical code. The Israeli military makes every effort to minimize harm to non-combatants. The IDF directs its actions at legitimate military targets, including Hamas fighters and terrorist infrastructure. If mistakes are made, allegations are seriously investigated. Soldiers are reprimanded or charged if they are found to have acted wrongly.


Help educate others about key terms and concepts in this war

Every conversation is an opportunity to educate and inform. The more individuals know and understand, the less inclined they will be to follow false and biased narratives. Take active steps to educate your friends and family about the Hamas war against Israel, including  using our talking points. Also, share relevant news articles, videos and pro-Israel activist content to help provide a comprehensive understanding of the war’s complexities. Engage in open and respectful discussions, emphasizing the nuances of the situation and encouraging critical thinking.

Dispelling Falsehoods, Stating Facts

You might hear: The Palestinian-Israeli conflict did not begin on Oct. 7.

REALITY: Anti-Israel activists often point to alleged Israeli actions in Gaza before the Hamas atrocities. They falsely portray Gaza as a prison, failing to mention that Egypt shares a border with Gaza. Activists may state that the Palestinians have been occupied for 75 years, conveniently omitting that Gaza was ruled by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan, from 1949 to 1967. They also intentionally ignore the wars launched against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973 with the goal of wiping Israel off the map. There are many other events that are overlooked, including the 1929 Hebron massacre: Arabs slaughtered 67 Jews under the false pretense that Jews were killing Arabs and planning to attack Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is possible to go back hundreds of years into Jewish and Islamic history in the region to point out actions committed by Arabs and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis.


Hostages and Atrocities

Hamas War Against Israel

Attacks on Jews Around the World


Hamas terrorists torched the IDF’s command center at Nahal Oz on Oct. 7. The bottom photo shows soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras similar to the ones operated on Oct. 7. Families of the soldiers killed – including the father of Roni Eshel – recently visited the IDF base.

The camping area from the Supernova desert rave, recreated for the ‘Nova 6.29’ exhibit, remembering the 360 people who were gunned down by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, 2023. (Courtesy Tribe of Nova)

From the ‘Nova 6.29’ exhibit, the personal items left behind by Supernova partygoers, 360 of whom were gunned down by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, 2023. (Courtesy Tribe of Nova)


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