Israelis Question Global Response to Gaza Conflict as Hostages Remain Detained

Yoav Peled, who was handing out yellow ribbons to people passing by a gathering spot for supporters of the hostages in Tel Aviv, is pictured on November 2. Ivana Kottasova/CNN

As international scrutiny intensifies, Israelis express confusion and frustration over the world’s reaction to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, with particular concern for hostages still held by Hamas

Israelis from diverse walks of life are expressing frustration and disbelief as global opinion seems to turn against their country’s actions in the Gaza Strip, according to in-depth reporting by CNN. The narrative emerging from Israel is one of confusion and dismay over what many Israelis perceive as a lack of international understanding of their plight and the complexities of their long-standing conflict with Hamas.

At the heart of the tension is a growing feeling of alienation, as citizens like Yoav Peled, who once identified with extreme liberal ideals, question the world’s grasp of the situation. “When they can’t understand complexity, they see this as a one-sided thing and their sense of justice is very simple. But it’s not simple,” Peled told CNN while distributing yellow ribbons in Tel Aviv as a sign of solidarity with the hostages held by Hamas.

The civilian death toll from Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has led to global leaders applying pressure on Israel and has spurred huge pro-Palestinian protests in major cities across the world. Israelis, such as teacher Sigal Itzahak, feel this sentiment fails to account for their need for self-defense. “The world loves us as victims… But when we do things to protect ourselves? No,” Itzahak stated to CNN, capturing a sentiment echoed by many in the country.

Families of kidnapped hostages join thousands of supporters in a protest to demand that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secure the release of Israeli hostages, outside HaKirya on November 4, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The nation’s internal division is also evident in its stance toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While Netanyahu’s long tenure and strategic decisions, such as allowing Qatari money into Gaza, are under fire, there’s also a staunch support for the action against Hamas. According to CNN, retired professor Benny Zweig actively protests against Netanyahu, blaming him for the consequences of a perceived leniency towards Hamas in the past.

The emotional toll of the conflict is personified in the plight of the families of over 240 hostages believed to be held by Hamas. Ruby Chen, still without news of his kidnapped son, represents the urgent demands for their loved ones’ return. “It must be the first, the second, and the third objective to bring the hostages back,” Chen implored.

The Israeli government’s approach to handling Hamas’ proposal for an “everyone for every one deal” – a potential prisoner swap – has been met with both support and skepticism. Such deals are contentious, given that many of the Palestinians in Israeli prisons are held on charges related to terrorism.

Public sentiment has resulted in plummeting approval ratings for Netanyahu, yet there’s strong backing for the war on Hamas among Jewish Israelis. However, Israel’s Arab and Palestinian citizens, and a small minority of Jews, largely disapprove of the war. Amidst this, Israel has cracked down on expressions of dissent and displays of solidarity with Gaza, arresting dozens under charges of incitement.

Yonatan Rapaport, center, plays guitar at a gathering of young Israelis in Jerusalem on Thursday, November 2. Ivana Kottasova/CNN

On the streets of Jerusalem, young Israelis like musician Yonatan Rapaport emphasize the right and duty of Israel to protect its citizens. “You can criticize Israel occupying the West Bank or Gaza, but you can’t say oh, so because of that it’s okay to kill 1,400 civilians,” Rapaport argued, according to CNN.

The delicate balance between critique and support for the government’s actions reflects a nation in conflict, both with an external enemy and within its own ranks, as it navigates the murky waters of war, public opinion, and the quest for peace and security.

While the voices in Israel are diverse and the responses to the conflict are complex, one element remains consistent: a yearning for a resolution that ensures the nation’s safety without compromising its moral and ethical stance. This desire was symbolically captured in a Jerusalem gathering, where a poignant rendition of “Lu Yehi” – a song of hope – resonated through Zion Square, as Israel faces one of its most challenging periods in recent history.