Editors’ note: Amid surging violence between Hamas and Israeli forces, JURIST is seeking perspectives from around the world. Neither this nor other commentaries in this series constitute JURIST editorial policy, nor do they necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial team.
JURIST Managing Features Editor Jaimee Francis talked with Israeli law student Segev Magal to get his unique perspective on the Israel-Hamas war. Below is a transcript of their conversation, which has been edited for clarity.
JURIST: Segev, will you please tell me where you are from and where you are now?
I’m originally from Kibbutz Barkai, but, at the time of the attack, I was in Kfar Menachem. Because it was in the range of the rockets from Gaza, I had to evacuate because of the rockets.
JURIST: How did you find an evacuation destination? Did the government help you move to this location?
No, the government didn’t function at all. I joined people that I had known from before the war. And right now, like everyone else, I’m trying to find how to help. There’s a lot of civil organizing in an unprecedented measure.
JURIST: Do you know if the government is now taking a more active role in relocating people?
They have not been working fast. The civil society took on much of what the government should do in these times. There was a lot of turmoil before the attack about the judicial overhaul. And a lot of these organizations took it upon themselves to evacuate people to help with supplies. People have been gathering money and equipment for the military and for civilians who have been activated. And this all happens without the function of the government itself, and there’s a lot of rage towards the government because of that. There’s a feeling of a betrayal by the government. Time will tell what will happen after the war has ended.
JURIST: Can you please tell me more about what your life was like before the war?
I’m a law student at Tel Aviv University. I work for a nonprofit organization, which is funded by the government, and brings to light the rights of the public.
JURIST: How did you learn that the war had begun and what were your initial thoughts?
I heard the alarms around 6:30 in the morning. And I know a lot of people who live in kibbutzim near Gaza, and a lot of those kibbutzim are destroyed now. It was very, very surprising. I mean, it’s not the first time that there are bombings from Gaza, but it’s the first time that the army has been caught so not ready. Most of the army was in the West Bank at the time, following settler violence there. That the army was at the West Bank and not at the border at Gaza is a criticism that I think is only going to get more serious after the war has ended. There were not enough forces to defend the border in Gaza. So right now there’s turmoil from every front: in Gaza, in the West Bank, and also in the north from Hezbollah. Recently there was settler violence at a funeral in the West Bank that killed two people. I fear that, there will be a third front because of that.
JURIST: How has the war developed on the Gaza front?
Right now there are still bombings into Gaza, and there are about 150 hostages in Gaza itself. I fear that the bombing of Gaza will endanger them. Thousands have been killed, many of them children and civilians. And I don’t know how that is helping us. I mean, we have bombed Gaza before, and it doesn’t help. At most, it has postponed the next attack.
JURIST: How do you respond to statements by the government in Israel that Hamas is hiding in civilian buildings and working out of civilian fronts?
I don’t think that’s a justification for bombing civilian places. We’ve bombed Gaza before, and it is not new that civilian centers also sometimes have Hamas leaders there. I don’t think the strategy of bombing civilian targets has ever worked. Instead, I think it rekindles feelings of revenge. The bombing of Gaza doesn’t help, and it endangers our hostages. There are demonstrations, that I believe will be growing, calling on the government to try to negotiate a return of the hostages. And right now, it just feels like the government gave up upon them. Obviously, Hamas has done horrific things, and I don’t need to expand on that. But I don’t think, Israel can uproot Hamas entirely without getting inside Gaza, and that’s not something that will take a short time. It will take a long time and a lot of soldiers, civilians and hostages will be killed.
JURIST: How do you think other countries around the world have responded to the war?
I think the carriers that the US and UK brought in did turn the flames down a bit, when it comes to worries that this will escalate into a regional war. I think other countries should help negotiate the returning of the hostages and the ceasing of the fire. We still need to clear the Israeli area of Hamas and the terrorists and drive them out. And I think it is important to say that the casualties are a multi racial. There were also a lot of Bedouins who were killed in the music festival and taken as hostages.
JURIST: What role do you think social media has played in the conflict?
There’s obviously a lot of fake news on both the site, which I don’t get how it helps anything. You see a video, and it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not real. The numbers speak for themselves and the videos which are reliable speak for themselves. And there’s a lot of hate that is spreading, because on social media I see a lot of people who agree with me and not a lot of people who don’t agree with me. So this creates a bubble, and people do not really see the whole picture.
JURIST: Do you have any other thoughts on the war that we have not yet addressed?
I think it’s important to say that we shouldn’t consider Hamas and Palestinians as the same thing, because there are a lot of innocent people on both sides. Right now, there really is a surge of civil society, which is a good thing. But I fear that it could flip and that an eruption of violence inside Israel is looming. It doesn’t look like the government is doing well with handling this, and we should first and foremost free the hostages.
I also want to say that I have heard a lot of media abroad is supporting Hamas, and I think that’s wrong. There’s a lot of room for criticism against Israel; still, you can condemn Hamas, and at the same time, support Palestinian liberation. You can say you support Palestine and also oppose Hamas. It’s actually the [logically] consistent thing to do. I hope this will end soon, and when it does, there will be a lot of rebuilding to do in Israel.