Is There Dissent in Israel?

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that ‘there are a lot of Jews in Israel who support a ceasefire’, I’d be – well, not rich, but maybe able to buy one more bag of avocados in each week’s groceries. Yes, I have actually heard this from quite a few people: even when Israel does bad things, people always give Israel and Jews the benefit of the doubt. Palestinians always get the opposite: they are evil and no good. Usually, when someone tells me about all the progressive Israelis, it’s shorthand for that person saying, ‘I don’t want to do anything myself. The good people in Israel will do something!’ Well, clearly not, if results of two different polls below tell us anything:

The figure that jumps out is the nearly 70% of Israelis who oppose humanitarian aid going to Gaza. This is reported in a recent article in The Globe and Mail.

The Globe reported that the other day, Israeli Jewish teens, along with young adults and parents, blocked a 1.25 km-long convoy of aid trucks that was trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. In the dead of night, the Israeli Jews stopped the convoy as it drove from Jordan through the desert in southern Israel en route to Gaza. The Israeli police stood by and did nothing, even as the Jews placed rocks and boulders on the road to halt the convoy.

Hadar Persoff, a 21-year-old student and a mother, attended the demonstration with her husband and two-month-old baby. The journalist reports, Persoff

“…believes that if people in Gaza were given their way with a settler like her, ‘they would kill me. And if they would kill me, why would I give them food?’”

Middle school principal, David Cohen, with his two daughters, also tried to stop the convoy. He said there are two solutions for starving Palestinians. This teacher demanded the Gazans must turn against their own government, Hamas, or else the Gazans can darn well “starve.”

His daughter Shira, 16, said Israel is “at war.” She added, “And when you are at war, you don’t help your enemy with your own money.”

Roi Raphael, a 27-year-old engineering student, also came to stop the aid convoy. He was angry and claimed, “We are giving our enemy oxygen to live.”

Israel’s War Crimes

There is no talk of their country killing 34,000 Palestinians – nearly all in cold blood, including at least 15,000 children. Or of the fact that Israel is committing war crimes – killing children is a war crime, as is killing civilians. Starving a population during a war is a war crime. The very act of deliberately starving people is collective punishment, which is also a war crime.

Somehow the right-wing Jews from the settlements, extremists from the “hilltops,” and military reservists don’t accept any of this. Their goal is to push harder to “finish” the war (not stop the war, not end the war, but “finish” the war). We all can imagine what that means. One woman trying to stop the aid trucks said that the sooner Hamas gives back the hostages, the sooner the international community can start to “clean up” Gaza – wouldn’t that be great, she enthused.

This is not the first time Israeli Jews have stopped aid going to the most hellish place on earth, replete with mass starvation, little to no clean drinking water, no toilets (one toilet for 400 families), and hundreds of thousands sleeping on the dusty roads or in the ruins of buildings, with plastic sheets for cover. Two months ago, a CNN reporter interviewed Jewish protesters blocking aid trucks at the Kerem Sharon crossing. Jewish men, carrying babies, women, and children marched proudly holding Israeli flags. They grabbed, punched, and slapped IDF security to stop them from allowing the trucks into Gaza. One of the Israelis gestured to the trucks and said, “Bags filled with rice are meant to go to their children – but instead they’re filled with bullets.” Another Israeli demanded, “Give the hostages back – no bread till the hostages are back.” When the interviewer, CNN’s Clarissa Ward, told them stopping the aid was against international law and also “incredibly callous” – the Jews almost laughed out loud.

Even two months ago, the food situation was dire according an article in The Guardian in the UK. Israel is deliberately starving Palestinians, UN rights expert say. At that time 64% of households in Gaza ate only one meal a day and 90% of children under age 5 suffered from one or more infectious diseases. At that time, Gazans were lucky to receive one litre of clean water per person per day.

Exactly one month ago, Israeli hasbara (propaganda) insisted reports of hunger in Gaza were exaggerated. Col. Moshe Tetro, the head of the Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, told reporters, “There is sufficient amount of food entering Gaza every day.”

But 30 days after Col. Tetro’s statement, Palestinian women are dying after giving birth – they are exhausted with little will to live. Without food and water, they have no ability to produce milk to breastfeed their newborns. The newborns are dying because of lack of milk, and the ravages of fevers and disease.

It seems Israel’s army commanders and politicians are all bald-faced liars. They actually expect us to believe no one in Gaza is starving. Does anyone remember after the Palestinian election of 2006, when Hamas was first elected? Israel proclaimed the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity” and imposed a blockade, restrictions, and economic sanctions against the Palestinians who lived there. As Dov Weissglas, a lawyer and a prominent spokesman for Likud (Netanyahu’s party) and the extreme right wing, said,

“‘We have to make them much thinner, but not enough to die’, the idea being ‘to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger’.”

For years after 2006, Israel restricted the number of trucks per day that could enter Gaza carrying supplies classified as “indispensable.” In 2006, Gaza’s population was 1.6 million people – Israel allowed 106 to 400 trucks per day to enter Gaza. Today Gaza’s population is 2.3 million. Prior to October 7, 500 trucks went in most days. During the early days of Israel’s current war on Gaza, no trucks were allowed in by Israel. Just last week, 1063 trucks entered Gaza, but only 49 were allowed to go to northern Gaza where the need is greatest.

Starvation as a Weapon of War

Early in April, the NGO Human Rights Watch officially disclosed that Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war against Palestinians in Gaza – which is a war crime (see above). Just as sinister a war crime is collective punishment – the UN also declares this illegal. In northern Gaza, where 70% of the population is experiencing catastrophic hunger, Human Rights Watch predicts famine can occur “anytime between mid-March and May.”

On April 4, Dr. Hussam Abu Safiya, head of Kamal Adwan hospital’s pediatrics unit in Beit Lahia, Gaza, told Human Rights Watch that 26 children had died after experiencing starvation-related complications in his hospital alone. He recounted that at least 16 of the children who died were under 5 months old, at least 10 were between ages one and 8 years old, and that a 73-year-old man suffering from malnutrition had also died.

In the last month, hundreds more have died of malnutrition. Hundreds every day are dying of injuries from the bombings or disease such as infections and flu. Does anyone believe that the thousands of women and mothers, minding their children in their apartments did anything to warrant Israeli missiles striking their buildings, trapping them under thousands of tons of cement and leaving them to die? Those who do escape do so with mangled limbs, facing amputations of their arms and legs.

Nearly 70% of Israeli Jews Oppose Humanitarian Aid to Gazans

But Israeli Jews are not backing down; after all, almost 70% of them oppose giving humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. 55% of Israeli Jews oppose any political agreement to end the war.

Since October 7, more than 288,345 new guns have been licensed to Israeli Jews; that’s a jump of 700% from the summer of 2023. There are 1,000 new applications each day – compared with 850 per week before the 7th. One new owner, a Jewish mother of five, Yamit Mordechai-Virag, took gun training but still doesn’t know what to do when her gun jams. Still, she feels safer with her gun. 900 private, armed security squads have been formed. Israeli police have mobilised and trained 12,000 volunteer citizens. Many Israelis take assault rifles to go shopping – even to IKEA – in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, “just in case.”

So, “you have your stuffed dinosaur … and pirate ship… and your assault rifle under the mattress”

A year ago, the Israeli cabinet okayed a plan for what amounts to a private “National Guard,” demanded by far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. Netanyahu’s office said though the private guard would be subordinate to Israel’s existing forces, at least 2,000 troops would be deployed to deal with "emergency scenarios, nationalistic crime, terror, and strengthening sovereignty". Perhaps one of the guard’s members is interviewed below.

Journalist Daniel Estrin, for the US National Public Radio (NPR), interviewed Ora Kahan, a 21-year-old Jewish man, in his childhood bedroom; here’s a bit of the interview:

ESTRIN: One of the youngest civilian volunteers on a security squad is 21-year-old Ori Kahan. We’re in his bedroom in the central Israeli community of Rishpon. He keeps his rifle under his bed.

KAHAN: It’s a kind of AR-15. It’s made by IWI, Israel Weapon Industries. It’s made for, like, real counterterrorism.

ESTRIN: So, you have your stuffed dinosaur…

KAHAN: Yeah.

ESTRIN: … And your pirate ship and your tactical helmet and…

KAHAN: Yeah.

ESTRIN: …Assault rifle under the mattress.

KAHAN: Yeah, indeed.

ESTRIN: Kahan reflects on how his life has changed.

KAHAN: After October 7, I lost my attention, like, for, like, going to parties and bars and having fun to – my whole life kind of shifted toward, like, being aware of the people around me.

Of course, there is hardly a scintilla of interest by most Israelis in the 34,000 Palestinians killed by Israel, about the thousands of children, about the utter destruction of homes, livelihoods, hospitals, schools, and futures of the people of Gaza. True, the Jews’ pre-occupation is borne out of fear and revenge – but still it boils down to narcissism. This old joke about the definition of the Hebrew/Yiddish term “chutzpah” illustrates the narcissism endemic in Israeli Jews, and likely, Canadian Jews who support the war on Gaza.

“A boy was about to be sentenced for killing his parents. He begged the judge to spare his life. The judge asked for one good reason he should be shown any mercy. The boy replied, ‘I’m an orphan, your honour’.”

Image above shows an Israeli man teaching his son how to work a machine-gun during a traditional military weapon display at the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat to mark the 66th anniversary of Israel’s “independence” on 6 May 2014 – 10 years ago. I don’t think much has changed, except for the worse. •

Judy Haiven is a retired management professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, NS. She is a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada. You can reach her at She blogs at