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Can You Be Pro-Palestinian and Pro-Israel Too?

Every time there is a war between Israel and Gaza, a common knee-jerk reaction is to bash Israel and side with Gaza. Most people’s responses to the current war are the same, although this war ignited as a result of the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust. Most of the world now, as usual, is against Israel and for the Palestinians of Gaza. The current anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests at college campuses, which began in the United States and have now spread to Europe and Australia, have intensified this sentiment.

Now, it is a good thing to be pro-Palestinian. But it is also good to be pro-Israel. I myself have close friends on both sides of this conflict, which is probably what makes me both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. Is that really possible? Yes, it is. It is absolutely possible to be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian.

Pro-Palestinian Muslims with a pro-Israeli Jew and myself in the living room of a Palestinian home
Palestinians, an Israeli and myself

What does pro-Israel mean? What does pro-Palestinian mean?

There is no one official or agreed-upon definition of the terms pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. Some people say that pro-Israel means that you believe Israel belongs only to the Jews and no one else should be allowed to live there. Some say that to be pro-Palestine means that there is no Israel, it does not exist, and only the Palestinians should be allowed to live on the land. Those are very extreme positions. 

A more balanced definition is this: Pro-Palestinian means that you are for the Palestinians. Pro-Israel means that you are for the Israelis. You support the people without bringing their governments or their leaders into the equation.

Neither pro-Palestinian nor pro-Israel means that you are for their governments or that you agree with their actions. These terms don’t mean that you’re in favor of war or terrorism. Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian mean that you care about the people. You care about their humanity. You want Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live where and how they want to live without hate or fear or terror or war. By this definition, pretty much everyone should be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian.

The people who will never be pro-Israel

Now, the people native to the Middle East are an exception to this. They are never going to be pro-Israel. In all of the time I’ve spent in the region, no one except for Israelis have told me that they are pro-Israel. Quite the opposite. Middle Easterners, that is to say the people of the Arab world, are strongly pro-Palestinian. 

Arab world perspectives are very different from the perspectives of people elsewhere around the world. Palestinians are Arabs, as are most of the rest of the people of the Middle East. As such, the Arab connection to the Palestinian people is very strong. “These are my brothers and my sisters,” they say about the Palestinians. That sentiment grows even stronger when there is an uptick in the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

All of the Middle East, aside from Israel, is connected to the Palestinians culturally, historically and geographically. Their media is pro-Palestinian. Their governments are pro-Palestinian. Religion – Islam, Judaism and Christianity – also plays a role. Most Palestinians, like most Arabs, are Muslim. A small percentage of Arabs, including Palestinians, are Christian. None, or virtually none, are Jewish. Middle Easterners are not going to be pro-Israel. As long as the Israel-Palestinian conflict exists, they are certainly always going to be pro-Palestinian. 

That is, except for Israelis. Most are, logically, pro-Israel. There are some Israelis, though, who support a two-state solution. A Gallup poll taken after the start of the war showed that approximately 25% of Israelis want a two-state solution, although that number is half as many as a decade earlier.

Both sides are suffering in this war

The Palestinians who live in Gaza are suffering horrifically, as all the world can see. What the world can’t see, because the media rarely shows it, is that the Israelis are suffering greatly too. 

Hamas is still holding more than 100 Israelis hostage in Gaza. The suffering of the hostages and their families is unfathomable. The more than 100 hostages who have been released, as well as their families, may never fully recover from what happened to them. Approximately 200 soldiers have been killed so far. Their families and loved ones will never be the same. Even more soldiers are still deployed. They and their families have no idea if they’ll ever see each other again.

The media also rarely mentions that approximately 2 million Palestinians live in Israel. They are suffering the effects of this war right alongside the Jewish Israelis. You will usually hear the term Israeli Arabs used to describe these Palestinians. This is because they have Israeli citizenship. Ask them whether they consider themselves to be Israeli or Palestinian, though, and they’ll likely say Palestinian. The West Bank is home to 3 million more Palestinians. This war is causing them a great deal of suffering and loss too. So the war is not just impacting the Palestinians of Gaza and the Jews of Israel. It is impacting everyone who lives there.

The people of Israel are fearful of and vigilant about rockets from Gaza even in the best of times. Now that fear is extremely intensified. Approximately 200,000 Israelis who live along the border with Gaza as well as the borders with Lebanon and Syria were evacuated from their homes shortly after the war erupted. They are still displaced. Most now live in hotels in interior parts of the country away from the borders. There is enormous danger for the people of Israel. This is war.

Yes, the power of Israel’s war machinery is far greater than that of Gaza. The number of Israeli casualties is far fewer than the number of Gaza casualties. This is always the case. Everyone who pays attention to this region knows that every time Gaza sends a barrage of rockets into Israel, Israel responds immediately and forcefully, inflicting far more damage on Gaza than they inflicted on Israel. “Israel will have war tonight!” I said when I learned of the October 7 attack. Hamas too certainly knew that they would immediately have a massive war on their hands if they carried out a major terror attack. They knew how their people would suffer. Yet they still did it.

The hate must stop

Israel tends to have a lot of hate coming at it, even in the best of times. Since the beginning of the war, many people have ramped up that hate. The anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests at college campuses are intensifying and multiplying around the world. Recent polls confirm that young Americans are looking at Israel in a less-favorable light. A Gallup World Affairs survey recently revealed a 26% drop from 2023 to 2024 of Americans aged 18-34 who are in favor of Israel. It also revealed an 11% drop in Israel favorability of adults aged 35 to 54. In addition, Jewish people worldwide have been attacked and social media is brimming with anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric.

It is certainly reasonable and fine to be against the actions of the government of Israel. It is not reasonable or fine, though, to be against the people. Hate should never be directed at the people of Israel or the Jewish people in general. In the United States, by the way, it is typically the political right who are pro-Israel and the political left who are pro-Palestinian.

None of what is happening now is the fault of the Israeli people. It is also not the fault of the Palestinian people. It is their governments and their leaders that created this war, and it is only they who are making this war continue. The people are innocent. Many don’t even agree with what their governments or leaders are doing. 

Maybe you care passionately about Israel. Maybe you care passionately about Palestine. Or maybe you know nothing whatsoever about the region and really don’t care at all. Whatever may be your thoughts, whatever may be your feelings, it is not hard to understand that the people are really what is important here. All of them.

When you’re pro-Palestinian, it doesn’t mean you’re in favor of Hamas and all that they do. Nor does being pro-Israel mean you’re in favor of the Israeli government and their actions. To be pro-Palestine, to be pro-Israel means to be pro-people. This means to set aside all hate. It means to realize that everyone involved in this war is struggling and suffering. It means to care not only about one side but both sides.  

(This updated post was originally published on January 19, 2024.)

Sabina Lohr is a freelance writer who shines a light on the cultures of the Middle East through non-fiction storytelling, interviews with local figures, and insightful articles. She has traveled extensively through the region for more than 15 years and has lived in Israel, Egypt and the U.A.E.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi Sabina- this article is very well written. I like the overall message. It’s a good perspective on the situation and summarizes my opinion as well. Very nice job.

    1. Hi Karie, thank you! I appreciate your words, and it’s good to hear that you feel the same about this issue.

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