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Israeli bombing of Gaza. Photo courtesy the New York Times

There is no doubt that the tragedy that is the Israel-Hamas War is not good for civilians. It reveals a basic truth that came to light earlier in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Increasingly modern warfare is being fought, not on battlefields between two or more armed foes, but against innocent civilians. Whether purposely directed at them or not, it is the young, the unprepared, and the innocent who are paying the heaviest price of armed conflict.

The Hamas October 7 terrorist massacre of more than 1,400 Israelis, the wounding of thousands more, and the taking of hundreds of hostages was barbaric. Now the Israel war to hunt and eliminate the Hamas terrorists whose reason for being is to kill Jews is killing innocent Palestinian civilians; women and children who have no place to go.

The horrific scenes from Gaza, especially the loss of hundreds of children is heartbreaking. There are calls throughout the world for Israel to pause the assault on Gaza. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has reiterated that Israel had both the right and the obligation to defend itself and its people, but he has also encouraged a pause in fighting, sensibly linking a pause to the welfare of the hostages, which includes many Americans and other foreign nationals.

On Thursday Senator Dick Durbin (D – Illinois) called for a pause in fighting to allow for the release of the more than 230 hostages. He made this statement as Israel announced that it had surrounded Gaza City. Today a chorus of U.S. Congressional members, including other Democrats, have called for a pause.

At the same time, there has been a rising tide of hate around the world that is antisemitic and Islamophobic and anti-Arab. All are downright anti-American. It’s as if someone let the genie of extreme hatred that we thought had no place in the 21st century out of the bottle, and now it is multiplying.

White Nationalism Masquerades as Pro-Palestinian Protest

The virulence of the antisemitic hatred appears to have shocked U.S. officials. Now it has been confirmed that the level of hatred leveled at U.S. Jews is beginning to be hijacked by a coalition of neo-Nazis and the far right.

The Vice News organization reports that “around 40 people affiliated with the National Justice Party, a white nationalist and antisemitic group, gathered in front of the White House to protest Israel last weekend. The group was led by Mike Peinovich, a long-time white nationalist personality who previously used the alias “Mike Enoch,” and was one of the architects of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville … Vice reported that there is an ideological kinship between that group and the wider pro-Palestine movement; it was an opportunity waiting for them to use to their advantage.

“They’re not pro-Palestine, they just hate Jews, and they see this moment as an opportunity to get attention, get coverage, put their banners, their images, their ideas, into reporting patterns,” said George Washington University’s Program on Extremism Research Fellow Jon Lewis speaking with VICE News.

Hate crimes targeting Jews, Muslims, and Arabs were already disturbingly high before the conflict and now they are soaring.

Swastikas have appeared on college and high school campuses, sowing fear among Jewish students. An elderly landlord in Illinois stabbed a six-year-old Palestinian boy to death and is facing hate crime charges. Jewish organizations have received death threats. Cornell University was so alarmed by the tenor of hate protests on campus, that it called off classes today.

Emotions are running high, which means that normal First Amendment rights of free speech in many areas are verging into hate speech and hate action — which is NOT protected by that First Amendment.

While all this is unsettling, a reminder that not everything we see and hear on social media is true — or even real. Be aware that not only are Russian, Iranian, and Chinese troll farms spewing disinformation about events that may or may not be taking place, so are domestic extremists. Now with the added threats from AI, we should remember that often the images and even news reports being altered by AI to appear real — aren’t.

Ark Valley Voice tries very hard to double-check our information sources. Unless something can be confirmed, we don’t cover it (which is why we are awaiting the factual information about whatever it was that happened in Buena Vista nearly two weeks ago before we write anything). To double-check what you may be seeing and hearing on social media, we recommend this Research Guide, adapted from a guide developed by the Research Center at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism: