Since the October 7th attacks on Israel by Hamas, which saw over 1,200 civilians and about 200 hostages taken, between 25,000 and 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza amid a prolonged IDF campaign, international aid organizations report that 100% of Gazans face food insecurity, with at least 32 deaths from malnutrition in hospitals. The healthcare system has collapsed, basic services have broken down, and there are shortages of electricity, water, food, medicines, and replacement parts. Additionally, 1.7 million people, the vast majority of the population, have been displaced.

Roughly half of those killed in the conflict have been women and children. However, Gazans have large families, and women and children make up about two-thirds of the population, making it statistically more likely they would become casualties. Additionally, Hamas employs women and children (under 18) as terrorists and suicide bombers, or uses them as human shields. Therefore, it is incorrect to assume that all women and children are noncombatants.

Aid shipments into Gaza are being restricted by neighboring countries, which also refuse to accept Palestinian refugees. Some aid shipments from the Israeli side have been suspended because regional charities have used them to transport weapons and ammunition. Israel has been blamed for the 260 humanitarian aid workers killed so far. However, it’s important to note that aid workers knowingly put themselves in harm’s way and are often killed accidentally during the normal course of battle. The aid worker issue is further complicated by the fact that several employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) were found to be terrorists involved in the October 7th attack. Consequently, the US has cut off funding to the organization.

Human rights organizations claim that, prior to the October 7th attack, Israel’s ongoing “apartheid” against Palestinians has contributed to a poverty rate of approximately 25%. However, this rate is significantly lower than the prevailing poverty rate across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where roughly 60% of the population is classified as poor or vulnerable.

The term “apartheid,” meaning “separateness” in Afrikaans, often brings to mind South Africa’s former regime, where white people had more rights and privileges than people of color. South African apartheid was condemned internationally for imposing severe restrictions on the indigenous majority by white colonizers. However, the situation in Israel is different. Unlike South Africa, Palestine is not a recognized sovereign state, and most Palestinians mentioned in apartheid claims are not Israeli citizens. Consequently, they do not have the same rights and privileges as Israeli citizens, such as voting or accessing social services. Conversely, they are also exempt from responsibilities like mandatory military service in the IDF and paying taxes to the Israeli government.

Similarly, Israeli citizens living in France, or French citizens living in Bolivia, would not be allowed to vote and would have restrictions on their rights to work, reside, or access free state services like healthcare.

Israel is often blamed for Palestine’s lack of statehood. However, under the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, Palestine does not meet the required criteria for statehood, which includes a defined territory, a permanent population, a functioning government, and the capacity to enter into international relations. The geographic borders of Palestine are unclear, comprising Gaza, the West Bank, and disputed territories. This ambiguity disqualifies Palestine from statehood under the Montevideo Convention, as a country must have clearly defined borders.

Palestine also fails the test of having a functioning government. The West Bank is administered by the Palestinian Authority, while Gaza is controlled by Hamas. These two organizations are in conflict and do not agree to be governed by one another, resulting in a divided and ineffective governance structure. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is recognized by the UN as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” However, the PLO has been designated as a terrorist organization by some countries due to its involvement in violent activities. One of the most notable incidents associated with the PLO was the Munich massacre during the 1972 Summer Olympics, where 11 Israeli athletes were killed. This attack was carried out by Black September, a faction within the PLO.

Charges of apartheid also extend to the treatment of Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Including these individuals in the population of Palestine complicates statehood claims based on having a permanent population, as these refugees reside outside the claimed territories and lack formal recognition within an established state framework.

Furthermore, the Palestinians outside of Palestine are not under Israeli control, and the human rights violations they face should not be attributed to Israel. Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, where these refugee camps are located, have the authority to provide refugees with legal status, freedom of movement, work rights, access to medical and social benefits, or even citizenship, but they have chosen not to. Israel should not be held accountable for the actions of these other countries.

Human rights groups claim that Israel has separated families or denied movement to Palestinians by refusing to allow refugees to relocate to Gaza, the West Bank, or Israel, and by preventing the movement of Palestinians between these areas. As a sovereign nation, Israel has the right to establish and enforce its own immigration policies. However, since Palestine is not a recognized country, it lacks the authority to implement immigration policies.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire and civilians are suffering. The authority in Gaza, Hamas, endangered the population by attacking Israel on October 7th. Hamas has further complicated aid deliveries by using them to conceal weapons and by having terrorists pose as aid workers. Additionally, Hamas has used women and children as shields and as terrorists, and it has operated out of hospitals and schools. In short, Hamas triggered the current conflict and has exacerbated civilian suffering. It is also crucial to remember that Hamas is still holding hostages and recently released a video of captured female Israeli soldiers who were bloodied and threatened with rape. Hamas has the option to end Israel’s military campaign by surrendering and releasing the hostages, but it chooses not to do so.