An Israeli schoolteacher says his country is committing war crimes against innocent civilians in Gaza in response to the 7 October attacks last year when Hamas militants rampaged through civilian communities in southern Israel.
Meir Baruchin — who has been teaching history in Israeli schools for 35 years — expressed his sympathy for Palestinian civilians in Gaza in a public social media post one day after the attacks.
As he watched entire residential areas in Gaza being decimated, entire families killed, and vital infrastructure reduced to smoking piles of rubble after Israeli air strikes, he took to Facebook to express his appalment.
Commenting on a picture of dead five toddlers and children in Gaza, he wrote on 8 October: “Horrific images from Gaza. I don’t usually post pictures like this, but look what we do in revenge. Anyone who thinks this is justified because of what happened yesterday (7 October) should unfriend themselves.”
The post sparked a huge backlash, and his life has turned upside down since then. He has been cursed at by Israelis who spew racist vitriol against Palestinians.
In Israel, showing empathy and compassion towards the Palestinians after the 7 October attacks by Hamas can hurt you both socially and economically, says Baruchin.
Israeli authorities have warned against what it calls “incitement” on public social media posts as the country is in a state of war.
Baruchin, 62, says he’s trying to give the victims in Gaza names and faces so more Jews in Israel would be able to see them as human beings.
In an interview with Al Majalla remotely from his house in Jerusalem, Baruchin said: “For many Israeli Jews, Palestinians are no more than a vague image. If you say Palestinian, they automatically hear terrorists.”
“They have no name, face, family, hope, or plans. Most Israelis think that the life of a Palestinian is meaningless. It has no importance. So, what I'm trying to do on my Facebook is to humanise them.
“The Israeli mainstream media is also cooperating with this trend. They don't present the Palestinians as human beings. They present them only as terrorists. So that's the only voice most Israelis hear or see, and I'm trying to do otherwise.”