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According to the mantras of peace activists, the way to end wars – and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular – is by recognizing that the people on the other side are “just like us.” Students in university peace studies programs are taught that conflicts end by bringing individuals from opposing sides together, to discover shared values and overcome stereotypes about “the other.” Based on this seemingly indisputable truth, millions of dollars are provided every year for women’s reconciliation dialogues, summer peace camps, and similar frameworks. 

The articles of faith are also passionately repeated by Western diplomats. Speaking to the Israeli public on Feb. 7, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared that most people in Gaza “are just like our families … The overwhelming majority of the people in Gaza had nothing to do with Oct. 7. Their mothers and fathers want to earn a decent living, send their kids to school and have a normal life … We cannot, we must not lose sight of our common humanity.”

But is this belief reflected in reality? Is Palestinian society “just like” Israeli society, or is this a comforting but very dangerous illusion?

When Israelis look at the evidence from Gaza, we see that many supported the horrendous brutality in the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7. Large crowds in Gaza turned out to cheer the terrorists returning from their heinous spree of torture, murder, rape and kidnapping. When some Israeli hostages in Gaza were transferred to the International Red Cross after weeks of torture, mobs harassed and intimidated them.