On Justifications for Israel’s Destruction of Gaza — My Problem With Normalizing Civilian Casualties & Minimizing International Law

Jakub Ferencik
16 min readFeb 2, 2024

I recently listened to a podcast from Sam Harris with a series of arguments that justify Israel’s continuous war on Hamas without any need for either a temporary, partial, or permanent ceasefire in consideration of Palestinian non-combatants, and I had some substantial disagreements. So, I thought I would jolt them down for this article.

Here, I’ll be addressing the “pro-war” argument in Gaza against Hamas, particularly by analyzing Harris’ iteration of it on his podcast, “Making Sense with Sam Harris.”

But first, Who is Sam Harris?

For those who might not know, Harris was originally propelled into fame after the publication of his first book, The End of Faith, in 2004, where he lays out a case against fundamentalist religion. He helped spark the “New Atheist” movement along with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel C. Dennett. Harris holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA and is the author of several other books including Lying, Free Will, and Waking Up (all of which I’ve read and, actually, enjoyed).

I think Harris has a lot of good to say about meditation, the morality of luck, the importance of charity, and so forth. Incidentally, I also met Sam in Vancouver when he debated Jordan Peterson (he even retweeted my tweet about the event, what luck). Despite our pleasant interaction, I have some disagreements with Harris.

The latest area where I disagree with Harris is his justification for Israel’s continuous war on Hamas. I might have excused this position in the first weeks of Israel’s war, but it’s been for at least three months clear that Israel must fundamentally reconsider their policy in Gaza.

Israel is not achieving its stated goal of eradicating Hamas and is harming civilians at rates that are far from acceptable. I believe that the pro-war position is not fully reckoning with this reality, so we’ll look at some of the scale of destruction and why international law must be upheld.

I recommend you listen to Sam’s take for yourselves from his latest podcast where he, in his words, exposes “five myths about Israel and the war in Gaza” if you are interested.

This is a difficult issue. I do not expect to resolve it. Here, I aim to practice what democracy has given to us: civil

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Jakub Ferencik

Author of “Up in the Air,” “Beyond Reason,” & "Surprised by Uncertainty" on AMAZON | MA McGill Uni | 750+ articles with 1+ mil. views