Israeli diplomat sits down with the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle
Israel at warIsrael consul for public diplomacy visits Pittsburgh

Israeli diplomat sits down with the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle

Yuval Donio-Gideon spoke about Oct. 7, public calls for a cease-fire and what it means to win a war with the terrorist organization.

Israeli diplomat Yuval Donio-Gideon recently visited Pittsburgh, bringing with him a nearly 50-minute video of Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack. (Photo by David Rullo)
Israeli diplomat Yuval Donio-Gideon recently visited Pittsburgh, bringing with him a nearly 50-minute video of Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack. (Photo by David Rullo)

During a recent visit to Pittsburgh, Yuval Donio-Gideon, the consul for public diplomacy at the Israeli consulate in New York, sat down with the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. He spoke about Oct. 7, public calls for a cease-fire and what it means to win a war with the terrorist organization.

As part of his visit, Donio-Gideon screened a nearly 50-minute video of raw footage taken on Oct. 7 to invited local leaders. Israel is showing the video to select groups in an to combat the growing tide of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and claims that the crimes committed by Hamas didn’t occur.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why is there a need to validate that the terrorist attack happened?
We’re struggling with this phenomenon. It’s weird. We’ve seen atrocities and genocide throughout the world many times, but what may be a bit unique about this one is the sharp contrast between the scope of the evidence and the scope of the denial. The terrorists filmed themselves and broadcast themselves live doing the horrible things they did. So, this relates in some way to the denial claims that we see.

Is it working? Are minds being changed?
I think yes. It depends on which audience. When people choose to lie to themselves, I can’t do anything to change that. But those who are not necessarily well educated and do wish to be presented with facts, those people can see the film with their own eyes and see this is raw footage. It’s not edited in the sense that there’s no interpretation or narrative. You see raw footage from security cameras, from victims’ cellphones, from Hamas cellphones, the GoPro cameras that they carried on them to record what they were doing and from social media that Hamas broadcast, sometimes livestreaming the events. That’s what you see, no interpretation, no context — just the raw footage and that is what makes it so powerful.

How do you change the minds of people who say the events of Oct. 7 never happened?
I don’t know if I’ll change them, but I think it’s important to reflect to them what their argument really is. It’s hard for me even to follow the logic. Let’s assume, from their perspective, that Israel is violating the human rights of Palestinians — then it’s OK to rape Israeli women? The Israelis have put Gaza in a siege, so it’s OK to burn alive Israeli babies? If that’s the argument, I don’t think anything I say will convince them. We should reflect about how ridiculous and morally twisted this perception is. If you can justify murdering babies or raping women, I don’t think we have much to elaborate about. Evil people always find a reason to justify horrible things.

Last week the United Nations passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire. How does Israel respond?
First of all, I don’t think it’s useful for the purpose of trying to bring back the hostages or improve the situation. We already had a cease-fire on Oct. 6. There was no war. The reason there is a war is that there was a massacre on Oct. 7. Not only has been a massacre, but Hamas keeps saying again and again, “This was only the first time. We’ll do a second and third and fourth time.” I believe them. We have to see how we can prevent them from repeating the atrocities they did. That’s what any responsible country or state would do to defend its citizens. That’s the unwritten agreement between citizens and the state, that when you wake up in the morning or when you go to sleep in the evening, you don’t want to fear to wake up, seeing that barbarians crossed the border and kidnapped your kids from bed.

The second thing is, we still have 134 people in captivity — how do we bring them back? The issue is not that we’re against cease-fire. We didn’t choose this war. This war was forced upon us by Hamas. We could easily reach a cease-fire: All that needs to be done is for the terrorists to put down their weapons and bring back the hostages. We’re not against a cease-fire, it just has to serve the purpose. A resolution that calls for a cease-fire without mentioning why we have war to begin with is futile. It doesn’t serve the Palestinians or the Israelis in any way. It’s only fuel to the terrorists.

Will Israel win this war with Hamas?
I think the way the Israeli government has defined the purpose of the war — to bring the hostages back home and to dismantle Hamas’ governing and military abilities — it doesn’t necessarily mean kill each and every last terrorist on the ground. But it means that you should eradicate Hamas as a functioning organ, both in the governing aspect and in the military aspects, as an army of terror. We will dismantle its ability to act in an orchestrated way and to carry out similar attacks. From that purpose, yes. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve been to several events speaking to thousands of people, and I’ve said it’s going to be a long war. If anyone says something differently, regrettably, that’s not what’s going to happen.

Hamas is an army of terror, well equipped, that prepared months, if not more, for this event. Second, they are mingled in with the civilian population. Third, the Israeli army has been very, very careful to try and minimize the collateral damage and try to surgically attack the terrorists while harming as little as possible people who are uninvolved. If we would go all out — the Israeli army is very strong maybe, maybe the strongest in the Middle East — does anyone really assume that this war would last half a year?

There are many wars taking place around the globe. Are you surprised at the negative response to Israel’s war against a terrorist organization?
No, I’m not surprised. We’ve seen throughout the decades that Israel draws a lot of attention in a negative way. Even in such a blunt example, where we are victims of one of the most heinous attacks in modern history still, we’ve been perceived as the oppressor, the abuser. It has to do with a narrative about white and the nonwhite people, the oppressor and the oppressed, who’s right and who’s wrong. We fall into that the narrative. Some of it has to do with a lot of anti-Israeli toxic propaganda that’s been conducted for many years. And some has to do with genuine concern that people have about wellbeing or injustice that happens in Gaza. It’s not surprising. Some of it has to do with a very strong antisemitic sentiment that you see growing.

Just two weeks ago, I was at the ADL conference in New York. I heard Jonathan Greenblatt speak about, I think, a 417% increase in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7. And that’s after we would have an increase in recent years of 20-25% every year. It’s insane. We are conducting this interview in Pittsburgh, which is the last place that one needs a reminder of what antisemitism is capable of. I think that explains part of the sentiment, because you see a deep dehumanization of the victims. I don’t know how to explain this dehumanization in any other way than antisemitism.

With all that’s happening in the world, are you still hopeful for Israel’s future?
Well, and I’d say that being an optimist is an essential part of being an Israeli. This whole Zionist project of the Jews renewing their ancestral land or homeland in the land of Israel, it seemed unimaginable 150 years ago. Being Israel is all about being optimistic. That’s what we do well, looking at and rising to a challenge, because we’re forced to. Being an Israeli means believing in miracles. I’m optimistic that Israel will grow stronger from these challenging days. And as we did in previous harsh times, as we did not once, not twice in recent decades — after the second Intifada, first intifada, second Lebanon War, the first Lebanon War, the Yom Kippur War and other challenges.

I see the potential for Israelis to come together, see the potential for free societies coming together against the threat. But I don’t have any illusions that it will be an easy journey. It’s a struggle. It will continue to be a struggle. But I don’t think we have a choice if we want to keep our lives and free society. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at

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