When horrible images of Gazan civilian suffering flood the media and inflame passions beyond all rational analysis, the challenge is to stay clearheaded about those responsible for the horrors unfolding.
So blame Hamas for all of the suffering endured by Gazans after October 7th, because on October 6ththere was no reason for Israel to focus its military power on Gaza. Indeed, the October 7th massacre was possible partly because Israel had been fooled by Hamas into thinking that it was interested in economic prosperity.
But on October 7th Hamas invaded Israel’s sovereign territory, abducted over 230 Israelis and slaughtered 1,400 people, which is the equivalent of almost 52,000 deaths in the USA – about seventeen September 11s in one day – and approximately 8,500 Americans taken hostage. And the horrific savagery of those murders and abductions even in far smaller numbers would likely prompt most militaries in the world to act far more aggressively and decisively than Israel has thus far. Indeed, with “just” one September 11, the US launched massive wars against two countries on the other side of the planet, resulting in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. So a crushing military response to the mass atrocities by Hamas was entirely predictable, making Hamas alone responsible for the current conflict. In legal terms, Hamas was the “but-for cause” of the present war: no Hamas massacre on October 7th, no “Operation Swords of Iron” by Israel’s military afterwards.
It would be negligent of any Israeli government not to pursue the complete eradication of Hamas after the October 7th massacre, which made the genocidal intent of the terror organization undeniable. The Hamas charter openly states the goal of killing all Jews, but this objective had never been advanced on such an overwhelming scale and with such grotesque atrocities proudly recorded and broadcast by Hamas. In addition, the massive amount of weaponry, food, and supplies found among the perpetrators shows that Hamas intended to attack several major Israeli cities over a period of weeks, and sought to maximize its murder of Israelis, as further evidenced by the instructions on how to make a cyanide chemical weaponthat were found. So there can be no doubt about Hamas’ intentions, nor any more illusions that Israel can somehow learn to live with such a neighbor, or that there is any hope for peaceful coexistence with Palestinians in or out of Gaza as long as Hamas survives.
So blame Hamas for starting the current war and blame Hamas for every day that this war continues, with all of the resulting civilian deaths, damage to property, humanitarian crises, and general misery. Looking back at the three major rounds of violence between Hamas and Israel, an obvious pattern emerges: the longer the conflict lasts, the more death and destruction happens, until the day when Hamas is subdued enough to accept a ceasefire. The estimated casualty figures below include both the combatant and civilian deaths in Gaza resulting from each of the major Israeli operations in Gaza:
2008-9 Operation Cast Lead: 22 days, about 1,300 Gazans killed
2012 Operation Pillar of Defense: 7 days, about 180 Gazans killed
2014 Operation Protective Edge: 49 days, about 2,200 Gazans killed
Note that each of the above operations was provoked by Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, so Hamas also deserves blame for all of the Gazan life and property lost in each of those wars. Averaging the figures above, Gazans died at a rate of about 34 per day, but because this time Israel is fighting to eliminate an existential threat once and for all, the daily death rate is already much higher and could quickly get worse.
Yet Hamas has the power to stop the current Gazan suffering almost immediately, by releasing all hostages and offering an unconditional surrender, which would prompt the Israeli military to stop its onslaught as soon as Hamas’ capitulation was verified.
Just as Hamas knew that its massacre would occasion a massive Israeli military response, Hamas also knows that it will ultimately lose the present war because of Israel’s overwhelming military superiority and unstoppable morale, now that Israelis are more convinced than ever that Hamas endangers their very existence.
Thus, Hamas and Gaza will emerge no better from this round of violence than they did from the prior ones, but how long this war harms Gaza depends entirely on Hamas. After the October 7th massacre, everyone knows that Israel’s military operation cannot stop until the genocidal threat to its civilians from Hamas is removed. Indeed, the USA went to war for decades to eliminate threats from Islamist terror groups. So the only question is how much death and destruction Hamas chooses to inflict on Gazan civilians before it stops fighting. Hence, the international community should do what it never has and pressure Hamas to accept defeat “early” and surrender unconditionally, in order to spare Gazan civilians from any more death and devastation.
Indeed, the blame for Gazan misery also lies with the international community, which has consistently enabled Hamas to continue its destructive reign of terror by pressuring Israel to accept cease-fires after each round of violence provoked by Hamas. If instead the media and world leaders supported a conclusive military victory by Israel, that would liberate Gazans from their tyrannical Hamas masters and finally create hope for peace and a better future in Gaza.
But as long as Hamas is allowed to survive, Gazans will suffer, because Hamas has proven time and again that it hates Israelis more than it cares about Gazans. Indeed, blame Hamas for turning Gaza into a failed terrorist state that requires constant humanitarian assistance and diverts aid money to buy weapons and build terror tunnels.
When deluged by horrific images of civilian death and destruction in or near Gazan medical facilities, mosques, or schools, blame Hamas. The terror group uses tunnels under hospitals to move weapons and explosives, because Hamas assumes Israel won’t target such sites. Indeed, in its 2014 war with Israel, Hamas used hospitals, mosques and schools for military purposes. Thus, by targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Gazan civilians forced to act as human shields, Hamas commits double war crimes.
Blame Hamas for the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where fuel and other vital provisions have run dangerously low. As the New York Times reports, “Hamas has spent years stockpiling desperately needed fuel, food and medicine, as well as ammo and weapons, in the miles of tunnels it has carved out under Gaza.” Why doesn’t the international community demand that Hamas provide Gazan civilians the very supplies they so desperately need?
Finally, blame the media for failing to blame Hamas when it streams endless images of Gazan civilian suffering. The resulting global outrage is exponentially greater than it is for civilians harmed in Syria (over 300,000 killed), Armenia (about 120,000 displaced), Ethiopia (about 600,000 dead) and countless other conflict zones. Meanwhile, empathy has all but vanished for the Israeli civilians victimized by the October 7th massacre that began this war.
Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.
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