Recently, I’ve heard and read many supporters of Israel liken Hamas terrorists to “animals.” The implication is that the terrorists have lowered themselves to a subhuman level, and they don’t deserve the level of respect and appreciation typically given to our fellow homo sapiens.
I certainly agree that Hamas has behaved reprehensibly and it alone deserves blame for this conflagration. Still, I must push back against the “animal” label for two distinct reasons.
First, in comparing terrorists to animals, you lessen the terrorists’ culpability. Instinct drives the behavior of animals. Human behavior, too, but to a lesser extent. Without thinking, humans may automatically pull their hands away from burning stovetops, but we also have the ability to reason and empathize with our fellow man. Animals, by and large, don’t choose to do evil deeds. In Jaws, we may fear the shark, but we really don’t hate him. By contrast, we hate the Nazis in Schindler’s List, at least in part because we recognize that humans, at our finest, are capable of great feats—like composing and performing great pieces of music.
The same is true of the Hamas terrorists. I hate them, not simply because they kill and maim, but because they chose that path instead of opting for peace and reconciliation.
Second, the comparison is unfair to animals. Throughout the animal kingdom, mothers fiercely defend their young. No one wants to get between a mamma grizzly bear and her cub, because we know that the bear will do anything in its power to protect its cub. By contrast, Hamas terrorists deliberately place children in harm’s way. They locate rocket-launchers amongst civilians, and they store rockets in schools. For Hamas, scoring public relations points is more important than safeguarding the most vulnerable in Gaza. Unfortunately, Hamas’s behavior is quite un-animalistic in this respect.
So for those of us in the pro-Israel community, my modest request is to drop the “animals” rhetoric, and instead label the terrorists for what they truly are: evil people.