Speaking about the justice of Israel’s war on Hamas
Israel has begun its ground operation within Gaza, and public opinion has nearly completed its shift from sympathy with Israel to staunch opposition to its actions. If one were to only view the conflict through the world’s major media sources, one would completely understand why: the global public does not accept that the massacre of 1,400 Israelis and foreign citizens in Israel would justify the deaths of so many Gazans, the destruction of so much of Gazan physical infrastructure. From the perspective of the global public, Israel has unleashed its rage and now must be called upon to cease fire and work through unspecified legal means to ensure the perpetrators of the massacre are brought to justice.
We whose families are threatened by the Hamas-controlled government of Gaza, its armed forces, and its international sympathizers who seek to kill Israelis and Jews wherever they may be, know a ceasefire will not bring peace. We know that only a total victory over Hamas – as was achieved by the Allies in WWII or NATO against Serbia or the Coalition against ISIS more recently – is the only way to free us from this threat. It is also the only way to free Gazans from the reign of terror Hamas has prosecuted in the Strip since 2006.
We who are under threat know this war will only end once Hamas is either defeated or unilaterally surrenders. We who are under threat know this is highly unlikely to happen without the use of force. We are therefore using diplomacy by other means, taking up the tools of war that humanity has turned to in our darkest hours to defend our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
We who are under threat also know that Hamas will make this very difficult for us. Hamas proudly tells the world that it has built its fortifications under civil infrastructure and has no intention of using that infrastructure to protect innocent Gazans. We also know that Hamas boasts of having anywhere between 20,000 and 35,000 members in Gaza. We know that nearly all of these, by the laws of war, would be considered enemy combatants, but nearly none of these will come out into the open and say so. We know that Hamas is too cowardly to come out into the open to fight with our troops, Army to Army, and instead continues to wage a hot war against Israel – firing indiscriminately into civilian areas – from its hiding places in urban environments.
Given Hamas’s decision locate its armed forces under civilian infrastructure – a choice that is a war crime – to eliminate Hamas, Israel will need to capture or kill anywhere between 20,000 and 35,000 Hamas operatives from within urban areas. Given their avowed penchant for martyrdom it is more likely that they will prefer to be killed, and that they intend to take with them as many innocent lives as they can when they go. Despite the pain that causes us, we who are under threat know that with Hamas there will be no Peace, and so the objective of this operation is to create the conditions for Peace.
We cannot allow Hamas’s choices to lead to our indifference for innocents. We need to emphasize how desperately we call on Gazan civilians to leave these conflict zones. To head towards those areas cared for by humanitarian organizations who are now receiving increasing amounts of international aid. We need to cry with those parents and children who lost loved ones due to Hamas’ evil intent to put them at risk, to use them to further their offensive capacity.
We affirm that the fundamental responsibility of a modern State is to protect its citizens from harm. War is a horrible but necessary means of civilian protection when an armed group has declared its intentions to harm a State’s citizens. We need to be steadfast in our support for a just war, just as we need to be steadfast in our call for Israel to do everything it can to prevent the deaths of innocents. The fastest way to ending this war with minimal loss of life is for the world to call for the unilateral surrender of Hamas.
* * *
How can we enlist the global public to support our efforts to rid Gaza of Hamas and open the opportunity for peace between Gaza and Israel? Here are a few main points I recommend we emphasize time and again when responding to news coverage of the ground operation:
- We did not want this war, and want to end it with minimal loss of innocent life. The fastest and most bloodless way for this war to end is for Hamas to unilaterally surrender. Many nations have surrendered in recent memory. Surrendering to a stronger military force is a moral decision and in the best interest of the citizens of Gaza the Hamas-controlled government is legally obligated to defend.
- Given Hamas’s current list of war crimes – hiding behind protected persons, using civilian infrastructure to wage war – Israel is doing everything it can to protect civilians. Hamas’ willingness to continually carry out gross war crimes against civilians cannot be the reason the world cites to demand Israel stop operations to end the threat from Hamas against its citizens. Israel’s obligation is to protect all civilians – Gazan and Israeli – both of which are being put in harm’s way by Hamas’ decision to not come out and fight in the open, and to continue to prosecute this war from within civilian areas.
- The most sure way Israel can protect Gazan civilians is to call for them to move away from Hamas military infrastructure. Gazans have been repeatedly called upon by Israel to leave areas it has publicly identified as Hamas military bases and declared a battlezone, in following with the laws of war. Gazans have now had more than a week to move out of the area. While many abroad cannot imagine leaving their homes under threat, Gazans can see Israel practices what it preaches: more than 200,000 Israels have left their homes on the border to give room for the military to fight. Israel is therefore fully justified in calling on Gazan innocents to leave harm’s way – harm they were put in by Hamas’ decision to place its military infrastructure in their midst.
- If Hamas does not surrender, many tens of thousands of Hamas members will die – and that death toll is justified. Hamas’ ministry of health will continue to publish shocking casualty numbers as a weapon of misinformation meant to shock the international public into calling for a ceasefire. The international public should remember that the elimination of Hamas will require either a bloodless surrender, or a bloody battle to capture or kill every last Hamas member who can threaten the lives of civilians. We should prepare the international community that we intend to capture or kill tens of thousands Hamas members – and those deaths are completely justified as a means of preventing those with murderous intent to carry out their massacres on innocents.
A good case study for using this approach is in response to the Battle of Jabaliya, which generally intelligent commentators such as Ian Bremmer called a war crime. In responding to these events, we should emphasize the above points: Israel is engaged in a war it did not choose, to stop an enemy that has proven its intentions and disregard for civilian life. We have called on civilians to leave that area, and those civilians have had over a week to do so. We attacked military infrastructure placed by Hamas under the homes of civilians, and it was the explosion of Hamas military infrastructure that caused the damage to civilian homes. Hamas could have prevented this by unilaterally surrendering, and can prevent further damage to Gaza by laying down its arms and returning our hostages.
(And as an aside, calling a city such as Jabaliya a “refugee camp” borders on incitement. Jabaliya is as much a refugee camp as is Queens, New York, in that both have populations who, generations ago, fled conflict zones and have built themselves a life in its wake. It is incitement because there are actual refugee camps now set up by humanitarian organizations in Gaza and those are protected by International Law so long as Hamas does not set up military posts in their midst.)
We who hold all life sacred have an obligation to eliminating threats to innocent lives, and avoiding as much as humanely possible damage to innocents as we do so. We need to call upon the wisdom of the global public to join us in this campaign to eliminate Hamas’ threat and create the conditions for peace in our region, to make the world a safer place for all.