Planning for the future.
Willing to sacrifice for something outside of yourself.
Being prepared to die for a cause.
Perseverance under difficult physical and mental circumstances.
Courage to fight a stronger enemy.
Patience, Discipline and Determination.
Not giving up.
Most people would consider the above list of human characteristics to be admirable. Several of them are indeed included in the classic virtues. Perhaps it will shock you to know that these are all characteristics that I see in the terrorist group Hamas.
However, well meaning people who support Israel and the western world describe Hamas as: “the Hamas rapist regime”, “butchers and murderers”, “a cruel sadistic death cult”, ”Nazi butchers”, “cowards who hide in tunnels”. Also consider the well known cartoon that shows a Hamas terrorist cowering behind a baby in a baby carriage. While all those above depictions contain truth, writing Hamas off in this way leads to underestimating our enemy in a profound way. The catastrophe of October 7th was able to happen because we underestimated Hamas.
Do Hamas fighters cower behind civilians? It is a fact that Hamas is embedded among the civilians of Gaza, but they are not “cowering”. It is a deliberate strategy with two well considered goals. One goal is to hide themselves and their supplies not only in their elaborate tunnels, but also in kindergartens, schools, private homes, mosques and hospitals. The second goal is to have women and children killed in order to weaken our resolve and break the ties we have with our allies. This strategy has worked for them in the past. Do they force the women and children to die for them against their will? Perhaps, but I suspect that a substantial proportion of the women are deeply committed to Hamas, and that they are proud to be a part of the battle in this way, even to the extent of sacrificing their children. The cartoon, if drawn by our enemy, would be a heroic depiction of a Palestinian mother, holding her baby above the Hamas Jihadist helping in the fight against us. The mother would thus elevate herself and her baby to the highest rank of humanity in their culture: they would be martyrs.
Then there is the idea that Hamas fighters are savages. It is a fact that they used grotesque savagery and committed atrocities when they attacked us on Oct. 7th. However, the word savage implies a low level of sophistication which again leads us to underestimate our enemy. The hordes who invaded Israel and attacked us on Oct 7th were akin to a Hamas secret weapon. They were indoctrinated, radicalized, and raised on a fertilizer of hatred purposefully to fulfill their mission. The Hamas leadership released this weapon on Israeli towns in the same manner as they launch rockets randomly towards those same towns. The Hamas’s lack of morality does not mean they are stupid or cowardly, it just means that they are evil.
It is not only in underestimating our enemies that we err when analyzing our neighbors. Too many otherwise thoughtful people fall into the trap of projecting western values onto non-western societies. We might strive for a good education, meaningful career, loving family, and prosperity to raise our children well. To us it might seem that all peoples would have similar aspirations, but they don’t.
Hamas is a formidable enemy fighting with the home advantage, but I am not writing this to demoralize us or to scare us. On the contrary, I want it clearly understood that defeating Hamas, as we are methodically doing, is a monumental task. Once we are done, this war will be studied around the world as an example of how to win a just war against an immoral enemy fighting in a dense urban setting.