Jim Shalom
A semi-retired physician

Can the Hamas Attack on Israel Oct 7 Benefit the Palestinian Cause?

On October 7, Hamas initiated an attack on Israeli communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Three weeks into the conflict, Hamas continues to launch missile attacks on Israeli cities and holds more than 200 hostages. The known Israeli death toll has surpassed 1,400. Can these heinous acts benefit the Palestinian cause?

This attack caught Israel off guard, as several factors contributed to their unpreparedness. Israeli government leaders, intelligence and the military had underestimated the merciless Hamas intentions. There was a fundamental misunderstanding within Israel regarding Hamas’ priorities, true objectives, and methods. Many Israeli political and military leaders incorrectly assumed that, despite their radical, autocratic, and corrupt nature, Hamas ultimately prioritized the well-being of their people. Operating under this assumption, Israel had been providing Gaza with concrete and fuel for years and allowed Qatar to provide $25 million per month to Gaza civilians, despite awareness that some of these resources were being diverted for militant purposes.

Hamas’ true objective, which even many Israelis failed to grasp initially, but has now retrospectively become abundantly clear, is to inflict widespread destruction to Israel without concern for the well-being of Gaza residents. Hamas has never declared willingness for negotiations towards peace or reconciliation.

The recent timing of Hamas’ actions can be attributed to multiple factors. One reason was to catch Israel off guard. Another significant factor was to interfere with the ongoing process of normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia, whose conditions included addressing Palestinian needs. This positive normalization process directly challenges Hamas’ destructive agenda.

Hamas’s actions align with the goals of anti-Zionists and anti-Semites but will not ultimately succeed or benefit the Palestinians. Firstly, Israel’s military strength makes it impossible to destroy the country. Secondly, by using civilian areas for their military activities, Hamas knows that even when Israel follows international laws of conflict, there will be significant civilian casualties and destruction. Thirdly, Hamas understands that in response to their attacks, Israel will target their infrastructure, militants, and leaders aggressively, similar to the strategy used to pursue those responsible for the Munich Olympic terrorist attack in 1972. The only potential benefit of their attack and hostages taking is the possibility of Israel releasing Hamas terrorists from its prisons. However, prisoner release primarily benefits Hamas and not the Palestinian cause. Furthermore, a more peaceful and non-destructive means of achieving a prisoner release could likely be pursued through peace negotiations with Israel.

The undeniable conclusion is that, aside from causing loss of life, chaos, and humiliation for Israelis, all of which are negative outcomes, their attack has failed to achieve anything positive either for Hamas or to advance the Palestinian cause.

Rather than being labeled as “pro-Palestinian,” the Hamas operation would be more aptly described as “destructively nihilistic.” Nihilism is a philosophical perspective that rejects widely accepted or fundamental aspects of human existence, such as knowledge, morality, or meaning. It seeks to undermine higher values and opposes the affirmation of life. This description aligns closely with the actions taken by Hamas on October 7.

People who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, but do not consider themselves nihilistic should be asking themselves if they should support the Hamas nihilistic ideology.

The repeated claim that Hamas is motivated by the belief that Jews usurped their lands is inaccurate and deliberately misleading. While a detailed historical review is beyond the scope of this blog, a few key points can counter this historical distortion. Continuous Jewish presence in the land of Israel dates back thousands of years, to biblical times. In contrast, the Arabs, as we know them today, have had a presence since around 700 AD. Moreover, there were no claims to a distinct Palestinian political entity until the 1960s. The argument about demanding that Israeli Jews return to their countries of origin is preposterous. They should be no more likely to return to their countries of origins than non aboriginal Americans, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealand should be called upon to return to their forefather’s country of origins. Furthermore, the majority of Israeli Jews, specifically the Sephardic Jews with roots in the North African Arab countries, are indigenous to this geographic region anyway.

Why hasn’t a Palestinian state been established? There have been several opportunities, but they were consistently rejected by the Arab world. In 1948, the UN partition plan offered a path to create a Palestinian state in areas where the Arab majority lived, yet the response from Arab nations was to declare war against the emerging Jewish state. Israel ended up within its designated boundaries after the 1948 war, with the Gaza Strip under Egypt’s control and the West Bank under Jordan’s rule. One should note that the Arab side didn’t make any efforts to establish a Palestinian state. Their focus remained on using terror and calling for Israel’s destruction.

In 1967, the Six-Day War, initiated by Egyptian aggression under Nasser, led to Israel gaining control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem. Many Israelis hoped this would be an opportunity for peace, but once again, the Arab response was one of rejection, highlighted by the Khartoum conference declaration of ” No negotiation no recognition, and no peace with Israel.” In the words of the late Foreign Minister Abba Eban, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” which he said in reference to the 1973 Geneva Peace Conference.

The path to establishing Palestinian statehood faces significant challenges, primarily due to internal Palestinian issues. Firstly, there’s a lack of recognition and political cooperation between the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) in the West Bank and Hamas. To date there is no agreement among Palestinians who should represent them in general and specifically at peace talks. Secondly, while the P.A. has refrained from using violence and has voiced support for a two-state solution in recent years, which are important positive moves, a closer look reveals that their commitment to a two-state solution is only an interim step towards eventually controlling the entire land and denying Israel’s sovereignty. Consequently, while their methods differ from Hamas, their ultimate goals align. Notably, the P.A. has never accepted or proposed a compromise peace plan that would definitively end the conflict. Third, the nature of the intended Palestinian state remains uncertain. Israel has a legitimate interest in understanding the future character of its neighboring country. Both the West Bank and Gaza are governed by autocratic and corrupt regimes with manifestos hostile to Israel, that repress minorities, deny citizens individual rights, lack a free judiciary, and a free press. Israel has the right to reject a neighboring state that calls for its destruction and replacement.

There are also challenges on the Israeli side. Those who have a strong attachment to the biblical land of Israel, particularly in the West Bank, have yet to propose an acceptable political solution for addressing the ultimate status of the West Bank Arabs. While the goals of extreme pro-Palestinians are unacceptable to Israel and rightly so, we should assume that there are reasonable individuals on the Palestinian side who may be open to a balanced solution.

Over the years, as Palestinians have continued to employ acts of terrorism and resisted negotiations aimed at ending the conflict, there has been a growing shift in Israel towards a more skeptical view of the possibility of eventual Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation. The recent conflict involving Hamas, especially when supported by pro-Palestinian groups, will further diminish Israeli willingness to pursue peace. Consequently, it will be important for the Palestinians and their supporters to clarify unequivocally their commitment to the peace process.

I reside in the Galilee, where Israeli Arabs make up around 50% of the population, significantly higher than their national representation of 21% in Israel. Consequently, I have accumulated extensive experience living and working among Israeli Arabs. Like their Jewish counterparts, many Israeli Arabs found the Hamas actions as repulsive. Most do not wish to live under such a regime. They are fully aware that, with all the challenges of being an Arab minority in a Jewish country, that in terms of freedom and economic opportunities, their situation as Arab Israelis is better than in any Arab-majority country.

During discussions at work last week, while both Jewish and Arab colleagues felt the pressure to exclusively take one side or the other, we all came to realize that we are all in this together and must work cooperatively. Thankfully, perhaps due to our years of working together, we managed to maintain a rational and non-nihilistic perspective, and we all agreed that the best solution in our workplace is to continue our professional cooperation while trying to set aside and minimize political differences.

Hopefully, saner positive perspectives will also prevail on a regional scale. To achieve this, those who support the Palestinian cause should come to view Hamas’ ideology and tactics as undermining and counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. It is essential for pro-Palestinians to conclude that Hamas needs to be replaced by an alternative authority, potentially under UN supervision, with a primary focus on improving the well-being of the Gaza population and opposed to promoting violence against Israel. If there is to be any chance of resolving the Palestinian Arab conflict to the benefit of the Palestinian people, this alternative should actively support a compromise-oriented peace process.

About the Author
Jim Shalom is a specialist in family medicine, with interests in end-of-life care and the Israeli political scene. He resides in Galilee. He has spent most of his adult life living and working in Israel.
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