Raphael Cohen-Almagor
Author of Just, Reasonable Multiculturalism (2021)

Hamas-Israel War

 7 October is one of the bloodiest days in Jewish history, excluding the Holocaust. It is a day that many generations will remember with sadness and horror. Israel should note this day on its calendar as a Memorial Day.

7 October was a game changer for Israel, for Hamas, for Gaza and for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The reality after the horrific 7 October attack has changed dramatically.

What did Hamas have in mind?

Hamas, and Iran, thought Israel is fragmented, weak, torn apart from the inside; that Israel lacks unity and therefore there was an opportunity to catch the country in its weak, fragile moment, seize the opportunity and inflict pain. I suspect Hamas did not know that 7 October will be a field day for them. They thought that they will face a strong opposition but enjoyed the opportunity that was presented for them to drive forces forward almost with no opposition into Israeli villages and kibbutzim. Ecstatic by their achievement, they brutally slaughter any Jew they saw, as they were instructed, and took hundreds of people with them back to Gaza as human shields. They knew Israel would not sit quietly in response. They thought the human shields, that include children and babies, will take the sting out of the Israeli attack.

Their brutal success in murdering Jews and non-Jews with gusto shocked the Israeli nation and people all over the world. While Israel is unified in its national grief, it is also unified in its resolve. We understood that we could not afford living next to Hamas. All the talks about the benefits of having Gaza ruled by Hamas, of dividing the Palestinian people and ruling them, of having Hamas under check, proved wrong. The concept had broken on 7 October. That erroneous concept was replaced with another concept: Take Hamas out. Destroy them. Bring their end.

Some people want revenge. I am not a vengeful person and the issue for me is not revenge. Revenge is a very bad guide for decision-making process. Blind vengeance would only yield more violence and gore. The issue is self-defence.

Israel fights this war because it has a fundamental right to defend itself against those vowing to see its destruction.

Hamas is the new Haman. Hamas leaders vow to bring on Israel many 7 October-like attacks. Israel vows not to let this happen. Those who live by the sword die by the sword.

Nor does Israel fight to keep Netanyahu in office, or to oust him. This war is partly because of his failed so-called “leadership”. But soldiers do not fight for him. It is not all about Netanyahu. Soldiers fight for the security of their country, and in support of their friends and commanders. Again, Israel, like any nation, has the right to defend itself.

I did not support a ground operation, dreading the bloody ramifications of such an operation. I supported a monitored siege on Gaza, controlling what was going in and out from Gaza, with measured incursions into Gaza and securing a deal for the release of the hostages.

I support a deal. Freeing all the Hostages in exchange for letting equal number of Hamas people travel to Iran.

Israel should do whatever it can to bring home the hostages held by Hamas. It is its duty and the decent, right thing to do. Any country and organisation that can assist in bringing these men, women and children home should do so now. This includes Qatar, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and the United Nations.

The war may last a long time. Israeli leaders should think about the day after. Law of physics holds that lacunas must be filled. In the absence of the eradicated Hamas, someone needs to hold the reigns. Israel should think carefully who they want to see in power: the PLO, a coalition of countries, Israel or an international organisation. Without planning, Hamas might be replaced by another terrorist organisation and Israel will face a Hamas twin, or worse.

Israeli leaders should also understand that the root cause for this brutal war is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This convoluted, long and bloody conflict that has costed many thousands of lives will continue to hunt Israel if its leaders will continue to prioritise land over human life, and continued occupation over normalisation and reconciliation with the Palestinians. If we do not learn to live together, we will continue to die together. The last serious attempt to seek peace was done by Prime Minister Olmert in 2008. Since then, Israel has been stalling for time. 7 October is a loud wake-up call to be proactive in securing accommodation and in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

About the Author
Raphael Cohen-Almagor received his doctorate from Oxford University. He taught and conducted research at the faculties of law of the Hebrew University, the University of Haifa, UCLA, University of Hull, Nirma University (India) and University College London. He is President of The Association for Israel Studies (AIS). Raphael is now writing Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Critical Study of Peace Mediation, Facilitation and Negotiations between Israel and the PLO (Cambridge University Press, 2025). X: @almagor35
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