The quickest path to a ceasefire is a unified international call for Hamas to surrender
Rallies by human rights and pro-Palestinian activists around the world have called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Many of those rallying have only good intentions at heart: they seek no more harm to innocents. They seek to protect the children of Gaza, who have no responsibility for the crimes of members of their parents’ generation. They seek to mitigate the chances of an outbreak of a regional war that could cause further damage to even more innocents across Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt. They seek peace.
Seeing Israel as the stronger party, these well-intentioned activists have come to a simple conclusion: if only Israel stopped its military operations, a ceasefire would emerge. Hostages would eventually be returned. Lives would be saved. The problem is, as the leadership of the US and EU have already concluded, that is not realistic. In past wars with Hamas, Israel has ceased fire and increased economic development for Gaza. Each time, Hamas used the time and money they siphoned off to build weapons of war and aim those at both Israelis and the Palestinians who disagree with their theocratic dictatorship. Which is why the only way for the Left, us progressives, to live up to our morals and keep the high ground is to call for the immediate unconditional surrender of Hamas.
Calling for the unconditional surrender of Hamas would prove that the Left cares about children of all countries, without ascribing to a hierarchy of human life. It avoids the moralistic laziness of publicly funded intellectuals such as Nicholas Kristof, among others, who essentially argue that a person planning to shoot you or your children has the same right to life as his victims. It avoids the abdication of responsibility by progressive leaders who forgive the war crimes of the party dedicated to carrying them out.
Calling for the unconditional surrender of Hamas — as opposed to a ceasefire — is not only the right thing to do, morally, it is also the right thing to do, politically. As Hamas official Khaled Mashal told Saudi journalist Rasha Nabil, Hamas is depending on international pressure to stop Israel from destroying its military infrastructure so that it may live to fight another day.
Those who care deeply about protecting the lives of innocents need to think not just about today, but tomorrow.
Calling for a ceasefire would mean Israel accepting a certain number of innocents dead by the hands of Hamas tomorrow in order to save innocent lives today. Calling for an alternative — for the unconditional surrender of Hamas — would solve this problem. Without Hamas in power, the threat to innocent lives on both sides drops precipitously. A ceasefire is made possible because the promise of future bloodshed is virtually eliminated.
There are those who would say that calling for Hamas’ unconditional surrender is unrealistic. That Hamas would not do it, and therefore the Left should focus on the only party who can be pressured by the international community: the democratic State of Israel. That, in my opinion, is worse than moralistic laziness. It is an abdication of morals, a cynical pragmatism that sacrifices Israeli innocent lives due to a lack of self-confidence that the Left should advocate for the truth. It is the path of least resistance that leads towards the victory of evil over good.
Moreover, it is wrong. Because, again, Hamas depends on international opinion far more than Israel. Hamas cannot exist without international aid, without international diplomatic air cover. Without suitcases of cash coming from Qatar with the active assistance of the Netanyahu governments over the ages. If anyone can be influenced to stop the violence — if the Left’s progressive voice can have any impact whatsoever — it is by calling for the unconditional surrender of Hamas.
Because if Hamas emerged from its bunkers, weapons down, hostages free, there would be no international justification for Israel to go to war, and Israel’s war aims would be met. Israelis who recognize now that there is no solution to the conflict that does not include a political transformation of the region would join with those progressives who aided in freeing Gaza from Hamas to envision a new regional order. And there very well might just be peace.
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Postscript for those engaged in public diplomacy: How can you help the Left do the right thing?
- Affirm: Instead of arguing with those who call for a ceasefire, agree with them that we need to end all violence, and call on them to do the right thing by joining in the call for Hamas to unconditionally surrender.
- Strengthen: Many on the Left are already calling out Hamas’s atrocities. Strengthen their case by adding to their argument in moralistic terms. Do not seek to shame them for previous statements they may have made. People change.
- Amplify: When you see someone calling on Hamas to unconditionally surrender, share that call. Without caveats. We can work out the details for how to achieve peace in the Middle East the day after the war is over. For now, let’s focus on what matters: an immediate ceasefire after the unconditional surrender of Hamas.