On Shabbat-Shemini Atzeret, October 7, 2023, the day after the 50th anniversary of the start of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, evil Hamas, backed by the Iranian terrorist regime, invaded Israel, brutally murdered over 1,200 Israelis, Americans, Europeans, Nepalis and others from as many as a few dozen countries from all over the world. In addition, they maimed many thousands more and committed horrendous atrocities. Hamas also kidnapped Israelis and Americans, including women and children, who they viciously abused and are continuing to hold hostage.
Nearly universally condemned, the few exceptions are noteworthy. They, of course, include the Iranian terrorist regime, which backs Hamas and reportedly planned the wicked and barbarous attack. Nonetheless, there were heroic individuals among the good people of Iran, who courageously and publicly expressed their solidarity with Israel. Iranian proxy Hezbollah praised Hamas’ vicious attack against Israel, Abbas refused to condemn it and Palestinian Arabs throughout the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) celebrated it. Iraq, Qatar and Syria praised Hamas and/or blamed Israel.
In the US, President Biden resoundingly denounced Hamas’ attack on Israel. He said, “The United States unequivocally condemns this appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza…Terrorism is never justified. Israel has a right to defend itself and its people, full stop. The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation. My Administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.”
The overwhelming majority of members of Congress on a bipartisan basis condemned Hamas and voiced their support Israel. A resolution, already co-sponsored by more than 400 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, has been introduced and is due to be voted on as soon as a Speaker is elected. It resolves, among other things, that the US stands with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists; reaffirms Israel’s right to self-defense; condemns Hamas’ brutal war against Israel; and reaffirms the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security, including through security assistance in accordance with the 2016 US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding and stands ready to assist Israel with emergency resupply and other security, diplomatic, and intelligence support.
The resolution also calls for full enforcement of the Taylor Force Act and other restrictions under US law designed to prevent United States foreign assistance from benefiting terrorists, directly or indirectly. It also condemns Iran’s support for terrorist groups and proxies, including Hamas and urges full enforcement of United States sanctions against Iran to prevent Iran’s funding of terrorist groups, including Hamas.
President Biden, speaking again on October 10, 2023, delivered even more cogent remarks about how “a pure unadulterated evil” was unleashed on this world, at “the bloody hands of the terrorist organization Hamas, a group whose stated purpose for being is to kill Jews…an act of sheer evil. More than 1,000 civilians slaughtered…in Israel” (the current death toll is reported to be in excess of 1,200, including 25 Americans). Biden went on to say the “Stomach-turning reports of babies being killed; entire families slain; young people massacred while attending a musical festival to celebrate peace, celebrate peace; women raped, assaulted, paraded as trophies. Infants in their mothers’ arms, grandparents in wheelchairs, Holocaust survivors, abducted and held hostage. Hostages whom Hamas is now threatening to execute, in violation of every code of human morality. It’s abhorrent.” He declared, “There is no justification for terrorism. There’s no excuse.” and noted Hamas’ “stated purpose is the annihilation of the State of Israel and the murder of Jewish people. They use Palestinian civilians as human shields. Hamas offers nothing but terror and bloodshed, with no regard to who pays the price.”
President Biden then went on to state, “Like every nation in the world, Israel has the right to respond, and indeed has a duty to respond, to these vicious attacks.” He counseled the response should be like the US’ under similar circumstances, “to be swift, decisive and overwhelming”. He then continued, “We now know that American citizens are among those being held by Hamas” and “statements from members of Congress calling for a ceasefire in Israel instead of issuing their full support for the country, following the surprise attack by Hamas, are ‘wrong’ and ‘disgraceful’.”
It was a masterful speech. The only deficiency was not addressing the ignominious role of the Iranian regime through their notorious IRGC. The Iranian regime not only threatens Israel, an important US ally, but also threatens the US and its national security interests. Congress did not ignore the malign Iranian regime, and neither should the President.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also held a press conference on October 10, 2023. She was asked about President Biden’s message to the few members of Congress who have called for a ceasefire and not gone as far as backing the administration’s call for support for Israel. She responded that she had seen some of those statements this weekend and then said, “And we’re gonna continue to be very clear. We believe they’re wrong. We believe they’re repugnant and we believe they’re disgraceful.” She went on to say, “Our condemnation belongs squarely with terrorists who have brutally murdered, raped, kidnapped, hundreds, hundreds of Israelis.” She then added: “There can be no equivocation about that. There are not two sides here. There are not two sides.”
While she didn’t name names, she was presumably talking about the abysmal remarks of Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Tlaib even went so far as to blame Israel and speciously call for “ending the occupation”, which is patently absurd, since it is obvious there is none in Gaza.
Tlaib and her ilk calculatingly use the provocative term “occupation” to foster a false and explosive image of Israel, as a so-called occupier, which is assumed to be oppressing an otherwise innocent and peaceful Gaza. The specious portrayal is a canard and the attempts to justify Hamas’ atrocities as a legitimate response are absurd and immoral. Gaza is not occupied by Israel as a matter of law or fact.
The foundational definition of the term occupation under International Law is embodied in the Hague Convention. It provides that a territory is only considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of a hostile army. As a threshold matter, the military forces of the conquered territory must have surrendered, been defeated or withdrawn. It also requires (1) a military presence in the occupied territory; and (2) exercising governmental authority over the area conquered, to the exclusion of the established civil government. Unless all of these criteria are satisfied, there is no occupation, as a matter of law. Merely having the potential to invade and control a territory, not coupled with an actual presence and effective control, is insufficient.
Israel conquered Gaza from Egypt in the 1967 defensive war, which it administered until governmental authority was transferred to the PA, in 1994, under the Gaza-Jericho Agreement. It entirely withdrew from Gaza, including removing any military presence and all Israeli residents, in September of 2005.
Under the Oslo II Agreement and 2005 Disengagement Agreement, Israel obtained certain rights to patrol Gaza’s coastal waters and air space, which do not constitute effective governmental control over Gaza. This was intended to enable Israel to interdict illegal weapons deliveries to Gaza, which are expressly prohibited under these Agreements. Hamas seized control of Gaza from the PA, in 2007 and remains the governing authority in Gaza to this day.
In reflecting on theses circumstances in 2008, the Supreme Court of Israel, in the Al-Bassiouni case, held that there was no occupation by Israel of Gaza, under International Law. The European Court of Human Rights, in 2015, ruled control of the airspace above a territory and the adjacent sea was insufficient to constitute an occupation under International Law. As the Court held, an occupation is inconceivable without “boots on the ground”.
Tlaib, once again, invoked the transparent antisemitic trope of apartheid, which has been rejected by Congress, in a resolution adopted by virtually everyone but her and a few of her cohorts. She also called for conditioning aid to Israel, despite the despicable crimes committed by Hamas. Bush made similar inappropriate remarks about Israel and called for a total end of US support for Israel. Their missives were quickly met with pushback from both the right and the left, including Democratic Congressmen Ritchie Torres and Josh Gottheimer, who condemned their offensive statements.
There were also some pro-Palestine demonstrators, who celebrated the gruesome Hamas murders, including ignominiously chanting “700” (the number of Israelis brutally murdered by Hamas, reported at the time), “From the River to the Sea”, “Resistance is Justified” and “Smash the Settler Zionist State”, all euphemisms for destroying the Jewish State of Israel. Some made cruel and obscene gestures, including posturing slitting the throat and displaying the Nazi swastika on their phones. To her credit, NY Governor Kathy Hochul condemned the demonstration in NY, calling it “abohorent and morally repugnant”. NYC Mayor Eric Adams also denounced it and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat, stated he “strongly and unequivocally condemns the hate-filled rally held by the DSA in New York City and any effort to support the barbaric, inhumane and despicable terrorist attack by Hamas on the State of Israel and its citizens”.
Those who seek to excuse Hamas’ Nazi Einsatzgruppen-like killing action, brutally murdering innocent Israeli civilians in numbers unheard of since the Holocaust are, in effect, condoning evil. Once evil is unleashed no one is immune. Hamas also killed at least 25 Americans and others from around the world, as well as reportedly at least 20 Muslims and its missiles are said to have struck a Mosque near Jerusalem.
Those who celebrate or praise Hamas are, in effect, co-conspirators. Indeed, this is a time when all good souls must join together and not just condemn but act to eradicate the evildoers from our midst. A society cannot call itself just and moral if it allows this scale of evil to be committed with impunity.
It’s time for tangible responses, not just words. Germany, Austria and Hungary announced their suspension of Palestinian aid. The US and EU must follow suit. The PA’s ‘pay to slay’ program must be terminated once and for all. Funding of the UNRWA schools must cease until they truly stop teaching Jew hatred.
The US and EU must also vigorously and scrupulously enforce strict sanctions against the Iranian terrorist regime. Irresponsibly unfreezing assets, like the $6 billion recently and the more than $100 billion under the Obama administration is foolhardy. In addition, the Biden Administration’s failure strictly to enforce sanctions has allowed many tens of billions in oil sales. This has only served to embolden the Iranian regime and continue funding its terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah.
Hamas is a terrorist organization, with the avowed goal, enshrined in its Charter, of destroying Israel. It also espouses antisemitic and genocidal doctrines directed against the Jews. Peace should have been achieved when Israel fully withdrew from Gaza, in 2005. As the wise Charles Krauthammer, Z”L wrote “…Israel evacuated Gaza completely. It declared the border between Israel and Gaza an international frontier. Gaza became the first independent Palestinian territory in history. Yet Gazans continued the war…Why? Because occupation was a mere excuse to persuade gullible and historically ignorant Westerners to support the Arab cause against Israel. The issue is, and has always been, Israel’s existence. That is what is at stake.”
Instead of choosing peace, Hamas, backed by the Iranian regime, has chosen to wage a ruthless unprovoked offensive war against Israel and the war aim is nothing less than the destruction of Israel.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at a press conference with PM Netanyahu on October 12, 2023, in Israel noted Hamas was a threat to entire world. He declared, “No country can or would tolerate the slaughter of its citizens or simply return to the conditions that allowed it to take place. Israel has the right — indeed the obligation — to defend itself and to ensure that this never happens again.”
Blinken noted, “there is overwhelming, overwhelming bipartisan support in our Congress for Israel’s security,” and added, “Too often in the past, leaders have equivocated in the face of terrorist attacks against Israel and its people…There is no excuse. There is no justification for these attacks”. He recognized, “Hamas has only one agenda: to destroy Israel and to murder Jews”. He also said, “This must be a moment of moral clarity…The failure to unambiguously condemn terrorism puts at risk not only people in Israel but people everywhere”.
It is bracing to see so many embrace moral clarity and know in their hearts and souls that Hamas is evil and there are no two sides or equivalence. Hamas is a murderous terrorist organization and the US, EU, UK, Japan and Australia have officially designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. Israel must continue to be unequivocally supported in its efforts to root out the evil that is Hamas. This is no easy task, but Israel has no choice; it has the sovereign right and duty to protect its citizens.
May G-d grant Israel and the IDF success in their sacred mission, protect them and return the brave Israeli soldiers and hostages home safely. Am Yisrael Chai.