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Barak Hullman
Former Islamic History Scholar, Storyteller, Author and Podcaster. Every Question Deserves an Answer.

Simple answers to difficult questions

Q: What is a proportionate response to terrorism?

A: In the past Israel responded with targeted killings and destroying Hamas’s infrastructure, ending the war before Hamas was defeated. But the real question is what is an appropriate response to terrorism that doesn’t end and has no intention of stopping ever? What is an appropriate response to over 1400 innocent civilians being murdered in their homes? Entire families being wiped out, babies being burned, their heads cut off and over 200 people kidnapped and brought into Gaza? 

How are you supposed to prevent the kind of terrorism we haven’t seen since the Holocaust from happening again? If Israel does not succeed in stopping it now, the next time will be worse. 

15 million Germans were killed in WWII by the Allies in order to defeat Hitler. Military tactics and weapons have improved, but the deaths of innocent civilians is inevitable, especially when Hamas intentionally embeds itself in population centers. This is a tragedy for humans but not for Hamas. The more Gazans that are killed, the more international pressure will try to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend itself. 

So what about those innocent civilians in Gaza that are being killed by Israeli airstrikes, including babies and the elderly?

Naftali Bennett on Sky News UK

This situation could have been different. After Israel left Gaza in 2005, there were no settlements and no territorial claims. Every single Jew was evacuated, homes were destroyed, graves were dug up and relocated as Israel withdrew to the internationally recognized border. In 2006 Hamas won an election that the West refused to accept so in 2007 they took over the Gaza strip with a military coup. A blockade was imposed to block weapons, not humanitarian supplies. Israel had left behind fertile fields and greenhouses. They provided the people of Gaza with food, water, electricity, fuel, medical supplies and more. And continued giving them all of this even after all of the subsequent wars. 

What the Palestinian leadership had been asking for decades finally came true. Gaza was the case study for the West Bank. Gazans were welcome to build, live and prosper. But instead Hamas turned Gaza into a terrorist state with the intention of mistakenly thinking that should they kill enough Jews in Israel, Israelis would simply pack their bags and go back to wherever they think we came from. But what they don’t understand is what Golda Meir said, “We Jews have a secret weapon in our struggle with the Arabs; we have no place to go.” Another thing they don’t understand or acknowledge is that this is the ancient homeland of the Jewish People and they have come home.

After all of the billions of dollars spent to develop Gaza, how is it that they’ve run out of food, water, fuel and medical supplies but they haven’t run out of missiles? Hamas’s goal was never to build up and develop Gaza, but to destroy Israel. 

The Hamas terrorists who launched this terrorist attack did so knowing full well that it would lead to the deaths of innocent Israeli citizens as well as innocent people in Gaza. They are responsible for what is happening now in Gaza.

There’s only one moral, humanitarian question to be asked right now, which is when will Hamas release the hostages? Hamas came into Israel, murdered these children’s parents and then took their screaming, crying children into Gaza. There’s only one question that should be asked 24/7, when will Hamas release the hostages?

What happens if Israel kills all of the Hamas leadership?

In an ideal world all nations of good will would come together and help to rebuild Gaza, a Gaza free of terrorists and radical Islamic ideologies. But that world does not exist. There’s the old joke about the Soviet Union wanting to prove to the world that it created a modern day utopia. In the Moscow zoo there was a lamb and a lion laying next to one another in the same cage. When someone asked the zookeeper how they achieved the biblical prophecy, he said, “We have to bring a new lamb every day.”

It is inevitable that a new terrorist group will arise in Gaza. They will learn from Hamas’s mistakes and be even more devastating and effective.

Here are four possible future options for Gaza:

  1. Israel ends the war with a ceasefire like it did the previous wars (2008-2009, 2012, 2014, and 2021) and watches as Hamas rebuilds.
  2. Israel occupies the Gaza strip in a similar way to the West Bank. This means that IDF soldiers will be regular targets for a new generation of terrorists in Gaza.
  3. Create a security buffer zone inside Gaza that gives space for the IDF to prevent attacks while not actually being in Gaza. This will most likely lead to the same scenario as above.
  4. Depopulate the Gaza strip and relocate the entire population. The same billions of dollars and good will that were poured into Gaza can be used to resettle them in the other 22 Arab countries and 50 Muslim countries.

So how will this conflict ever end?

When you raise generations teaching them that Israelis are like the Crusaders that can be defeated if enough Jews are killed or terrorized and that it’s just a matter of a time before all of the Jews pack up their bags and leave, this can never be resolved. 

As Golda Meir said, “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.” 

The only way this conflict can ever end is when the Palestinians realize that if we Jews were really colonists from a foreign country we would have left a long time ago. They will need to understand that Jews are indigenous to the Land of Israel; that we revived the ancient Hebrew language; that we still name our children Avraham, Yitzhak, Rivka, Rachel and other Biblical names; that Jews practice virtually the same religion as in ancient times; that we were exiled for a very long time and although it seems impossible that any cultural/religious group could maintain their identity for 2000 years while spread around the world, the Jews did.

When they realize that, there can be a basis for a future peace. A peace based on mutual recognition of each other’s histories, cultures, religions and identities. Until then the only choice Israelis have is to keep on defending themselves.

What about Hezbollah in Lebanon?

Hamas is the warm up act for Hezbollah which is much stronger, better trained, more experienced and ready to join the fight. Israel can’t allow 400,000 missiles to be pointed at it from the North anymore than they can have the threat from the South and it’s inevitable that there will need to be a war with Hezbollah or we will have a similar or worse situation, God forbid, in the North.

On top of that, the whole Middle East is watching to see what will happen. The outcome of this war will decide whether the new peace treaties and the potential peace with Saudi Arabia are worth anything. If Israel can’t defeat Hamas, what good will they be in a war against Iran? If Iran has already won the war by defeating Israel with this attack from Hamas then all of those peace treaties are worthless. 

Europe is also watching this war, and rightly so, because they know that if Israel doesn’t entirely defeat Hamas, they will soon see more Islamic terror in their homes. 

Israel has no choice but to win this war and it might be a very costly victory. But the alternative is essentially an indefensible country. 

This moment will decide the fate of the state of Israel. A country that cannot protect its children, all of its citizens, cannot exist.

The Israel after the 7th of October and the one before are so distant that the world might misunderstand. This is a new Israel, one that cannot agree to compromises and ceasefires until the goal of creating absolute deterrence has been achieved. We will know we have won this war when all of our enemies fear us and Jews feel safe enough to rebuild their lives in the South. 

About the Author
Barak Hullman studied for a PhD in Islamic History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (MA at Princeton). He made aliyah from South Florida in 1995. He lives in Jerusalem, Israel with his wife and their 7 children (all born in Jerusalem). Barak is the author of two books, Figure It Out When You Get There: A Memoir of Stories About Living Life First and Watching How Everything Else Falls Into Place and A Shtikel Sholom: A Student, His Mentor and Their Unconventional Conversations, available at bit.ly/barakhullman. He has two podcasts, Jewish People & Ideas: Conversations with Jewish Thought Leaders (guests have included Yossi Klein Halevi, Michael Oren, Natan Sharansky, Daniel Gordis and others) at jewishpeopleideas.com and The Chassidic Story Project at hasidicstory.com.   Learn more by going to barakhullman.com.
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