Qanta A. Ahmed

The devastating reframing of Israel’s just war against Hamas

Suggesting symmetry between Israel and Hamas fundamentally ruptures the sense that the lives of Jews and all Israelis matter
The destruction caused by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, at Kibbutz Kissufim, November 20, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
The destruction caused by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, at Kibbutz Kissufim, November 20, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Throughout this conflict, global leaders have almost universally condemned Israel for its actions in Gaza, largely granting Hamas a pass, and worse, often lionizing Hamas with privileged victimhood status. Sinwar’s text messages intercepted and published by the Wall Street Journal confirm he had banked on exactly this response knowing Israel could be crushed by international pressure. German writer and Nobel Laureate Herta Muller in her poignant and raw Open Letter delineates exactly how Hamas orchestrates images to manipulate our feelings ‘as their strongest weapon’. A wider look at the context of the killings and military actions has never been more urgent.

Since the inception of the Israel/Hamas war, the world has witnessed the remarkable, rapid, and deeply persistent denial by millions around the world of the Hamas atrocities. The war has become the ‘Gaza war,’ erasing Hamas from the title of the war it intentionally launched.

As an observing Muslim who has protested Islamism, the vicious imposter masquerading as my great religion, I chose to travel to Israel in mid-October to see the outcomes of the actions of Hamas in person. I arrived in Israel – at my own expense – as a physician, to see firsthand the sites of violations, the bodies of the dead, their charred, mutilated remains, their X-rays and CT scans, their incinerated teeth and vertebrae, their ashes.

As one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in history, it was an attack not only on the Jewish people but on nationals of over 30 countries including 41 French citizens. I walked through kibbutzim and moshavs, entered silenced safe rooms made slaughterhouses, refrigerated containers, wet morgues and pathology laboratories.

It was in these spaces that the evidence of investigators, police, doctors and rabbinical workers were contained. I immersed myself in the findings of pathologists, forensic scientists and anthropologists, taking notes, photographs, videos and pouring over medical images.

A member of Zaka at the forensic center in the Shura military base near Ramle, on October 13, 2023. where hundreds of dead bodies have arrived since Hamas-led terrorists rampaged through southern Israel on October 7, 2023, killing some 1,200 people. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

I contacted Francois Zimeray, French human rights attorney and survivor of a 2015 attempted assassination by ISIS in Copenhagen. Zimeray was the first to turn to the ICC seeking international arrest warrants for the leaders of Hamas on November 3rd of last year.

Soon after, Zimeray brought the first nine families, all of them related to victims killed by Hamas on the first day of the war, to speak to Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan of the ICC. Subsequently, many other families came forward.

Khan’s call for international arrest warrants for the leaders of Israel was deeply shocking. This was as the death toll in Gaza exceeded tens of thousands, and the May 26th Israeli operation on Rafah targeted and killed two top Hamas commanders, but also tragically claimed the lives of more than 40 civilians, for which Netanyahu apologized.

Correct ICC legal procedure, according to Zimeray, takes into account the concept of complementarity. When a nation has a functioning judiciary, the ICC no longer has jurisdiction, so the nation itself is responsible for the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of any war crimes, crimes against humanity, or other violations of international human rights.

Where such organizations are lacking, the ICC lawfully steps in.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Khan and his team were due to arrive in Israel to assess Israel’s judicial capacity concerning exactly such complementarity when the ICC team abruptly changed course and delivered their decision regarding Israel.

True, no one is above the law, including Israeli leaders, but this latest move bears a political dimension. By deliberately choosing to establish a symmetry between Israel and Hamas in the announcement, the prosecutor creates an equivalence between the two camps. Now we know how this also plays into Hamas’s overall strategy. The more Israel is delegitimized the more Hamas is legitimized.

Add to this that Jews historically have been subjected to false accusations which served as excuses to attack them with diabolical consequences, the projected symmetry becomes incendiary.

Many vilify Israel, and many more remain silent on the Hamas atrocities. This silence is perhaps the most powerful weapon in Hamas’s arsenal. In the 1992 treatise, ‘Bearing Witness or the Vicissitudes of Listening,’ psychoanalyst Dori Laub observes the fundamental betrayals of trust in humanity. One example was when the world witnessed the Holocaust for years in plain view, yet allowed it to continue unwitnessed.

It is this aspect of denial that is devastating to so many in Israel. It has fundamentally ruptured the sense that the lives of Jews and all Israelis, including Druze, Muslims and Christians, matter.

While a conclusion of this war in Gaza is necessary and a new war may be unfolding in the North, just as vital, perhaps more so, is a more just framing of the injustices to the Jewish people.

About the Author
Qanta Ahmed, MD, is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, a life member, Council on Foreign Relations and an Honorary Fellow at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. She is the author of 'In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom'