We are now 40 days into the events that unfolded after Hamas attacked Israel. A summary of the events can be presented as follows: On October 7, Hamas breached the Israeli border with an estimated 2,500 militants, attacking numerous Jewish civilian communities adjacent to the Gaza strip. The horrific attack resulted in the tragic death of 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, with an estimated 240 hostages taken. Regrettably, no progress has been made on the release of hostages; not even a visit by the Red Cross has been allowed in gross contravention of the Geneva Conventions. In parallel, Hamas has been launching up to 300 rockets daily at Israeli cities. On October 13, Israel initiated a gradual land incursion into Gaza, and in the process identified and attacked more than 5,000 military targets, an enormous number, including rocket launchers, observation sites, and numerous military tunnels of the hundreds that exist. Many of these are interwoven within or beneath civilian infrastructure, such as houses, schools, mosques, and even hospitals. A salient example from today is a confrontation with 5 Hamas militants outside of the Shifa hospital and findings of weapons within the hospital, both of which are also acts forbidden by the Geneva conventions. Consequently, significant portions of Gaza have been impacted by attacks by Israel targeting these military sites, with its associated inadvertent destruction of many buildings. In order to minimize injury to Gaza civilians, hundreds of thousands of Gazans have been displaced. Because Hamas presence nullifies their otherwise protected status from the conflict Israel has had to target health facilities housing militants. Despite Israel’s large-scale response, the bombing and the refusal to release hostages by Hamas, which constitute the foundation for Israel’s actions, continue. Other participants have joined the fray, Hezbollah has been firing up to 50 rockets a day on northern Israel. Far away, the Houthi of Yemen has fired several long-range missiles on Israel. The conflict in Gaza has triggered worldwide pro-Hamas and Pro-Israel demonstrations.
- Hamas Intentions: Hamas opposes peace negotiations and has openly declared its intent to repeat its actions in October if given the opportunity. Were Hamas to cease bombing, release hostages, and disarm, there would be no need for further military actions by Israel.
- Casus belli: Casus belli refers to an event justifying war. The massacre of Israeli citizens, ongoing bombing, and hostage-taking individually, each by itself provide internationally acceptable grounds for an Israeli response. Compliance with the Geneva Conventions legitimizes Israel’s response, with the proportionality of its actions considered irrelevant. Likewise, faced with Hamas’ aggression and the call for Israel’s destruction, Israel has no choice but to continue fighting until victory. Consequently, to halt damage to Gaza, Pro-Palestinian supporters, concerned governments, and pundits would be best to pressure Hamas to cease bombing and release the hostages. Those advocating for Israel to accept a unilateral ceasefire may be reacting impulsively to the inevitable consequences of war or, more ominously, may harbor a desire to harm Israel rather than aid Gaza residents.
- The “yes but” argument in light of the atrocities: Some Hamas supporters try to rationalize these heinous acts committed by Hamas, despite documented evidence of the brutal atrocities some of which persisted even after the victims were killed. Their explanations range from baseless accusations against Israel, labeling it as an occupier and an apartheid state, to trying to reframe Hamas’s actions as legitimate. The most pitiful response to the hostage taking is when Pro-Hamas people tear down photos of the hostages. This is a shameless attempt to both distort the facts and falsely depict Palestinians as the exclusive victims in the conflict. Regrettably, some global leaders and ostensibly objective media outlets have also expressed the “yes, but” argument. Even if some of the arguments about the suffering of the Palestinian people were valid, downplaying the severity and barbarity of these atrocities by using “yes, but” modifications only serve to underscore the moral and logical shortcomings of the “yes but” proponents. Their qualifying moral stance becomes more fallacious considering Hamas’s consistent insistence on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict solely through violence.
- The Palestinian – Israel conflict and recognition of Israel: Not only Hamas, but a significant proportion of Muslims, including moderates, reject Israel’s right to exist. The concept of a two-state solution is unacceptable to many, including the Palestinian Authority, which, despite refraining from violence for several years, views it merely as a temporary step toward dismantling the Jewish state. For many Muslims, the core of the dispute lies not in territorial issues but in the very existence of Israel. Over the past 75 years, there has been no peace proposal from the Palestinian side aimed at conclusively resolving the Arab Israeli conflict and leaving the Israelis with a Jewish state.However, two major players in the conflict have, over time, realigned their positions. Some Arab countries have notably adopted a positive approach. The Abraham Accords, signed in the latter half of 2020, include a general declaration and bilateral agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco. The name “Abraham Accords” refers to the common ancestor of Jews and Arabs, the biblical Abraham.
The timing of Hamas’s attack on Israel, just as Saudi Arabia was on the verge of joining the Accords, strongly suggests a deliberate intent to derail Saudi Arabia from signing them. Hamas not only opposes negotiations with Israel but actively seeks to prevent other Arab nations from engaging in such diplomatic efforts.
The second group comprises approximately 2 million Israeli Arabs. Despite recognizing existing challenges, they have nonetheless made significant progress, experiencing a notable improvement in their standard of living over the past two decades. In terms of rights and living standards, they fare much better than Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza, and most of the Arab and Muslim world. Israeli Arabs hold key positions including as judges, hospital directors, and newscasters. They actively contribute to most facets of Israeli society. Importantly, there have been no protests by Israeli Arabs against the Israeli response to the Hamas attacks.
In my interactions with Israeli Arabs, I’ve observed anecdotally that even if they empathize with the plight of the Gaza civilian population, they are appalled by the atrocities and fearful of the potential consequences if Hamas were to take control of Israel. Their prevailing preference is overwhelmingly for peaceful co-existence with Jews in Israel.
Examining the success of Israeli Arabs leads to the conclusion that a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict does not lie in the destructive path taken by Hamas but rather in peaceful coexistence within the framework of a strong Israel, ensuring equal rights and opportunities for its Arab citizens. Even without Israeli sovereign control, the people of Gaza and the West Bank could potentially benefit by adopting an analogous approach – allocating resources to societal improvement rather than diverting funds to military buildup. Regrettably, the Gaza and Palestinian Authority regimes, in addition to their focus on undermining Israel, function as ruthless autocracies plagued by corruption resulting in the ineffective improvement of the well-being of their citizens. Instead of acknowledging their shortcomings, these leaders along with pro-Palestinian supporters, prefer to portray Palestinians exclusively as victims of Israeli persecution—a narrative that, while convenient, is inaccurate.
- Hezbollah and Proportionality: Hezbollah has consistently engaged in firing a relentless barrage of daily missile attacks on Israel, with as many as 30 missiles fired in a single day. In response, Israel has been compelled to evacuate dozens of northern communities. Hezbollah’s actions blatantly violate UN Resolution 1701, which calls upon them to withdraw their forces to the Litani River and permit UNIFIL to monitor the border area with Israel.Given this provocation, it is foreseeable that Israel may respond forcefully in the near future. Rather than waiting for Israel to act and subsequently accusing it of disproportionate measures, those who support the Arab or Lebanese perspective should advocate for pressuring Hezbollah to cease its belligerent actions against Israel.
- Hamas, the Hezbollah and the Houthi of Yemen: It is fair to assume that these three political entities are acting in concert for they all are financially supported and supplied with weapons by Iran; Hezbollah for example to the tune of 700 million dollars a year.
Summary: The most impactful way to minimize the ongoing suffering of Palestinians in Gaza is by urging Hamas to cease bombing and release the hostages. Emboldening Hamas through criticism of Israel’s response to Hamas’s declaration of war or enfeebling Israel by insisting on a unilateral Israeli ceasefire, will only exacerbate the conflict and harm both sides – more so the Palestinian side. In addition, encouraging all Palestinian representatives to reject violence and instead pursue a negotiated compromise would contribute to a more constructive and peaceful overall resolution of the Palestinian – Arab conflict. Pressuring Hezbollah to cease its aggression towards Israel and abide by UN resolution 1701 can prevent an impending full-blown conflict with Israel which will invariably result in extensive Lebanese ruin.