Kenneth Jacobson

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complicated. What happened on Oct. 7 wasn’t

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has long been complicated, though, undoubtedly, the principal reason for its lasting so long has been Palestinian rejectionism and extremism. 

There is nothing complicated, however, about what is taking place now. It is as clear a case as possible of good and evil. The slaughtering of over 1300 children, women and men by the Hamas terrorists, the wounding of thousands more, the savage taking of civilian hostages and the glee expressed by the terrorists are all indicators of barbarism of the first order. 

If people who are supporters of the Palestinian cause are also applauding what Hamas has done or blaming Israel for this brutality imposed on its people, they are guilty of contributing to the legitimacy of this terrorism while simultaneously harming legitimate efforts to find a fair solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Let’s be clear: this horrendous terrorist massacre did not come in a vacuum. Hamas has been an extremist group, disseminating hatred toward Israel and Jews, since its founding in 1987. In its charter, its founding document, which is replete with antisemitism, Hamas repeatedly makes clear that its main purpose is to engage in the destruction of Israel.

Ever since, the main characteristic of Hamas activity is to continue to spout the language of hate toward Israel and its people, and periodically bombard Israel’s with rockets deliberately targeting Israeli civilians. In other words, both in its rhetoric and in its actions, Hamas has been an organization committed to hate, extremism and destruction.

In this context, what took place this past weekend, at a time when Jews celebrate one of the most joyous holidays in their calendar, Simchat Torah, was, of course, far far worse than anything that preceded it, but in no way inconsistent or out of character to what Hamas has been for decades.

Unfortunately, while many labeled Hamas a terrorist group, others have given it legitimacy and support – including organizations and others here in the US – which had to play a role in what took place this weekend.

And so let’s be clear, what needs to happen is for the international community to recognize that Hamas needs to be eliminated. Israel must have wide support for the difficult task ahead to eradicate Hamas.

As Dennis Ross, former US advisor on the Middle East, has said, Hamas’s actions demonstrate absolutely no regard for the Palestinian citizens of Gaza. They know full well that this kind of brutal attack leaves Israel no choice but to launch its most major assault on Hamas, with its inevitable consequences for the residents of Gaza, even as Israel does what it can to limit civilian casualties.

The challenges ahead are profound. But those people who are sincere about moving forward Israeli-Palestinian peace, and not in scoring propaganda points, should support Israel in its efforts to eradicate Hamas. Only once they are successful can there be hope for true peace and progress.

For the Jewish people, at a time of surging antisemitism in the U.S. and elsewhere, what took place on Saturday was a body blow of immense proportions. As Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt and others have pointed out, Oct. 7 was the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.

While we are a resilient people, Israelis and Jews elsewhere will need a long time to recover from this trauma. But the horror that took place, and that is still ongoing with the reality of scores of hostages in Hamas hands, reminds us of both the need to come together as a people no matter our political views and the need to reinforce the message of Never Again, which has underlain Jewish activism since the Holocaust, and now once again needs to be part of our worldview going forward. 

About the Author
Kenneth Jacobson is Deputy National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
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