Who are these people?
They are, as they showed on Friday, people with no compunction about killing absolutely anybody. In firing missiles toward Jerusalem – firing indiscriminately, pushing themselves to the very limits of their deadly capabilities – they showed utter indifference to the lives of their own brothers, sisters, parents.
Those rockets could have gone anywhere. They could have killed anyone. They were aimed at areas filled with Israelis and Palestinians, with Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Those rockets could have slammed into places holy to Jews, to Christians, and to Muslims.
Their own people. Their own most venerated places. For Hamas, all targets are fair game. For in their malevolence, they have persuaded themselves that they are fighting a holy war in whose cause the most reprehensible actions are rendered laudable.
None of this should surprise anyone. Hamas’s despicable conception of religion holds that the finest act one can do to honor the divine creator is to kill off his creations – Jews, Christians, Muslims, themselves. In Hamas’s perverted doctrine, this is the path to paradise. Its operatives lust for death. They have deluded themselves that this is God’s will.
This is difficult for most of us to internalize. Our instinctive sense is that surely, ultimately, everybody just wants to live and let live. And by extension, therefore, in our particular conflict, that surely, ultimately, we could work things out if only we all sat down together.
Actually, no. Actually, we are grappling here with people who have lost “tzelem elohim” (the image of God), who have spurned the divine gift of life, rejected the sheer joy of drawing breath on this planet. The terrorists of Hamas and others like them – inspired, armed, funded and trained by the ideologically and territorially rapacious rulers of Iran – do not ultimately seek to live and let live. They strain to kill and be killed.
It may be difficult to accept, but the evidence is everywhere. It was clear when Hamas killed its own people while seizing power in Gaza in 2007. It is clear in a terrible history of suicide bombings against Jewish, Christian and, again, Muslim targets. It is clear in Hamas’s ruthless deployment in Gaza – its savage readiness to open fire from right next to mosques and schools, and to take children out with its rocket crews in the cynical appreciation that its decent, humane enemies might then hold their fire and thus enable it to continue to wreak destruction.
For all that Hamas’s trampling on the natural desire to live and breathe is counter-intuitive, then, it should have long since been recognized. Those who insistently misrepresent the parameters and context of Israel’s struggle against the Islamists, those who defend them and rush to their aid, empower and unforgivably sustain them. Those who seek to break Israel’s desperate efforts to prevent more of the very weaponry fired at Jews, Christians and Muslims these last few days from reaching the arsenals of Hamas, for instance, may wish to consider themselves human rights activists; actually, they are potential accessories to murder.
For anybody who genuinely seeks to preserve innocent lives, everybody‘s innocent lives, should long since have faced the fact that doing so requires marginalizing and ultimately defeating Hamas and its ilk.
Israel has no quarrel with Gaza. It has no military presence in Gaza. It ripped out the settlement enterprise it had constructed in Gaza. Had a peaceful Gaza flourished after 2005, Israel – even though our country is tiny and embattled – would have been tempted, in its burning quest for a quiet place among the nations, to relinquish much or all of biblical Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians as well. None of this is of interest to Hamas; it should all be remembered, however, by those who seek to avoid the unpalatable reality of Hamas’s kill-and-be-killed motivation and look instead for ostensible reasons for Hamas-led “resistance.”
To those who wonder why Israel resorted to force now, why in the words of some critics it goaded Hamas into action, there are several answers, all compelling: Hamas seeks relentlessly to tunnel under the Israeli border to kill and kidnap Israelis in infiltration attempts, and the IDF’s discovery and destruction of one such tunnel prompted a pinpoint missile attack by Gaza gunmen on a jeep inside Israel last week in which four soldiers were injured, precipitating this particular escalation; Hamas has been firing rockets indiscriminately into residential Israel for years or allowing others to do so, an outrageous and intolerable situation; Hamas works continuously to improve its missile capacity, with Hezbollah as its role model, and must be thwarted, otherwise the next generation of missiles most assuredly will hit Jerusalem population centers; and Hamas like Hezbollah is poised to weigh in militarily should Israel find itself in confrontation with Iran, and needs to be defanged before that danger can become a reality.
An election ploy by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? He was safely on course to reelection. That smooth path could be deeply complicated if Operation Pillar of Defense goes horribly wrong.
We can argue about Israel’s role in the rise of Hamas. Was the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza a predictable mistake that vindicated Hamas’s heartless terrorism, and weakened purportedly more moderate Palestinian forces? Or should we have stayed put in Gaza, however draining and dangerous in so many ways? Should we be doing more to promote reconciliation and harmony, however unpromising the circumstances, and in so doing reduce the sense of grievance on which the Islamist recruiters thrive?
On those questions, and so many more like them, there is no consensus in Israel. On the imperative to defeat Hamas there can be no argument.
It will not be easy – as Operation Cast Lead underlined four years ago, and Operation Pillar of Defense is confirming again now. Military force, however wisely applied, has its limits when confronting an ideology, the more so in this case when that vile ideology is furthered via an abandonment of all decency and the exploitation of Israel’s insistent morality. The task of weakening Hamas’s capacity to do harm would be helped, though, if a watching world displayed a greater intellectual honesty when looking at Hamas, and at Israel’s efforts to deny Hamas the capacity to kill. Perhaps those rockets fired at Jerusalem will promote a greater clarity of thought and thence of judgment.
Who are these people? They are people who glory in death. Since we delight in life, we had better prevail.