“As of this writing, terrorists in Gaza — the word “terrorist” fits people who take indiscriminate aim at civilians to achieve political goals — have fired some 1,750 rockets at Israel since Monday.
That’s a number worth pausing over, and not just because it has had the effect of overwhelming Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense. Gaza is often said to be sealed off and utterly destitute. Yet Hamas, which rules Gaza, seems not to have had too much trouble amassing this kind of arsenal, or too many qualms employing it in a way it knew was sure to incur a heavy Israeli response.
The usual rule in life is that if you throw the first punch you can’t complain if you’re counterpunched. The test of Western policy and public opinion is whether they will let Hamas break this rule.
That’s a test the Biden administration has so far passed: Both the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have issued statements stressing that “Israel has a right to defend itself.” Good. It’s more than can be said for progressives such as Bernie Sanders, who blamed “the irresponsible actions of government-allied right-wing extremists in Jerusalem” for the fighting without adding a word of condemnation for Hamas.
Now let’s hope the administration’s attitude lasts. The tactics of Hamas are to house its arsenals in schools and mosques, set up headquarters in the basement of hospitals and fire its missiles from sites next to crowded apartment buildings and hotels housing foreign journalists.
The idea is either to keep Israel from returning fire or, if it does, reap the propaganda benefits from televised and tweeted pictures of wrecked buildings and human casualties and “disproportionate” Israeli-Palestinian death counts that obscure the fact that one side is doing what it can to protect civilian lives and the other side is doing what it can to endanger them.
The cynicism is breathtaking. It ought to be widely condemned as a form of terrorism against ordinary Palestinians, whose visible suffering is as central to Hamas’s global purposes as is the suffering of Israeli civilians to its domestic purposes. But if past experience is anything to go by, an errant Israeli mortar or missile will mistakenly hit a civilian target, generating furious claims that Israel has committed war crimes, along with intense diplomatic pressure for Jerusalem to “de-escalate” and seek a cease-fire — at least until the next round of fighting.
In that case, the result would be a political victory for Hamas, achieved not only at a heavy price in Palestinian lives but also at the expense of Palestinian moderates, who’d look like weaklings or fools for opposing the strategy of violent “resistance.” . . . “
Dear Bret, Thiscolumn is brilliant. You completely convinced me that the current form of Hamas leaves no room for peace. I think it was Thomas Friedman who taught me to see that Netanyahu sought and started the war with Hamas, to stop a new more moderate coalition in Israel from coming to power, that included the four Arab members of the Knesset. I would like to see you put forward your ideas for how to make peace. It seems to me that such ideas will make any writer appear stupid. We need both a two state solution, and equal rights for all Palestinians inside of Israel, both built on the grave of Hamas, as it is currently constituted, and many stolen properties, will have to be given back to Palestinians. Ultimately, there will have to be one country, since there is so little land, and it should be called something like, Israel and Palestine, or Palestine and Israel. Both peoples will have to live in peace and share equal rights. Is this totally naive. There are majorities on both sides that want peace instead of war. Neither of these majorities are currently in power.