by A. Altieri D’Angelo
The Israeli/Hamas war is cruel and destructive.
It has brought to the surface extreme views regarding the Israeli and Palestinian people. It certainly has caused people to reexamine their ideas of morality. I know I have been struggling to find the correct answer to the question of whether Israel is right to conduct a war that has caused more than five times the number of Palestinians to die than Israelis killed on October 7th.
I ultimately realized that Israel is required to avoid civilian deaths, but it must fight aggressively to destroy Hamas’s military and political power; this means, unfortunately, more civilians may die.
The reaction to the October 7th attack showed that people held overly simplistic ideas of the situation in Gaza. Most of the world was horrified by the savagery of the attack. Their first reaction was that Israel should seek revenge. The Israeli people adopted this approach, and few could say they were wrong. Despite what some liberals think, Israel could not turn the other cheek in the Middle East. Israel would be seen as weak if it did not retaliate. Israel needed to respond quickly and with great force. However, subsequent Israeli military actions have led to worldwide criticism.
Hamas knew it could not defeat Israel militarily; that was not their goal. People speculate that Hamas sought to make Israel realize they were a force to be reckoned with; this was also not correct. The real goal was to destabilize Israel’s relationship with Arab countries-particularly Saudi Arabia. Iran, the patron of Hamas and Hezbollah, did not want to see Israel, Saudia Arabia, and the U.S. come together in any form of partnership; it tried to isolate Israel by funding Hamas and encouraging it to attack.
Hamas diverted hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance for the Gazan people to acquire weapons, train soldiers, and build tunnels. Hamas did not function as a democratic government. They purposely placed their military operations near and in civilian buildings so that Palestinians became human shields. They put Israel in the unfortunate position of bombing civilian targets, thereby incurring the wrath of world opinion. There is no doubt Hamas has turned Palestinians into victims of the war. The population density of Gaza makes it impossible for Israel to defeat Hamas without harming Gaza residents; this was the Hamas plan.
History is filled with stories of countries bombing innocent people to achieve victory. The Allied bombing of German and Italian cities in WW2, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Iraqi conquest of Mosul are but a few examples. Bad people put innocent civilians in the path of destruction to survive. Hamas is no different.
Israel does have a duty to minimize civilian casualties. But if Hamas fires rockets from an apartment building, should Israel not fire back? Should it allow Tel Aviv to be destroyed because Gazan residents are in the building? Of course not. The right to self-defense allows Israel to destroy the missile launch sites. They know world opinion will go against it with each attack on Gaza, but it has no choice; Hamas cannot be allowed to survive.
World opinion may judge Israel harshly, but Israel (and the U.S.) is betting that relations with the Arab world will be reestablished. The fear that Iran will seek to take control of the region will lead to a convergence between Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other countries along with the U.S. Unfortunately, Israel has a bigger problem at home.
The Gazan people will not be so quick to embrace Israel after the bombing and invasion. If Israel is not careful, a new version of Hamas will emerge out of the anger and frustration of the latest war; this is the most critical issue for Israel’s security. Palestinians will never forgive Israel for its military assault. But they will come to accept an accommodation with Israel if it (Israel) can offer a better future. Israel cannot continue to ignore the desires of the Palestinian people living under Israeli control. The ultra-right of Israeli society can no longer justify building settlements on Arab land or using excessive force on Palestinians. Unless this open sore is cleansed and sealed, Israel will never be safe.
One can only hope that the Israeli people will realize they cannot hold Palestinians hostage. If they try to do so, then new massacres will occur. There is no way back for Israel. They must build a transparent process leading to a two-state solution. The destruction of Hamas will eliminate a significant threat and clear a path to such a solution. Palestinians will begin to hope for a better future, and Israel’s security will be enhanced. It will enjoy better relations with Arab countries. Israel’s victory over Hamas (and Iran) will be complete.