I’ve not had much to say about the Gaza war because what is there to say? I think Jeffrey Goldberg is right: Hamas baited Israel, Israel took the bait, and Hamas thrives on sacrificing civilians under its control, for the sake of propaganda gains against Israel. It is disgusting to see all the civilian death. It is disgusting to see that Hamas is putting those civilians in the line of fire. But none of this is new. I think the Israeli dove Amos Oz is correct here in his recent interview with Deutsche Welle, in which he said that Israel cannot win this kind of conflict, but it has no choice but to fight it:
Amoz Oz: I would like to begin the interview in a very unusal way: by presenting one or two questions to your readers and listeners. May I do that?
Deutsche Welle:Go ahead!
Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?
Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?
With these two questions I pass the interview to you.
Of course now we are already in the middle in the interview. I take it that – just like in the case of the second Lebanon war in 2006 and the Gaza offensive in 2009 – you support the present Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip?
No, I only support limited military response and not unlimited military response, as I did in 2006 and as I did later on in the previous fighting in Gaza.
When we see images of suffering civilians in Gaza, especially children, it’s easy to forget what Hamas is, exactly. Have you ever read the Hamas charter? If not, you should. It explicitly calls for an Islamic totalitarian state, one in which every aspect of life is Islamified and militarized — it even defines art as either pro-jihad or evil, no in-between — and is dedicated to committing genocide against the Jews. Here’s a clip from a Hamas children’s TV program in which they instruct children in their duty to kill all the Jews. They are true Islamofascists, and more than that, they are Islamo-Nazis. From the Hamas charter:
The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The day of judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jews will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say ‘O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.
The charter also defines every Muslim as a fighter in holy war. In Article 18, the charter prescribes the role of Muslim women in supporting the jihad. This is why Hamas sites its rocket launchers amid Palestinian civilians. It considers them combatants as well. And, from an ideological point of view, they are. Nobody would care about this war if the Israelis were only killing armed Hamas fighters. Insofar as Hamas is “winning” this thing, it’s because of the dead civilians, especially the children.
Hamas knows this. It doesn’t care. Jeffrey Goldberg explains what so many in the rest of the world seem to have forgotten: that there can be no compromise with Hamas, because if Hamas had the power to do so, it would cut the throats of every Jew in Israel. Excerpt:
The first time I witnessed Hamas’s hatred of Jews manifest itself in large-scale, fatal violence was in late July of 1997, when two of the group’s suicide bombers detonated themselves in an open-air market in West Jerusalem. The attack took 16 lives, and injured 178. I happened to be only a few blocks from the market at the time of the attack, and arrived shortly after the paramedics and firefighters. Over the next hours, a scene unfolded that I would see again and again: screaming relatives; members of the Orthodox burial society scraping flesh off walls; the ground covered in blood and viscera. I remember another Hamas attack, on a bus in downtown Jerusalem, in which body parts of children were blown into the street by the force of the blast. At yet another bombing, I was with rescue workers as they recovered a human arm stuck high up in a tree.
After each of these attacks, Hamas leaders issued blood-curdling statements claiming credit, and promising more death. “The Jews will lose because they crave life but a true Muslim loves death,” a former Hamas leader, Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, told me in an interview in 2002. In the same interview he made the following imperishable statement: “People always talk about what the Germans did to the Jews, but the true question is, ‘What did the Jews do to the Germans?’”
It is possible, of course, that Israel’s current operations against Hamas go too far, and are unjust because the civilian death toll is too high. That’s a fair criticism, and it’s one that many Israeli leftists, including Amos Oz, share. William Saletan has a list of pragmatic reasons why the Israelis should end their Gaza campaign now. He may be right. But let’s not deceive ourselves about the kind of people Hamas are, and what they would do if ever they came to power, given the movement’s belief that “a true Muslim loves death.” For the Israelis, this is not a theoretical question.
UPDATE: There’s a reason why none of the Arab Muslim states are rushing to help Hamas, and it’s not out of a love for Israel.