OpinionIsrael at War

160 days of war: What have we learned?

Since Oct. 7, Hamas has been manipulating the West in three critical areas.

Israeli forces on patrol in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 4, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israeli forces on patrol in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 4, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Yael Eckstein
Yael Eckstein
Yael Eckstein is president and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship). The Jerusalem Post’s 2023 Humanitarian Award recipient and three-time honoree on its “50 Most Influential Jews” list, she is a Chicago-area native based in Israel with her husband and their four children.

It’s been more than 160 days since Hamas terrorists invaded my homeland, Israel, the only home for the Jewish people, leaving behind a trail of blood, devastation and destruction.

It’s been more than 160 days since innocent Israeli families have been torn apart, loved ones murdered, brutalized and taken from their homes. It’s been more than 160 days since husbands, wives, children, grandparents, family and friends have lived in agonizing uncertainty, not knowing whether their loved ones are still alive.

It’s been more than 160 days since Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists launched their horrific assault, killing 1,200 innocent Israelis and taking 240 as hostages. It’s been more than 160 days, and still more than 130 Israelis remain hostages somewhere in Gaza.

After more than 160 days, what have we learned? We have learned that in the court of public opinion, Hamas—an internationally recognized terrorist group that is accountable to no one—appears to be winning.

What we in Israel and other freedom-loving people around the world have learned is that it’s time to wake up. It’s time to recognize the truth and acknowledge the many ways the Western world is eating out of Hamas’s hands. It’s time to end that cycle of deceit. Since the beginning of this war, Hamas has been manipulating the West in three critical areas.

First, every day Hamas releases the number of Palestinian casualties—often within minutes of a reported attack by the Israel Defense Forces. How can that be? How can they be getting accurate information that quickly? The answer is: They can’t.

It took the Israeli government weeks to accurately identify those killed in the Oct. 7 attacks and provide an accurate number to the world. Israel even downgraded the number, 1,400, when the original was found to be inaccurate.

We know that Hamas’s numbers are inflated and unreliable. Yet day after day, the West dutifully reports these numbers, which again come from an internationally recognized terrorist organization with no accountability or credibility. How can this be?

Second, Israel—a democratic, freedom-loving nation that upholds international law—is fighting against a terrorist organization that doesn’t. Hamas is unapologetically hiding their main combat centers in hospitals. They are stockpiling weapons in schools. They are launching rockets from mosques.

And so, when Israel legitimately tries to knock out these nests of terrorism, Hamas cries to the world, “Look! Israel is attacking mosques and schools and hospitals!” And the West responds by condemning Israel when all we are trying to do is defeat terrorism and protect our citizens from further attacks.

Third, the West has continued its pressure campaign on Israel, calling for an immediate ceasefire. The truth is that Israel wants nothing more than peace. As a nation, we have proven that over and over again as we have made peace with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and other Arab nations. Israel wants peace and has continually worked towards that goal on many different fronts.

Israel wants peace with her Palestinian neighbors as well. All the Palestinians need to do is acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and back away from Hamas’s stated mission to wipe Israel off the map. Then there will be peace.

Since the outset of this war, Israel has been clear that there will be a ceasefire when all of our hostages have been returned and when the Hamas terrorist leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar (who was treated for brain cancer in an Israeli hospital), is no longer able to pose a threat to Israel. Only then will there be peace. Only then will a ceasefire be possible.

Hamas, however, does not want that. They have refused to give us our hostages back. They won’t even tell us who is alive or dead. Their terrorist leader hides in civilian locations, deliberately putting innocent lives at risk. This is unacceptable. Israel will not accept a ceasefire under such conditions, nor should it be expected to.

And so, now the world’s eyes turn to Rafah in southern Gaza, where approximately 1.4 million Gazans, who have been evacuated from the north, are sheltering. Embedded among them is Hamas—and our 130 remaining hostages, who we are committed to rescue.

So, what does this mean? Hamas knows that if Israel goes into Rafah to rescue our hostages, there will be many civilian deaths, and the world will once again look at Israel as the aggressor. And that is exactly what Hamas wants. The West is playing right into the terrorists’ hands. And we know this because their leadership has recently stated, “We have Israelis exactly where we want them.”

Instead of calling for a ceasefire under the current conditions, the world needs to call for an end to terrorism. The world needs to demand that Hamas return our men, women and children. Hamas terrorists should not be hiding among civilians. Hamas terrorists should not be hiding in hospitals or mosques. Hamas terrorists should not be firing rockets from the rooftops of U.N.-sponsored schools. We need to end this tyranny of terrorism.

Israel wants peace; we want peace so much that we are willing to send in our husbands, our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, to go door to door to rescue our hostages and root out the terrorists. We are doing this to protect our country and our citizens, yes, but also to save civilian lives in Gaza from being used as human shields.

Because make no mistake about it. Every person who is killed in Gaza, every hospital that is invaded because there are terrorists there, every school that Israel has to go into because they are being used to launch rockets, is the responsibility of one group and one group only—Hamas.

It’s been more than 160 days, and enough is enough. The world must wake up and realize that in this conflict there is only one nation that values life, cherishes freedom and promotes peace.

That nation is Israel.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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