OpinionIsrael at War

Defeating an ideology takes time

Overcoming Hamas will be a long process, just like the defeat of Nazism, fascism and communism.

IDF soldiers conduct operations against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Jan. 22, 2024. Credit: IDF.
IDF soldiers conduct operations against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Jan. 22, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Irwin J. Mansdorf
Irwin J. (Yitzchak) Mansdorf, Ph.D., is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs specializing in political psychology and a member of the emergency division of IDF Homefront Command.

In Mishpatim, last week’s Torah portion, the text tells us what victory in the Land of Israel will look like. It won’t be a blitzkrieg or even a “six-day war.” It will be a struggle that takes time.

I will not drive them away from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate, and the beasts of the field outnumber you. I will drive them out from before you little by little, until you have increased and can occupy the land. (Exodus 23:29-30)

Even if God is fighting on your side, winning takes time.

As Israel continues its just war against Hamas, a psychological war is being fought between Israel and itself. This is an unnecessary war. It only divides and weakens the Jewish state.

This internal war is one in which some contend that destroying Hamas is a pipe dream. They hold that since Hamas is an idea, an ideology, it cannot be destroyed.

This is patently incorrect.

The ideology of Nazism was defeated. So was the ideology of imperial Japan. Communism in Europe was defeated. So was fascism in Spain and Italy. Segregation was a way of life in the southern United States for a century, as was apartheid in South Africa, but both were eventually relegated to history. ISIS and Al-Qaeda, which once controlled vast territories and threatened whole populations, are nowhere near the threat they once were. The Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot, once controlled Egypt but was ultimately toppled.

Why should Hamas be any different?

As the Torah points out, however, some things take time. Time may not be amenable to those who say “peace now” or even “messiah now” but time is what is required.

This is where psychological factors come into play. For some Israelis, especially those who have family members held captive in Gaza, time is an enemy. There is no question that every day that passes increases the danger to their loved ones. Their desire for a “deal now” is understandable.

The Jews of the Exodus suffered years of slavery and war. They lived under conditions in which every day was temporary and even their basic needs, such as food, needed to fall from the heavens. Their lives were not easy. Finally, they arrived within striking distance of their independence and salvation. What were they told?

Wait. Take your time. If you don’t, things will only get worse. The lesson is that we need to do things right, even though it is painful, even though it is risky and even if it takes longer than we would like.

We would all prefer to experience an “Entebbe moment” or the exhilaration of the lightning victory of 1967. But those who believe an ideology cannot be defeated must look to history and see how long it took to defeat Japan and the Nazis, to rid Europe of fascism and communism, to purge the United States of segregation. They should remember that we are all better off today as a result.

History proves evil ideologies can be defeated but sometimes history demands time. Ignoring history’s advice may satisfy impulses to end things “now” but it would also risk a situation in which, as we are warned, “the beasts of the field” will outnumber us.

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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