OpinionIsrael at War

Hamas wants it both ways

The terror group wants the power of a state with none of its obligations or restrictions.

Hamas terrorists in Gaza City, Sept. 21, 2022. Photo by Attia Muhammed/Flash90.
Hamas terrorists in Gaza City, Sept. 21, 2022. Photo by Attia Muhammed/Flash90.
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a think tank that specializes in the Middle East. She is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Global Terrorist Network (2011).  

According to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs of Brown University, between 280,771 and 315,190 Iraqis died as a direct result of the Iraq War. In the civil war that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has inflicted on his own people, pro-Assad forces have killed as many as 580,000 people, 380,000 of whom were noncombatants. At least 500,000 people, including 100,000 Kurds, were killed in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

This is not to mention the Allied bombing of Dresden during World War II, which resulted in a conservative estimate of 25,000 to 35,000 deaths. The U.S. bombing of Tokyo on March 9, 1945, left 90,000 to 100,000 dead and more than a million homeless. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the deaths of 129,000 to 226,000 Japanese civilians.

These are some of the tragic facts of war.

On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas committed some of the most barbaric atrocities known to humanity since World War II and the Holocaust. Terrorists butchered, beheaded and baked babies in ovens in front of their parents. Entire communities were burned to the ground. Bodies of scores of young men and women who had been attending a peace concert were found riddled with bullets. Women were gang-raped. Over 240 people were taken hostage.

Israel was forced to respond to these atrocities militarily. If it had not, further Oct. 7ths were guaranteed by Hamas itself. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Nov. 8: “Remember there was a ceasefire on Oct. 6 that Hamas broke by their barbaric assault on peaceful civilians, and their kidnapping, their killing, their beheading, their terrible inhuman savagery. There was a ceasefire. It did not hold because Hamas chose to break it.”

Clinton went on to say that “Hamas is a terrorist organization whose goal is the complete elimination of Israel” and “a ceasefire done prematurely benefits those who do not abide by any laws, by any rules, by any human character about the value of human life.”

People demanding a ceasefire from Israel infest college campuses and have now blocked the streets leading to the airports in New York City and Los Angeles. These self-righteous enablers of Hamas either do not know or choose to ignore that over the past two weeks, two ceasefires have been offered—one by the government of Qatar, the other by Egypt.

It was Hamas, not Israel, that rejected these offers.

Yes, every life lost is a tragedy, particularly the Palestinian children who were used as human shields. Nobody wants to see such things. But we must ask: Why does Hamas use human shields in the first place? Why does it do everything possible to place civilians in harm’s way?

We know the answer because Hamas itself has admitted it: The terrorist organization does so to inflate the number of civilian casualties in order to gain international sympathy.

This tactic works. For example, one of the cries of the international sympathizers is for Israel’s military response to be “proportional.” We should ask, then, how proportionality is defined by international law.

According to Natasha Hausdorff of U.K. Lawyers for Israel, “Some people think that the principle of ‘proportionality’ during armed conflict refers to the number of people which each side kills. So if Hamas murdered 20 Israeli civilians, Israel would be acting ‘disproportionately’ if in response it killed more than 20. This is nonsense. No state or combatant may militarily target any innocent civilians to achieve their objective, no matter how worthy and no matter how few or many it killed. This is precisely what Hamas does, not Israel.”

Hamas’s tactics are themselves a violation of international law. According to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, the first obligation of any nation-state is to protect its civilian population. Hamas-ruled Gaza was a state in all but name. In particular, it stole international aid and pocketed millions from Iran to create the equivalent of a standing army. Yet it continued to behave like the radical terrorist group that it is to avoid being held accountable under international law.

Israel takes great pains to comply with the laws of war in an exceedingly difficult setting. Hamas, on the other hand, refuses to abide by any laws. It wanted to have it both ways: to wield the power of the state with none of the inherent restrictions on its behavior. It did so for the sole purpose of attempting to annihilate Israel and the entire Jewish people.

Israel is constantly accused of violating international law. These false accusations, ironically, come from supporters of an organization—a state—that does everything possible to make a mockery of international law and its obligations.

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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