Salvo 04.16.2024 10 minutes

Rooting Out Hamas


Progressive opposition to Israel’s military operation is rooted in racism and antisemitism.

The global hypocrisy in which countries that vigorously engage in military action against aggressors condemn Israel for doing the same is rooted in racist oppressor ideology and antisemitism. The consequences include Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel.

On October 7, 2023, Hamas launched a vicious ground, air, sea, and cyber assault on Israel, killing more than 1,200 Israelis (the per capita equivalent of about 50,000 Americans) and taking at least 240 hostages. As Hamas launched up to 5,000 rockets on Israeli civilian targets, more than 1,000 Hamas fighters entered Israel through nearly 30 breach points. They employed drones, explosives, and bulldozers to disable Israeli border defenses. Some flew across the border on fan-powered paragliders, and others came by sea.

Hamas fighters penetrated Israeli military installations, raided border towns and other communities, and massacred at least 360 civilians attending a music festival. According to revised casualty numbers, more than 700 Israeli civilians, including 36 children and about 350 security forces, were killed, 3,400 civilians and soldiers were wounded, and 247 civilians and soldiers were captured. The Hamas fighters committed horrible atrocities. They executed children in front of their parents and parents in front of their children. They raped, eviscerated, mutilated, beheaded, tortured, and incinerated both civilians and soldiers. That evening, Hamas launched a second wave of rockets.

In January, the New York Times reported that at least 12 staff members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency assisted the Hamas attack. That followed reports that journalists from leading news outlets, including the New York Times, AP, Reuters, and CNN joined Hamas fighters on October 7 and, at the very least, had advance notice of the attacks.

Globally, this was the third-deadliest terrorist attack since 1970. On a per capita basis, the attack is 260 percent deadlier than the next most deadly attack, and nearly five times deadlier than the fifth most deadly attack. It was by far the worst terrorist attack against Israel; the next worst killed just 38 Israelis.

Of 173 multi-hostage incidents since 1966 tracked by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Hamas attack involves the 13th largest number of hostages. It is already the 7th longest in duration. Seventy hostages have been released, about 133 remain in captivity, and at least 37 have died.

As Israeli forces planned a response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assembled a coalition cabinet that announced its intention to destroy Hamas and warned that the operation would take several months, particularly because Hamas had used aid funds to build a massive system of tunnels throughout Gaza, located command, control, and other military facilities in and underneath civilian facilities, including schools and hospitals, and used civilians as shields.

Speaking hours after the attack from the White House, President Joe Biden said:

Today the people of Israel are under attack orchestrated by a terrorist organization, Hamas. In this moment of tragedy, I want to say to them and to the world, and to terrorists everywhere, that the United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back. We’ll make sure that they have the help their citizens need and they can continue to defend themselves…. [M]y administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.

Just days later, Biden travelled to Israel to underscore U.S. support. Speaking in Tel Aviv, Biden said, “As long as the United States stands—and we will stand forever—we will not let you ever be alone.”

He added:

Hundreds—hundreds of young people at a music festival of—the festival was for peace—for peace—gunned down as they ran for their lives. Scores of innocents—from infants to elderly grandparents, Israelis and Americans—taken hostage. Children slaughtered. Babies slaughtered. Entire families massacred. Rape, beheadings, bodies burned alive. Hamas committed atrocities that recall the worst ravages of ISIS, unleashing pure unadulterated evil upon the world. There is no rationalizing it, no excusing it. Period…. It has brought to the surface painful memories and scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and the genocide of the Jewish people. The world watched then, it knew, and the world did nothing. We will not stand by and do nothing again. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

However, Biden also reminded Israelis that the “people of Gaza need food, water, medicine, shelter.” He warned that if Hamas diverted or stole the assistance, it would end. After returning home, Biden urged Congress to authorize $14 billion in military aid to Israel. He used his executive powers to send equipment and ammunition to Israel.

Biden’s support for Israel was echoed by 84 countries, many of whom backed Israel’s right to self-defense.

The groundswell of support was consistent with the right of defense. When U.S. sailors were impressed by the British in the early 1800s, the United States declared war on England, invaded Canada, and sent ships and troops around the world to protect its independence. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, the world exploded in a war that left more than 10 million soldiers and 8 million civilians dead. After the attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,403 Americans, the U.S. declared war on Japan, Germany, and Italy and then engaged in a world war that culminated in its dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan. After the Gulf of Tonkin incident in which a U.S. destroyer was damaged by a North Vietnamese attack, the United States sent 500,000 troops to Southeast Asia. After 2,977 died in the September 11, 2001 attack, the U.S. sent a similar number of troops to the Middle East and engaged in a 20-year war against its enemies. About 3,000,000 were killed in the Vietnam War, and least 500,000 died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, causing no casualties, England sent a naval task force 7,500 miles to repel the invaders. Ultimately, 904 were killed and 2,432 were wounded in a ten-week war. Until recently, and for almost a decade, French troops engaged al-Qaeda in Mali, killing more than 1,000.

In none of these conflicts did the United States, England, France, or other Western forces back down because civilians were at risk. From shelling Tripoli in the Barbary Wars, to carpet bombing in Dresden and Tokyo, nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, high-explosive and thermobaric bombs in Vietnam, Tora Bora, Iraq, and Afghanistan, to hundreds of thousands of troops engaged in round-the-clock shelling of adversaries, civilian losses were unavoidable and significant.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the civilian death rate in wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq ranged from 25 percent to 88 percent of total deaths, or from about 25,000 in Pakistan to about 1.7 million in Korea.

Highly dubious estimates compiled by the Hamas Ministry of Health claim that through April 6, 2024, 33,091 Palestinians have died in Gaza. Hamas admits to having “incomplete data” for 11,371 of these purported fatalities and does not distinguish combatant and civilian losses, or losses from friendly fire (Israel estimates that 12 percent of rockets fired by Hamas fall inside of Gaza). The Hamas Ministry has a record of false claims, most notably its claim that an October 16 Israeli air strike on the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital killed 500 civilians. Data vetted by U.S. and media sources agree the incident involved a misfired Hamas rocket that fell into a parking lot and probably killed from 50 to 100 people.

No military force has ever done more to avoid civilian casualties than what Israel has done in Gaza. It uses almost exclusively precision guided munitions, as well as satellite imagery, cell phone data, and direct observation for pinpoint targeting. It warns civilians with leaflets, text messages, loudspeaker announcements, and “roof-knocking,” where the IDF drops small munitions on a roof to notify everyone to evacuate. The United States did none of this ahead of its invasion of Iraq in 2003, or before its April 2004 Battle of Fallujah.

During combat, the IDF suspended operations on many days for four hours to allow civilians to leave the area. While pauses for civilian evacuations are not new, the frequency and predictability in Gaza is historic. Another first is Israel’s distribution of military maps to assist civilians with evacuations and to alert them to IDF operations. No other military has ever done this.

Against this backdrop, within weeks support for Israel declined. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators denied that Hamas had committed atrocities, ignored its targeting of Israeli civilians, holding of hostages, and indifference to civilian losses among Palestinian human shields. Progressives argued that as a powerful white supremacist nation marginalizing Palestinians, Israel was the aggressor, cited the inflated Hamas casualty numbers, and accused Israel of genocide. Though U.S. officials, including National Security spokesperson John Kirby, defended Israel from allegations that it was committing war crimes and reminded the public of Hamas’s atrocities, Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and allies such as the U.K. and France accused Israel of preventing the delivery of aid in Gaza, destroying civilian infrastructure, and excessive civilian deaths. They insisted, against any rational analysis, that Israel had to find a less invasive means of destroying Hamas, or that it had to forego its objective.

Almost from the start, media in Western Europe and the United States resolved all doubts against Israel. They accepted Hamas’s lies about Al-Ahli Arab Hospital; accused Israel of overstating Hamas’s military use of civilian infrastructure despite copious evidence otherwise; accused the IDF of moving too quickly and too slowly; ignored Israel’s efforts to evacuate civilians or Hamas’s interference in those efforts; ignored the additional 10,000 rockets and mortars Hamas has launched against Israeli civilian targets since October 7; and focused on Hamas’s unsupported casualty counts and physical destruction in Gaza.

Progressives assert that the residents of Gaza are blameless victims of Israeli vengeance. In fact, 72 percent of Palestinians believe Hamas’s decision to attack Israel was correct, including a majority of Gazans. Rescued hostages have described numerous civilians who provided material support to Hamas throughout their ordeals.

When Israel accidentally killed seven aid workers it investigated and apologized. When the U.S. mistakenly droned and killed a family of 10 in Afghanistan it blamed the fog of war. When Hamas targets civilians, both Israeli and its own, it says nothing and suffers almost no condemnation. If Hamas wanted to de-escalate the conflict by releasing its hostages, it would do so.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, other members of the progressive Squad, and pro-Palestinian groups threatened to withhold support from Biden in the presidential election. In close states like Michigan the Muslim vote could decide the next president. In England and France, pro-Palestinian activists also threatened electoral stability. On college campuses, in progressive towns, and among Democrats, castigating Jews and Israel has become the norm. A recent Pew poll shows that nearly half of Muslims in the U.S. support Hamas in its war against Israel—a similar proportion to that found in a poll of Muslims in the United Kingdom.

In March, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish official in the United States, sharply criticized Netanyahu’s handling of the war and called for Israel to hold elections. Then, beholden to progressives, Biden threatened to withdraw U.S. support for Israel unless it allowed more aid for Gazans and agreed not to pursue Hamas in the Southern Gaza town of Rafah, where most remaining elements of Hamas have obtained refuge. In an interview with Univision, Biden adopted Hamas’s position, calling for Israel to accept a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza for six to eight weeks—before any of the remaining hostages are freed by Hamas. The IDF then withdrew from Rafah, giving Hamas the right to declare victory. Immediately after the IDF’s withdrawal, Hamas admitted that there may not be even 40 hostages remaining alive.

The question is how Israel so quickly lost Biden’s “unwavering” support, even though it was on its original timeline and pursuing its original objectives. That Israel could have permitted more aid for Gazan residents is an excuse. Not only did Israel permit at least as much aid as in other recent conflicts, but as CNN and other media sympathetic to Palestinians have reported, there is considerable evidence that Hamas is stealing aid intended for civilians. According to Biden, that should have turned off the spigot.

Discussions of aid, civilian deaths, and physical destruction are red herrings. Progressives hate Israel for two reasons. The first is the same reason they hate the United States—the belief that Israel is a powerful, Western democracy and as such has suppressed and subjugated purportedly marginalized minorities. Because it is an oppressor nation, facts are inconsequential. The second is antisemitism. When pro-Palestinian demonstrators chant “from the River to the Sea,” or that the only good Jew is a dead Jew, they are being transparent. They want to see all Jews, whether they reside in Israel, or elsewhere, dead. Whether they hate Jews for the same reasons as Nazis or radical Islamists, or primarily as an effect of oppressor ideology is not very important. What matters is that many millions of people despise Jews and want to see them dead.

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It is, and has been, America’s most important ally in the fight against radical ideologies and terrorism. It is a source of incredible technology, life-saving drugs, and advances in energy, climate, agriculture, and many other fields. It has a people and a culture that underpins the principles of Western civilization. Those are the reasons so many Americans and Europeans have a strong affinity for Israel. That affinity is strongest among evangelical Christians, who cherish all that Israel signifies. By contrast, many American Jews imbued with progressive fervor reject Netanyahu as an Israeli Trump and oppose the war in Gaza.

When media and politicians lie, obfuscate, and hold Israel to a unique standard of care for civilians, or demonstrators repeatedly threaten violence, many people don’t know what to think. Support for Israel has dropped significantly since the war in Gaza began, with net favorability down globally by an average of 18.5 percentage points between September and December, decreasing in 42 out of the 43 countries polled.

Iran’s first-ever direct attack on Israel is the most obvious consequence of the incessant criticism of Israel. Iran’s launch of more than 300 drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles was the most massive use of guided projectiles in history. As the attack commenced, the Biden Administration announced its “ironclad” support for Israel, and the U.S. military was instrumental in shooting down dozens of drones and missiles. With help also from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., and France, nearly all of the projectiles were downed before entering Israeli airspace. The few warheads that impacted their targets did little damage and gravely wounded a seven-year-old Bedouin girl.

By the following morning, the Biden Administration began clarifying the limited meaning of “ironclad” and warned Israel not to retaliate. News media adopted Iran’s characterization of the attack as retaliation for Israel’s presumed role in an airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Syria that killed two Iranian generals, ignoring the generals’ role in planning and arming Hamas for its October 7 attack on Israel. Cori Bush and other members of the Squad posted social media criticism of Israel.

To some, the derision of Israel’s right of defense and weakening poll numbers might be a public relations problem. To Israel, this is an existential threat. If Israel does not defeat Hamas and then defeat, or at least stave off, Hezbollah and Iran, Israel will cease to exist, and Jews may not be far behind. Perhaps that only matters to the world’s 20 million-or-so Jews and evangelical Christians. Every individual who opposes Israel’s right of defense should be honest with himself or herself about whether the goal is the destruction of Judeo-Christian principles. Unless that is so, those who seek to limit Israel’s right of defense need to spend some time figuring out what they really want. But not too much time, or it will be too late—again.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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