We have a combination of Armchair Generals and Armchair Peacemakers weighing on Israel vs Gaza.
A Ceasefire is needed now And after a ceasefire. a two-state solution. Question: Do people pushing for this know anything? Jonathan Freedland writes columns for the Guardian in Great Britain. In recent days he decided to impart something that so many activists, activists, academics, journalists and even western government officials seem to lack – Knowledge. If knowing things matters to you this is an opportunity to become aware of what is known by a very knowledgeable writer in the UK. Jonathan Freedland is speaking directly to those who argue that Hamas will abide by a ceasefire because Gaza has been so badly damaged by Israel. Multiple thousands of Palestinians are dead and much of Gaza is rubble. So why wouldn’t Hamas change its tune and abide by a ceasefire? Freedland says Such thinking fundamentally misunderstands the nature of that organization. Because Hamas is a different kind of enemy, one that does not fit the usual theories of war. Put simply, it does not mind if its own people die.
Recall how counter-terrorist strategists had to rethink all that they knew when first confronted with suicide bombers. It’s hard to deter a terrorist who does not fear death. That’s true writ large for an organization that has explicitly said it is “proud to sacrifice martyrs”
This is why Hamas has spent hundreds of millions of dollars – much of it international aid money – not on basic services for Gazans, but on building and equipping a network of underground tunnels that, again, it has explicitly said are exclusively for its own use. As one Hamas leader put it, ordinary people in Gaza who need protection should look to the UN.
It’s this that explains why, whatever truth eventually emerges about the recent role of the al-Shifa hospital, a former director of a major aid organisation operating in Gaza testified this week that “it was broadly suspected/understood as far back as 2014 that Hamas used the al-Shifa hospital complex as a command centre and base for operations” – just as it has long been understood that Hamas is not afraid to use schools or UN buildings when it comes to raining rockets down on Israel. The calculation for Hamas is that either Israel hits back, killing innocents – thereby losing legitimacy in the eyes of the world – or it does not, thereby allowing Hamas to keep firing. Either way, Hamas wins.
The ideology of violent jihadism plays a part here, and that too is often overlooked. There are plenty in the west eager to see Hamas simply as a resistance movement, in the noble tradition of national liberation struggles. But this fails to reckon with Hamas’s doctrinal commitment. Violent jihadism is not a rhetorical pose: it is Hamas’s animating creed. It truly believes that when one of its own people dies – even a child killed in an airstrike – they go straight to paradise as a martyr.
Against an enemy that thinks this way, the usual pressures don’t work. If you doubt the devotion, force yourself to listen to the phone call made by one of the Hamas murderers of 7 October to his parents back in Gaza. Hear his pride, his ecstatic joy, as he tells them he has “killed Jews” with his own hands, including a husband and wife and eight others. “Dad, 10 with my own hands!”
It is not easy to imagine an accommodation with such an adversary, certainly not one of the kind that Benjamin Netanyahu so disastrously maintained for the last 15 years. The Israeli prime minister pursued a policy of containment, described aptly by the historian Yuval Noah Harari as “violent coexistence”, in which Israel believed it could just about live with Hamas in Gaza, with periodic military confrontations. That delusion was shattered on the black sabbath of last month.
Which is why the US, the European Union and other allies have reached the same conclusion as the Israeli government: that Hamas cannot merely be temporarily deterred, that this cannot simply be one more round that follows the all-too-familiar pattern in which a ceasefire is followed by a pause, allowing Hamas to regroup and rearm, ready for the next escalation. Instead, as the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Thursday, Hamas “must be defeated”.
Note, though, that it’s not just western governments that think this way. The dog that didn’t bark – or has not yet barked – in this story is the governments of those Arab states with ties to Israel, including the Gulf state signatories to the Abraham accords, along with Saudi Arabia, whose imminent “normalisation” deal with Israel Hamas was seemingly determined to derail. Despite all the bloodshed in Gaza, those states have not broken off relations with Israel – suggesting they are not that unhappy at the prospect of Hamas being functionally removed from the equation.
Borrell also called for “a political solution” – one excluding Hamas, which he described as “not a partner for anything” – to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the two-state solution. Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak and the rest say the same thing. But here is where they, too, are guilty of misreading one of the key players – in this case, the current government of Israel.
For Biden and co are overlooking the fact that Netanyahu and his coalition are utterly opposed to the very arrangement Israel’s western allies advocate. This is the most rightwing government in Israel’s history. It includes junior ministers who fantasise about flattening Gaza with a nuclear bomb or repopulating it with the Jewish settlements that were uprooted in 2005, and senior ministers who are, even now, wrecking any chance of cooperation with the only body that could plausibly fill the vacuum in a post-Hamas Gaza: the Palestinian Authority.
So Washington, Brussels and London currently back Israel because they agree that no peace is possible without the removal of Hamas. They are much less clear that no peace is possible without the removal of Netanyahu and his henchmen. Yet both can be true. Western governments, and those filling the streets to condemn them, need to be clear-eyed about the nature of their enemies – and their allies. That Jonathan Freedland’s excellent analysis with some added flavoring from the factory of my own neuro linguistic linguini. With 10 Minutes that matter I’m Charles Adler
Charles Adler is a Hungarian-Canadian writer/broadcaster and political commentator, most noted as a former host of the newsmagazine series Global Sunday and as host of the syndicated radio talk show Charles Adler Tonight on the Global News radio network from 2016 until 2021