IN THE MEDIA

World must stand by Israel in its duty to destroy Hamas

Oct 17, 2023 | Jamie Hyams

Masked members of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas (Image: Shutterstock)
Masked members of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas (Image: Shutterstock)

The Australian – 17 October 2023

 

The Israel-Hamas conflict came to Sydney in disturbing and disappointing ways, with hundreds of people in Lakemba and the city celebrating Hamas’s actions.

In a sad irony, the Jewish community was warned they would not be safe in the city on the night the Sydney Opera House was lit up to show solidarity with Israel and that same Jewish community, while a group screamed “Gas the Jews” on the Opera House steps and burned Israel’s flag.

As Israeli ground forces prepare to enter Gaza, it’s worth reflecting on how those revellers were celebrating something that should horrify and disgust anyone with a shred of human decency – the barbaric October 7 mass attack by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians shows the group’s true, inhuman nature. That day, a Jewish religious holiday, more than 1300 Israelis were killed, at least 2700 wounded, and more than 150 taken to Gaza as hostages. It’s the most Jewish people killed on any day since the Holocaust.

The terrorists went door to door in Israeli villages, towns and kibbutzim, shooting civilians, torching houses with the residents inside, decapitating babies, pulling drivers from their cars and shooting them, massacring at least 260 young people at an outdoor dance party, and gang-raping women. Well over 5000 rockets have been fired at Israel, striking throughout southern and central Israel including around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. These are all blatant war crimes. Disturbing footage has emerged of terrorists parading hostages and dead bodies through Gaza, including the elderly, young women and people with disabilities being dragged, beaten and mistreated, and a preschool-aged boy being slapped and taunted for calling for his mother.

Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif said this is a “battle to end the last occupation on Earth”. Apart from the inaccuracy of claiming there are no other occupations, it is clear Deif is referring not to Israel’s presence in the West Bank, or justified and legal blockade of Gaza, but its very existence. The Hamas Charter and its constant rhetoric make very clear its refusal to accept Israel’s existence in any borders.

Hamas obfuscates its motives with a litany of false claims against Israel, but is most likely trying to stall progress towards Israel-Saudi Arabia normalisation.

Middle East peace is anathema to Hamas, and to Iran’s regime, which sponsors, arms and largely directs it. In fact, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps clearly enabled at least aspects of these attacks, providing training and weapons, including a drone that dropped explosives on an Israeli ambulance. Our government should reconsider its earlier decision to reject a Senate committee recommendation to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist group.

Advocates for the Palestinians cite so-called Israeli oppression and occupation. Yet the Palestinians could have long ago had their own state, but refused generous offers in 2000, 2001 and 2008, and numerous Israeli attempts to negotiate in good faith since then. Israel also withdrew fully from Gaza in 2005, hoping a Palestinian enclave living peacefully alongside it could lead to further steps towards peace, but instead got the Hamas-run terror strip.

Palestinian advocates also cite the disparity between Israel and Palestinian deaths in ongoing violence over recent years, and Israeli raids into the West Bank, but the raids are responses to terror attacks, and almost all Israelis killed have been civilians, while almost all Palestinians killed were carrying out terror attacks, members of terror groups, or fighting Israeli troops trying to arrest terrorists.

It’s crucial that the international community fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself and protect its civilians. In this context, understanding the international law concept of “proportionality” is important. Proportionality means Israel can use the force required to achieve legitimate military objectives, but shouldn’t exceed that. It does not mean Israel may only employ the level of force used against it, or cause as many casualties as it has suffered.

Israel’s legitimate military objectives must include freeing the hostages, and taking all steps necessary to ensure Hamas can never attack like this again. All efforts should be made in this context to protect Gaza’s civilians and Israel’s military has an unparalleled record of minimising civilian casualties compared to military in this type of combat, through methods such as warning civilians when buildings are about to be bombed.

Hamas, by contrast, hides behind its civilians, another war crime. It has demanded its citizens ignore Israeli warnings to travel south to avoid the coming fighting, and has even blocked roads to prevent them doing so. It will also once again falsely inflate the numbers of Gaza civilians killed.

There will no doubt be ugly days ahead, as Israel carries out its right and duty to defend its citizens against a remorseless, cynical and barbaric enemy, but it is important for the entire international community that the terrorists are soundly defeated, and radical groups such as Hamas are made to understand atrocities they perpetrate will always have serious consequences.

Jamie Hyams is a senior policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

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