Hamas terrorists are entirely to blame for the current round of violence and suffering in Israel and Gaza. As it stands, Hamas is the chief obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Equally, Hamas is a critical barrier to Palestinian statehood. To the extent that Hamas terrorists control Gaza – impoverishing their own citizens to advance a nefarious ideology – peace will not be forthcoming. Canada’s strong support for Israel in this conflict must be applauded.
As part of its naked anti-Semitism and calls to genocide, Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist; in fact, it calls for its outright extermination. This is nothing short of an existential challenge. And it is critical to remember that the current hostilities were preceded by over 800 rocket attacks by Hamas against Israeli citizens. To be clear, these are indiscriminate rockets fired at major population centres, with the express goal of taking innocent life. Whereas Israel undertakes every effort to avoid the loss of innocent life – and laments civilian casualties – Hamas openly celebrates the death of innocent Israelis as success. Any discussion about proportionality must begin there. No country should be forced to tolerate this state of affairs. Beyond a mere right, the state of Israel has a duty to protect its citizens and defend its existence.
Indeed, Hamas has become sufficiently cavalier in its behaviour as to target Jerusalem for the first time. Its disdain for human life and our shared human history is alarming. Hamas is prepared to risk the destruction of its own holy sites and the deaths of innocent Palestinians in a city that is fundamental to both parties. As the New York Times reports, even Saddam Hussein avoided targeting Jerusalem out of fear of killing Palestinians or destroying sacred religious sites. Hamas is incapable of reaching even that very low bar.
To be sure, Hamas is aggravating the suffering of its own people and standing in the way of any prospect of peace. Hamas is part of the problem. It is currently impossible to negotiate a tenable solution as long as Hamas is in control. Through the use of human shields – that is to say, intentionally engaging in violence while sheltered by civilians, schools, mosques, and hospitals – Hamas is exacerbating the suffering of, and concurrently oppressing, Palestinians. A Hamas rocket actually landed in the West Bank near a Palestinian village. Absolutely nothing can justify this conduct.
In contrast to Hamas, Israel is targeting military infrastructure and Hamas’ leadership. Its efforts are directed at reducing Hamas’ rocket arsenal and military capacity while functioning as a deterrent against future attacks. These are legitimate goals. A state must take direct measures in order to defend its citizens, particularly against a terrorist enterprise dedicated to killing Jews and wiping the world’s only Jewish state off the map. Israel is undertaking painstaking efforts to minimize civilian suffering, including dropping leaflets over Gaza warning civilians to avoid Hamas and military operations. At the same time, it pours money into humanitarian relief in Gaza. Whereas Hamas is backed by Iran and Syria, Israel enjoys the support of liberal democracies around the world.
Of course, there is no panacea in this intractable conflict. Like all democracies, Israel, for its part, is imperfect. But unlike in Gaza, there is widespread internal debate and criticism of the Israeli government. That is requisite in a healthy society. As such, Canadians should ask themselves this: do we stand with Israel, its democratic values and its human rights? A state where basic liberty is protected, religious freedom is fundamental, and the rule of law is paramount? The answer is that we must. The values of Israel are the values of Canadians. The values of Hamas are repulsive to Canadian ideals.
A just and lasting peace with Israel, with an independent, prosperous Palestinian state, is the antithesis of Hamas’ goals and radical ideology. And yet these are the goals and interests of Israel, of Canada, and of the global community. And while Palestinians undeniably deserve a state of their own, achieved through direct negotiations with Israel, a brighter future for coming generations will not be achieved so long as Hamas is in control.