A massacre in Israel

As of this writing, 90 Israelis are confirmed dead as a result of the invasion of Southern Israel by the Iran-backed terrorist organization, Hamas. According to the Israeli Health Ministry, over 900 more Israelis are wounded and hospitalized, many of them in critical condition. Israeli seniors were slaughtered while waiting for the bus. Concertgoers were fired upon. People were gunned down in their cars. Citizens were hunted down from house to house, murdered while trying to protect their families. Throats were slashed. Structures were torched. This was a massacre.

The surprise attack was pared with a barrage of thousands of missiles originating in Gaza, which rained down on Israeli civilian targets across the country. Cities and towns in Southern Israel are still contested as Israeli Defense Forces continue to clear out Hamas’s remaining invasion forces. The precise number of Israelis Hamas has taken captive both in Israel and in its Gaza-based strongholds is unknown, but the IDF is expected to attempt their rescue. That will entail significant ground operations inside Gaza, which may compel another Iranian proxy militia, Hezbollah, to enter the conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared “war” on Hamas in response to this terrorist attack, but that war’s presently limited and achievable objectives could soon expand.

Israel’s retaliatory response is coming. But when the initial shock of Hamas’s horrific attack has worn off, you’re sure to hear false equivalences and fallacies designed to stay the hands of officials in Jerusalem. You’ve probably already heard or seen them. The predictable special pleading is unconvincing, strategically unsound, and at times morally reprehensible, and it deserves to be dispensed with now.

Occasionally, acts of medieval barbarism like these are, if not excused, rationalized away by those who insist the occupation Israel dissolved painfully in 2005 persists insofar as Gaza is “besieged.” If it is an “open-air prison,” it is one of Hamas’s own making. The terrorist group that ascended to power in the wake of Israel’s withdrawal dismantled civilian infrastructure upon its rise and transformed its stronghold into a fortress, the foremost purpose of which was to wage war on the Jewish State. The Strip is blockaded because its regime is aggressive, not the other way around. But Gaza is not forsaken. Hamas discourages the liberty and entrepreneurialism that would contribute to their people’s flourishing lest the Strip’s captive population lose its taste for war. The regime even frustrates the process of securing permits that allow Gazans to work in Israel. Hamas subsists on foreign aid, including Israel’s, which Jerusalem carefully administers. But the Hamas regime owes its existence primarily to its sponsors in Tehran.

Israel does not have to learn to live with Hamas. The experiment in self-rule that began in 2006 has been a costly one. A state of permanent conflict has existed with the Hamas faction since it took power in that year, the last time the Strip held elections. It is not a legitimate government. It is a government that has gone to war with Israel on four occasions. No other state would be subject to finger-wagging from the sages of international diplomacy for refusing to tolerate the existence of a terrorist regime responsible for this level of wanton, barbaric bloodshed. And the Hamas regime is responsible. It arms, funds, and incubates the militias under its wing, including terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad. The only open question is the level of operational control Gaza City had over this invasion. Given its scale, coordination, and the months of preparation that contributed to it, that level is unlikely to be none.

There will be calls for Israelis to observe proportionality. But what would that look like? What is a proportionate response to the deliberate slaughter of civilians and hostage-taking designed to free more terrorists who would soon be returned to the fight against Israel? The very notion is preposterous. Moreover, a doctrine that prescribes proportionality is the one to which Jerusalem has adhered, and this attack has demonstrated that it is a failure. The Israeli people deserve reciprocity in the form of a response to this event that has the capacity to either restore deterrence or degrade and neutralize Hamas. Whatever form Israel’s response takes, it reserves the absolute right to its own self-defense.

Surely, there will be a handful who cling to what should be the forgotten rhetoric of the late 1990s and early aughts – the idea that the Palestinian people’s plight occupies a special place in the hearts of those who perambulate the “Arab street.” Nonsense. Sunni Arab governments long ago leaned into the process of normalizing relations with Israel, and the “Arab street” no longer regards the “Palestinian question” as an obstacle to a desirable alteration of the regional status quo. Even the Palestinians aren’t united if the West Bank’s now predictably muted response to the Gaza Strip’s many provocations is any indication. There is no united Palestinian cause. There hasn’t been one for a long time. The Strip’s rogue regime is an Iranian cutout, and its militaristic actions are done in service to Tehran’s strategic objectives.

Israel’s response to this unprecedented atrocity will change the complexion of the Middle East. It would be justified and within its rights to dissolve the regime in the Gaza Strip by force. Even short of that, there can no longer be an accommodation with Hamas. America has a vested interest in supporting Israel’s efforts to preserve its security and the lives of its citizens while degrading forces aligned with an anti-American regime. There will be those who think this crisis is more nuanced than all that. There are shades of grey, sprawling trans-generational grievances to account for, and regional dynamics that complicate this situation. They are wrong.

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