In the face of Hamas’ evil, there can be no compromise. We must classify its atrocities not only as a crime against humanity but as a separate criminal category of evil.
The events of October 7 have confronted Israel with a reality it has never previously experienced and the consciousness of the Jewish people has returned to that of pogroms and annihilation. What Jews in Israel and the Diaspora are going through can be compared to the sense of victimization and persecution of the Jews in exile who were devoid of a state or protective force. The atrocities committed by Hamas have raised the bar of human monstrosity beyond the extreme boundaries of the Jewish sphere of consciousness.
After a few days of identification with Israel and sincere participation in its grief, opinion makers in the West – intellectual elites, the media, and politicians – have returned to the moral murkiness that feeds on antisemitism, blind identification with the Palestinians, political correctness and/or ideological and intellectual worship of the war against colonialism or what they identify as such.
In the face of Hamas’ evil, there can be no compromise. Israel faces a harsh reality that requires moral clarity as a condition to build determination and resilience. To ensure this, we must classify Hamas’ atrocities not only as a crime against humanity but as a separate criminal category of evil, much in the same way as happened after World War II and the Holocaust when an international court was established as part of the effort to denazify Germany and under that law Nazi criminals were hunted across the four corners of the earth and prosecuted even in their old age.
One of the goals the Israeli government set for the war which it conveyed as a political directive to the IDF and other security organizations is the destruction of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities. There is no room for casuistry. We must erase any public expression of Hamas ideology. There will be those who will continue to adhere to this ideology – and that cannot be prevented – but war must be declared on every manifestation of it.
Therefore, we must set a goal of de-Hamasification of Gaza, and later on of Judea and Samaria. Just as it took many years to cleanse Germany of the remnants of Nazi rule, we too must be ready and willing for this long and arduous task. Achieving this goal will not be easy and will require a years-long military, political and legal struggle. But if we are resolute and unwavering we shall achieve our goal. We should aspire to an internationally agreed upon, but even without such a consensus, Israel should strive to accomplish this by itself.
A law must be passed to bring Hamas members and their collaborators to justice, just like Israel’s Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law. In a legislative and propaganda effort, Israel must act to bring all Hamas prisoners of the October 7 atrocities to justice before a court of law to be tried subject to the laws of Israel. Others will be tried in absentia. The process must end with their conviction according to the law and they should be sentenced to the maximum penalty of the law – the death penalty. The magnitude of the disaster and the horror require a different legal and moral approach that will send a clear statement to Hamas, to Israel’s immediate surroundings and to the entire world that what happened on October 7 cannot happen again. This process must serve as a message of Israel’s fidelity to the sanctification of life and its absolute determination in the war against the monsters who sanctify death.
Justice also requires that the conditions of Hamas operatives held in Israeli jails must be tightened to the minimum possible level allowed by accepted norms. Israel must understand that it is engaged in a war that necessitates that it take all possible measures to convey a deterrent message. Some will say that those who sanctify death are not afraid of it and are willing to devote themselves to it with messianic sacrifice. Still, most people desire life, and the evil must be deterred. Any hope of early release from Israeli prisons before a complete sentence is served must be quashed. Israel must be tough and prevent the release of Hamas operatives before their prison term is over.
Hamas as a movement, its people, its ways and its actions cannot be judged and examined in the light of existing laws. If we desire life, then the movement and its spirit must be uprooted and eradicated. We must act with determination and in the spirit of the free world in its war against Nazism. It is not possible to eradicate ideology from hearts and minds, but it is possible to influence society as a whole. This is what happened in Germany, and this is what must happen with Palestinian society.
Without moral clarity on the Israeli side, this murderous ideological infrastructure will continue to penetrate the consciousness of broad segments of the Palestinian public and will lay the foundations for the same psychological infrastructure that gave rise to the Hamas monster that rampaged in the Gaza envelope.
JISS Policy Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.
Photo: IMAGO / Sipa USA