After all the hatred and barbarity that has been unleashed on Israel, and the bloody response of the Israel Defense Forces that has claimed several thousand civilian victims in Gaza, can we imagine any way out of the current conflict other than the destruction of Hamas? In other words, the total crushing of its military structures and the dismantling of the politico-religious diktat it has installed in Gaza.
As we wrote in these columns the day after the attacks on 7 October (Screen Watch, n° 38, October 2023), putting Hamas out of action is not only imperative for Israel’s security, but also for the honour of the just cause of the Palestinian people, so sullied by Hamas’s bloody crimes.
As a result, the military defeat of Hamas is now a prerequisite for any new hope of peace. But peace – whatever the belligerents on both sides may think – is the only way out of the infernal cycle of hatred and violence. And whatever the eternal “peptimists” [a contraction of “optimist” and “pessimist”, taken from Emile Habibi’s novel of the same name] may say, a lasting peace, based on a solution of two viable, sovereign and peaceful states, is (and will remain) the only horizon of hope for Palestinians and Israelis alike. And when the time comes, it will be the only real alternative to perpetual conflict and endless tension.
Yes, Hamas must be destroyed, annihilated militarily and deposed politically. But no number of tanks or bombardments will be able to overcome its deadly doctrine or the fanatical ideology that it claims as its own. Only a negotiated and equitable peace can offer both Palestinians and Israelis a genuine alternative of appeasement, cohabitation and – in the long term – cooperation and (why not) brotherhood. Such a peace will have the effect of marginalising the fanatics and warmongers on both sides by putting them on the sidelines of tomorrow’s Palestinian and Israeli societies.
It certainly takes courage to wage war. But it takes even more courage to make peace, which is far more serious and painful than being entrusted to sweet pacifist dreamers. It is an extremely complex struggle, not only against others, but also (and above all) against oneself. That’s why it’s those who are most involved in the military and militant struggle who later turn out to be the builders of peace. Provided they have the political stature and high spirit to set themselves up as Statesmen capable of building a future by perceiving, even in the darkest hours, the true interests of their nations, instead of stroking the vilest impulses in the “good sense of the crowd”, as do pseudo-politicians whose minds and eyes are permanently fixed on their partisan interests and their petty careers.
And although we are aware that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is currently going through the darkest hours of its entire history, we must never despair of the emergence of an Israeli-Palestinian Mandela, who will be able to subjugate pain to bring out hope and replace hatred with fraternity.
In Arab culture, there is a magnificent proverb – and given the long and painful history of the Jewish people, I’m sure there are Hebrew equivalents -: ‘‘it is in the darkest nights that the brightest moons bloom’’!
For such hope to be possible, the international community must step up its efforts, pressure and initiatives, with Israel, the Palestinian leaders and the Arab countries, to offer the Palestinian people something other than the deadly choice between the plague of Hamas and the cholera of the faltering and corrupt Authority of the old Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel also needs to examine its conscience. Because, even if nothing can justify the horror of 7 October, it would be inevitable to ask the question: how did it come to this? And – above all – what can be done to ensure that it never happens again?
More than its adversaries or critics, Israel’s friends today have a moral duty to shake people’s consciences, by asserting, loud and clear, that we cannot rely forever on military supremacy alone. Military supremacy is (and unfortunately will remain for a long time to come) an imperative for Israel’s security and even its survival. However, being a friend of Israel also means knowing (and having to make it aware) that you cannot fight and annihilate the fanatics of the opposing camp, while putting the fanatics of your own camp in the most eminent positions of responsibility in the State. That fascists, ultra-belligerents and supremacists of all kinds must be ostracized from society or put on trial, not in ministerial cabinets. That those who maintained, in the aftermath of the barbarity of 7 October, that they were now allowed to be “cruel” not only to Hamas, but to all Gazans (on the pretext that they “did not rise up against the dictatorship of Hamas”) and all Palestinians (on the pretext that they “behave like animals that must be treated as such”), seem to be unaware that if we respond to barbarity with horror, we ourselves – without taking any notice – become contaminated by the “bestiality” that we accuse our enemy of!