The International Court of Justice is now hearing a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of “grave violence and genocidal acts.” Those charges are both achingly obvious and irrelevant to the legal definition of genocide.
As long as there is no intent to commit genocide, then Israeli military actions taken to disable Hamas from committing further atrocities, as their leadership promised to do, is justified even though the same acts, with intent, would be genocidal.
Notwithstanding the calls and leaflets from the Israel Defense Forces to provide some measure of direction for the hapless population, the real question of intent can only be determined if Hamas were to release the 133 hostages and surrender. If Israel continued its military campaign once the threat of Hamas were eliminated, that would be genocidal. Until then, Israel’s Defense Minister makes the reasonable claim that without military pressure Hamas will not release those hostages.
Israel has a political obligation to its citizens and a moral obligation to humanity to not allow Hamas’ illegal and immoral exploitation of international laws to deprive Israel of her ability to defend herself. Israel targets hospitals, schools, and mosques because Hamas camouflages its military infrastructure with Gazan civilian infrastructure. Those who argue that Hamas’ terrorist tactics do not justify the mass murder of Palestinian civilians are naïve children of light (Luke 16:8) who enjoy the luxury of selectively loving their neighbors from a safe distance.
Once we agree that Israel has a moral duty to eliminate the threat that Hamas poses to its existence, there are no redlines. If it’s between “damned if we do and dead if we don’t,” that’s not a choice.
It’s not a choice for any country. October 7 was proportionately more deadly than 10 9/11s. Furthermore, under the guise of championing Palestinian rights, Hamas’s prurient predators defiled Israeli women with a depravity that will stain Islam forever. The barrages of missiles from both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which have intermittently overwhelmed Israel’s missile defense systems, continue daily. And then there are the Shi’ite militias, backed by Iran, who are probing Israel’s borders for weaknesses. Thirty years ago, Professor Samuel Huntington wrote that “Islam has bloody borders.” Given Israel’s borders with fundamentalist Islamists, a baby aspirin is contraindicated.
Most Israelis had been hopeful that Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 would result in a peace even warmer than that which Israel had previously achieved with Egypt and Jordan. Hamas, however, dedicated to the destruction of Israel, has proven an implacable neighbor.
Alas, the devastation of October 7 and its aftermath are crushing for all involved. Many are ashamed by the reports of the mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners and, worse, vigilante justice in the West Bank. Many are aghast at the wholesale destruction of large swaths of Gaza. Many seek the downfall of the current government on whose watch this calamity befell. But nothing about how Israel prosecutes this war, or which international bodies pressure Israel, will change the necessity of neutralizing Hamas.
Jews know what genocide is. Those in the Warsaw Ghetto couldn’t have surrendered to save their lives because what the Nazis were perpetrating was genocide. Hamas, however, has the power to stop, immediately, the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza and remove all barriers to desperately needed aid to the Gazans. But the fact that Hamas, even now, especially now, remains unwilling to release the hostages is yet another signal that they are dedicated to the elimination of Israel rather than the wellbeing of the Palestinians. No international forum should interfere with the necessary self-defense of a state. Such a precedent invites future exploitation.
Hamas’s Charter is explicit about their intention to destroy Israel. Their pogrom on October 7 joined act to intent. Israel is waging a war of survival against a genocidal, Islamist regime. The war is both devastating and asymmetric, but Israel’s intention is self-defense and deterrence, not genocide. To apply pressure on Israel for a cease-fire rather than on Hamas to release its hostages and surrender corroborates Israel’s raison d’être: Jews can depend only on themselves to survive.
Israel has made peace with Egypt, Jordan, and most recently the countries participating in the Abraham Accords. Peace is possible when both parties want their own people to live more than they want their enemies to die. Israel awaits a Palestinian partner for peace.