During the current conflict in Gaza, there are a multitude of spokespeople for both sides. Ironically, Israel’s most capable spokespeople are often the leaders of Hamas. One example is Ismail Haniyah, the outgoing Hamas Prime Minister of Gaza. In a speech in January he said: “We shall (be)…..educating the future generation to love death… as much as our enemies love life.” The refrain that Hamas loves death more than Israel loves life is virtually the Hamas motto.
Haniyah is right; Hamas loves death. When attacking Israel, it targets Israeli civilians and celebrates their deaths. More scandalous is the disregard with which Hamas treats the lives of Palestinians. It encourages a cult of martyrdom even on children’s TV shows. This week, it has sent preteen boys with suicide belts to run at Israeli soldiers. And Hamas continually hectors Gazans to act as human shields, to protect Hamas’s weapons by endangering their own lives. Hamas has placed rockets next to schools and hospitals, in order to endanger more civilian lives. (When the Globe and Mail’s Patrick Martin visited a school in Gaza, he was shocked by the whoosh of rockets being launched right nearby.) Hamas sees the population of Gaza as cannon fodder, useful more in death than in life.
The Hamas love for death has brought about the living tragedy of Gaza. Yet some, with naïve idealism, offer “what if…?” questions about Israel’s conduct. They wonder what if Israel gave into Hamas demands? What if Israel opened all ports and borders? These writers assume that when appeased, the leaders of Hamas will turn towards peace. They forget that after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, these options were available, but instead Hamas chose to import weapons and send suicide bombers.
To understand Hamas, another set of “what if…?” questions have to be asked. What if Gaza had embarked on economic development in 2005? What if Hamas had used these concrete to build buildings instead of attack tunnels? What if Hamas had used metal to build factories instead of rockets? What if Hamas had chosen the path of peace? What would Gaza look like now? Instead of pursuing a better life for Gaza, Hamas has chosen to pursue death and destruction.
Haniyah is also correct about how much Israel loves life. He knows this personally, because in the past year both his mother in law and granddaughter were treated in Israeli hospitals. Haniyah knows that the Israeli hospitals love life and will help his close family members. One shudders to imagine what outcome would occur if any Israeli, let alone a member of the Netanyahu family, ended up in a Gaza hospital.
The Israelis love life, even the lives of Palestinian civilians. Wars conducted in heavily populated areas are profoundly tragic, and the civilian death toll in Gaza is heartbreaking. But the ethical standards the Israeli army upholds are high by any comparison. In Slate, William Saletan has pointed out how the Israeli army’s record in Gaza is superior to that of NATO forces in Kosovo, and Coalition forces in Iraq. And from the beginning of the conflict Israel has made clear her desire for a cease fire over and over again.
Israel has been forced to defend herself. I visited Israel last week, and found a country that bears the burden of war stoically but unwillingly. But there is no choice, because Hamas loves death. It shoots rockets indiscriminately at civilian centers such as Tel Aviv. Hamas officials spout vile anti-Semitism, and the 7th article of the Hamas Covenant declares that “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews)”. Hamas wannabes around the world act with the same vile hatred; in Paris alone, 8 synagogues have been attacked.
Gazans are actually sick of this Hamas charade. In a poll commissioned by the Washington Institute, a large majority of Gazans would prefer a cease fire and non-violent resistance. Most Gazans are sick of a love for death.
In Israel, when not distracted by Hamas missiles, people are loving life. Last week, seconds after taking cover from missile attacks, I was encouraged to drive by multiple new construction sites nearby. New visitors to Israel are invariably amazed at how much activity is going on: new immigrants, new companies, new buildings, and new inventions.
A few weeks ago I met with an Israeli researcher in Beersheba who may have discovered a game changer in the treatment of diabetes. (This has personal meaning for me, because my daughter has diabetes.) Even now, his team is in their lab, dodging rockets, hoping to cure diabetes. They are the polar opposite of Hamas. Hamas delights in exporting death; these scientists focus on exporting life.
This is the best argument for supporting Israel, an argument Hamas has made itself: Israel loves life, and Hamas loves death. For those who live life, the choice is simple.