With 1,300 Israeli Jews slaughtered and nearly 200 taken hostage, what’s more infuriating: that critics presume to tell Jerusalem how to conduct a war and run its government or that their views are shaped by blind ignorance and naïve hope?
To its critics in America, Israel’s next steps are straightforward. Yes, hunt down Hamas, but don’t let innocent Palestinians die, shelve a judicial reform plan that offends us, and make peace with the Palestinians.
The right path must seem obvious to those who don’t recall (or weren’t alive) when 3,000 deaths on 9/11 shook us to our core, uniting us amid calls across the political spectrum that Washington do whatever it must (with no caveats attached) to prevent another attack. And that call to action came after just one attack from afar — and not, as in Israel, after relentless attacks across the border since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and Hamas seized control of it from the Palestinian Authority in a violent coup in 2007.
The right path must seem even more obvious now that we Americans no longer fear another 9/11 — and that, unlike Israel, we don’t live with genocidal terrorist groups on two borders; a nearby regime (in Tehran) that funds, arms, and directs them; other nations in a turbulent region that remain at war with us; and a global community that focuses undue attention on our imperfections.
Critics concede that “Israel has a right to defend itself” (words that demean the Jewish state because they’re simply assumed about other countries rather than having to be voiced), but they also say in defending itself, Israel should take only “proportionate” action, lest it ignite another “cycle of violence” — i.e., anti-Israeli terror for which critics will later blame Jerusalem for responding.
Do Israel’s knee-jerk critics have open minds? Are they willing to view the slaughter of October 7 and Jerusalem’s response in the context of larger realities? If so, here are three myths for them to revisit:
Myth #1: Hamas’ terror was driven by Israeli policy. Hamas and others say the group attacked because of violence between Jews and Muslims at Jerusalem’s holy al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel’s blockade of Gaza, and growing Israeli settlements on the West Bank. But those are convenient ways for a group dedicated to Israel’s destruction to blame Israel for bringing the carnage upon itself.
Hamas — which emerged out of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1987 — is motivated not by timely controversies but by underlying ideology. It doesn’t recognize Israel, seeks to replace it with a Palestine “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea,” mounts frequent attacks against the Jewish state and hides within Gaza’s dense civilian population to boost death numbers when Israel responds. In its attack of October 7, Hamas (and its sponsor, Iran) likely wanted to derail more Arab-Israeli peace, especially Israeli-Saudi talks over what could be a paradigm-shifting “normalization” agreement.
Myth #2: The Palestinian Authority is moderate. It may be moderate compared to Hamas, but not in any other way. Those who view the organization as an enthused partner for Israeli-Palestinian peace — and who see Jerusalem as the big impediment to peace — are ignoring some ugly reality.
Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s 87-year-old autocratic ruler who has blocked presidential elections since he won a four-year term in 2005, won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state, praises Palestinian terrorists as “martyrs” who “lit the way to freedom and independence with their blood,” and peddles anti-Semitic tropes.
Abbas won’t end payments to families of dead or imprisoned Palestinian terrorists — payments that rise as attacks grow deadlier, and that comprise 8% of the PA’s budget. His spokespeople accuse Israel of killing civilians, then praise these supposed “civilians” as “martyred jihad fighters.”
Myth #3: Most Palestinians want peace with Israel. Actually, public opinion sampling shows that most want peace without Israel. Just a third of Palestinians support a two-state solution, according to recent polling, and nearly 60% support attacks against Israelis. Maybe that’s because Palestinians are fed a steady diet of Jew-hatred.
Palestinian textbooks incite hatred of and violence against Israel. Preschoolers dress in military uniforms, hold prop guns, perform drills, stomp on Israel’s flag, and celebrate the “surrender” of Israeli soldiers. High school students perform plays in which they point guns at religious Jews, who are blindfolded and on their knees. The Palestinian Authority provides military training to teens who pledge “to be loyal to Palestine and to work to liberate it.” Sheiks urge violence, and political and terror groups call for more on social media.
Israel’s not perfect, far from it. But here are a few inconvenient truths for critics to ponder in the difficult days ahead:
Israel did not bring the terror upon itself. It will do its best to minimize civilian deaths while Hamas will try to maximize them. Palestinian leaders have rejected several serious Israeli offers over the years for a state of their own. And they continue to incite a hate that will make peace increasingly elusive.
Lawrence J. Haas, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, is the author, most recently, of “The Kennedys in the World: How Jack, Bobby, and Ted Remade America’s Empire,” from Potomac Books.