The way Hamas thinks leaves Israel no choice

Barry Cooper, Western Standard, November 7, 2023

During the past few weeks there has been considerable pushback against the lies, deceptions, denials and verbal rubbish regarding the responsibility of Hamas for the massacre of Israelis on October 7 as well as the deaths of Palestinian civilians following the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) response.

A lot of this discourse has been repeated in the west, particularly on university campuses and has made rational discussion of events exceedingly difficult.

To get a sensible perspective on all this, consider first whether the IDF response met the criteria for a ‘just war.’

In the ‘just-war literature’ there are two contending schools of thought.

The first insists only a defensive war can be just. Is Israel defending itself? To ask the question is to answer it.

The second interpretation contemplates the possibility of retribution as also being just. To use the formulation made by Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, retributive war is just provided it is undertaken with right intention, specifically to support the common good.

Given that Hamas initiated hostilities by committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Israelis again are conducting a just war.

In addition, Hamas might reasonably have expected a ferocious response by the IDF, which makes them responsible for the deaths of Gazans inflicted by the Israelis. That is, having instigated the IDF response Hamas are responsible for it just as they are responsible for any regional expansion of the war.

A second issue concerns a truce. To state the obvious: Israel and Hamas observed a kind of truce until October 7. Hamas broke it with their bloodthirsty rampage. They have no standing today to request another truce, and they know it.

One implication that is seldom noted but equally obvious: Hamas achieved what it wanted on October 7. They knew what they were doing.

A third issue is the desire of western governments, including the Canadian, to distinguish Hamas from the Gazans or the Palestinians more widely. The argument is that Gazan civilians do not deserve to be on the receiving end of IDF bombs, artillery, bullets and missiles.

That is why western governments have proposed a truce, cease-fire, humanitarian pause — call it what you will — that the Israelis have rejected.

The Israelis recall the inconvenient truth that in 2006 when Hamas took Gaza over, 44% of Gazans supported them. One recent poll had 57% of Gazans supporting Hamas. And Hamas has not changed its major objective: to extinguish Israel and the Jewish people. That objective is called genocide.

Hamas and their western supporters feign surprise that Israel has declared their objective is to wipe Hamas from the face of the earth, which is a far cry from contemplating Palestinian genocide.

Another question: does IDF action amount to illegal collective punishment as some critics of Israel have alleged? Get serious: that is a remarkably stupid question. War always involves collective punishment and collateral damage. Would those who emphasize such legal punctiliousness suggest that emissaries from the International Court of Justice in The Hague serve arrest warrants on the Hamas leadership relaxing in Qatar?

This is not an idle fantasy. After the attack on September 11, 2001, some deep thinkers at the Harvard Law School, of all places, proposed deputing Interpol to arrest Osama bin Laden. The current proposal may not be a fantasy, but it is certainly imbecilic.

Equally imbecilic is the narrative that Hamas are the victims. Ghazi Hamad is a senior spokesperson for Hamas. After calling for more October 7th massacres, he declared: “We are the victims of the occupation. Period. Therefore no one should blame us for the things we do…. Everything we do is justified.”

Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked, replied, “Hamas is now the armed wing of the culture of victimhood.”

The implications, again, were obvious. Hamas accepted no responsibility for either the bloodletting of October 7 or for the IDF response it triggered. O’Neill called this attitude one of “self-infantilization” and reminded his readers that it rehashed an old racist trope, that “non-white” human beings, which evidently included all Palestinians, could not be judged in terms of criminal responsibility.

The Hamas-as-victim narrative has an obvious appeal to infantilized university students. Campus activists, oozing with self-pity, claim to be in a state of permanent psychic fragility, beset on all sides by microaggressions. Like Hamas, student-victims gain instant access to the moral high ground. Thus, they blame Israel with a good conscience and in complete obliviousness to evidence. This most recent face of narcissism is uglier by far than its politically correct predecessor.

Only slightly less imbecilic is the linking of antisemitism and so-called Islamophobia as being equally worthy of condemnation. Antisemitism, hatred of Jews, has been around for a long time but there is something both new and bogus about Islamophobia. As Matthew Hennessy pointed out recently in the Wall Street Journal, fear — and Islamophobia means fear of Islam — is not the same as hate. You might quite properly be afraid of becoming a victim of Islamist terrorism, but that doesn’t mean you fear Islam. You certainly might hate the actions of those who livestreamed their butchery of Israeli families on October 7, but that does not mean you fear or hate Islam.

In fact, those who use the term are invariably on the progressive left. They do so to force the so-called Islamophobe to deny they are prejudiced, which usually ends any serious discussion. For the left, anyone afflicted with such phobias is simply unworthy of consideration.

One explanation for all these barriers to coherent discussion was made in a piece by Robert Reilly, author of The Closing of the Muslim Mind —and, full disclosure, a friend.

He recently raised the question of why so many people in the Middle East are impervious to evidence that to Westerners seems obvious. The example of the failure of a Palestinian rocket that fell into the parking lot of the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital, including the taped phone conversation of two Hamas operatives indicating that it was not Israeli, was widely ignored in the Arab media. It has not yet been corrected by CBC.

The statement by Hamas deputy secretary-general, Saleh al-Arouri, that “our mujahadeen do not target civilians” was widely accepted in the Arab media without comment despite body-camera videos taken by the Hamas killers.

Reilly attributed this and other examples of the non-recognition of reality to the widespread acceptance, particularly among Sunni Muslims, of Ash’arite theology and the work of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111). The key doctrine of the Ash’arites concerns God’s omnipresence and the problem of causality in the natural world.

The dilemma, very simply, is that if God is not the cause of everything, how can he be omnipotent? If there were natural causes, they would limit God’s freedom.

Accordingly, Ash’arites declare there are no secondary causes (as Aquinas would say), no natural causes, and thus no natural effects. Drinking does not quench your thirst, God does. Nor does decapitation cause death, and for the same reason.

Why does this sophomoric bit of dogmatic theology matter today? Because evidence matters only in a world of cause and effect. Outside the world of cause and effect, evidence is irrelevant. That is why Hamas spokespersons can utter what to our commonsensical ears sounds like rubbish bordering on gibberish. That is also why increasingly Western observers are ridiculing the remarks of Hamas spokespersons as evidence of a deep spiritual, not to say psychological, disorder.

From ordinary lies to a goofy theological dogma, the obstacles to discussion are not going away.

Barry Cooper is a professor of political science at University of Calgary and a Senior Fellow at the Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy. His book on terrorism was recovered by Seal Team Six during their visit to the Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad in May 2011.

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