Hamas attack was a historic war crime that cannot be explained away by Western apologists – Scotsman comment

Our sympathies should lie with all Palestinians and Israelis who support the cause of peace – and not its enemies like Hamas

The mass murder of hundreds of innocent civilians cannot be justified on any grounds whatsoever. What Hamas did in its surprise attack on Israel was not the opening act of a war but a war crime of the most horrific proportions.

They must, therefore, be defeated and Israel has no option but to launch a military operation to do so. Hamas knew this and went ahead anyway. Not only are they willing to kill and be killed, they are also content to see fellow Palestinians pay the price for their crimes. As a terrorist organisation, its members will be blending in among the civilian population, making it hard for a traditional military attack to succeed in its aims of destroying Hamas’s ability to stage further attacks.

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So more innocent people are going to die over the next days and weeks as Israeli forces respond. “The price the Gaza Strip will pay will be a very heavy one,” Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant said, grimly.

In this case, the main rationale – apart from Hamas’s descent into a death cult – appears to be to wreck peace talks, particularly the prospect of a deal involving Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently expressed hopes of a “historic peace”, while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman had said that “every day we get closer” to an agreement.

That progress towards what could have been an important accord is unlikely to continue. The Saudi government’s response after Saturday’s attack was to blame Israel, saying it was “a result of the continued occupation and deprivation of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights”. This will be music to the ears of Hamas, which may hope to spark a regional conflict. US Navy ships sent to the eastern Mediterranean are designed to be a visible deterrent to that threat.

While Israel has little other choice but to attempt to defeat Hamas, the looming invasion will also play into the latter’s strategy. This is the terrorists’ trap: kill people at random in the name of a cause, religion or group in order to provoke a backlash which then encourages other members of that group to join the terrorists’ ranks and commit further such acts. It is a spiral of violence that can eventually force everyone to pick a side.

Even in distant Scotland, this urge to choose sides has proved strong. Scottish Green MSP Maggie Chapman’s decision to blame Israel for the actions of Hamas terrorists was one of the more shocking. In doing so, she dismissed the humanity of innocent murder victims, failing to put herself in the shoes of, for example, a young person shot down while fleeing from the Supernova music festival.

Equally, we must also empathise with innocent Palestinians in Gaza, whose situation has long been unacceptable. The plight of Humza Yousaf’s mother and father in law, from Dundee, who are trapped in Gaza after going to visit his father-in-law’s 92-year-old mother, may help some do this. “They’re being told by the Israeli authorities to leave Gaza, because Gaza will effectively be obliterated, but they’ve got nowhere to go,” he said.

The problems that have prevented a lasting peace in the Middle East will not be solved by the killers of Hamas or their apologists. From afar, probably the best we can do is to avoid falling into Hamas’s trap, refuse their attempt to limit our choices, and seek to side with all those Israelis and Palestinians who recognise each others’ shared humanity and that every life is precious. It should not need to be said, but those who murder hundreds of innocent people are the enemies of peace.



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