Guest columnist Jay Fleitman: Can’t leave Hamas intact

People inspect damage and remove items from their homes following Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Khan Yunis, Gaza.

People inspect damage and remove items from their homes following Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Khan Yunis, Gaza. AHMAD HASABALLAH/GETTY IMAGES/TNS


Published: 04-15-2024 4:37 PM


The editorial space of this newspaper is replete with demands for a cease-fire in Gaza, and similar demands have been made by the governing bodies of Northampton and Amherst. This really is a “demand” for the Israelis to unilaterally stop their military activities, as Hamas fighters are hiding in the schools and hospitals and among the civilians of Gaza.

The initiation of this paroxysm of violence was the October attack by Hamas that killed 1,200 civilian Jews, including babies, families, and women who had been raped; 250 more were kidnapped and abducted into Gaza. The fighters of Hamas reportedly numbered about 30,000 before this war.

From Wikipedia on the charter statement of Hamas: “The charter defines the struggle to be against the Jews and calls for the eventual creation of an Islamic Palestinian state in all of former Mandatory Palestine, and the obliteration or dissolution of Israel”; hence, “from the river to the sea.” From Claudine Gay, past president of Harvard: “Our community must understand that phrases such as ‘from the river to the sea’ bear specific historical meanings that to a great many people imply the eradication of Jews from Israel and engender both pain and existential fears.” 

The state of Israel, recognizing that an army of fighters, dedicated to the destruction of the nation of Israel as well as its people, was sitting on its border and was no longer going to be restrained from murder, had to respond. The response is not for revenge, but is for national survival, and it’s one that requires the elimination of this large hostile fighting force.

An analogy to the Allied response in World War II is appropriate. As led by President Harry Truman, it was the goal of the war effort to eliminate the fighting capabilities of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan at the end of the war. It was to this end that an Allied invasion of Japan was planned, with an estimated loss of 1 million on each side. To prevent those massive losses, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place, with the accompanying losses of civilian lives.

Similarly, to break the Nazis’ fighting capabilities, Berlin and the industrial city of Dresden were bombed by Allied forces, with considerable civilian losses.

The Allies were not going to end hostilities while leaving behind Nazi or Japanese Imperial fighting capabilities. The Israelis estimate that as many as 20,000 Hamas fighters remain in the Gazan city of Rafah. Should the Israelis be expected to leave behind and intact a large murderous fighting force bent on the destruction of Israel?

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There has been the horrible loss of civilian life in Gaza. The pro-Palestinian supporters who fill these pages with their missives want to indict the Israelis with the responsibility for these losses. However, it is Hamas that bears this burden.

It is Hamas that siphoned off aid meant for the support of the Palestinian population to build the Hamas military infrastructure and armaments. It is Hamas that filled obstetrical wards and schools with weaponry that put the civilian populations at risk. It is Hamas that buried its underground headquarters under hospitals and U.N. aid facilities. It is Hamas that keeps its remaining army entwined with the civilian population of Rafah, putting that population at risk because it knows that the Israelis will actually hesitate with reference to indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

It is Hamas that seems to care little about its own people only so it can survive to pursue its violence in the future.

Errors do occur in war, and I’m sure that the recent bombing of aid workers was such a mistake. However, the pro-Palestinian organizations will use this and anything else it can drum up as propaganda trying to force what is actually not a cease-fire, but an Israeli surrender of its goal to eliminate the hostile Hamas army.

To those pro-Palestinian supporters, especially my fellow Jews who live comfortably in the U.S. without the risk of hostiles out to destroy you as they are in Israel, what do you reasonably expect this small nation to do when confronted by a vicious army that is willing to indiscriminately slaughter and rape 1,200 of your people, and that is dedicated to destroying your people in the future? Would you have left the Nazi army in place because they were camped in civilian centers, refusing to surrender?

Jay Fleitman lives in Northampton.