According to the International Court of Justice, the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council, Israel has illegally controlled Gaza for many years. The Palestinian people live under what is effectively a military suppression in which Israel denies freedom of movement and self-determination to Palestinians. This situation is reminiscent of what American colonists faced from Great Britain before 1776 and what Native Americans faced from the United States. Resistance from the colonists and the Native Americans was called terrorism by the conquerors.
Whatever one may think of Hamas, that is, evil terrorists or patriotic resistance fighters, it is probably incorrect to believe they are stupid. They surely knew they could not defeat the fourth most powerful military, one with jets, tanks and nuclear weapons, with missiles, pick-up trucks and automatic weapons. In fact, the attack of October 7, 2023 lasted one day. So why do it?
Twelve hundred Israelis were killed but that led to 11,000 Palestinian deaths over a month and a half, so far, and the destruction of much of Gaza. Such a response was surely anticipated. The attack by Hamas appears to have been an irrational, nihilistic act of savagery, a hopeless self-destructive reaction to generations of suppression and denial of human rights.
All peoples, including Israelis and Palestinians are entitled to defend themselves and strike back at those who attack them. The defense should be specific to the attackers. For example, Custer may have had a legitimate mission of protecting settlers, but his massacre of Chief Black Kettle’s tribe at the Washita River in western Oklahoma on November 27, 1868 did not target renegade warriors but non-combatants. What Israel is doing in Gaza is illegal collective punishment, not revenge specifically against Hamas.
So, what to do? As with most solutions to difficult problems, first one should stop the behavior that is causing the damage. The United Nations, particularly the United States and Great Britain who were most responsible for creating and sustaining Israel, should enforce a ceasefire. Then massive amounts of human relief such as water, food, shelter and medical care, should be provided. A cooperative organization of international United Nations peacekeepers, investigators and courts should ferret out the members of Hamas responsible for October 7 and bring them to justice and determine and prosecute any war crimes committed by Israel.
A re-building of Gaza’s infrastructure should begin and a formal long-term goal of a true two-state solution should be instituted. In other words, first stop the bleeding then bandage the wounds then rehabilitate both Israel and Palestine with a view toward a real and permanent peace. Are these things immensely difficult, yes. Impossible, maybe. But what is the alternative? And after all, that was the guarantee when Israel was created out of Palestine on the basis of the Balfour Declaration in 1914:
“…[I]t being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine …”