The Case for a Ceasefire in Gaza Ignores the Facts About Hamas by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz (’10)

November 1, 2023

by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz (YCT ’10) for Newsweek

Over the past three weeks I’ve been hearing a common refrain from fellow Jews committed to social justice: It’s lonely. Dara Horn said it well: “There is a reason so many Jews cannot stop shaking right now.”

Normally, those of us active in social justice work make all kinds of friends, including allies who are partners in supporting our work for immigrants, unhoused individuals, victims of racism, and many others.

However, in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Israel that left more than 1,400 murdered and more than 230 people held hostage, led to the evacuation of more than 130,000 civilians, and called the entire country into war, our progressive neighbors have most frequently been, at best, silent, or worse, actively working against the cause of the Jewish people. Some are even blaming Jews for the massacre that fell upon them. Amid a massive global spike in antisemitism, we’re witnessing people purporting to be on the side of justice sometimes labeling Hamas’s attacks as legitimate or noble resistance. We even regularly hear irresponsible rhetoric claiming Israel is engaged in genocide. David Brooks recently wrote:

A group of highly educated American progressives cheered on Hamas as anti-colonialist freedom fighters even though Hamas is a theocratic, genocidal terrorist force that oppresses LGBTQ people and revels in the massacres of innocents. These campus activists showed little compassion for Israeli men and women who were murdered at a music festival because they were perceived as “settlers” and hence worthy of extermination. Many progressives called for an immediate cease-fire, denying Israel the right to defend itself, which is enshrined in international law—as if Nigeria should have declared a cease-fire the day after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls in 2014.

The worst non-violent pro-Palestine protests are ill-informed and malicious. But they often make a demand that can sound reasonable: a ceasefire. Those calling for one make a strong point: we must acknowledge the suffering of civilians in Gaza. They’ve had to flee their homes, and many have died or have been injured. In the eyes of those calling for a ceasefire, the damage already caused by Israel in response to Hamas’ initial attack is unjustified and perhaps even amounts to war crimes, for in attacking Gaza, Israel acts not to defend itself, they claim, but to seek revenge.

Those who make these arguments appear unwilling to take a hard look at Hamas, its ideology, and the atrocities it has perpetrated. If they were to do so, they would recognize that a ceasefire could only lead to greater peace if it were able to bring about a diplomatic process that would end in Hamas’ moderation or removal from power. However, Hamas’ long history of brutality, culminating in the events that took place on Oct. 7, prove that no such a thing is possible and that a ceasefire would achieve little more than providing Hamas a chance to rearm.

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