Hamas murderers’ plans won’t play out as they hope
Gaza strip on fire

Hamas has lost control of events after its mass murders & abductions. That's a sliver of good amidst horrific tragedy and suffering.

Written by

Michael Shoebridge

Hamas terrorists entered Israel on Saturday with two goals: to kill as many Israelis as possible and to abduct large numbers to be used as hostages, human shields and victims of later atrocities.

The death toll so far from this is over 900 Israelis and over 600 Palestinians and Hamas terrorists.  The numbers of dead and injured will rise on both sides, particularly Palestinians, as will the destruction in Gaza, as Hamas knew, hoped and planned. Some 150 people – mostly Israeli citizens but likely to include other nationalities like EU citizens and US citizens have been abducted by Hamas to be used as hostages, human shields and victims of abuse for propaganda purposes.

Why did Hamas leaders plan and order this large scale murdering and hostage taking?  One answer is because attacks like this are the reason for Hamas’ existence and the simple logic of a terrorist organisation. 

The other is that the war that will flow from this is likely to reignite support in ‘the Arab street’ for Hamas, Palestinians and also reignite hatred for Israel.  Early signs are that this part of Hamas plan is going well – ‘victory’ celebrations have happened in countries in the Middle East and even in Berlin and New York, with pro-Palestinian groups cheering Hamas’ killings and other atrocities.

Hamas feared the rapprochement between Israel and Middle Eastern countries like the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia that was being brought about by a growing realisation of the common danger from Iran and its terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah.  It also feared the decades long slow loss of support for Palestinian issues because of the failure to move beyond insistence on support to the Palestinian cause without any coherent plan to change outcomes.

The terrorist rampage changes this trajectory in one big way in the short term: it prevents Saudi Arabia from moving to establish diplomatic relations with Israel and cooperate more closely on security in the face of Iranian power and aggression. 

That’s because a leader like Mohammed bin Salman was willing to work with Israel knowing it wasn’t popular with his population, but he cannot make these same moves when the Saudi population is celebrating Hamas’ killings of Israelis and calling for an end to the state of Israel.

So, narrowly, Hamas has achieved its objective.  But it does not control events from here – and those are almost certain to result in an even more weakened and damaged Gaza strip with less capacity to deliver basic life needs for its population of 2.3 million people. 

In the immediate term – the days and weeks ahead, the Gaza population will suffer enormous consequences from Hamas’ acts, with Israeli military force being used at a scale and tempo inside Gaza that will bring large scale destruction to infrastructure, buildings and any place that can be associated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the supply chains and systems that enable them. 

And Israeli military force is likely to be used more heavily and often in Gaza after the initial period of war ends. Interactions between Gaza and the Israeli economy will be constricted and controlled at a level far beyond that of recent years. And interaction between Israel and the West Bank will also contract. 

None of this will help lessen the suffering of the Palestinian population, but it is likely to further radicalise an already violent youth demographic. 

There will be an inquiry into the reasons that Israeli security and intelligence agencies failed to identify preparations for the attack, but this will happen after much of the conflict that has begun has ended.

So, Hamas creating insecurity for Israeli will result mainly in a greater depth of suffering for the Palestinian population Hamas says it stands for.  And Hamas’ acts will only increase the influence of parties in Benyamin Netanyahu’s coalition who want more extreme security measures and restrictions on Palestinian territories. Many Israelis who want to reduce the insecurity inside Israel that results from these attacks will now support such measures.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are almost certain to make brutal and horrific use of the many Israelis they have abducted and who they will use as hostages, human shields and victims of torture and abuse.  I hope for the safe rescue and return of all of these hostages – and expect this to be a primary goal of the Israeli government’s actions from here.

Already in media in Australia and other countries, airtime is being given to Palestinian spokespeople who quickly move the conversation beyond the large scale murders and atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists and retail their lines of Palestinian suffering as a justification for horrific terrorism against children, women, the elderly and anyone else that Hamas could kill or kidnap.

This is a mistake.  There is no ‘balance’ here where the Hamas narrative deserves airtime and equal legitimacy. The 9/11 terrorists who flew planes full of innocents into two office towers in America also had their narrative of victimhood – but they were also simply terrorist murderers. I don’t recall them or their apologists or boosters getting a right of reply in media outside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan at the time.

I expect to hear people wrapping themselves in virtue by making a light reference to the Hamas mass killings and then moving quickly on to expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and condemning past Israeli actions against them.

As Melbourne academic Robert Horvath has said: ‘No political myth is more pernicious than the idea that revolutionaries and freedom-fighters can do no wrong. For over century, a parade of enlightened intellectuals have abdicated their moral judgment and whitewashed progressive atrocities in the name of ‘solidarity.’ 

We have seen this all before with ‘progressive’ supporters of Stalin and Mao in the face of their atrocious crimes against their own people, and we see it now with pro-Beijing voices who discount the Chinese Communist Party’s abuses of dissidents, Uyghurs and any other group that could be a centre of independent influence. 

Mass murder and revelling in atrocity is not a path to peace. Hamas and its Iranian backers have unleashed consequences that are leading to the death of thousands and the deeper suffering of millions.

I can have no sense of solidarity with that. I can and do support the Israeli government’s right to act against Hamas and its enabling infrastructure in Gaza and to protect Israel from both it and Lebanon-based Hezbollah.  As it does so, there will be deaths and suffering, including Israeli military casualties and Palestinian and Israeli civilians. 

The end point is likely to be a militarily successful Israel facing a diminished and damaged Hamas – and Hezbollah should it see now as an opportune moment to join the conflict.  In a strategic sense, this result will strengthen Israel’s role as a key security power in the Middle East and provide continued momentum for other states to work with it to face the challenge from Iran and its proxies.

I’m encouraged that these longer term outcomes are not the ones Hamas’ murderers planned.

None of this brings a secure or prosperous future to the Palestinian people – which is something that those cheering Hamas on might contemplate.

A version of this article was first published by Defence Connect