Rob Schwarzwalder | The Washington Stand
Justice in the conduct of war has been a moral concern for millennia. Aristotle discussed “war that is by nature just” and, centuries later, the great church father Augustine of Hippo declared that war could only be called just if it had “the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” Paul the apostle warned the Roman Christians, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
Although Paul’s command dealt with personal relationships, its application to warfare is clear: Avenging a wrong is never right. On this basis, then, does Israel have a just cause in its war against Hamas? Certainly, without question. For Israel not to seek to destroy Hamas, a terrorist organization whose sole purpose in being is the destruction of the Jewish state, would be to leave Israel’s people prey to the group’s next attack.
The most pressing issue is not Israel’s right of well-justified self-defense but her conduct in the war on Hamas. For example, Israel’s airstrike on Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, which killed one of Hamas’s military captains, also killed scores, if not hundreds, of civilians. Although the exact count is in dispute, there is no question that thousands of women, children, elderly, and otherwise non-combatant people have been killed as Israel has sought to eradicate Hamas.
No one should try to justify indiscriminate killing. The severity of Israel’s military actions can and should be scrutinized, and the United States is right to call on Israel to avoid killing anyone not affiliated with Hamas or one of the other terrorist organizations in Gaza.
While acknowledging this, it’s vital to realize what Israel is up against. According to Israeli Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, “Hamas has turned hospitals into command and control centers and hideouts for Hamas terrorists and commanders.” As proof, Hagari has offered “photographs, diagrams and audio recordings he said showed how Hamas was using the hospital system and Al Shifa Hospital in particular to hide a variety of command posts and entry points into the extensive tunnel network under Gaza.”
Similarly, Hamas is using “an extensive labyrinth of tunnels” that “stretches across the densely populated (Gaza) strip, hiding fighters, their rocket arsenal and over 200 hostages.” The Associated Press notes that “Clearing and collapsing those tunnels will be crucial if Israel seeks to dismantle Hamas” but that this would involve “fighting in densely populated urban areas.” In sum, Hamas is using innocent civilians, including hospitalized women and children, as shields against the Israeli Defense Force.
It is difficult to overstate the evil of Hamas. The group is anti-Semitism incarnate, infused with irrational hate and addicted to brutality. While some calls for a ceasefire are driven by a desire to see an end to civilian casualties, others simply want to end the conflict so that a weakened and still-reeling Israel can be compelled to make concessions that might jeopardize its very existence. Not to exterminate Hamas would be to allow a venomous serpent to recoil into the grass, biding time for its next strike.
And while Israel must proceed with moral caution, those accusing Israel of war crimes are deathly quiet about the blood caked onto the hands of Hamas, blood not only of those Jews slaughtered since October 7 but also of thousands of Gazan innocents behind whose lives the Islamist thugs are hiding.
A NATO report issued in 2014 states flatly that Hamas “has been using human shields in conflicts with Israel since 2007.” The study continues that “Hamas relies on the Israeli government’s aim to minimize collateral (non-combatant) damage” and moderates “their own vulnerabilities by limiting the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) freedom of action. It is also aimed at gaining diplomatic and public opinion-related leverage, by presenting Israel and the IDF as an aggressor that indiscriminately strikes civilians.”
Like a cancer hidden in the body, Hamas uses the people of Gaza merely as protection, human beings as a form of armor. This is not the action of courageous resistance but cynical weakness. Hamas’s malevolence is compounded by its cowardice. So while Israel’s armed forces must do all they can to avoid killing the innocent, crushing Hamas must remain non-negotiable.
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer in Regent University’s Honors College.
SOURCE: THE WASHINGTON STAND