Hamas's terrorist invasion of Israel on Oct. 7 left unspeakable scenes in its wake. The elderly murdered or abducted, children stolen, dead bodies desecrated, the murder of 260 young people at an Israeli rave for peace and the kidnapping of dozens more. Witnesses report that women were raped beside the bodies of their friends and then killed in turn.
Eighty years ago, such scenes were not uncommon at the edge of death pits, during ghetto liquidations and at the threshold of the gas chambers. And here we are in 2023, seeing them again, only this time in Israel.
This is a paradigm-shifting moment. After previous Hamas attacks, Israel has responded with aerial bombardment of targets in Gaza or, at most, limited ground incursions. Israel has followed this framework since Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007. But after these new atrocities, this framework can no longer stand.
Hamas has showed the world what they are: A medieval Islamist death cult with strong echoes of Nazism that seeks the destruction of Israel and the genocide of its people. The terrorists were not driven to murder, rape, desecrate, humiliate, terrorize and kidnap Israelis in the pursuit of a two-state solution. The voices that have already, predictably, called for a ceasefire and issued bland statements about two states are utterly irrelevant, nonsensical and profoundly misguided, if not purposefully malevolent.
The terrorists were driven by their fervent conviction that Palestine is theirs, from the river to the sea, and that the whole area should be Judenrein, other than perhaps a handful of quiescent and wholly powerless individuals. They believe that Palestine belongs to Islam and that the State of Israel is an affront to God, a historical aberration that can only be rectified and redeemed by the blood of martyrs. Hamas has never been shy about enunciating these views. It is their Western apologists who have tried to sell the absurd idea that Hamas believes anything else.
Israel cannot coexist with such an entity. There can be no compromise between existence and non-existence. Israel cannot respond to the murder of more than 1,000 people (the equivalent, proportionally, of more than ten 9/11s) in the old way. This can never happen again.
The only way forward is the destruction of Hamas as a political and military entity. Israel has besieged Gaza and is pummeling Hamas from the air. It must now send in ground troops to destroy Hamas root and branch. Because of the ambitious nature of this necessary military action, it will take time. This is not something that the IDF, or any military for that matter, can successfully achieve within a week or two.
Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. All Israelis left the territory. Corpses were even exhumed from Jewish cemeteries. The Palestinians could have taken the opportunity to prove that they were ready for statehood. Instead, they poured their energy and resources into building military infrastructure and sophisticated tunnel networks. Hamas has repeatedly launched rockets at Israeli population centers and provoked military responses over the 16 years it has controlled Gaza.
The situation is reminiscent of late 1970s/early 1980s Lebanon. The Palestine Liberation Organization, ensconced in a state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon after attempting to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy in Sept. 1970, launched several terrorist attacks into Israel, including taking more than 100 children hostage and killing 22 of them in Ma'alot. After an assassination attempt on the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1982, Israel had enough.
The IDF invaded Lebanon with the aim of destroying the PLO's infrastructure. It was successful, and Yasser Arafat and his cronies fled to Tunis, where they were for all intents and purposes exiled and forgotten until Israel invited them to negotiate the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s.
This could serve as a template for the IDF in 2023. This time around, it will be much more difficult, given the weaponry and training Hamas can bring to bear and the cooperation it enjoys with a terrorist state (Iran) and an organization that is effectively a terrorist state (Iranian-controlled Hezbollah).
But Israel has no choice.
There is no alternative but to bring Hamas to its knees, the way the Allied forces brought Nazi Germany to its knees during World War II. Anything less would be a strategic failure and a recipe for more horrors in the future.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum.