The most recent Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians have shocked the civilized world. Terrorists went house to house hunting Jews, murdering them, kidnapping them, and setting houses on fire. Hamas massacred more than 100 Israelis at Kibbutz Be'eri alone. The total death toll, as of this writing, is more than 900 Israelis murdered.
It is impossible not to conclude that Oct. 7, 2023, was the darkest day in Israeli history. It marked the largest loss of Jewish life in one day since the Holocaust.
When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the Palestinians could have chosen a peaceful route. Instead, Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, decided to turn the territory into a warren of terror tunnels, focusing more on the procurement and development of rockets than the needs of Gaza residents. Hamas, a genocidally antisemitic organization intent on Israel's destruction, is more interested in terrorizing Israel than it is in Gazans' welfare. In July of this year, thousands of dissatisfied Gazans took to the streets to protest Hamas's poor governance.
There is no possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians so long as Hamas remains in power.
Previous Israeli operations, launched in response to Hamas rocket fire, have consisted of aerial strikes in Gaza and short-lived ground assaults. After the horrific attacks of Oct. 7, this strategy of keeping terror at bay will no longer work. Israeli policy should follow the statement of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant: "This phenomenon will not continue. We will change reality on the ground in Gaza for the next 50 years. What was before will be no more. We will operate at full force."
It is imperative that Israel undertake a campaign to cripple Hamas's ability to wage war and its capacity to govern. The United States should support Israel in its efforts to extirpate Hamas and prevent efforts to impose premature ceasefires and other interventions that will inevitably crop up.
It must be emphasized that Hamas does not operate in a vacuum, nor do its funds appear from thin air. Hamas's rule is underwritten to a large extent by Qatar, the tiny, oil-rich sheikhdom in the Persian Gulf, among others. Beginning in 2018, Qatar delivered funds in cash to Gaza to the tune of $30 million a month. Per an arrangement reached in May 2021, after a conflict between Israel and Hamas, Qatar began to send fuel (valued at between $7-$10 million per month) to Gaza via Egypt, freeing funds for Hamas from the proceeds of resale.
These were used to pay Hamas government salaries as well as to aid poor Gazans, but it is likely that a significant majority wound up financing terrorist activities. Qatar also pledged $500 million to help rebuild Gaza.
Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's leader, resides in Doha, Qatar's capital. So, too, does Khaled Mashal, who preceded Haniyeh as the terrorist organization's leader and now serves as his second-in-command. Khalil al-Hayyah, who had served as the deputy of Yahya Sinwar (Hamas's leader in Gaza), also decamped to Doha. Other leading Hamas officials live in Qatar as well.
Qatar is unsavory in other ways, bribing FIFA for the honor of hosting the 2022 World Cup and then using slave labor to build the necessary stadiums in the brutal desert heat. The family of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist who was executed by ISIS, alleged in a federal lawsuit in 2022 that Qatar Charity and Qatar National Bank had wired $800,000 to the ISIS official who ordered the beheading of Sotloff and James Foley, another American journalist.
Like Iran, Qatar blamed Israel entirely for Hamas's onslaught. Qatar's foreign ministry stated, "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds Israel solely responsible for the ongoing escalation due to its ongoing violations of the rights of the Palestinian people, the latest of which was the repeated incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli police."
The canard about the Al-Aqsa Mosque is straight out of the Hamas propaganda playbook, following in the footsteps of the ferociously pro-Nazi Palestinian leader Amin al-Husseini. The terrorist attacks of Oct. 7 were conducted under the name "Operation Al-Aqsa Flood." Qatar's pro-Hamas stance couldn't be clearer.
The Biden administration designated Qatar a major non-NATO ally in 2022. Congress should persuade the administration to take the opposite tack and designate Qatar as a state sponsor of terrorism, as well as pressure the Qatari government to extradite Hamas commanders to face justice. The blood of the victims of this week's terrorist attacks cries out for no less.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum.