On 7 October Hamas jihadis launched Operation Al-Aqsa Deluge, entering Israel to kill over 1,000 people, and take more than a hundred captives, many of them women and children, as well as an unknown number of male IDF soldiers.
In scenes reminiscent of Isis atrocities, one video shows a room full of young Jewish women being held captive. Another displays the semi-naked body of a young woman – a German citizen, identified from her tattoos by her relatives – being paraded through the streets of Gaza, and spat upon by passers-by, to cries of 'Allahu Akbar'. Another video shows a jihadi hacking a man's head off using a hoe. Yet another video shows a young Jewish boy, around five years old, who had been taken captive to Gaza, being tormented by Muslim children. Israeli soldiers have reported horrific scenes in the villages where the attacks took place; young families slaughtered, babies beheaded and mutilated corpses.
Hamas has called on Muslims all over the world to come out in support, and in the light of all this horror, it is disturbing just how many voices have been raised in support of the 7 October attacks, including in Australia.
Support can take many forms, ranging from direct praise, through to indirect assertions of Palestinians' right to 'resistance', and objections that too much is being made of Jewish victimhood.
Al-Azhar University in Cairo is considered the premier Sunni center of learning in the world. Its head, Sheikh Al-Tayyeb, was quick to issue a statement to celebrate the attacks: 'The honorable Al-Azhar salutes with utmost pride the resistance efforts of the Palestinian people.'
At a Muslim street rally held in western Sydney on Sunday night after the attacks, Imam Ibrahim Dadoun, a prominent Australian-born preacher affiliated with the United Muslims of Australia, was shouting with joy, his phrases punctuated by roars of 'Allahu Akbar' from the enthusiastic crowd around him: 'I'm smiling and I'm happy. I'm elated. It's a day of courage. It's a day of happiness. It's a day of pride. It's a day of victory! This is the day we've been waiting for!'
The following day in Sydney a large crowd of protestors gathered near the Town Hall and made their way to the Opera House, chanting 'Free, Free Palestine' interspersed with chants in Arabic of: 'There is no God but Allah' and 'Allah is Greater'. Attending in solidarity were supporters from the Greens. One protestor held up a sign which stated, 'When there is apartheid, resistance is justified,' implying that the massacre was indeed justified. Another protestor explained to a journalist that, 'decolonialisation is not an easy process... it is messy'.
When the rally reached the Opera House, Israeli flags were burnt, while the crowd aggressively chanted 'Gas the Jews' and 'F–k the Jews'.
The NSW police have come under criticism for permitting this rally. Sydney Jews had been advised by the police, for their own safety, to stay away from the Opera House, which was to be lit up with the colours of Israel's flag in sympathy for the massacre victims. A lone Jewish man who was present outside the Town Hall, holding an Israeli flag, was arrested by the police for 'disturbing the peace' – later the police explained it was for his own safety – but none of the pro-Palestinian protestors were arrested. It seems the police made a decision to allow what was in fact an illegal protest to take place in order to prevent the violence that could have erupted if they had attempted to stop it.
Comments in support of Israel by Australia's leaders have angered local Muslim organisations. The Lebanese Muslim Association strongly objected to any statement that Israel has a right to defend itself. The Australian National Imams Council declared that it 'supports the Palestinian people's right of self determination' and complained about expressions of concern for the lives of Israeli Jews, stating that: people should 'avoid one-sided statements of support which ignore the Palestinian people'.
In contrast to all this, Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and its Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, have both expressed abhorrence at the attacks in Israel and upheld Israel's right to defend itself. Penny Wong, however, appalled many by urging 'restraint' on the part of the Israelis. Both also condemned the Sydney pro-Palestine rallies, as have many other Australian leaders, but notably Chris Bowen and Tony Burke, the two MPs whose electorates include high Arab populations, have remained silent. (Hamas has been classed as a terrorist organisation in Australia since 2001.)
The 7 October massacre has demonstrated to the world that Israel is engaged in an existential struggle. The international expressions of support for the Operation Al-Aqsa Deluge massacre have only served to underscore the urgency of this crucial point. But what does it really mean to have the right to defend against an existential threat?
First, this is not a struggle against all Muslims. It would be a grave mistake to conclude from the exuberant joy of some Muslims this past week that all followers of Islam support Hamas. On the contrary, the obvious repeated failures of radical Islam in our time have caused a great many Muslims to distance themselves from radical expressions of Islam. Today the majority of Iranians resent their government having made jihad Iran's top export; polls have shown that there are many in Gaza who dislike Hamas' iron rule; and in the aftermath of the Hamas massacre, many Muslims across the Middle East have taken to social media to condemn what Hamas has done.
Second, as long as Hamas holds the reins in Gaza, a negotiated peace will be impossible. This, the biggest massacre in one day of Jewish civilians since the Holocaust, has made that crystal clear. No amount of diplomacy can overcome this fact.
The Hamas military commander, Mohammad Deif, declared, on announcing Operation Al-Aqsa Deluge, 'I say to our pure mujahideen: This is the day that you make this criminal enemy understand that its time is up. Kill them wherever you may find them'. (His last phrase was quoted from the Qur'an's Verse of the Sword, Surah 9:5). In a similar vein, Hamas leader Ismail Haiyeh declared on the Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar), 'We are on the verge of victory... Get out of our Jerusalem and our Al-Aqsa Mosque... This land is ours, Jerusalem is ours, everything is ours.' Such overweening confidence is supported by a fallacy, derived from the Qur'an, that Jews love life while Muslims love death (Surah 2:94-96, 62:6). Hamas does not believe Israelis will have the courage to defeat it.
The intention of Hamas is that, confronted by the horror, Israel will be forced to meekly accept that 'its time is up'. This is not going to happen. Instead, what lies ahead is a hard, bitter war. This is not a war which can be resolved through a negotiated settlement. Hamas has shown the world, in its own bloody way, that this is a war to destroy Israel together with its people. This logic is not to be reasoned with. Israel does have the right to defend itself. It now has no choice but to make this a war to completely uproot and destroy Hamas.
Mark Durie is the founding director of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness, a Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Senior Research Fellow of the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at the Melbourne School of Theology.