Jim Hanson, chief editor of the Middle East Forum (MEF) and author of Winning the Second War: Without Firing a Shot and Cut Down the Black Flag: A Plan to Defeat ISIS, spoke to an October 30 Middle East Forum Webinar (video) in an interview with Benjamin Baird, director of MEF Action. The following is a summary of their comments:
Although the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operate in accordance with international treaties and the Geneva Conventions, the media and international left spread misinformation by lying about lawful operations and accusing Israel of engaging in "occupation" and indiscriminate killing of civilians. Because all of Gaza is a "large armed terrorist encampment" under Hamas control, shutting off services in a siege is the "proper way" to conduct an offensive, not a war crime.
Democratic congressional progressives like Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota accuse Israel of "war crimes" for its use of "white phosphorus," misrepresented as a "chemical weapon," in civilian areas. White phosphorus is a "smoke and obscurant agent" that was used to screen troops from snipers as IDF commandos tried to rescue hostages. "It is one hundred percent legal and absolutely not a war crime." [Ed: White phosphorus was occasionally used by U.S. troops in Iraq as an incendiary weapon to dislodge entrenched enemy fighters. It is a conventional munition and not a chemical weapon under international law.]
Israel's response to October 7 had not even begun before accusations of "disproportionality" were leveled against it in order to inflame world opinion and limit the IDF. The laws of land warfare stipulate that "if you are attacking a military target, you can only use the amount of force proportional to the value of defeating that military target." "The media and the international left," acting as apologists for Hamas's savage butchery of October 7, have claimed that because Hamas's terror attack was "small," Israel is limited to a similarly sized response.
This is absurd. Following Hamas's "indiscriminate horrific slaughter" of well over a thousand Israeli citizens, Israel defined its military objective as: "The removal of Hamas as an operational entity in Gaza – period." The Jewish state is entitled to determine the necessary force to accomplish its objective. Hamas bears responsibility for forcing civilians to remain in harm's way, and "their blood is on the hands of those terrorists." Hamas's "strategic objectives are to get civilians killed" by using them as human shields behind "legitimate terrorist targets." The crime is Hamas's, not the IDF's.
Anyone who receives a Hamas report of numbers killed, be they civilians or fighters, should understand that the terrorists lie to further their "propaganda." The dissemination of information from Gaza is entirely under Hamas's control. Furthermore, the public is not privy to Israeli planning and therefore may be unaware of the reasons the IDF attacks a particular site. Much of the information credulously reported by the media is "one hundred percent false."
Israel is held to strict international standards, while Hamas flouts all standards in its single-minded goal of killing Jews. Although urban fighting and tunnel warfare pose formidable challenges for the IDF, an equally great challenge is the "fallout in the information war." Countering the campaign of "large established misinformation, disinformation propaganda network[s] operated by the major media outlets, the UN, by the transnational organizations" is a task for "civilized nations" to wage against those who believe the victim is the aggressor. The evidence of the power of these disinformation networks can be seen in the litany of voices who succumb to anti-Israel "propaganda campaigns" calling for a ceasefire to stay the IDF's hand.
The leftists in the Biden administration's foreign policy establishment "hate the idea that a nation can put its own individual interests above the globalist ideal." Although they hector Israel to "exercise restraint" and try to shut it down before completing its objective, they say no such thing to Ukraine. Israel's unity government should "resist that long enough to actually put an end to Hamas."
Despite the fact that Hamas terrorists filmed their atrocities and unashamedly publicized them, mobs of Hamas supporters nonetheless deny the slaughter occurred or dismiss the videos as Israeli propaganda. Some of those who acknowledge the barbarity are even celebrating the massacre. While Israel is under scrutiny, Hamas's frequent breach of international conventions constitutes a war crime. "Hamas's entire existence is a crime against humanity." Its charter openly states that its mission is to expel the Jews from Israel through genocide. Israel has endured continued terror attacks against its civilians since its re-establishment seventy-five years ago.
For "seven decades" the Palestinian Arabs have been successfully portrayed as victims, rather than terrorists. The issue is that "the Biden administration and the Obama administration before them can't tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys." Israel has repeatedly offered peace, but Palestinian Arabs refuse, maintaining that they will only accept "from the river to the sea" — code for genocide. "The Palestinians could have stopped being victims – to whatever extent they were – at any point in the past seventy-five years. They didn't want to, and that's on them."
"Biased discriminatory organizations," such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), "have decided Israel is an evil entity." The ICC abrogates its charter by failing to hold Hamas with its genocidal raison d'etre accountable for its crimes against humanity. Instead, the ICC is more likely to "indict Israel for defending itself" and, at present, is preparing to convict Israel of war crimes. The Jewish state should disregard the ICC altogether. The reason the US did not join the ICC is because "we're not going to allow a bunch of globalist losers to tell us that we can't operate in defense of our own nation state."
Accusations of war crimes against Israel, following its call for Gazans to move away from the northern conflict zone to the south, are specious. The Egyptians refuse to open the Rafah Crossing to their Arab "brethren" because they know Gaza is "full of people indoctrinated into a vile genocidal hatred and ideology of death and destruction." At the same time, Hamas stopped Gazans from fleeing because it desires civilian deaths to advance its propaganda against Israel.
The Jewish state has every right, in the same way the allies did at the end of World War II, to conduct its own war crimes trials holding Hamas accountable for its atrocities and bearing witness to the world. "Israel will mete out justice either at the end of a sword or in a courtroom." Only it will decide which is the more effective punishment.
Foreign support for Hamas from countries like Turkey, a NATO ally, makes a mockery of the mistaken idea that the West could "civilize" the Islamist direction of the country under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. "The United States has to seriously consider whether Turkey belongs in NATO."
Qatar, a non-NATO ally, plays a double game by funding and hosting Hamas leaders who claim they only represent the political bureau for Hamas. It is a lie because "they are connected at the hip to every single one of those homicidal, genocidal maniacs who crash[ed] into Israel and slaughtered all those people."
Qatar shrewdly delayed Israel's ground invasion by positioning itself as interlocutors to "negotiate with the terrorists" to release the more than two hundred hostages Hamas ostensibly holds in its underground warren of tunnels. "The country needs a reckoning," and to that end MEF has launched a "Divest from Qatar" campaign urging Americans to engage in a digital letter-writing effort to convince American investment firms and privately-held corporations to divest from Qatar.
In its information war against Hamas, MEF informs policymakers crafting effective strategies and educates the public as to what those strategies are. Each plays a critical role in delineating the "bright red line between good and evil."
Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.