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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Seiner: On the Hamas Attack in Israel

As a community, we must condemn Hamas to engage with real, progressive solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Regardless of your personal opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict, we should all agree that justifying the murder and capture of civilians is inexcusable, especially considering the vulnerable populations of both Israel and Palestine. While Israel has undoubtedly committed mass violence against Palestinians — including against civilians — in the region since at least 1948, the specific tactics used by Hamas in this attack have rightfully shocked the world and demonstrate Hamas’s genocidal intent.

To be abundantly clear, this attack was an indiscriminate massacre of over 1,300 Israelis. In Hamas’s ideal world, the solution to the conflict would likely be the complete ethnic cleansing of Jews from what is now Israel — an assumption reinforced by Hamas’s founding charter and the indiscriminate nature with which these militants murdered civilians. The vast majority of Israeli Jews, largely descendants of refugees from the Middle East, North Africa or Nazi-occupied Europe, would have nowhere to go. For the Jewish world, this would be akin to a second Holocaust with 41% of the world’s Jewish population in severe danger. 

Of course, even those naive enough to glorify Hamas as noble freedom fighters must confront the geopolitical reality that Israel will win this war with disproportionate Palestinian civilian casualties through military violence in Gaza and settler violence in the West Bank. The sheer magnitude of such loss of life should — in a world without antisemitism and anti-Arab racism — evoke sympathy in any sane individual. 

However, for many non-Jewish Western leftists, particularly on college campuses nationwide, the extreme violence demonstrated on Saturday against Israeli civilians is justifiable — perhaps even cause for celebration — given the context of the Nakba, the occupation and the blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt. This is a lazy intellectual framework that fails to consider the circular nature of violence and holds — above all else — that violence is permitted against innocents as long as their leaders have offended the perpetrators. This same argument can be applied to justify the deaths of the over 1,500 Gazans killed during the Israeli counterattack, though I and most Western progressives would consider that reprehensible.

In addition, the role of sexual violence and body desecration in the Hamas-led war effort cannot be understated, with Hamas utilizing sexual violence as a weapon. An extremely disturbing video shared by Hamas militants shows a barefoot, heavily beaten and frightened teenager with blood stains on her pants. Other photos and videos circulated by Hamas show a woman, later identified by her family as 22-year-old Shani Louk, stripped, faced-down, contorted and bloody being driven in a truck through Gaza City. A survivor of the Hamas attack on the desert rave, in which over 250 civilians were massacred, describes a horrible scene of open sexual violence; one where women were raped next to the bodies of their friends and later executed or kidnapped to Gaza. Some of these photos and videos have openly been shared by Hamas militants as propaganda, an attempt to dehumanize Israeli Jews, especially women, and evoke feelings of strength in Palestinians. 

From my perspective, this propaganda is intended to produce feelings of potency and dominance within a certain type of Palestinian man, seeking personal revenge against those who he feels have emasculated him. Hamas hopes to demonstrate their effectiveness through butchering and raping civilians to contrast themselves with the more moderate Fatah or the Palestinian Authority, with whom Hamas has engaged in armed conflict. However, this is likely also part of a larger power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with Iran reliably supporting Hamas in the past in order to take control of Palestinian politics and to deter Saudi Arabia from normalizing relations with Israel. 

As I’ve hopefully made clear, Hamas — even if they did secure complete control over Israeli territory — has no ability to administer a state without thorough ethnic cleansing and sexual violence. This is not the face of a legitimate Palestinian liberation movement. In fact, they can hardly manage the Gaza Strip. This summer in Gaza City, residents protesting Hamas’s embezzling of Qatari food aid and power cuts, all under the slogan “we want to live,” were repressed by Hamas authorities, a move criticized by several West Bank political parties. All this, while many of Hamas’s top leaders live lavish lives abroad, safe from Israeli bombs and blockades, on money stolen from the Palestinian people.

Based on what I have explained above, I ask Dartmouth students to please reconsider making subtle justifications for the massive escalation in violence perpetrated by Hamas against the Israeli, and by extension, Palestinian people. For many of the Jewish and Palestinian students on campus, this situation is not an abstraction focused on a blaze of decolonial glory directed at oppressors. It is a reality of senseless bloodshed and fear for our families’ lives. I urge you to engage seriously with Jewish history without denialism and defensiveness in an attempt to understand Jewish identity and the global phenomenon of antisemitism, bringing a consideration of Jewish trauma and connection to the land into your interpretation of the conflict and your solutions. Center your progressive politics on speaking up for innocents and preventing ethnic and sexual violence. Humanize both Palestinian and Israeli perspectives while searching for solutions that respect the sanctity of life and the preservation of culture.

Owen Seiner ’24 is an earth science major and Jewish studies minor who is actively involved with Jewish life on campus. Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.

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