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Hamas and the Tyranny of Need

Many people focus on the suffering in Gaza, but ignore its fundamental cause: the violence initiated by the would-be destroyers of Israel. Why?

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The suffering of others may warrant compassion—but only if the suffering is undeserved.

Someone wrongly imprisoned can elicit your compassion — but not someone who is rightly imprisoned for a crime. To sympathize with the latter is to morally betray his victim and to subvert the principle of justice. You can commiserate with a neighbor whose house has burned down — but not if he was the one who deliberately set the fire. And certainly not if he set the fire in an attempt to burn down your house.

Those who are urging sympathy for the plight of Palestinians in Gaza are ignoring the fact that their suffering is the product of their own actions. It is the direct consequence of the savage October 7 attack on Israel launched by their government, Hamas, an attack that was cheered in the streets of Gaza. A recent poll among Palestinians shows overwhelming support for the assault. If there is any significant opposition to Hamas, where are the Gazan uprisings, now that Israel has mounted a counterattack? Where are the locals who should be hailing, and actively joining, the Israeli effort to vanquish Hamas (as Resistance movements in Europe helped the Allies against the Nazis)? The suffering being endured by Gazans because of the war is a self-inflicted result of their support for a murderous government.

But aren’t there some Gazans, however small their number, who reject Hamas and hope for its defeat? At the very least, aren’t the young children in Gaza completely innocent? Does Israel have a right to attack the genuinely innocent?

Yes, it does — because Hamas has made this war necessary. A concern for the suffering of innocents should lead one to endorse the elimination of the cause. And the fundamental cause is Hamas. Hamas has initiated the violence. And Israel, as the primary victim, has every moral right, and moral obligation, to secure its safety by destroying Hamas — a task in which civilian casualties are inevitable. This is especially true since Hamas calculatingly shields itself behind its own civilians. When military assets are situated within or below hospitals, schools and mosques, those structures must be demolished. Any loss of innocent life is the responsibility — is entirely the responsibility — of Hamas and all who support it. It is Hamas that has made Israel’s self-defense require total war. (And, of course, Hamas has the choice of ending the war quickly by unconditionally surrendering and releasing all its hostages.)

If compassion is called for, it should be toward Israel. It is the Israelis — civilians and soldiers alike — who are the innocents, it is the Israelis who are the targets of Palestinian aggression, it is the Israelis who are the objects of a Hamas charter that demands the extermination of the Jews.

Any constraint on its efforts to annihilate Hamas, including a “humanitarian” cease-fire, simply increases the danger, present and future, to Israel. If Israel has a right to use force in retaliation, what justifies any action, or inaction, that could lead to the death of even one more Israeli?

Many, however, reject the characterization of Israel as the innocent party in this conflict. They claim that Israel is an oppressor, that it keeps Arabs in thrall, that Palestinians are simply fighting for their liberty. “Free Palestine” is their self-righteous slogan.

It’s a worthwhile slogan — but it is directed at the wrong target.

Palestinians do indeed live under oppression — the oppression of their own governments. The people of Gaza live under the authoritarian rule of Hamas. The barbarous disregard for rights exhibited by Hamas toward Israelis is mirrored by the disregard it shows toward its own population. The citizens of Gaza have no right, for example, of free expression; the news media are controlled by the government and no public criticism of Hamas is tolerated. They have no freedom of religion, and cannot dissent from the dogmas of Islam; affronts to the Koran, from apostasy to homosexuality, are punishable by death.

This stands in stark contrast to life in Israel, where free expression abounds, where publications of all opinions are freely available, where there is an independent judiciary, where mosques and churches proliferate, where pro-Palestinian political parties not only exist but are in the Knesset (parliament). The population of Israel — Arab and Jew alike — enjoys freedoms that no Palestinians (and no resident of virtually any Middle Eastern nation outside of Israel) enjoy. To put it more succinctly: every Arab in Israel has greater rights than any Arab in Gaza — and those who truly want the Gazans to be free should be adamant supporters of Israel’s attempt to oust their tyrannical government.

Thus, when the Israeli state was founded, in 1948, Arabs had little to fear. Land owned by Jews had been bought from Arabs. Arab property owners living within the boundaries of the new country were urged by Israel to remain and to become citizens of the new country. But Arab leaders wanted to destroy Israel and initiated a war against it. They ordered Arabs to abandon their land and to take part in the military campaign.

READ ALSO:  Hamas’s Savagery Reflects Its Nihilistic Goal

What about the Israeli military occupation? Should that be regarded as a form of oppression? Categorically not. The Palestinians have repeatedly attacked Israel, since 1948. Israel’s control of their territory began after it was used to launch a war against Israel in 1967. Israel’s occupation is analogous to America’s occupation of Japan and Germany immediately after World War II. Those nations were rightly occupied because they had been the aggressors in the war. It is they whowere the oppressors. And the occupation was lifted once they were no longer threats to free countries.

Israel’s control over territory used to attack it is the effect, not the cause, of Arab aggression. With respect to Gaza (whose occupation was ended in 2005), if Hamas were removed and, somehow, the Palestinians were permanently disarmed and unable to attack Israel, peace would reign there. If, on the other hand, the Israelis were disarmed, the result would be the equivalent of another October 7.

I should add that the refusal to allow a Palestinian state is no violation of anyone’s rights. There is no right of “self-determination” to establish a despotic state — a state that categorically rejects individual rights. America’s Confederacy in 1861 had no right of “self-determination” to establish a separate country that would enslave blacks. There can be no right to violate rights. The legitimate basis for the existence of Israel is not some ancient Biblical heritage, or some collectivist notion of an ethnic entitlement to a Jewish state. Rather, it rests on the individualist principle of rights and on the fact that Israel — despite its many inconsistencies — is a relatively free country. The formation of a Palestinian state now would create an anti-freedom entity, which would deny the rights of both its Israeli neighbor and its own citizenry.

It must be stressed that the war instigated by Hamas is not being waged by Israel against some isolated terrorist gang. Hamas is the government of Gaza. It controlled Gaza. Its fighters were — and are — fed, sheltered and armed through the resources of Gaza. Hamas is sustained, militarily and morally, by Gazans. Removing the threat to Israel requires the conquest of the territory of GazaAnd not only its conquest, but its demoralization.

When the attack on Pearl Harbor caused America to enter World War II, the enemy was not a band of “extremist” pilots who had bombed us. The enemy was the country of Japan. To protect us against that threat, Japan had to be devastated. To win that war, America had to make the population of Japan, and of Germany, realize that the ideology fueling their aggression — Japanese imperialism and German Nazism — was the cause of their ruin. The people had to be so crushed that their ideology became thoroughly discredited. Because we did exactly that, a demoralized Germany and Japan surrendered. They abandoned their lethal philosophies, and eventually were no longer threats to the free world.

The same process has to occur now. The Gazans must come to recognize that their dominant ideology — the notion that Israel, and all Jews, should be exterminated — has led to their own devastation and needs to be renounced. That’s the only way to stop the aggression and to protect the innocent. And that requires total victory over, and unconditional surrender by, Gaza and its government. (And, by the way, it’s a sad disgrace that Israel itself shies away from an unequivocal justification of all-out war.)

Yet there remains widespread sympathy for the Palestinians. Why? Why do so many people myopically focus on the suffering in Gaza, but ignore the fundamental cause of that suffering — i.e., the violence initiated, and the ongoing threat posed, by the would-be destroyers of Israel? Why do they not focus on the suffering that the Israelis have endured, and will again, should Hamas remain in existence?

Because they have accepted an altruistic ethics that regards anyone’s need as a moral claim against them.

Most people agree with the tenet of altruism because, on the surface, it seems simply to endorse an attitude of benevolence toward others and a respect for their rights. But implicitly altruism calls for something very different. It conflates benevolence with a duty to elevate the needs of others above everything. It demands that you accept an unchosen, and unjustifiable, obligation to fulfill someone else’s needs.

'It must be stressed that the war instigated by Hamas is not being waged by Israel against some isolated terrorist gang. Hamas is the government of Gaza.' Click To Tweet

If you decide to help out your neighbor whose house has burned down through no fault of his, you are performing a laudable act of generosity. You are showing good will toward someone you judge warrants your charity — which you do not owe him and for which he should express gratitude. But people fail to distinguish between aid offered as a gift and aid offered as a duty. Instead, they package the two together and believe that another’s need places an obligation on you to alleviate it — as though it were a debt, a debt owed to the needy, a debt that must therefore be paid regardless of what caused the need.According to this view, when you see a homeless man on the street who chooses to spend his days in an alcoholic stupor, it does not matter that he is the cause of his own misery. All that matters is that if there is someone in need of your dollar, you have a moral mandate to give it to him. The paramount fact is his need, which overrides all other considerations.

This is why members of a minority race are preferentially hired, or admitted to colleges, at the expense of better qualified candidates. Those other candidates may be more deserving — but the minorities are deemed more needy. And need outweighs desert. This approach can be called the “tyranny of need.” Everything must be sacrificed to someone’s need, including the principle of justice. And if you fail to fulfill another’s needs, you have defaulted on your debt. You have become responsible for his misery. You have become his oppressor.

Which is why Israel is regarded as the villain in this war. It may seem incomprehensible that the people who committed acts of unspeakable butchery, along with those who cheered or condoned them, are considered oppressed, and their victims the oppressors. But it becomes understandable on the premise that need constitutes a moral claim. The Palestinians are weaker and poorer — why they are weaker and poorer is immaterial; all that matters is that their needs are greater. The more irrational and self-destructive their behavior, the greater their need of help and the more entitled they are to demand it. So the strong must always be subordinated to the weak, the just to the unjust, the innocent to the guilty, the rational to the irrational, the Israeli victims to their Palestinian slaughterers.

New York Times article quotes an Atlanta schoolteacher’s Facebook message, shortly after October 7, in which she explains her unqualified backing of the Palestinians against Israel: “The actual history of this situation is NOT COMPLICATED. I will ALWAYS stand beside those with less power. Less wealth, less access and resources and choices. Regardless of the extreme acts of a few militants who were done watching their people slowly die.”

This is the consistent implementation of the “tyranny of need.”

But there is no reason to accept another’s need as a moral claim against you. The only valid moral imperative here is the imperative of justice — the justice of supporting the innocent and condemning the guilty. And the only way to prevent suffering by the innocent is for Israel to do whatever is necessary to destroy Hamas and for Gaza (and the rest of the Palestinians) to be ruled by a government that recognizes the rights of its own citizens and of its neighbors.


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Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz, a former chairman of the board and current distinguished fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, is the author of The Tyranny of Need: Examining the Code of Self-Sacrifice — and the Alternative of Rational, Non-Predatory Self-Interest.

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