Alex Carlile

Israel is losing the propaganda war to Hamas

It’s time for Benjamin Netanyahu to be replaced by a leader with a vision for reconciliation


Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) greets US President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on October 18, 2023 (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI /AFP/Getty)

December 28, 2023 11:11

Unfortunately, the year 2023 will be remembered for ever for the horrors of October 7. It was a terrorist event, among the most horrific criminal acts in history, performed against innocent citizens of a lawful country.

The images available as it happened show vile and inhuman atrocities – including widespread slaughter of innocent children in their homes, the rape of women and young girls before they were murdered, and the taking of hostages including young children. The perpetrators, a large cohort or cell within Hamas, demonstrated their capacity to replace al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State as the most dangerous, and possibly the most prevalent, terror group of all time.

Before and since October 7 Hamas has developed its activities in ways that seriously offend the domestic counter-terrorism laws of many countries and international humanitarian law. Residential apartment blocks have been used as explosives caches, and as training and planning headquarters. Perhaps more shockingly, so have hospitals. These well-evidenced horrors were conducted deliberately in full knowledge that Hamas was exposing the innocent citizens within those premises to potential attack and death within the rules of international law. In political terms Hamas knew too that its actions seriously and possibly conclusively undermined such prospect as ever there was of reaching a two-state solution, something which it had pretended to accept in 2017. Its actions have been demonic and cynical.

The UK and some other countries had the prescience to proscribe Hamas IDQ, the military wing, as long ago as March 2001. Its main aims were identified then as the establishment of an Islamic state under Sharia law and the destruction of Israel. At the time it was our government’s  assessment that there was a sufficient distinction between the so called political and military wings of Hamas, such that they should be treated as different organisations, and that only the military wing was concerned in terrorism. More recently the government has assessed that  Hamas is a complex but single terrorist organisation; and it is a serious criminal offence to be involved in the UK in any way with Hamas or to glorify its actions.

I am confident that the UK intelligence services in their astute secrecy have reflected long and hard upon the threats posed by Hamas in recent years. That threat undoubtedly has been kept at bay, but alas is increased now. In the last month three Hamas terrorist suspects have been arrested in Germany and one in the Netherlands. Evidence is growing of the beginning of a tsunami of Hamas terrorist threats and actions in Europe, with the targets being Jews and vocal opponents of antisemitism.

In Israel’s response to October 7 it has spoken of the “annihilation” of Hamas. The Israeli ambassador to London, Tzipi Hotovely, has at times given the impression of refuting Palestinian claims to any part of Gaza or the West Bank. The understandable anger of other Israelis has messaged the belief that “annihilation” is realistic.

I have no doubt that Israel, if prepared to risk the deaths of thousands of innocent people who have no love for Hamas, may be able to kill significant Hamas operatives. However, the evidence of growing Hamas-inspired terrorism in Europe, and the huge but often misguided demonstrations bymarchers all over Europe, are the clearest evidence that the Israeli counter-offensive is not countering the military or campaigning threats that will be posed by Hamas for many years to come.

Those of us whose family members were Holocaust victims see Israel as a most important country, the legal, permanent and legitimate homeland for Jews. But I am sure that I speak for  my late parents in expressing extreme concern about the harrowing loss of innocent life and also of secure homes and freedoms in Gaza, when strategic and tactical alternatives are available. The Americans made many mistakes after 9/11, some of which are being repeated by Israel.

International Law supports Israel’s right to self-defence for its people and borders. The test of proportionality is complex and challenging. Israel might be broadly correct in its approach to the law. But it is not carrying public opinion in the countries with which it enjoys precious alliances. The propaganda war is not falling well for Mr Netanyahu, and many who wish to make  sympathetic arguments for Israel look forward to him being replaced soon by somebody with a more serious and palliative view of the future. Palestine and Palestinians will not disappear, nor will their sense of injustice if there is not an urgent new sense of a different realism for the future.

When asked “what comes next?” we need to see some vision for repair and conciliation. At present all we can do is look down at our feet in embarrassment.

December 28, 2023 11:11

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