Hamas’ Choice

Oct 24, 2023 | Humanitarianism, Voices

The media is saturated with reports of the damage and death inflicted by the Israeli Defense Force on Gaza. Thousands are dying. Buildings, whole neighborhoods, are being destroyed. Food, water, electricity, and fuel are becoming increasingly scarce. It seems inevitable that Israel will soon launch a massive ground invasion. Thousands more Gazans will die as will Israeli soldiers. Many of the hostages Hamas and their allies are holding will probably also die. There are calls for a ceasefire to avoid this humanitarian catastrophe. The onus for all of this is on Israel. It is entirely up to them. Or so the narrative goes.

According to this narrative, Hamas has no say in this. They will continue to hide among and below their citizens, inflicting death and destruction on invading Israelis and inviting the same for themselves and their citizenry. It is a given. But is that their only choice? No. Hamas can end this and save these lives. They can sue for peace; they can surrender. They are surrounded by a superior force. They can inflict a great deal of damage but they cannot win. Killing Israelis is their goal. They will achieve that. But massive death and destruction will also be borne by the people they claim to champion. Is that also their goal? If not, Hamas can prove it. They can release all of the hostages and surrender. This would champion their cause by showing, through self-sacrifice, that they care for their fellow Gazans. They are willing to give themselves up to save them. They say they are willing to face death as martyrs; let’s see.

And it doesn’t even have to be that stark a choice for Hamas. They need not offer an unconditional surrender. They can offer a conditional surrender. This could take the following form. Through an intermediary or third party that both sides can work with, Hamas says it will give back all of the hostages. Clearly such channels exist as they have already given back four hostages. Further, they can offer to abandon their tunnels and let the Israeli troops in. Finally, the members of Hamas leave Gaza, alive. It can go even further. Negotiate a surrender wherein after Hamas leaves, a third party comes in and runs Gaza. The people can return to their homes but Hamas is gone. Israel destroys all rockets and tunnels and weapons and ammunition. After the people come back, a third party (the UN, Egypt, a multinational force) takes over. Israel has the right to inspect for weapons but this is subject to being overseen by that multinational force so that everything Israel does is above board. Moreover, Israel does not take over Gaza. Set a time period after which Gaza gains autonomy and even self-rule if it agrees to remain unarmed.

The Israelis are coming no matter what. In the end, after the bloodshed and destruction, the tunnels, rockets, and weapon caches will be destroyed. All Hamas gains by fighting is killing more Israelis at the cost of their own citizens who they claim to cherish. Here is what it really comes down to: Does Hamas believe that killing more Israelis is worth the lives of their innocent countrymen? Are the people of Gaza innocent civilians to them or just more hostages to be sacrificed on the altar of their cause? If Hamas were to make such a deal, they take away Israel’s reason for bombing and invading. The destruction of life and property ends. Israel gets what it says it wants. Hamas saves its citizens and becomes the self-sacrificing peace makers.

All Hamas has to do is sacrifice themselves to save its people. Will they? Are they worth more than the people they claim to be doing this for? If they don’t surrender, they are saying yes, their lives are worth more. We all know what will happen. We all know that Hamas will not even consider, let along offer such a solution. In fact, there is no solution other than the destruction of the Jewish state that they will countenance. So, they will insist on fighting a battle they instigated and which they will eventually lose where the main casualties are their own people.

This isn’t just about Israeli choices and intransigence; Hamas is consciously choosing death and destruction for its people.

Joel Weinberger, Ph.D.
Fellow APS
Fellow APA Divisions 8, 12, 29, 39
Winner of the Book Prize Award of The American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis
Implicit Strategies