“We are proud of our son for killing so many Jews.”
These were the incomprehensible words spoken by the parents of a Hamas suicide bomber as I sat in their cramped quarters in Gaza in late 2001. “He is a martyr and hero,” they added. Then, the father pointed to his youngest son perched on a chair nearby and boasted that he, too, would one day join his sibling in glorious death by blowing himself up to murder Israelis.
I stared at the boy, who was no more than 10 years old. With a smile he nodded in agreement and held up a poster featuring his dead brother’s image. That placard was one of the many faces of suicide bombers that I had seen plastered on buildings and walls throughout Gaza. They were everywhere —a visual deification of the Hamas demand that Palestinians willingly sacrifice their own lives to slaughter Jews and destroy Israel. The boy, it seemed, yearned for his own poster.
I asked the parents if Hamas or any other group had paid them a “reward” for what their oldest son had done. They hesitated. There was a whispered discussion before they finally shook their heads. Skeptical, I asked my interpreter to pose the question again. More whispers. Then, the same dubious response. It was well established that terrorists incentivize suicide bombers by compensating their families. The more Jews that are murdered, the higher the payments received.
It was all part of the Hamas calculous to nurture and incite terrorism. They lured so-called “martyrs.” Palestinians were programmed. Jihad was taught in schools and mosques. It could be read in newspapers and heard on radio. Gazans were inculcated with hate and then radicalized. An entire generation grew up brainwashed that it is their sacred duty to murder and maim as many Israelis as possible.
I witnessed first-hand the manifestation of this twisted mentality when I covered the Second Intifada as a correspondent 22 years ago. Back then, the terrorist weapon of choice was suicide bombings. There were 138 of them that claimed more than a thousand Israeli lives.
One of the most devastating attacks occurred at Ben Yehuda plaza in Jerusalem. I arrived there shortly after twin bombers sent by Hamas detonated their explosives amid the many young people who were enjoying a Sabbath night at the popular outdoor cafes that dotted the street.
Mangled and dismembered bodies were everywhere. Blood flowed freely over the bricks beneath my boots. It was a scene of unimaginable carnage. Eleven individuals ranging in age from 14 to 21 years were murdered. 188 others were wounded. It was an appalling sight. Hours later, I visited a nearby hospital to speak with traumatized survivors, some of whom were now missing limbs. They all asked the same question. Why?
The next day I travelled to Haifa where Hamas had struck yet again. A suicide bomber boarded a bus at a busy intersection and triggered a bomb hidden underneath his heavy clothing. 15 civilians were blown to pieces and incinerated. 40 were injured, some of them horribly. The burned-out wreckage of tangled metal was a haunting testament to the terrorists’ inhumanity. Heartbroken family members had gathered there. They, too, ached to know… why?
In my time in Israel there were so many gruesome attacks and the inevitable wails of grief that they became difficult to track in real time. I headed to Gaza in search of answers to the persistent question. The parents of the suicide bomber offered a window into the perverse mindset of Hamas followers.
Their knowledge of the historic land conflict was superficial, if nonexistent. They simply mouthed the terrorist covenant memorialized in the Hamas charter that vows the complete annihilation of Israel and the murder of all Jews. Beyond that, they seemed to know almost nothing else. I found this to be a typical response in Gaza —a population indoctrinated by an ugly terrorist ideology reliant on a culture of disinformation, antisemitism, and bloodshed.
Sometimes, asking questions becomes folly because it is impossible to make sense of the inherently senseless. But I came to realize that evil doesn’t happen suddenly. It incubates over time until a consuming hatred suffocates all reason and metastasizes into a monstrous rage.
The recent attack by Hamas terrorists who butchered some 1,300 innocent civilians in the most despicable and depraved ways represents the modern face of evil. Hamas deliberately planned this savagery as their enmity toward Israel grew exponentially over time.
They harbor no remorse but rejoice in the cruelty and suffering they inflicted. Children were beheaded, people burned alive, the elderly executed, and teenagers at a music festival gunned down. Women were raped and tortured. Mutilated bodies covered the landscape. Then, Hamas took hostages, including Americans.
As cowards invariably do, the terrorists retreated into Gaza to take refuge among the Palestinian populace who they commandeered as human shields. This is by design. As Israel’s capable military defends its homeland by taking the fight to the enemy where it hides, Hamas will exploit video images and photographs to falsely blame the victims as aggressors. They are already doing it. Terrorists are adept at propaganda. They count on the reaction of a liberal media and weak nations to do their bidding. But Israel has nothing to apologize for.
The uncomfortable truth is that Hamas will never stop until it is utterly crushed and eradicated. There can be no truce or negotiation. It is futile to reason with terrorists who are incapable of it. Hamas does not want peace or normalization. They lust for death and destruction, cruelty and suffering. For them, human dignity and free choice are alien concepts. They subjugate and oppress many of the Palestinians in Gaza while they recruit or conscript more terrorists to massacre Jews in Israel.
Although Hamas has long been the dominating force in Gaza, it seized formal power after I left the region. That was the ultimate death knell for the segment of Palestinians who are not sympathetic to the terrorists. Since then, Hamas has ruled that small strip of land with a despotic ruthlessness and viciousness over its own people. Structures deteriorated, essential services degraded, and tens of thousands of families live in squalor, unable to object out of fear.
Non-militant Gazans know that the tyrants who control and manipulate their lives with an iron fist are dealers in death. Capitulate or else. Anyone who resists is punished. As a result, schools have evolved into training camps for future terrorists. Children are brainwashed that the highest pursuit for any Palestinian is murdering Jews. Is it any wonder that so many believe it?
As Israel continues its bombing of Hamas operations and weapons arsenals concealed in Gaza and proceeds with the inexorable ground invasion to track down the terrorists, the Jewish state is entirely justified both morally and legally. It is the sovereign right and duty of a nation to protect its citizens. Entrusting the United Nations to broker a resolution is a farce. The time for talks is over. Action, strength, and resolve are the only remaining course.
The genocidal attack by Hamas underscores that this fanatical organization cannot be allowed to survive. It is an existential threat to Israel. It must act aggressively and without reticence to track down every last terrorist. Despite precautions and warnings to evacuate, civilian casualties are unavoidable and unfortunate. But there is no moral equivalency.
There can be no peace until Hamas is extinguished for good.