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israel-hamas war
Columns
Opinion articles written in the style of their author. These texts are to be based on verified facts and must be respectful towards people, even though their actions may be criticized. All opinion articles written by individuals from outside the staff of EL PAÍS shall feature, along with the author’s name (regardless of their greater or lesser renown), a footer stating their office, academic title, political affiliation (if any) and main occupation, or the occupation related to the topic being assessed

The Devil’s loop

Extermination is only possible when victims are first dehumanized and treated as pests to be swiftly eradicated

A Palestinian prisoner released by Israel is greeted as a hero in Ramallah, West Bank
A Palestinian prisoner released by Israel is greeted as a hero in Ramallah, West Bank; November 28, 2023ALAA BADARNEH (EFE)
Lluís Bassets

The sheer delight these young men derive from ruthlessly ending the lives of helpless fellow human beings is nothing short of astonishing. They treat their gruesome acts of sacred sadism, committed in the name of God, as heroic deeds. Such a killing spree is only possible when victims are first dehumanized and treated as pests to be swiftly eradicated.

The killers are not a select few terrorists chosen for their malevolent nature. The hero’s welcome they received in Gaza upon returning from their hyper-violent expedition highlights the characteristics of a totalitarian culture soaked in anti-Western ideologies and rooted in the political Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s a sect that seeks to restore Islam to global esteem by eradicating infidels from lands previously inhabited by Muslims — from al-Andalus to Palestine.

This is what we can infer from the troubling images of the Hamas terrorist assault released by Israel as part of its campaign to justify a withering military response to the loss of 300 soldiers and 900 civilians, the kidnapping of 240 individuals (including a significant number of children, women and elderly), the looting of 30 towns near the Gaza Strip, and the attacks on several Israeli military bases. “The narrative in Israel after October 7 is that Hamas is Gaza, Hamas is all Palestinians, Hamas is the Nazis,” said Roger Alpher, a columnist of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The implications of this equation are devastating, even though they haven’t been fully realized. It is crucial to treat Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank with the same restraint shown by the Allies toward German and Japanese civilians during World War II — which is none. The temporary ceasefire is the result of international pressure and the resilience of the hostages’ families. However, the Israeli government has little faith in its long-term effectiveness. Many in Israel view peace and the creation of a Palestinian state as concessions to Hamas terrorism. The suffering of civilians, the high mortality rate among Palestinians, and the destruction of Gaza barely register in the Israeli consciousness because Hamas is shielded by a population that either supports it or allows it to exist and expand. Ultimately, Hamas bears sole responsibility.

Disagreement with this black-and-white, Manichaean vision may be seen by Israelis as supporting terrorism. In their eyes, the entire world is gripped by a pervasive and enduring anti-Semitism. Having experienced victimhood, there seems to be an underlying desire to become the oppressor, fueled by a disturbing denial of the suffering of others. Unless this endless Devil’s loop is broken, there will be no peace in the Middle East.

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