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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

Comparative Wars

There should be little doubt about the legitimacy of Ukraine’s response to Russia’s aggression, and Israel’s to the Hamas attacks. The problem lies in the limits

Two officials inspect the ruins of a house destroyed by bombing in the Ukrainian town of Yasynuvata.
Two officials inspect the ruins of a house destroyed by bombing in the Ukrainian town of Yasynuvata.ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO (REUTERS)
Lluís Bassets

Comparisons are odious, but they hold up reasonably when it is hatred that fuels the terms being compared. Vladimir Putin’s soldiers, who had their fill of killing and torturing civilians in Bucha in March 2022, and the Hamas militiamen who razed kibbutzes, kidnapped old people, children, and women and set about murdering those who fled. The bombs dropped on Kramatorsk station and the Mariupol theater, and those dropped on Gaza City and Khan Younis. Putin takes the cake because he invites comparisons with the worst of all sides.

It is not so easy to compare when it comes to the right of defense that everyone claims. There should be little doubt about the legitimacy of Ukraine’s response to Russia’s aggression, and Israel’s to the Hamas attacks. The problem lies in the limits. For Ukraine, if its forces can achieve it, these lie in the expulsion of the Russian army from its sovereign, internationally recognized territory. The case of Israel is thornier: to liquidate Hamas, without doubt, but after defining what such liquidation means, how long it might last, and what price there will be to pay in terms of lives, especially those of hostages and innocent Palestinian citizens.

The proportionality of the means employed and even the real objective pursued are debatable. If it is the destruction of the Strip, as can be surmised from the annexationist expressions of many members of the Israeli government, this is where Putin comes in again. First, destroy, and then annex, in violation of international law: Greater Russia and Greater Israel twinned. As an alibi, the precedent established by George W. Bush with his war against terrorism, which claimed to be based on the right of defense against a real terrorist attack — that of 9/11 — and an invented threat of aggression — that of the non-existent weapons of mass destruction — weighs heavily. Putin still pushes the narrative of the aggression represented by the enlargement of NATO and the installation of a regime in Kyiv which he likens to the Nazis.

The comparative flow is inexhaustible. War crimes, for example, have been committed by everyone, from the low intensity of the accusations against Ukraine to the seriousness of the Russian invasion, as well as the Israeli siege and bombardment of Gaza, while not forgetting Hamas, of course. All fingers, including Putin’s, point to the enemy as guilty of genocide. Although Israel seems to own the accusatory brand, painfully acquired under Hitler’s Germany, the horror of the persecution and industrial extermination of Europe’s Jews has little to do with the primitive bestiality of the October 7 pogrom. It is only logical that the grandchildren of those who perished in the concentration camps should link that systematic slaughter of yesteryear with the hatred they now arouse in their Palestinian neighbors.

Hatred is everywhere and without it there is no explanation for the cruelty of these wars and why they break out.

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