Hamas terror: how should Israel deal with Gaza?

After the brutal attack by Hamas, Israel has vowed to respond forcefully against the Islamist terrorist organisation. The Gaza Strip has been sealed off and is being shelled, and there is also talk of a ground offensive. Water and electricity have been cut off, a move which has been condemned by the UN. The US has told Israel to adhere to the "rules of war". Europe's press debates what a proportionate response might be.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Democracies must uphold the law

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung approves of the admonishments by the US and the UN:

“Much concern is being expressed about an Israeli overreaction, which could lead to upheavals on a second important front, global public opinion. ... But the Israeli energy minister is refusing to listen to moralising. Indeed the West hardly has clean hands when it comes to civilian casualties of military operations. But Biden was right in what he told Netanyahu: that democracies are stronger and safer when they adhere to the rule of law, and that is what distinguishes them from terrorists.”

Libération (FR) /

Don't fall into Hamas' trap

Libération also issues a warning:

“Pledging 'full support' for Israel in this particularly tragic situation, as of course the US and the West have done, must not blind them to the slaughter that has already begun in Gaza. Cynically, this is all part of Hamas' plan to destroy any prospect of a peaceful solution and any attempt at rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. ... It is a trap into which Israel's battered democracy, which nevertheless remains a democracy, should not fall. The profile of Benjamin Netanyahu, who has lost credibility as a guarantor of security, and the memory of previous military operations in Gaza give cause for pessimism.”

The Times (GB) /

Not the time to pass judgement

The victims of the attack have the right to strike back fiercely, stresses The Times:

“No one wants a single innocent life lost but we know from our own history that sometimes, try as we might, when faced with an existential threat from psychopaths who want to destroy us, sadly the innocent do die. ... As Israel goes about its righteous task in the weeks ahead, as Hamas manipulates the watching world, all of us ... should heed the timeless words of Ecclesiastes: 'For everything there is a season.' For Israel, this last week has been a time to weep and a time to mourn. What comes now is a time for war; a time to tear down before, some day, a time to build up again. For the rest of us, it is a time for silence.”

Kristeligt Dagblad (DK) /

A near impossible task

Unlike the radical Islamist Hamas, Israel has much to lose in this war, notes Kristeligt Dagblad:

“The enormous challenge for Israel in the eyes of the world is that as a democratic country, it will be judged by standards dictated by conventions, the protection of civilians, and martial law. None of these mean anything to its enemy. For Hamas this is quite literally a holy war. ... There is no guarantee that Israel will win the war on the ground in Gaza. ... And the asymmetries in the conflict mean that Israel has even less certainty about winning the battle for hearts and minds in the West. We can only hope that people in the West don't forget that Hamas is the aggressor in this war.”

Leonid Gozman (RU) /

Israelis' fighting spirit

Opposition politician Leonid Gozman, who emigrated to Israel, praises the fighting spirit of the population on Facebook:

“330,000 reservists were mobilised within 48 hours. ... In a country with a Jewish population of just over seven million, one in twenty joined the army within two days, and if you don't count children and the elderly, that figure goes up to at least one in ten. Pupils of religious schools, exempt by law from military service, are demanding to be recruited. The rabbis agree: praying is not enough, we must take up arms. Everyone is donating blood. You can't get plane tickets to Israel at the moment: people are returning to defend the country. El Al is flying for the first time on the Sabbath to bring them there.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Help the US help Israel

Berlingske argues that Europe should ease the burden on Washington so that it can help Israel:

“The violent threat of Hamas is impossible to live with, and there is not the slightest chance of reaching a reasonable agreement with the terrorists. Iran is behind Hamas' criminal regime, and the goal is clear: the destruction of Israel. Therefore we Europeans must be ready to support an Israeli invasion of Gaza if necessary. We can contribute to Israel's defence struggle by imposing tougher sanctions on Iran and taking on more responsibility to supply weapons systems to Ukraine to make it easier for the US to send supplies to Israel.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Turning a blind eye to antisemitism for too long

Antisemitism and hatred made the Hamas massacres possible, says Jyllands-Posten:

“Hatred towards Israel and the Jews is widespread throughout the Arab world. ... However, in the West, we turned a blind eye and made it seem like Israel itself were to blame. ... This is an age-old antisemitic stereotype that was resurrected by the Nazis: that the Jews are responsible for their own misfortune. ... The massacres in Israel must make the international community aware of the forces Israel faces. ... Israel, with all its flaws, is still the party whose existence is threatened. These latest events must remind us that Israel is everyone's responsibility.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Hamas is a terrorist organisation

For the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, there is no doubt about how Hamas should be classified:

“For years, the European media and politicians have been walking on eggshells: Hamas a terrorist organisation? Since the weekend, the question has finally been settled: heavily armed men who attack a music festival in the Negev desert and massacre 260 mostly young attendees, dragging them out of their cars and shooting them; men killing and taking women and children hostage and triumphantly displaying dead bodies in the city of Gaza - such men are terrorists.”

T24 (TR) /

Pro-Palestine statements are myopic

In Turkey, almost all opposition parties and many associations have declared themselves "in solidarity with the Palestinian people." T24 believes they are oversimplifying the matter:

“To stand by the Palestinian people, one must oppose both Hamas and the religious-fascist policies of the Netanyahu government. ... What has Hamas done to improve the lives of Gaza Strip residents during its control of Gaza? Everything it ever did only made life more difficult for the people. And it seems that aid meant for the people in Gaza was used to buy weapons instead. ... Naturally, we stand with the Palestinian civilian population, but we also stand with the Israeli civilian population.”

Le Point (FR) /

Solidarity like after 9/11 needed

Le Point denounces the silence of the radical left:

“It's a very simple statement, like the one made after September 11, 2001: 'We are all Americans.' ... Yet the statement 'We are all Israelis'—which, of course, does not imply an obligation to support Benjamin Netanyahu or his policies!—is not self-evident for everyone. ... In France, [the left-wing party] La France insoumise was unable to clearly condemn the crimes of Hamas. However, this repugnant stance is only logical. Let's not forget that two members of this party sought and received support from Jeremy Corbyn in the last parliamentary election. He is primarily known here for allowing anti-Semitism to flourish within the British Labour Party.”

Polityka (PL) /

In danger of ending up as the bad guy again

Polityka warns of the external impact of an Israeli counter-offensive:

“Israel will have to avoid images of the occupation in the media. Fighting on the ground, among civilians, with the inevitable casualties, could destroy international support for Israel after a few days. It's one thing to be a victim of a Hamas terror attack, but quite another to be an 'occupier' 'fighting Palestinian women and children in the streets' as portrayed on Arab television, in pro-Palestinian Western media and by celebrities like Pink Floyd antisemite Roger Waters. The spiral of violence usually ends up having a negative effect on the image of the side that has the military advantage.”

Népszava (HU) /

Extremist government is a risk

The events must be seen in the context of developments in Israeli politics, Népszava argues:

“Analysts were already warning last December that Israel's ultra right-wing government posed the risk of an escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And they were right: for months it has been clear that the Oslo Accords are defunct and that a third intifada was in the air. ... [Israel's] political leadership is likely to continue its policy, which has so far led nowhere and is driving the Palestinians ever more towards Hamas.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Israel too focussed on itself

La Repubblica looks at why the attack occurred now:

“In recent years Israel has forgotten that it is in an exceptional situation, and its internal political weakness has quickly become a strategic vulnerability. Political majorities hang on a handful of votes from extremist parties (the parties of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich); fundamental reforms such as the reform of the judiciary lack the support of the main political parties of the majority and the opposition. ... Political decisions (such as the transfer of 26 battalions from Gaza to the West Bank) were made with a view to achieving a quick consensus rather than implementing a strategic vision. ... This has weakened Israel's deterrent potential.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Citizens paying the price for lack of strategy

The people of Israel and Palestine are victims of failed policies, NRC complains:

“Citizens are paying the price for the lack of political will. And generally the Palestinians have had to pay the most. ... The difference between this and previous escalations is the use of terror against the Israeli population. ... After an outbreak of terror on this scale it's understandable that Israel is retaliating with air strikes on Gaza. But this is a flawed strategy. ... Now that the fate of the Palestinian population is no longer an issue in Israel, Netanyahu's government has no plan, no long-term vision for it. There are no prospects for the people in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Ignoring this question was a dreadful mistake.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Explosive despair

The Irish Times points to the desperate situation of the Palestinian population:

“The statistics are as shocking as they are familiar - just under 50 per cent of the total Palestinian population are in need of humanitarian assistance. In Gaza, which has been subjected to a blockade since 2007, that figure increases to 80 per cent. Unemployment is rife and there is no freedom of movement. Israel prohibits Palestinians from leaving or entering Gaza except in extremely rare cases. In July of this year, Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, likened the situation to an 'open-air prison'.”