Why I oppose a ceasefire in Gaza

This article is not going to win me any friends. And it may convince no one. But it demands to be written.

I oppose the increasingly loud calls here in Britain and around the world for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Let’s be clear: those are not easy words to write. Of course I support an end to the fighting. And not only an end to the current round of fighting. Like all of you, I prefer peace to war, and life to death.

But the demand for a ceasefire in Gaza is not about peace or saving lives. It is about the opposite of that. Let me explain.

The Hamas death-cult deliberately planned, over many months and probably years, to cross the border with Israel and raid the neighbouring villages and kibbutzim. Those kibbutzim were filled with people who always voted for the Left and supported peace with their Palestinian neighbours.

Hamas planned and then executed their plan knowing exactly what would happen. They knew that the slaughter and the capture of hundreds of innocent civilians would trigger a massive, unprecedented Israeli response. And they got exactly what they expected.

Israel, it turned out to no one’s surprise, was not a defenceless “paper tiger”, as Hamas told its supporters. It is a powerful modern state with an exceptionally powerful military. And it is doing exactly what the leadership of Hamas expected it to do.

Knowing that the complete defeat of Hamas is imminent, its leaders soon to be killed or captured, the organisation has very limited options. Its armed forces, though far better trained and equipped than anyone had believed possible a month ago, are no match for a modern army like Israel’s. That is why day by day, hour by hour they are losing control of Gaza.

The only thing that might keep Hamas alive as an organised force, and possibly still in control of some parts of Gaza, would be if the Israeli war machine would grind to a halt.

If the leaders of Hamas could push a button, that button would stop every Israeli tank, every fighter jet, every piece of artillery, every drone, and every soldier. They would stop in place, stop shooting, give Hamas a chance to breathe and regroup. And maybe survive.

A ceasefire is the only thing that would prevent the complete destruction of Hamas. And that destruction is the precondition for any decent ending to this terrible and unnecessary war.

As many Israelis will tell you, so long as Hamas is in power in Gaza, and Netanyahu is prime minister of Israel, there can be no progress towards peace. Right now, according to public opinion polls, Netanyahu seems politically finished. He cannot win an election.

Meanwhile, Hamas seems to be days away, maybe even hours away, from being finished as well.

There are many proposals for what to do when the fighting ends. Some want the Palestinian Authority to take control of Gaza. Others talk about foreign states assuming security control — such as Egypt or Turkey.

But the precondition for any of those things to happen is the complete destruction of Hamas and its armed forces.

Of course there need to be humanitarian pauses. Aid needs to come into Gaza. Injured people need to be taken out to hospitals outside of the territory. Civilians need to be given safe corridors to move away from the fighting towards less dangerous parts of the Gaza Strip.

And Israel should do more — much more — to ensure that civilians are not the victims of a war they did not want. The enemy is not the Palestinian people. The enemy is Hamas.

I’m sure that most of the people who have been demonstrating in London every Saturday, and also around the world, think that calling for a ceasefire is the same thing as calling for peace. It is not. It is what Hamas wants — a lull in the fighting, a chance to survive for another day and to prepare for the next war.

If you want peace, call for peace. If you want more war, call for a ceasefire.

This article appears in this week’s issue of Solidarity.