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It’s Time for Hamas to Surrender

When government officials and pundits talk about how this war should be ended, Hamas’ surrendering —  instead of calls for Israel to stop its just fight to destroy Hamas — should be put forward as the right and best path forward.
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January 10, 2024
Supporters of Hamas and other Palestinian and Lebanese political factions gathered in Tarik al-Jadide area during a funeral for Saleh al-Arouri on January 4, 2024 in Beirut, Lebanon. Marwan Tahtah/Getty Images

Why hasn’t Hamas surrendered? It may seem a fanciful idea, but it is worth contemplating. And further: Why, when options for the resolution of the current conflict are being proposed and considered, has there not been a chorus of governments and pundits repeatedly calling for Hamas to surrender as the right outcome, instead of putting the onus on Israel?

After Hamas’ murderous exterminationist assault of Oct. 7, Israel responded in the same manner that any country in the position to do so would. When it became clear that Israel was determined to apply its overwhelming military superiority, Hamas could have surrendered in a war it couldn’t win. Doing so would have saved the lives of the many thousands of Gazans who have been killed and would have prevented the widespread destruction that Hamas has brought down on Gaza.

While the Hamas-Israel conflict is being conducted as if both sides are engaged in the same thing, a war, they are wars of a different kind. Hamas alone initiated the exterminationist assault of Oct 7, and Hamas, from its founding until today, has steadfastly sought the annihilation of Israel as a country and the wholesale extermination of Jewish women, men, children, and babies. In contrast, Israel did not start this war and is categorically not fighting to destroy the Palestinian people. It is fighting in self-defense, and only seeks to destroy the martial, genocidal entity called Hamas, which had colonized and weaponized, in blatant contravention to many international laws, all of Gaza with its vast subterranean military infrastructure. This conflict is an asymmetrical engagement in intent.

In the language of Just War theory, Hamas, on Oct. 7, started an unjust war, a war of aggression, while Israel, the object of this unprovoked genocidal assault against its men, women, children, and babies, is fighting a just war, to destroy a quasi-state military organization that grievously assaulted it, that is animated by a cult of death, and that is dedicated to exterminating all Jews, or at least as many Jews as possible. Hamas, again according to Just War theory and international law regarding what is permissible in how one fights, is not fighting justly or legally, because it uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, fails to distinguish in their manner of dress its fighters from noncombatants, and deliberately targets civilians. Israel has been faced by terrible choices — even though it is clearly just regarding why it fights the war — about how to fight such an exterminationist foe justly. It must balance minimizing casualties among its own soldiers, and, precisely because Hamas has weaponized all of Gaza and uses Gazans as human shields, faces the daunting task of minimizing the killing of Palestinian civilians, which Israel has taken great pains to do. So far, the Israelis have privileged protecting their own soldiers, as, when push comes to shove, countries tend to do. About the Israelis’ strategic and tactical choices fighting Hamas, reasonable people can disagree.

Two analogous wars of aggression and eliminationism are instructive here. World War II in Europe began in 1939 when, unprovoked, Nazi Germany attacked Poland, in what became the poster child for wars of aggression, and began its half-decade eliminationist and exterminationist assaults on the peoples of Europe, with Jews being first among unequals. In the Pacific, Japan’s unprovoked war of aggression, with its eliminationist components, brought, with its sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States into both wars. Faced by the predations of these two mass murderous regimes, the United States and its allies sought, and would settle for nothing less than, unconditional surrender. Animated by their own cults of death, neither of these two ideologically besotted eliminationist and exterminationist regimes would accept surrender until they were totally defeated, bringing unnecessary vast destruction to their countries, their cities, which were in rubble, and their peoples. The United States and its allies fought a just war, a war of necessity, which they did not start and never wanted, and realized, given the exterminationist nature of their foes, that they had to utterly destroy the capacity of the two countries who started the war to menace them in the future.

Hamas differs from the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese in one important respect. While all three started their exterminationist wars of aggression against foes that were ultimately too strong to be defeated, Hamas — unlike Germany or Japan which dragooned and threatened entire continents — was never a threat to conquer or militarily defeat Israel. But multiple other salient facts all point in the same direction, to the reality that this exterminationist organization and its members must be totally defeated or surrender unconditionally, as their forebears, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan had to, and did. One: Hamas’ illegal and immoral weaponization of all of Gaza, as a terrorist and exterminationist base of operations. Two: Hamas and its members’ religious and ideological dedication to the extermination of Israel and its people, manifested in words — their eliminationist antisemitism (reminiscent to what animated Germans during the Nazi period) —  and deeds, in their Oct. 7 foray of slaughter, rape, butchery, and torture, and illegal and inhumane hostage taking of close to 1,400 Israelis, without regard to age or sex. Three: The constant future threat that Hamas poses with its continued shelling of Israel, which would kill more Israelis and render parts of Israel uninhabitable.

No country that had the power to do so would stand by as an exterminationist foe on its border, such as Hamas, acts, and promises to act again, to destroy that country’s people. 

No country that had the power to do so would stand by as an exterminationist foe on its border, such as Hamas, acts, and promises to act again, to destroy that country’s people. The real question is why Hamas, if it cares about the Palestinians of Gaza on whose behalf it claims to act, did not give up when it became clear that Israel would defeat Hamas militarily. That would have been the wise and humane thing to do. It would have saved so many noncombatant Palestinian men, women, and children, and forestalled so much physical destruction of Gaza.

So, when considering the range of possible resolutions to this conflict, the one that makes the most sense, the only one that has the hope of sparing everyone in the region much more death and destruction is simple: Hamas surrenders. When government officials and pundits talk about how this war should be ended, Hamas’ surrendering —  instead of calls for Israel to stop its just fight to destroy Hamas — should be put forward as the right and best path forward.

Hamas started a war. It lost. It’s time for it to give up. And, instead of pretending that Israel should desist and therefore let a dyed-in-the-wool implacable exterminationist foe next door resume its mass murderous mission, it’s time for governments and pundits alike to reframe the conflict in these terms so that politicians and publics across the world understand the right and just way to end this conflict, for good.


Daniel Jonah Goldhagen is the author of “Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity,” and of “The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism.” He can be contacted at danny@goldhagen.com. 

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