Picture this: It’s Sept. 11, 2001. Planes just crashed into the twin towers. In the following months, Congress authorizes President George W. Bush to use any force he deems appropriate and retaliate against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The “War on Terror” is announced and the U.S. begins airstrikes against targets in Afghanistan before invading. 

The Office of Homeland Security is created, new airport security measures are implemented, “enhanced interrogation” is authorized for suspected terrorists, and Iraq is invaded. The United States’ allies supported their response, even offering military support.  

This is what’s happening with Israel. On Oct. 7, 2023, the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah — simcha meaning happiness — Hamas launched a brutal attack on Israel. They murdered, tortured, raped, and kidnapped hundreds of civilians. More than 1,400 people are dead and over 200 are being held hostage in Gaza. There are reports of babies being beheaded, houses being burned with families still inside, and many other horrific forms of murder. Naturally, Israel retaliated. The international response has been mixed. At first, countries — including the US — have come out supporting Israel and condemning Hamas. 

However, many countries put out broad statements about limiting civilian casualties on both sides. As the siege around Gaza continues, countries and politicians have condemned Israel. The United Nations human rights chief has called the siege a violation of international law. 

This response is unacceptable. Hamas is a terrorist group that brutally attacked civilians including women, children, and the elderly. No matter your political affiliation, beliefs, race, or nationality, the murder, kidnapping, torture, rape, and beheading of innocent people is indefensible. 

Refusing to condemn Hamas is supporting them. It perpetuates the notion that massacring villages and murdering people is acceptable. Condemning a terrorist organization should not and is not controversial. 

Who are we in our ivory towers to determine what a rational response is? Look at 9/11. Even President Biden said this is Israel’s 9/11, but proportionally it was fifteen 9/11s. When our own country is attacked — when our own civilians’ dead bodies are paraded through the streets — then we determine what a rational response is. 

Israel, not the international community, will decide the necessary actions to protect and defend itself. There were more Jewish deaths on Oct. 7 than there have been since the Holocaust. The Holocaust. This is what people are trying to excuse and rationalize.

Some are calling Israel’s retaliation a “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing.” The United Nations defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Israel has no intention of exterminating the Palestinians. The IDF warns Palestinians before missiles are launched so as not to harm civilians. 

Calling Israel’s act of self defense “genocide” is outrageous and minimizes actual genocides. Israel doesn’t want to kill all Palestinians. Israel wants to protect as many lives as possible, while fighting for its right to exist. If Israel doesn’t retaliate and protect its citizens, how will they ever feel safe again? If Israel doesn’t show that there are consequences to terrorism, what is to stop Hamas from doing this again? 

Hamas is in charge of the welfare of their civilians. Israel has promised to provide humanitarian aid if Hamas releases the hostages. Instead of serving their own people, Hamas chooses to let them suffer. While I feel for the Palestinians, Hamas is to blame for the predicament they are in. Hamas knew when they launched this assault that Israel would retaliate and that Palestinian civilians would bear the brunt of it. 

These are the people that they are in charge of governing and in charge of keeping safe. Instead, they attacked Israeli civilians with the full knowledge that Israel would fight back. They use these civilians as human shields, knowing that Israel has and will continue to target their terrorist sites. Hamas takes advantage of public perception by placing these sites in dense civilian areas. Hamas is to blame for the Palestinian suffering. 

The recent hospital explosion in Gaza has sparked controversy. Israel claims it was Hamas; Hamas claims the opposite. I believe that Israel holds itself to a higher ethical standard, and they conducted an investigation instead of issuing an immediate denial. Israel provided evidence that the explosion was caused by Hamas. Hamas hasn’t provided any evidence to the contrary. In fact, they have refused to provide any evidence at all, yet people chose to believe terrorists over Israel. There is even evidence that Hamas significantly inflated casualty numbers. While any loss of life is tragic, this is a classic Hamas tactic to put Israel on the defensive and garner sympathy from the international community. 

It is unthinkable that anyone would agree with Russian president Vladimir Putin comparing Israel to the Nazi’s. Israel, the Jewish homeland. Israel, the country that was created to protect Jews from anything like the Holocaust. Israel, some of whose very first citizens were survivors of the Nazis’ brutal and horrifying tactics. Putin does not have the moral high ground here. It is clear that the right side, the moral side, is Israel’s. 

Why do Jews, most of whom are already hurting because of this war, have to go through this additional pain? My friend, who talked with me for hours after my grandfather died, has received death threats, all because she wanted to write in her school newspaper about an Israeli who was beaten. The mental toll this war has had on the Jewish community is unfathomable.

Why did my 14-year-old sister see a video of Palestinian children waving around the body parts of a toddler? Why are 20 year olds fearing for their friends’ and families’ safety? Why am I texting countless friends and family members in Israel to see if they’re even alive? 

Why, when my closest Israeli friend didn’t respond to me for days, did I worry that she was murdered or being held hostage? Why did an Israeli father call it a blessing when he found out his missing daughter was dead? Why was there an unmarked bag found in the Jewish chapel in this school? Hamas is the answer to every single question. 

Hamas bears the sole responsibility for every single atrocity, every tragedy, and every death in this war.