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A Reply to an Open Letter on the Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

It was with astonishment that I read the Open Letter signed by forty-two distinguished Oxford professors in condemnation of Israel’s response to Hamas’s murderous onslaught on civilians, slaughtering babies, children, boys and girls, women and old age pensioners, as well as killing a small number of soldiers. I found it grievous to see some of my philosophy colleagues among the signatories. Their vocation is clarity of thought, but what use has philosophy been to them if they cannot think clearly on matters of such import?

The Open Letter, despite including professors of international relations among its authors, fails to place the Hamas onslaught in its current Middle Eastern context. Hamas is funded by Quatar and Iran, trained and armed by Iran. Iran, like its proxy, is explicitly dedicated to wiping Israel off the face of the earth. One immediate interest it has in supporting the Hamas attack was to put an end to the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia, its main regional Sunni adversary, and Israel, in conformity with the Abraham Accords – a rapprochement that might well have initiated a highly desirable movement towards a two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is no coincidence that the Houtis in Yemen, who are also Iranian proxies, have now started firing missiles towards Israel from a thousand kilometres away. The war that Israel has declared on Hamas is therefore a response to an existential threat to the State of Israel.


To call on Israel for an immediate cessation of hostilities is akin to calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities by Britain and the USA on the eve of D-day in order to avoid civilian casualties. For Israel to cease its war before eradicating Hamas and its infra-structure would be to perpetuate its rule, to demonstrate Israel’s inability to destroy it, and to invite it to regroup and try again in a few years’ time, as it has done in the past. Indeed, Hamas’s spokesman, Ghazi Hamad, speaking on Lebanon’s LBC TV on 24 October, said: “Everything we do is justified”, adding “The Al Aqsa Flood [Hamas’s name for their onslaught] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth because we have the determination, the resolve and the capabilities to fight.”

The Open Letter, in what is a tour de force of double-think of Orwellian (1984) proportions, holds that Israel’s war on Hamas is itself a “morally disastrous exercise” in as much as large numbers of innocent civilians are being killed. No doubt the Oxford Professors will be able to remind us of wars the British have waged in which no innocent civilians were killed and to tell us how the RAF supplied Germany with food and medical aid in World War II. Many hundreds of thousands of Germans, who had not voted for the Nazi’s in 1933 were killed in the Allied bombing and invasion. Unlike Israel in Gaza, the British and Americans did not warn the citizens of Hamburg or Berlin before bombing raids. The authors of the Open Letter accuse Israel of not allowing fuel supplies into Gaza. Do they not know that Hamas has tens of thousands of litres of fuel, siphoned off from hospitals, to provide them with light and air-conditioning for their tunnels and command and control centres? If they do not, these Oxford Professors should spend more time finding out facts before rushing in where angels fear to tread. The question the Oxford Professors ought to be raising is why Hamas, by placing its rocket-firing sites and its command-and-control centres underneath or next to schools and hospitals, is ensuring that so many innocent civilians are being killed.

These Oxford professors approve of the claim that Israel’s instructions to north Gazan citizens to evacuate their homes and move south is a ‘war crime of forcible transfer with no guarantee of safety or the right to return’. In fact, it has saved thousands of Gazan lives. To be sure, no one can guarantee the safety of civilians in a war zone, but very many more would have died had they stayed in the battlefield of north Gaza. That those who fled south have no right to return is pure Oxonian fantasy.

The death and injury of many Gazan civilians is deeply tragic, but it is an immediate consequence of Hamas’s unprovoked attack on Israel and of its wicked employment of civilians as human shields in what is tantamount to Leninist revolutionary doctrine. It is also a mediate consequence of Israel’s voluntary withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, when Ariel Sharon forcibly removed nine thousand Israeli settlers and granting the territory of Gaza unimpeded autonomy. The Oxford Professors accuse Israel of embracing “a central tenet of terrorism: that all citizens must pay a price for the misdeeds of their governments”, as well as “terrorism’s central practice: collective punishment”. It is amazing that so many famous Oxford Professors, who, as they explicitly declare, spend their lives thinking about such things, should find thinking so overwhelmingly difficult. Had the Israelis taken the view so shamefully ascribed to them, they would simply have carpet-bombed Gaza until no one was left. In fact, they warned Gazans to relocate, and Hamas did their best to discourage this.


The Oxford Professors appear to have blinkered one eye. Hamas continues to shoot dozens, if not hundreds of rockets into Israel each day, directing them deliberately not at military targets, but at civilian population centres. This the Oxford Professors do not even bother to mention. All the Israeli towns and settlements in the vicinity of Gaza have been evacuated, and 200,000 Israeli civilians have been evacuated from northern Israel on the Lebanese border as a result of rocket fire from Hezbollah, another Iranian proxy. This the Oxford Professors do not appear to see. But none are so blind as those who do not wish to see.


The Oxford Professors, “who are all, all honourable men”, confidently cite Hamas and Hamas-controlled UNWRA figures for Gazan casualties. These have not been independently verified and are not trustworthy. Nor do the figures mention how many of these were Hamas terrorists. Since the captagon (amphetamine) -intoxicated murderers who assaulted Israel on 7.10.23 numbered roughly three thousand and, fortunately, more than half have been killed, a significant proportion of the Gazan dead are heinous terrorists. To be sure, very many innocent civilians including children have been killed in this terrible war, but there is no such thing as a war without innocent civilian deaths – and this is not a war that Israel started. With what can only be described as glowing self-righteousness, the Oxford Professors, declare that the civilian casualties in Gaza constitute “an unprecedented human catastrophe”. To claim that this is either knavish or foolish. It is not a catastrophe of the order of the Nazi Holocaust, of the Turkish Armenian genocide under the Ittihadists, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, of Pol Pot or of Rwanda. It is a tragedy, a grievous loss of often innocent lives – for which Hamas is to blame. The Oxford Professors go on to assert that Israel’s actions “are an affront to basic moral dignity”. They should be ashamed of themselves.

          Peter Hacker

          Emeritus Fellow

          St John’s College, Oxford

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