I have been a student of the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since I was an undergraduate at Yale in the early 1980s.  

To give a sense of the times, a few months before I arrived at Yale, Israel and Egypt signed an historic peace treaty, dangling the prospect that Israel and its other Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians, might reach agreements too. 

Yet this period was also overshadowed by a United Nations General Assembly resolution declaring that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” 

This callous denial of the Jews’ right of self-determination in their ancestral homeland — later, fortunately, revoked by the UN — was a source of pain to many and an impediment to normalization between Israel and the Palestinians. It elevated delegitimization of Israel over accommodation between Israel and its neighbors, an opportunity presented to the Palestinians as far back as the creation of Israel.  

Since my time at Yale, there have been two intifadas, countless terror attacks against Israelis, multiple failed peace efforts, the creation of Hamas, and warfare between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. There have also been inklings of hope, including Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, an opportunity for economic betterment and for improved relations with Israel presented to the people of Gaza. But these were not realized.

There were ups and downs. But I have never seen anything like Hamas’s massacre of 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7, 2023. I was staggered not only by its scale, but its primal violence — murder in cold blood, rape, beheading, burning families alive. This reflects a type of hate that’s all but impossible to comprehend.  President Salovey was right to condemn Hamas’s attack “in the strongest possible terms.” 

Astonishingly, though, within hours of the attack, Israel came in for withering criticism, followed by a familiar litany of demonizing rhetoric. It was accused of “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid,” including by protestors at Yale. Hamas’s barbarity was largely brushed to the side, despite its designation as a terrorist organization that has ruled despotically over its people for the last 16 years. 

But we should listen to what Hamas is telling us.

A chilling example comes from Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official. He recently explained on Lebanese TV that Oct. 7 is “just the first” of many more such massacres, that Israel’s “occupation” is of all of Palestine, that the Palestinians are “a nation of martyrs,” and that Hamas’s goal is the “annihilation” of Israel.

It’s worth reflecting on these four planks, as presented by a senior Hamas official.

First, Hamas will undertake more Oct. 7’s. Hamas’s conception is of a world of savagery untethered to remorse or mourning for the murder of innocents.

Second, Israel’s “occupation” is of all of Palestine. Mainstream discussion focuses on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, annexation of East Jerusalem, and blockade of Gaza (Israel ended occupation 18 years ago and created a blockade with Egypt to stop terror by Hamas). But Hamas made clear at its inception what it seeks: rejection of Israel on any part of Palestine. For Hamas, “settlers” means not just Jews who live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but all Jews in Israel. Hamas’s cause is not borders, the “1967 line” or settlements, but erasure of Israel. 

Third, Palestine is a nation of martyrs. This plank explains the difficulty Israel faces in responding to Hamas’s attacks.  Among the ways Hamas sacrifices its people (without their consent) is by embedding itself in and under heavily populated areas, assuring that Israel’s efforts to dismantle Hamas’s military capability will kill innocent Palestinians.

Fourth, Hamas seeks the “annihilation” of Israel — otherwise stated, the destruction of the Jewish nation. This is genocide.  

I mourn for the innocent Israelis, Bedouin Arabs, Thai migrant workers, and others who were murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7, as well as the 240 Israelis Hamas took hostage in Gaza.

I mourn for the innocent Palestinians killed in Israel’s attacks against Hamas because Hamas conducts war in the midst of its citizens.

I mourn for the freedoms Hamas takes from women, the money Hamas takes for itself and denies to the people, and the economic and political opportunities Hamas has crushed in its maniacal zeal to forge swords and not plowshares.  

I wait for a time when the people of Gaza are freed of Hamas to create the life of hope and prosperity they deserve.

ADAM COLE was in Berkeley College ’83. He is a lawyer and writer in San Francisco. Contact him at adamcole415@gmail.com.