Imagine it's weeks after 9/11 in fall 2001. Grief, uncertainty, and fear are palpable across our country. The nation's sense of security is shattered.
Now imagine that Chicago's streets have been filled from that life-changing day with protesters demanding that America accept an unconditional cease-fire with al-Qaida. Though that terrorist group has the desire and capability to inflict additional carnage, the protesters, joined by some City Council members and members of Congress, claim any American military response is unjustified.
It takes no imagination to realize that this reaction to 9/11 would have been rejected immediately. But such a response was never required because Americans would not have supported a cease-fire in that defining, still dangerous moment in our history.
Now imagine it is a month since October. 7, the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. Imagine further that the perpetrator, the terrorist group Hamas, and pro-Palestinian supporters are demanding that Israel impose a cease-fire on its efforts to defend its people. That scenario also requires no imagination. It is precisely what Israel hears, on the streets of Chicago and in the City Council and the halls of Congress.
Of course, some cease-fires thankfully do offer a welcome pause in the suffering and a genuine step toward peace. Yet a cease-fire today in the war Hamas started against Israel is precisely what is not needed now. A cease-fire today would not end the suffering--either for Israelis or Gaza's civilians. That's because Hamas' intent is not to keep a peaceful cease-fire.
An immediate cease-fire does nothing for the 240 hostages being held by Hamas, among whom are a dozen Americans, plus women, children, people with disabilities, and Holocaust survivors. A cease-fire maintains Hamas' despotic rule over Palestinians and its ability to wage terror against our ally Israel.
An unconditional cease-fire rewards Hamas and would advance its long-standing, transparent, five-staged strategy:
1. Sporadically launch ever-escalating attacks against Israel. Consider the attacks in 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2021, and now the barbaric slaughter of October 7. These attacks violated existing cease-fires, and the United Nations-recognized international border.
2. As soon as Israel responds, plead to the world, in the name of humanity, for a cease-fire.
3. Until a cease-fire is reached, exploit humanitarian pauses and aid convoys by diverting fuel intended for hospitals to launching rockets, smuggling military supplies into aid trucks, and sneaking terrorists out in ambulances.
4. When the cease-fire is achieved, start training for the next attack, expand the arsenal, educate youths to hate, draw ever closer to Iran, and exploit for political sympathy the further impoverishment of Palestinians.
5. The grand finale in this strategy is shamelessly repeated by Hamas official Ghazi Hamad: "We must teach Israel a lesson, and we will do this again and again … on October 7, October 10, October one-millionth, everything we do is justified." Asked if this means until Israel is annihilated, he has responded, matter-of-factly, "Yes, of course."
Those are Hamas' evil, avowed intentions. A concession-free cease-fire is a step forward for Hamas' terror strategy. It is not a step toward peace.
Hamas' rampage against civilians was itself a violation of an existing cease-fire. The group's planning included the certainty that pro-Palestinian supporters, as soon as Israel responded, would cry on cue, "Cease-fire now!"
Israel may ultimately agree to a cease-fire for the release of hostages or in a newfound faith that humanitarian aid may finally bypass Hamas and help innocent Gazans. Until then, all those urging cease-fire are serving Hamas' enduring goal: the killing of Jews, the annihilation of Israel, and the continued oppression of Palestinians. While these people's goals may indeed be noble, they are not Hamas' goals.
It takes no imagination to realize why so many Americans don't love what a cease-fire with Hamas means. We recall, somberly, the cease-fire, and much, much more that didn't survive October 7.
This column first appeared in the
on Nov. 14, 2023.
Jay Tcath is the executive vice president of JUF.