The Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel was shocking and incomprehensible in its brutality. Women raped; children kidnapped, murdered and beheaded; the elderly targeted; people burned alive — and we know all of this to be true because the perpetrators filmed and shared their horrific acts, hoping that the world would tremble in fear.
But this is not the time for fear. This is the time to fight the foes of freedom. Hamas and its backers in Iran, Syria, Qatar and elsewhere are these foes. And they must be defeated.
Now is the time for the global community to unify around the basic understanding that the evil aggressor is Hamas and not Israel. Hamas is not the victim. Its terrorists are not heroes. They deserve no mercy.
This reckoning was long in coming. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in order to give the Palestinians a clear pathway to self-determination and sovereignty over beautiful beachfront land, equipped with all the infrastructure needed to facilitate productive self-government. That infrastructure was destroyed by Hamas after it seized control of Gaza in 2007.
Since then, everything that remained has been weaponized against Israel. Sewer pipes were ripped up and converted into rockets. Construction equipment and concrete, which could and should have been used to benefit ordinary Gazans, has been used to build tunnels designed to penetrate sovereign Israeli territory. Humanitarian aid provided by Israel, the United States, the United Nations and others was usurped by Hamas to facilitate terror attacks.
All of this, we know, has been achieved with the malignant help of Iran, the world’s foremost sponsor of terror, and the government of Qatar.
Hamas also harms ordinary Gazans by forcing Israel to defend itself and its citizens against relentless attacks, culminating in the unspeakable Oct. 7 massacre. No other country would tolerate such barbaric terror on its borders. Israel cannot allow Hamas to continue victimizing the population of Israel’s south or the people of Gaza.
To defeat Hamas, the international community must acknowledge and confront reality. It should develop a plan to isolate Hamas from the rest of the Palestinian population. Such a plan can succeed if it allows stakeholders to pool their resources in order to facilitate genuine governance, hate-free education, quality health care and reconstruction that does not serve the purposes of terror.
As I previously argued in a 2021 article titled “Needed: A Gaza Protectorate in Place of Hamas,” there must be an international protectorate put in place on which Gazans can rely to build a better society.
In addition to removing Hamas via necessary military operations, it is essential to target its backers and leadership via sanctions and legal action both civil and criminal. All those who have provided financial, political and terror support for Hamas must face justice.
Such legal action must be undertaken in the United States, not just Israel and elsewhere. This would allow the U.S. judiciary to send a loud and clear message that terrorist violence against American citizens wherever they may be located will not be tolerated.
Our law firm has successfully obtained judgments and financial recovery for clients in cases previously brought against Iran and Syria in order to hold them responsible for funding and sponsoring Hamas terror. Qatar, however, hides behind jurisdictional immunity. This must end. Qatar’s funding of terror and the depth and breadth of its purchase of influence in the United States and elsewhere must be fully examined and exposed to the public.
In addition, U.S. anti-terrorism laws must be changed in order to provide victims with full legitimate recourse in the courts. Today, many victims have been stymied by various court decisions.
For example, many courts have held that, even when a plaintiff brings an action against a defendant who knowingly provides millions of dollars to a foreign terrorist organization, the plaintiffs are not permitted to sustain their cases towards discovery and trial except when they know and assert in their complaint that the defendant’s financial supporters had knowledge that the recipient actually engaged in terrorist activities and it was objectively foreseeable that such support would be used to further terrorist activities.
This most difficult test, which is contrary to the intent of Congress when it adopted the anti-terror laws currently in effect, means that victims are routinely barred from holding terror sponsors civilly liable, unless they can demonstrate, without the benefit of discovery, that the defendant directs funds towards a specific terror attack.
This is not the proper standard to which victims should be held, particularly as we know that money is fungible. Funding Hamas inevitably means that these funds will be used to train, equip, house, incentivize and reward terrorists for committing unspeakable acts.
Therefore, we should work to ensure that America’s anti-terror laws can be fully enforced, including against the financial, political and all-too-supportive sponsors of terror. We should begin by adopting new strategies to gain compensation for victims and financially punish and deter terrorists and their supporters.
In the aftermath of Oct. 7, President Joe Biden, members of Congress, policymakers and others around the world have expressed their unequivocal support for the citizens of Israel.
They have also acknowledged that the state of Israel has the right and the duty not only to defend herself and her people, but also to put an end to Hamas’ tyranny in Gaza.
Yet we see demonstrations ongoing across the globe, including in the U.S., in which Hamas’ horrific attacks are being celebrated. Israel is blamed for the brutal violence committed against her. We should not be intimidated by such monstrous behavior.
This is not the time to be afraid. It is the time for all of us to stand together against unfettered hate and terror.
Richard D. Heideman is senior counsel of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik PC in Washington, D.C., which represents American victims of terror.