Amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, Yuval Noah Harari, Israeli author and historian, in an exclusive interview with CNN-News18 Managing Editor Zakka Jacob, said that he hopes that India will use “its good relations to bring tensions down”.
Harari, the author of ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’, said that the aim of Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 was to destroy our trust in humanity. “The distinction needs to be made between Hamas and Palestinian people. People should raise their concerns for Palestinian civilians…India has good relations with Iran and other countries involved. I hope India uses its influence to help de-escalate the conflict and pressure and provide the first tiny ray of light that Hamas immediately releases on our conditions the hostages it took,” he said.
Harari said the release of all hostages will give a breathing space to the Israeli public. “They will feel there is hope…It will also protect Palestinians from the terrible suffering,” he said
When asked what next in the war, Harari said, “There must be hope for Palestinians living inside Gaza. Whether it is the Palestinian authority, US, India, Iran, whoever is willing to take up the extremely difficult task of simultaneously rebuilding Gaza and giving hope to the Palestinians there…Making sure that Hamas remains disarmed and Gaza doesn’t become the base for the terrible attacks.”
‘HAMAS DOESN’T WANT PEACE IN THE REGION’
According to Harari, the thinking of Hamas is to wage a war to end all peace. “To make sure there is never peace in the region. Nothing frightens Hamas more than the possibility of peace,” he said.
“The background to this attack is Israel has signed peace treaties with the Gulf States in recent years. We were on the verge of signing a historic peace treaty with Saudi Arabia, which was to normalize relations with the Arab world and also to improve the life of Palestinians, held under Israel-occupied territories and possibly also restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This frightened the Hamas and which is why it launched the attacks to sow seeds of hatred… for generations…” he said.
“When you torture and kill parents in front of their children and make sure it is publicised, you not only traumatise the children, but the entire nation. The aim is to make sure there is never a possibility of peace. Israel is now in a struggle, not just to protect its territory and citizens, but to protect its humanity. Despite what Hamas did, Israel must keep the possibility of peace alive,” Harari said.
“People say you should negotiate with Hamas…Why would you need something to release two-year-old babies?…Israelis shouldn’t go down to the level of Hamas. Unlike this terrorist organization, we should remain committed to international law, human rights and hope for peace.
HAMAS’S ACTIONS: 2-YEAR-OLD TO 74-YEAR-OLD TAKEN HOSTAGES, HUMAN SHIELDS
Harari said that Hamas is holding hostage two-year-old babies to eighty-year-old grandmothers. “People say you should negotiate with Hamas…Why would you need something to release two-year-old babies? A 74-year-old peace activist, Vivian Silver, lived under rocket attacks. One of her missions was to drive sick people from the Gaza strip to the hospitals in Israel. Hopefully, she is not dead and is held hostage. But who does such a thing of holding a 74-year-old hostage?”
“I cannot defend and am not aware of every step Israel takes. But it is very clear that Israel doesn’t try to kill as many civilians as possible like Hamas does. Hamas is using civilians as human shields. It has placed its military installations and weapon systems inside civilian population centres. They are trying to stop civilians from leaving…This is not what happened on October 7,” he said.
‘ISRAEL CAN’T BE MORALLY EQUATED TO HAMAS’
On the argument of moral equivalence in civilians being killed by both Israel and Hamas, Harari said, “We should be very careful. We should have sympathy for human suffering…But Israel is not deliberately targeting civilians to slaughter as many civilians as we can, in contrast to Hamas. Our aim should be to eventually come out of this with the possibility of peace. This frightens Hamas. There is no moral equivalence here either.”
“I have been a fierce critic of the Israeli government and policies vis-à-vis Gaza and Palestinians. Israel has made terrible mistakes in the way it abandoned many attempts to make peace with the Palestinians, in its policies in the occupied territories. But this is no justification for what Hamas has done. Hamas didn’t annihilate my uncle’s community and murdered and tortured civilians in the hope of restarting the peace process. It hoped to sow seeds of further violence and hate,” he said.
THE BALANCE BETWEEN PROTECTING CITIZENS & TERRITORY
When asked if Israel’s response is exactly what Hamas wanted, Harari said that it was a “dangerous trap”. “Israel needs to find a balance between its duty to protect its citizens and territory. My surviving family members are now refugees. They cannot go back home as long as a terrorist organization like Hamas exists, which is 1-2 km from their homes,” he said.
“On the other hand, Israelis shouldn’t go down to the level of Hamas. Unlike this terrorist organization, we should remain committed to international law, human rights and hope for peace. Finding this balance is difficult. We need help from our friends across the world,” Harari said.
Israel has signed peace treaties with the Gulf States in recent years. We were on the verge of signing a historic peace treaty with Saudi Arabia, which was to normalize relations with the Arab world and also to improve the life of Palestinians, held under Israel-occupied territories and possibly also restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This frightened the Hamas and which is why it launched the attacks to sow seeds of hatred… for generations…
HELP AT HAND
Harari said that the United States (US) has given important help to Israel in the recent days. “While sending two aircraft carriers with hundreds of planes, it has also restrained Israel from widening the circle of violence, putting pressure on it to adhere to international laws and norms. If Israel received similar support from our friends across the world, it will make it easier for us to do the right thing.”
“The attack tried to destroy our trust in humanity. It destroys your trust in humanity and your own humanity when you witness such an assault. Outsiders like the Arab States and India help us regain our trust in humanity and make sure we don’t descend into the depth of depravity like Hamas.”