Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities President Prof. David Harel penned a letter to academic leaders from prestigious institutions around the world, in which he urged them not to draw "symmetry between Hamas and Israel" following the Gaza Strip terrorist group's barbaric attack on Israeli civilians and the Jewish state's subsequent military actions to ensure its security.
His letter—addressed to the heads of the national academies of Italy, France, Britain, Germany and the U.S. among others—came in response to the numerous condolences he received from all over the world, some of which urged both sides to prevent violence from further escalating.
Prof. Harel wrote as follows:
"Dear fellow Presidents and leaders of Science Academies and Institutions,
I am writing to you in the midst of the most devastating time Israel has experienced in many, many years – indeed, some view it as its most devastating time ever.
Many of you have sent us letters of condolence and support, and some of you also issued public statements condemning the barbaric, atrocious attack we underwent. I am deeply grateful for these tokens of friendship and encouragement. We direly need them! I have responded privately to those of you who wrote to me directly, or will do so in the next few days.
However, amongst strong public statements we have seen, coming from all around the world, there are those who view the Hamas attack as merely "another round" in an ongoing battle between Israel and its enemies. Some statements even make embarrassing attempts to portray things as being symmetric, asking “all sides” to refrain from hostilities. Thus, I feel that the horrible events we have been going through deserve some elaboration. Hence this letter.
I want to start by making one thing very clear, which is shared by us all here in Israel – supporters and harsh critics of the new government, right-wingers and left, conservatives and liberals, secular and religious, and those holding an extremely wide spectrum of opinions about the Arab-Israel problem:
This is not a “skirmish”, or merely "another round” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and as of October 7 there is no justification in seeking symmetry between Hamas and Israel. Hamas is a vicious terrorist organization of the worst possible kind, and, like ISIS, cannot be allowed to exist as such.
In the early hours of October 7, Hamas carried out a broad, carefully planned attack, targeting men, women, children, babies and seniors – all within Israel proper. This inhuman and horrifically violent attack, clearly amounts to a crime against humanity. I presume that you have been exposed to some of the unspeakable descriptions, photos and video clips in the media, but, as is becoming evident from survivors’ accounts, things were actually much worse than what has been shown.
I will not burden you further with the details. Suffices to say that the total number of those killed in that unbelievably horrible day is already around 1500 people, and as the identification process continues, this number gradually increases. In addition to the dead and the several thousand wounded, over 200 people have been violently abducted by Hamas and are in captivity in Gaza, and these too include men, women and children, between the ages of one year old and 85.
It bears noting that, as an example, and relative to the respective populations, 1500 people killed in one day in Israel is analogous to the unbelievable number of around 53,000 people in the USA, and the 200 captives are tantamount to over 7000 Americans!
I find it hard to understand or sympathize with anyone exhibiting support for, or indifference to such a terror organization as Hamas. What they did on October 7 was, quite simply, a purposeful, totally premeditated, horrifyingly brutal massacre and abduction of an enormous number of people, the vast majority of which are innocent civilians.
As the leaders of our Academies, which constitute the most prestigious scientific institutions in the world, we should all take a firm, univocal stand against brutal, inhuman violence perpetrated on civilian populations, articulate it in unambiguous words, and herald those words loudly and clearly.
Turning to what happens next, there is no clear consensus in Israel as to the nature and magnitude of the best response to these atrocities. However, one thing is agreed upon, largely across the board: The Hamas is a terrorist organization of the very worst kind, and must be prevented from being able to launch any such attacks in the future, ever; and nowhere in the world.
In addition, two things are mandatory for whatever military actions Israel decides to take in Gaza:
(1) Every possible effort should be made to secure the safe return of all the abductees, with no stone of any kind left unturned.
(2) Utmost care is to be taken that there be absolutely minimal suffering and casualties among innocent civilians. This is especially crucial, given the tradition of Hamas to use Gaza’s civilian population as human shields.
Let me conclude with a personal note: For decades, I have been a staunch supporter of equality, freedom and civil rights, and have long fought for the Palestinian right to a state of their own, and for Israel to make every effort to reach peace with our Palestinian neighbors. Also, it is no secret that more recently I have been a vocal critic of many of the present government’s actions, which are already undermining our democracy and damaging Israeli science, technology and culture. I shall tirelessly keep on with these efforts, and even more so given what happened here in Israel 10 days ago and the government’s obvious role and responsibility in it.
One of you wrote in the letter to us, “It is a pity that this barbaric act by Hamas has derailed the possibility for peace for the foreseeable future”. I am still deeply hopeful for peace in the future. However, for now, these cruel and brutal acts of violence should be denounced; strongly, firmly and clearly.
Yours, with best wishes