The following op-ed from AJC Seattle Assistant Director Jackson Pincus appeared in the Kitsap Sun.

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza is not a “genocide.” I write this first, because within three sentences of a column published March 6 in the Sun by Alison Slow Loris, “Our role in conflict's generational violence,” that is the accusation made.

This allegation relies on two false assumptions. First, that every death Hamas has reported in Gaza is accurate, civilian in nature, and deliberate, and second, the belief that the Jewish state seeks not avenues for peace, but opportunities for conflict.

In reality, Hamas started this war on October 7. It uses innocent Palestinians as human shields, notching PR wins when civilians on either side lose life or limb. And it has and continues to misuse international aid to manufacture a terrorist tunnel network and command centers shielded by schools, hospitals, and homes. Placing blame on any other entity for this war distorts reality.

I must also address a textbook antisemitic statement made by Loris, comparing Holocaust survivors to Nazis. Allegations like these are exactly why American Jewish Committee (AJC) led the fight to pass the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism in Bremerton, which states that “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is a form of antisemitism.

Holocaust survivors were victims of horrific violence again on October 7. To assert, as Loris does, that the Jewish people as a collective have “turned victimhood into cruelty” is itself cruel.

Lastly, the accusations that “Israel insists on retaking control of Palestine” and that “Israel means to claim all of Palestine for its own” have no basis in reality. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been clear that post-war, his goal is a civilian government in Gaza with no ties to terrorism.

Those much smarter than I have already analyzed Israel’s conduct in Gaza, including John Spencer, the Chair of Urban Warfare Studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point, who recently wrote that “Israel has taken more measures to avoid needless civilian harm than virtually any other nation that's fought an urban war.”

While Loris (rightfully) condemns Hamas and claims to accept Israel’s right to defend itself, her accusation against the U.S. government boils down to “how dare you support Israeli self-defense” – to which I say, where’s the story? For more than 75 years, the U.S. has been a staunch ally of the Middle East’s only multicultural, multifaith democracy. It has also spent that time working toward peace, via Camp David, Oslo, Camp David II, and more – where Israeli and Palestinian leaders met, shook hands, spoke to each other as equals, and came closer than ever before to finally making peace.

I say “closer than ever” because Hamas fought tooth and nail to – eventually successfully – collapse the Oslo peace process. Their goal has never been peace with the Jewish state – but rather, the destruction of it. Given this undeniable truth, and that 50% of global Jewry lives in the indigenous Jewish homeland, I challenge Loris to square the circle that connects “stop the war” with “Israel is guaranteed never to experience another Oct. 7” without including “Hamas must be dismantled.” It cannot be done, in large part because Hamas has committed to repeating its Oct. 7 atrocities over and over if given the chance.

This week, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken both made clear that Israel has accepted the premise of an extended ceasefire. The problem? Hamas rejected the deal, and will not provide a list of hostages who are still alive – claiming they cannot even locate all of the hostages.

The U.S. position is clear: the war cannot end while Hamas remains in power, or with hostages still in captivity. Until then, the U.S. continues to work hard to alleviate civilian suffering – announcing just this past week that it would open a temporary port in Gaza for aid shipments, in addition to the airdrops it has already undertaken and the role it has played in urging both ceasefire talks and careful military action.

Loris’ argument, in essence, is that since Hamas hides among civilians, Israelis should be forced to leave their safety and security in jeopardy rather than ensuring that the equivalent of ten 9/11s cannot befall the nation again. She fails to take into account the efforts of the IDF to protect civilians – which have been taken to the greatest extent possible since the start of the war. No one seriously considered leaving ISIS in power when that war killed tens of thousands of civilians and did unimaginable damage to civilian infrastructure. Leaving Hamas in power in Gaza would have the same result as if ISIS had won the war in Iraq.

The onus remains on Hamas to release all the hostages, surrender unconditionally, and give up its genocidal anti-Jewish aspirations. That, justifiably, is the only way this war can, or should, end.

Jackson Pincus is assistant director of AJC Seattle.