The barbarism that Hamas unleashed on Israel should be condemned unconditionally, with no ifs or buts.

The massacre and rape of civilians, and their abduction from villages, kibbutzim and a music festival was a pogrom, confirming that Hamas’ true goal is to destroy the state of Israel and all Israelis. That said, the situation demands historical context — not as any kind of justification, but for the sake of clarity about the way forward.

A first consideration is the absolute despair that characterizes the lives of most Palestinians. Recall the spate of isolated suicidal attacks on the streets of Jerusalem around a decade ago. An ordinary Palestinian would approach a Jew, pull out a knife and stab the victim, knowing full well that he or she, as the attacker, would immediately be killed. There was no message in these terrorist acts, no shouts of “Free Palestine!” Nor was there any larger organization behind them. They were just individual acts of violent despair.