Efraim Zuroff, American-born Israeli historian, is the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, but above all he is known as “the last Nazi hunter.” Thanks to his research for more than 40 years, some 3,000 Germans have been located who actively participated in the Holocaust during World War II and who managed to escape and hide in several countries after the collapse of the Nazi regime. Zuroff often jokes that he is “the only Jew in the world who prays for the good health of Nazis.” He wants them to survive to be tried for his crimes. We have asked him about Israel’s war against Hamas and the bombings by the Jewish Army on Gaza. These are his answers.
Only with a truce like the one that has been agreed can the 240 kidnapped by Hamas be returned home?
Not necessarily, but I think the best chance of reaching an agreement is if we (Israel) allow some Hamas senior officials and leaders to leave the Gaza Strip alive. Unfortunately, almost all of its political leaders have been living luxuriously in Qatar for several years now, as they feared that Israeli forces would try to assassinate them at some point.
How would you solve the problem of the Israeli hostages?
First, Hamas must allow the Red Cross to visit them and ensure that they are alive, healthy and treated fairly.
Why do the majority of the Israeli population support the destruction of Gaza and Hamas?
For obvious reasons related to Hamas’s ideology and its constitution, which clearly express that its goal is to achieve the elimination of Israel and establish an Islamic state in its place. The Hamas movement has adhered to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is clearly anti-Semitic.
Do you consider Gaza civilians co-responsible for the Hamas attack, as Israeli President Herzog said?
Israel has taken many measures to protect innocent civilians, but when fighting a terrorist army – which does not care about the well-being of its population – it is impossible to carry out a military campaign without casualties. Furthermore, it must be taken into account that the population of Gaza voted for Hamas in 2007 to govern the Strip during free elections.
Israel can put an end to Hamas, but doesn’t it think that many Gazans will take over from this organization?
Nobody knows the answer to this question. In reality, there are also many Gazans who are against Hamas.
Do you find comparisons of the Hamas massacre of October 7 to the Holocaust, such as those made by Netanyahu, appropriate?
No, but Netanyahu (unlike his father) is not a historian.
Do you think Hamas got out of hand with the October 7 attack or was the massacre planned in advance? What was the point of the massacre if the terrorists knew that Israel would attack Gaza?
The attack was very well planned and the horrible and barbaric murders committed by Hamas were part of their plan. Hamas leaders claimed their goal was to draw attention to the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, and they succeeded. In reality, the October 7 attack reminds me of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, a spectacular attack that achieved nothing except provoke a military campaign by a US-led coalition to destroy the Al Qaeda terrorists and execute its leader Osama Bin Laden.
Should Netanyahu resign when the war with Hamas ends? What is the biggest mistake the Prime Minister has made?
His biggest mistake was appeasing Hamas instead of destroying it.
Do you think Israel will occupy the Strip and what is the Netanyahu government’s plan for after the war in the Strip?
It is still unclear what will happen, but Israel does not plan to occupy or govern Gaza.
Will there be a negotiation and agreement between Palestinians and Israelis in the distant future to end the conflict that began in 1948?
Nobody knows. Stranger things have happened.
Do you believe that the long-term solution to the conflict with Palestine involves a two-state solution?
Until a reliable Palestinian partner emerges willing to live in peace with Israel, the answer is a definitive “no.”
How many Nazis are still alive? Do you currently have any files open?
Nobody knows. There is one final trial scheduled in Germany against a guard who served at the Sachsenhausen camp.