Whatever one’s views about Israel and its campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, it is imperative to look closely at its enemy. Those who care deeply about the fate of the Palestinian people should spend some time examining Hamas. The aims of the Islamic group that has held power in Gaza for 18 months stand in direct opposition to the goals of Palestinians who want peace, freedom and a better future.
Hamas opposes the two-state solution, and it has proved to be a brutal enemy against any Palestinians who disagree with its views. Hamas has all but banished its Palestinian rival, Fatah, from Gaza. It does not tolerate different views. Freedom of thought, expression and religion, are on their way out in Gaza.
The Hamas charter, in Article 8, provides a framework. “Allah is its target, the Prophet (Muhammad) is its model, the Koran is its constitution, jihad is its path, and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.” Last month, a report in an Arab newspaper detailed a vote by the Hamas parliament to introduce Sharia, Islamic law. The report said Hamas wants to bring back amputations, hangings, lashings and even crucifixion. The death penalty would be reserved for serious crimes, such as ‘negotiat(ing) with a foreign government — against Palestinians’ interest.’”
Anyone under the impression that Hamas secretly wishes to negotiate peace with Israel has fallen victim to wishful thinking. Hamas openly calls for the destruction of Israel and wants to replace “every inch” of it with an Islamic nation, as part of fundamentalists’ goal of creating one large supranational caliphate. In fact, Hamas does not like the idea of a nation-state.
Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas answers to Iran, which would like to sow as much discord as possible in the region. Negotiating peace with Israel goes against the deepest wishes of Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah. The three, along with Syria, formed the Jabat al-Mumana’a, the Front of Obstruction, which seeks to remove Western influence (including Israel’s existence) in the Middle East. It’s not surprising that on Wednesday, the speaker of the Iranian parliament went to Damascus to discuss strategy with Hamas’ supreme leader, Khaled Meshal. Ali Larijani held meetings with several terrorist groups. The next day, perhaps by coincidence, someone fired rockets into Israel from Lebanon. It’s worth wondering whose interests Hamas is pursuing.
True, Hamas leaders have talked about a long-term Hudna, a truce with Israel. But they have also spelled out its purpose. A top Hamas leader, Nizar Rayyan, told an Atlantic Monthly correspondent that, “Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God.” Given that, “The only reason to have a Hudna is to prepare yourself for the final battle (with Israel.)”
Last week, Rayyan, a fierce advocate of suicide bombings — who sent his own son on a suicide mission — was killed by Israel along with two of his four wives. Rayyan’s death was quietly celebrated by Palestinians in the West Bank. The Hamas leader had threatened the Palestinian Authority, vowing to overthrow the PA there, as it did in Gaza in 2007.
The group, by the way, is viciously anti-Semitic. The charter is filled with rants calling for the murder of Jews — not just Israelis. Rayyan himself explained that the Jews are the “sons of pigs and apes.” Critics of Israel may not find Hamas’ views on Israel or Jews particularly troubling. But they might want to consider the type of society they would build. One can get a good idea looking at the cult of death, violence and intolerance Hamas has promoted, or watching the hate-filled programs Hamas television produces for children.
Hamas, labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, Europe and Japan, came to power by winning hearts and minds with its tough anti-Israel stance and its widespread social welfare network. Once in power it has kept its warm side hidden. When the war with Israel started in late December, Hamas operatives rounded up members of the rival Fatah, killing dozens of them on claims they might help Israel. Hamas would not create the kind of state most Palestinians want.
Even critics and opponents of Israel should be able to see that the answer to the Palestinians’ plight does not lie with Hamas.