Once Israel destroys all the tunnels it can find dug by Hamas and withdraws its troops, demands will again be made on Prime Minister Netanyahu to agree to sit down with Hamas and work out a lasting cease-fire as well as a peace agreement. We know that as of today, Hamas’ leadership has said any such agreement must include the complete opening up of the borders on all sides of Gaza, and a lifting of the blockade imposed by Israel. Hamas’ leadership has made it most clear that they will not agree to any arrangement that does not satisfy all of their demands.
Why does Hamas make it crystal clear that it will not accept any real peace that does not give it what it desires? What else does Hamas want and why is it so determined to destroy Israel? What ideology do its leaders and members subscribe to? These are the questions most of the media fail to ask.
Today, in a pathbreaking and revealing interview, Nic Robertson of CNN sat down in Qatar — Hamas’ protector — with Hamas’ political leader, Khaled Mashaal. Robertson did not mince words, and asked Mashaal the tough questions he obviously did not expect.
Both the Israeli and American narrative, Mashaal said, was a “lie.” Hamas’ leader actually said with a straight face that Hamas did not fire rockets from schools, mosques and other populated areas, and never put the people of Gaza in harm’s way. Israeli rockets, he said, were purposefully aimed at civilian inhabitants. Moreover, he continued to claim that the thousands killed in Gaza by Israel’s forces, when compared to the relatively few Israeli deaths, is proof enough that it is Israel alone that was guilty of intentionally killing civilian non-combatants.
Robertson stood out from all his media counterparts in not letting Mashaal get away with such drivel. He pointed out that if there were not as many Israeli casualties, it was not for the lack of Hamas trying. The “Iron Dome” has saved Israeli lives, and Hamas seeks to fire so many rockets in the hope that some will get by Iron Dome’s capabilities and explode in civilian areas.
Mashaal told Robertson the following:
We are stronger than they are in the justness of our cause. We are the rightful owners of the land, and they are the thieves of the land. We are the victims and they are the murderers. But despite this we might not win a battle or two completely, but at the end we will win the war. Our steadfastness is a victory. To kill their soldiers while they kill our civilians is also a victory for the Palestinian cause and Hamas.
To understand what Hamas is all about, one has to turn to historian Jeffrey Herf’s important article about the organization. Based on a close reading of the Hamas charter, Herf shows that its aims and its ideology and philosophy are “rooted in the totalitarianism and radical anti-Semitism that has undergirded Islamism since its rise in the 1930s and 1940s.” This truth, he correctly writes, is one “unnoticed by reporters, editors, and pundits who race to comment on Hamas’ war with Israel.”
The organization, which has not refuted its charter, acts today in accordance with the goals enunciated in its 1988 “Covenant.” Most people and journalists know that the document calls for the elimination of the Jewish state, and the establishment of an Islamist society in its place. But their understanding stops with that alone. What Herf shows is that Hamas, unlike the Fatah of Mahmoud Abbas, directly says that their aim is to eliminate not only Israel, but all Jews as well. And that aim is a religious one that is based on their belief in what the Koran says. Herf explains:
It promises to remake the world in the name of Islam, which, it regrets, has been wrongly driven from public life. This is its slogan: “Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, and the Koran is its constitution: Jihad is the path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.” This celebration of martyrdom and death had been a key theme in Hassan al-Banna’s writings and subsequently became a commonplace for Islamists.
Anyone who believes Hamas’ claim that all religions would live peacefully on an equal basis under Islamist rule are more than naïve; they are deluded. Moreover, Hamas specifically refuses to accept any two-state solution, which they explain is against their basic religious beliefs. Unlike previous Arab movements, once allied with the former Soviet Union and friendly to Marxism-Leninism, Hamas instead gives up that ideology completely. In its place they have consciously adopted what Herf – who is a historian of Germany — writes is “the classic anti-Semitic tropes of Nazism and European fascism, which the Islamists had absorbed when they collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.” Hamas’ charter puts its views of the Jews and the Zionists in these words:
With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money, they formed secret societies, such as Freemason, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.
This theory is in fact taken directly from Nazi Germany’s wartime propaganda. Unlike those who oppose Israel by arguing that it is a pawn of American imperialism, Hamas reverses that and claims that it is Israel that controls the United States, since it is the all-powerful Jews who are responsible for the plight in which the citizens of Gaza and the Arab world find themselves in. It was the Jews, they argue, that were behind and were responsible for both World War I and World War II, from which they greatly enriched themselves. Finally, it is not the Arab world that is seeking to destroy Israel and push it into the sea, but Israel that seeks to destroy each Arab nation one by one.
Once you know what Hamas stands for, you can gain the clarity one needs to understand why Israel must be supported fully by the United States, and maintain the strength it has so that Hamas can eventually be defeated.
In the current fight, Hamas has used the destruction of Gaza and the death and devastation created by using its civilian population as an effective tool to create sympathizers who see only the human suffering, and not Hamas’ cynical use of the people they supposedly represent as pawns whose position can be used to create antipathy for Israel.
If Hamas is to be defeated and delegitimized, first what it stands for and what its leaders believe have to be clearly understood.