by Jack Solowey:
For the fourth time in a decade, millions of people in Gaza and Israel live in fear of explosives raining down upon their homes and families. The body count of 1,888 Palestinians, most of them civilians according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, and 67 Israelis, 3 of them civilians according to press reports, doesn’t begin to convey the human suffering wrought by the latest war between Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces.
As the Palestinians are still a stateless people and have borne lurid civilian casualties in the latest war, they understandably elicit a great deal of sympathy from those in the liberty movement. Humane sympathy for Palestinians, and support for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, requires those who concern their moral lives with the natural rights to life, liberty, and property to condemn Hamas, the violent Islamist movement governing Gaza.
Hamas is a sworn enemy of the Jewish people and their state, and in practice a dangerous enemy of the Palestinian people. Hamas actively works to undermine the two-state solution, fights to make further Israeli settlement removal politically difficult if not impossible, and proclaims and pursues genocidal goals.
According to Martin Indyk, the US Special Envoy to the recent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Israeli settlements deep in the West Bank hindered two-state negotiations. Similarly, Yuval Diskin, the former director of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service argues that these settlements are a threat to the two-state solution and Israel’s security.
The late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon believed in the unsustainable security risk of settlements in Palestinian territory, and led his nation through a period of sacrifice to remove them. In 2005, Israel evacuated all of its settlements and military personnel from the Gaza Strip and four settlements from the West Bank. The hope of that unilateral withdrawal was that a reformed, democratizing, and peaceful society would emerge in Gaza, which would then signal that Israel could continue disengagement from the West Bank.
Following the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, however, Hamas came to power by the ballot and the bullet, squaring off in elections and an ensuing civil war with Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party. Since then, Hamas has used Gaza not as an exemplar of a future Palestinian state, but as a launch pad for rocket and terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
Hamas has made Israeli voters, who associate settlement evacuation with increased vulnerability to rocket attacks on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat, Beersheva, and Haifa, terrified of future withdrawals. Since extant Israeli settlements deep within the West Bank create a system of complex security measures and checkpoints burdening Palestinian movement and impeding two-state negotiations, Hamas’s takeover and military use of Gaza have politically jeopardized Palestinian wellbeing and statehood.
Hamas’s use of Gaza for violence against Israel has also had disastrous consequences for Palestinians’ productive use of their property in the coastal strip. The much criticized Israeli blockade of Gaza didn’t begin until 2007, years after Israel withdrew from the territory and only after Hamas kidnapped Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit and fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians.
Though Martin Indyk notes the challenges of Israeli settlements deep within the West Bank, he also explains that the vast majority of Israel’s West Bank settlements, 80%, are concentrated in a less-invasive bloc known by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to likely remain part of Israel in exchange for land swaps.
While Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israeli civilians – Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike – are apologetically excused by some commentators as part of the “Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation,” Hamas’s salvo of rockets and attempted tunnel-borne massacres are not about the 20% of errant Israeli settlements, nor the eventual realization of two states for two peoples.
Recent articles by Middle East analysts in the New York Times and the The New Republic both offer evidence that Hamas’s attacks on Israel are about its own political survival, not the future of the Palestinian people. Hamas strikes on Israel are a last ditch effort to attain wealth and relevance given the retreat of its greatest allies, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Assad regime in Syria.
Hamas’s self-serving tactics that undermine a two-state solution are not surprising given its deplorable founding principles. Hamas’s tactics also prove that the unconscionable words of its charter are not mere rhetoric.
The Hamas charter, as recorded by Yale Law School’s Avalon Project for Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy, explicitly states:
Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people. May the cowards never sleep. Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it. Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.
Given Hamas’s inexcusable raison d’être and tactics, the conflation of Hamas violence with the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for a state of their own alongside Israel does a shameful disservice to the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, who oppose terrorism and police the West Bank to prevent political violence.
To support Palestinians and their statehood, and defend the natural rights of the Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Bedouin, and Bahai between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, one must categorically denounce Hamas.
Jack Solowey is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, working in law and school choice nonprofits. Follow him on twitter @JackSolowey.