Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire, but no one is under any illusions. The latest round in the Gaza-Israeli war will end in another extended lull, and the two sides will be no closer to peace.
Well-meaning politicians, opinion-formers and do-gooders talk about the need for peace. The two sides must sit down and talk, they say, and hammer out a political solution.
In spite of the record press and media coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, rarely are Hamas’s objectives put in historical perspective. Hamas are not Palestinian nationalists but Islamists. Hamas, an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, simply does not have a negotiating position, short of the annihilation of Israel and the subjugation of Jews to Muslim rule, as per its Charter.
A Hamas video shown during the recent conflict told viewers: “Oh occupier, we are coming towards you. Leave our land. All of Palestine is ours. There’s nothing here for you but death. There’s nothing here for you but to be killed and to leave.”
Hamas are the local Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. This organization, founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, a teacher, was directly inspired by the rise of Nazism, and fuses antisemitic Nazi tropes with homegrown Jihadism, based on selected Koranic anti-Jewish verses and Hadith. The German-funded Brotherhood’s membership rose dramatically during the 1930s from 800 to one million in 1945. Its primary target was to roll back modernity and Western influence, to deny women their rights, and to attack Jews and other non-Muslims. From the 1930s onward, it was busy targeting the Jews and Copts of Egypt.
Matthias Kuntzel explains how its campaign against the Jews, which established the Brotherhood as a mass movement, was sparked by the 1936 uprising in Palestine directed against Jewish immigration and initiated by the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Between 1936 and 1938 the Brotherhood organized mass demonstrations in Egyptian cities under the slogans “Down With the Jews!” and “Jews Get Out of Egypt and Palestine!” Leaflets called for a boycott of Jewish goods and shops. The Brotherhood’s newspaper, al-Nadhir, carried a regular column on “The Danger of the Jews of Egypt,” which published the names and addresses of Jewish businessmen and (allegedly) Jewish newspaper publishers all over the world – attributing every evil, from communism to brothels, to the “Jewish danger.” The Jews of Egypt were repeatedly called on to publicly disassociate themselves from Zionism.
In June 1939 bombs were planted in a Cairo synagogue and Jewish homes, but this was as nothing compared to the violence to come. In November 1945, just six months after the end of the Third Reich, the Muslim Brotherhood carried out what Kuntzel calls the worst anti-Jewish pogroms in modern Egypt’s history, when demonstrators penetrated the Jewish quarter of Cairo on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. They ransacked houses and shops, attacked non-Muslims, and torched the synagogues. Six people were killed, and a hundred more injured. A few weeks later the Islamists’ newspapers “turned to a frontal attack against the Egyptian Jews, slandering them as Zionists, Communists, capitalists and bloodsuckers, as pimps and merchants of war, or in general, as subversive elements within all states and societies,” as Gudrun Krämer wrote in her study The Jews in Egypt 1914-1952.
The rest is, as they say, history. More riots erupted in 1948, Jews were criminalized for being Jews, thousands fled, discriminatory laws were introduced against non-Egyptians and in 1956, a third of Egypt’s original 80,000-strong community were expelled and dispossessed. After 1967, hundreds more Jews were interned and expelled.
The pitiful status of Jews in Egypt today would gladden the heart of any Hamas supporter: the country is almost judenrein, and the few dozen fearful Jews still living there – almost all converts to Islam or married to non-Jews – ‘know their place’.
Bombs placed in synagogues have been replaced by long-range rockets trained on Israel’s population centres, but the objective is still the same: kill the Jews. Buoyed up by the support of Iran and emerging Islamist governments all over the Arab world, and now Islamist dictatorship in Egypt, Hamas feels it has scored a great victory. In spite of the decapitation of its senior leadership and the destruction in Gaza, Hamas believes it has emerged stronger from this latest round. It is only a matter of time before Islam will triumph over the infidel and reclaim the land that belongs to Dar al-Islam, even if it takes decades.
But the Jews of Israel are not going quietly. Unlike the Jews of Egypt, they are able to defend themselves.