As the world recoils in horror and anger at the destruction and casualties in Gaza, Hamas’ leaders encourage still more Palestinians to place themselves in harm’s way and give their lives to protect rockets stored in schools, hospitals, and homes. What might be at the root of Hamas’ willingness to sacrifice its most devoted followers to commit “suicide by Israel?”
Many Israeli leaders are convinced that Hamas uses civilians as human shields to try to protect its military from potential Israeli attacks since Israel’s policy is to avoid harming civilians whenever possible. Others believe that Hamas deliberately exposes its people to harm in order to use the casualties to “win” a media war for hearts and minds. There is merit in both of these arguments, however, according to Hamas itself, the death of Palestinian men, women and children is not a core goal, but merely a means to achieve its main objectives to liberate ALL of Israel and to kill ALL Jews (even those “hiding behind rocks and trees” as is detailed in its Charter.)
For those who believe that the 1988 Hamas Charter is old news, Hamas spokespeople constantly remind us of their unchanged positions, saying “We are going to continue the war until we achieve our goal.” Hamas repeatedly claims that they will not give up until all of the land is liberated and all Jews are killed. These core beliefs seem to be non-negotiable to Hamas, even if most of the world outside of Israel tries to pretend otherwise.
Hamas, like other militant Islamist organizations, including ISIS and Boka Haram,have clear beliefs about who should be in control of what they deem to be Muslim land. The list includes not only Israel, but places like Spain and parts of China, Russia and Africa. Should any state, including Israel, tolerate suicide attacks on its innocent citizens as a legitimate protest to the state’s right to exist?
Hamas’ focus on building tunnels and manufacturing rockets highlights that Gaza itself seems to be superfluous to Hamas’ main goals. Who cares about maintaining greenhouses, building schools, water treatment plants, and stimulating the economy when the main goal is to leave Gaza and take over all of Israel? Hamas is also neglecting to educate its young and prepare them to be competitive in a 21st century global economy.
With no hope or options in sight, ordinary Palestinians are relatively easy prey to Hamas’s encouragement to commit “suicide by Israel.” In “A World Not Ours,” a brand new POV film on PBS, one Palestinian man shared, “I want to go on a mission and blow myself up. I bet most of the guys who blew themselves up felt the same way I do. No future, no work, hope, no education. No nothing… they just used Palestine as an excuse to end their lives.” See the film here: http://www.pbs.org/pov/aworldnotours/full.php#.U_Ty-7xdW88
Today, Hamas continues to use up its finite supply of rockets in its mostly unsuccessful efforts to destroy Israel and kill Jews. The situation reminds me of what Viktor Frankl observed in his 1959 Holocaust book, Man’s Search for Meaning, when Jews hoarded cigarettes (not rockets, like Hamas) in order to trade them for food and survival. Frankl claimed that men who had given up on life and would soon die, were easy to spot. They could be observed smoking all of their remaining cigarettes. Or rockets, in Hamas’ case.
The UN, the media, and Palestinian sympathizers around the globe have been letting Hamas off easy for the unnecessary suffering of its people. They have bought into Hamas’ messianic plans and see Israel as the main impediment that prevents Palestinians from improving their lot. Hamas’ single-minded commitment to “liberate all of Israel” and “kill all Jews” leaves little room and time for productive pursuits. Hamas’ actions also leave Israel with few non-violent choices in its struggle to protect its citizens from harm.
The rest of the world should be paying attention now because impossible-to-satisfy demands from Islamic fundamentalist groups like Hamas are increasing around the globe, and once started, they will never end. Rather than blindly criticizing Israel for the number of casualties Hamas reports in Gaza, leaders need to join together to see the situation for what it is, and help prevent more “suicides by Israel.” Not only will Israelis be safer, but a whole generation of Palestinians may discover a life worth living.