Throughout the current conflict, as in previous ones, conventional wisdom has held that the people of Gaza are innocent victims, trapped between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization. This view is articulated by President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. This is the view of the media, including media favorable to Israel. This is even the Israeli government’s position. Israeli government spokesmen Mark Regev explains that “We don’t see…the people of Gaza as an enemy. The people of Southern Israel and the innocent civilian population of Gaza are suffering due to the extremism and nihilistic agenda of Hamas.”
Does the evidence actually support the existence of a dichotomy between Hamas and the people of Gaza? Or do the people of Gaza in fact support and participate in Hamas’ war of genocide against the Jews? The unfortunate reality is that Hamas is the elected representative of the Palestinian people. They voted for Hamas because they share its ideology.
Hamas won a solid majority in the last democratic elections to the Palestinian legislative council, held in January of 2006. Subsequent elections were repeatedly canceled because Israel, the United States and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party knew that Hamas would win. Significantly, there has been no protest against seven years of Hamas rule by the people of Gaza.
Not only must we accept the fact that the people of Gaza share Hamas’ ideology, but there is no evidence that the ideology of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria is any different. They too voted for Hamas in the 2006 election, and indications are that they would vote for it today in even greater numbers. During the current war they have engaged in violent mass demonstration in support of Hamas in Jerusalem and throughout Judea and Samaria.
The only apparent difference between Abbas’ Fatah party, founded by Yasser Arafat, and Hamas, is in regard to tactics. The ultimate goal of destroying Israel remains common to both. This goal is openly stated by Hamas and implied in the Palestinian Authority’s continued demonization of Israel and failure to sign a peace treaty even on the most favorable terms offered them by Israeli Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres, Barak and Olmert.
The proximity of the PLO-run Palestinian entity has also led to a dramatic radicalization of the Israeli Arabs, who show increasing signs of hostility to their Jewish neighbors and the Jewish State. Ten synagogues have been burned down this year in mixed Arab-Jewish towns such as Lod and Ramle, with memorials to fallen IDF soldiers defaced throughout the country.
The radicalization of Palestinian society should surprise no one. Hamas’ genocidal ideology has deep roots among the Palestinian Arabs. The founder of the Palestinian national movement, Haj Amin al-Husseini, instigated the Hebron Massacre in 1929 and allied himself with the Nazis during World War II. The spread of this hateful ideology was perpetuated by the Oslo Accords, the misguided agreement which gave control of the Palestinian Arabs, including their press and education, to terrorist organizations: first, the PLO, led by Husseini’s nephew, Yasser Arafat; and later, Hamas. The result is a society in which children are taught to hate Jews from the earliest age, and carry key chains with pictures of suicide bombers after whom streets are named.
The truth is that the Palestinians are neither a neutral third party nor innocent victims of a conflict beyond their control; they are its instigators. The Palestinians have violently resisted every Israeli attempt at reconciliation. Whenever the fires of the Arab-Israeli conflict appear on the verge of dying out, the Palestinians stoke the flames anew, repeatedly dragging the rest of the Arab world into war with Israel. Hamas is not a foreign body imposed on the people of Gaza. Hamas is the people of Gaza: their fathers, their brothers, their uncles and their sons. Regarding their hatred of Israel there is no discernible difference between the two.
The radicalization of an entire population is not unprecedented. There are tens, if not hundreds of millions throughout the Arab world, who freely choose to be Jihadists. The Nazis, too, were elected to office by the German people and had their enthusiastic support, at least as long as the war was going their way. The world did not pretend the German people were innocent victims of the Nazi regime; nor should we absolve the Palestinians of their complicity in more than a century of Palestinian terror. Just as the German people were held accountable for their crimes, so too must the Palestinians be held accountable for theirs.
The argument will be made that the children of Gaza also suffer and they, at least, are innocent. This is certainly true, but the root cause of their suffering is the unending campaign of terror conducted by Palestinian society against the Jewish State. Israel cannot be held responsible for the tragic consequences of wars she did not start, and does not seek.
The Israeli government’s acceptance of the false dichotomy between the people of Gaza and Hamas may well be more of a tactical ploy than a genuinely-held belief, but if so, it is a strategic error. There may be short-term benefits in the battle for public opinion but, ultimately, you cannot defeat an enemy you do not acknowledge and you cannot build peace on lies.
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