David E. Weisberg


A word coined in the era of World War II has suddenly returned to popular usage.  The word of course is: denazification.  Supporters of Israel, from Prime Minister Netanyahu on down, have said that, on “the day after”—that is, after Hamas has been destroyed as a military and governing force—Palestinians in Gaza will have to undergo a process of “dehamasification” that will be very similar to the denazification imposed on Germany after the war.  The implication and indeed the hope is that, after a relatively few years during which the Palestinians will have been dehamasified, they, like the Germans after denazification, will be able to live in peace with, and adopt the democratic values of, neighbors who had formerly been enemies.

I’m sorry to say that I think that’s a false hope. Dehamasification of Palestinians would be a fundamentally different and infinitely more difficult task than was the denazification of Germans.  The nub of the difficulty, as is true of so many of the difficulties in the Middle East, is religion.

The vile doctrines that comprised Nazism — pure “Aryan” Germans seen as a superhuman race entitled to rule everywhere; Jews as a sub-human race responsible for all the evil and distress in Germany and the world at large; the desirability and ultimate necessity of arriving at a “final solution” for the Jews, etc. — were stitched together and advanced by the mesmerizing rhetoric and political shrewdness of Hitler.  But those ideas were not undergirded by positive religious doctrine.

I do not mean to say that both the Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany had never advanced antisemitic ideas before the Nazis came to power.  They had.  Nor do I mean to say that the Christian institutions in Germany strongly opposed the Nazis, although some individual Christians were indeed heroic in their opposition.  Nor would I deny the obvious fact that antisemitism was widespread among the Christian German population well before Hitler came to power.

What I do mean to say is that it was not Christian doctrine in the 1930s, and Hitler never even pretended that it was Christian doctrine, that Jews must be banished entirely from German society and ultimately exterminated.  When Nazis held their mass rallies, they carried torches and made straight-arm salutes; they did not carry crucifixes and cross themselves.  Nazism was not to any significant degree framed as a Christian religious movement.

Hamas represents something very different.  Hamas has stated unequivocally that religion is at the very core of its purpose and doctrine.  Almost the first words in the covenant of Hamas is the assertion that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it[.]”   The covenant goes on to say:

The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Muslim generations until Judgement Day.

It is impossible to doubt that the members of Hamas believe, as the Covenant clearly says, that “Nationalism, from the point of view of [Hamas], is part of the religious creed. Nothing in nationalism is more significant or deeper than in the case when an enemy should tread Muslim land … For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight.”  The members of Hamas believe it is their religious duty to obliterate the State of Israel and establish Islamic rule from the river to the sea.

The idea that Germans are a race of supermen was easy to discredit when, after the end of World War II, Germany was in ruins, with its military might utterly destroyed.  But if one sincerely believes that Allah requires that all faithful Muslims struggle to free Palestine from majority-Jewish sovereignty, setbacks or defeats to that Muslim cause can be seen as merely temporary.  If the divine will is that Israel shall be obliterated, surely that goal ultimately will be attained.

There will be no “dehamasification” unless and until the version of Islam embraced by Hamas is expunged virtually completely from the hearts and minds of the Palestinian population at large.  That task could, I think, be accomplished only over a time span measured in generations, rather than five or ten years.  The doctrines of Hamas, which are rooted in religious belief, are much more tightly bound-up in the most fundamental beliefs of many Palestinians than were Nazi doctrines among the defeated Germans.

None of the foregoing implies either (a) that Israel should abandon its goal of destroying Hamas as a military and governmental power, or (b) that efforts to “dehamasify” Palestinians in Gaza, and perhaps elsewhere, should not be undertaken on the day after major combat in Gaza ceases.  It does imply, however, that it is very likely that, over time, and notwithstanding the crushing, total defeat one hopes Hamas will suffer, new young Palestinians will grow up who are willing to embrace “martyrdom” for the same religious cause that motivates Hamas.

Dehamasification, if it ever succeeds, will take a much longer time than was required for denazification, and Israel must be prepared to defend itself militarily throughout the whole of that long period.

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at:
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