Giovanni Giacalone
Eyes everywhere

Hamas is like al-Qaeda or ISIS, and it must be dealt accordingly

The logo of Hamas
The logo of Hamas

As the IDF prepares for the ground offensive in Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza where many of its leaders are believed to be hiding, critics and admonishments against Israel arrive from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

Egyptian government officials warned that the decades-long peace treaty between Egypt and Israel could be suspended if Israeli troops enter Rafah, or if any of Rafah’s refugees are forced southward into the Sinai Peninsula.

Saudi Arabia warned of possible “extremely dangerous repercussions of storming and targeting the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, given the city being the last refuge for hundreds of thousands of people.”

As to the Biden administration, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel stated that “the US had yet to see any evidence of serious planning for such an operation,” adding: “To conduct such an operation right now with no planning and little thought in an area where one million people are sheltering would be a disaster.”

As if the IDF ever conducted an operation without proper planning. Did any other army evacuate civilians before an attack, as the IDF did in Gaza? Not that I recall.

In the meantime, the US administration gave Israel 45 days to submit a report with the required assurances regarding international law violations, if it doesn’t want to lose military aid.

Such concerns are mostly oriented towards internal issues rather than about the safety of the inhabitants of Gaza.

Egypt has two main concerns: firstly, to avoid the flow of Palestinian refugees in the Sinai and that is the reason why the Egyptian Defense strengthened its military border presence and barriers. Secondly, the Egyptian government fears domestic unrest stirred up by Islamists.

Saudi Arabia has to deal with the internal anti-Israel sentiment among the Wahhabi clergy which still has power within the political entourage, despite Muhammad bin Salaman’s will to stabilize relations with Israel. Additionally, Saudi’s ambiguous relations with Iran are a factor that must be carefully considered as an Iranian regime delegation very recently held a meeting on defense with Saudi officials in Riyadh.

As to the United States, the presidential elections are coming up, and the Democrats are afraid to lose the votes of the vast Muslim-American electorate, upset about Biden’s support to Israel.

In theory, almost everyone seems to agree on the fact that Hamas needs to be eradicated; however, as the IDF gets closer and closer to the goal, nervousness among Israel’s international partners seems to increase.

And there is more, going beyond domestic issues, because from the very beginning, since October 7th, we have seen double standards from the international community in relation to the treatment given to ISIS or al-Qaeda, and the one towards Hamas.

For some reason, despite Hamas being blacklisted as a terrorist organization in the EU, the US, the UK, and Canada, it is still treated as some sort of legitimate political entity, with its Doha-based leaders invited for negotiations and the Hamas Ministry of Health taken by many as a credible source.

The whole picture is upside-down, with Israel being called to the ICJ for alleged “genocidal acts”, while the ones on trial for genocide and torture should be the Hamas leaders. They shouldn’t simply be exiled from Doha, they should be brought to trial.

If Hamas is an internationally proscribed terrorist organization, then we must deal with it accordingly. Would you have imagined Usama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being invited for talks?

The problem is that Hamas has been considered by many, and for too long, as a legitimate political force of the Palestinians, rather than a hybrid terrorist organization. Why? Because it simply “won the elections”. Is that enough to provide legitimacy? No, it is not. Let’s not forget that even Hitler won the elections, but we all know what followed.  Hamas’ course from the 2006 elections to the October 7th massacre is very similar; the ideology is very similar (it is not a coincidence that several Mein Kampf copies were retrieved in Gaza by the IDF), and even historical relations between Islamism and Nazism are well known. The October 7th massacre was the second biggest pogrom of the Jewish people after the Holocaust.

However, as Israel responded to secure its border and its people, international pressure to “safeguard civilians in Gaza” immediately began. The one accused of genocide is, paradoxically, Israel. It would have been nice to see the same international concern for the Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

Hamas is not a legitimate political actor; Hamas is a hybrid terrorist organization, as explained by Boaz Ganor, director of Herzliya’s IICT in his book “Global Alert”. A hybrid terrorist organization operates on multiple levels; it includes a military wing, a political wing and a welfare wing (Dawah, social work, charity, religious services). Such an organization uses the democratic electoral process to establish and strengthen its political power. [1]

What Hamas did was use an electoral process to acquire power, conduct a crackdown on any opposing actor, establish a reign of terror and use the funds it received to conduct terror activities against Israel and build an underground fortress. In the meantime, it sought international recognition and alliances.

A terrorist organization is defined as such because it conducts deliberate attacks against civilians for political goals. There can be no difference between a “political wing” and a “military wing”. The political wing represents the extremist ideology that fuels the terrorist action.

If we want to all agree on the fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization, then we must act accordingly, as it was done with al-Qaeda and ISIS, otherwise, it’s just a double-standards show.

[1] Boaz Ganor, Global Alert, (Columbia University Press, 2015), pp.74-83.

About the Author
Giovanni Giacalone is a senior analyst in Islamist extremism and terrorism at the Italian Team for Security, Terroristic Issues and Managing Emergencies-Catholic University of Milan, at the Europe desk for the UK-based think tank Islamic Theology of Counter-Terrorism, and a researcher for Centro Studi Machiavelli. Since 2021 he is the coordinator for the "Latin America group" at the International Institute for the Study of Security-ITSS. In 2023 Giacalone published the book “The Tablighi Jamaat in Europe”.
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