If anyone had asked me the following question a few months ago, I would have been sure of the answer…If Hamas committed a truly brutal atrocity against Israel killing thousands, raping and kidnapping hundreds, many at a peace festival, would their support in the neighboring Arab world increase or decrease?
I would have answered ‘Decrease’ but it doesn’t appear to have been the case.
In an article for the Washington Institute in October 2023, it provided a large range of quotes from leaders of Middle East countries setting out their pre 7th October views of Hamas. These included (a small selection):
- Saudi Arabia: “[Hamas is] extremist and terrorist.” —Adel al-Jubeir, minister of state for foreign affairs, Watan, February 24, 2018
- UAE: “[M]ost of the Arabs are supporting the UAE-Israeli peace treaty. Except who? Those who are part of these terrorist organizations—Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian regime, and [Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, who is supporting these terrorist groups…” —Dr. Ali al-Nuaimi, chairman of Defense Affairs, Interior, and Foreign Relations Committee, Federal National Council, All Arab News, September 2, 2020
- Jordan: “The Jordanian government views Hamas as having carried out an illegal coup, and therefore, it has refused to receive any of the leaders of the Hamas movement, whether it’s Ismail Haniyeh or Mahmoud al-Zahar, neither collectively nor individually.” —Hamada Farana, former member of parliament, April 22, 2019
- Bahrain: “Without Iran’s presence—Iranian soldiers, Iranian funds, Iranian support for Hamas and the jihadists who control Gaza—we would be much closer to achieving a better peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and we would have a better opportunity.” —Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, minister of foreign affairs, Times of Israel, July 20, 2019
So what happened? In the first days after 7th October, again according to the Washington Institute on 11th October, “At least forty-four nations have condemned Hamas and decried its tactics as terrorism, but regional players such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, and Iraq have pinned responsibility on Israel”. To my memory, only Bahrain and the UAE condemned Hamas specifically.
Well before the response from Israel, Hamas went from unpopularity to support and celebration.
Why – this is something that needs deep analysis and consideration but the root cause for me lies in the game-changing nature of the attack. For Israeli’s, Jews and much of the democratic world it shocked us to the core and underlined for many (for me for sure) the naivety of my previously held views that there could be reconciliation in the short term.
For many in the Middle East and fundamentalists around the world, it jolted them into a reminder that the first priority of so many is as the Hamas original covenant states: ” Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realized.”
It would appear Golda Meir was right 50 years ago and is still right today, when she said:
“We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
Like many others I have spoken to, I was naive before 7th October – I thought that with the advancement of Abraham Accords etc those days were gone. This was a second shock to the system.
I may have been naive but I still hope – I hope there is a day when we have peace with our neighbors and I certainly bare no hate to those innocent civilians caught up in this war at the doing of Hamas. I do however know that Hamas, in launching the deadly attack awoke not an anger from their fellow Arabs towards Hamas but what seems to be a reawakening of anger towards us.
We need to be realists and must be united as a nation and stay strong ethically and militarily as well. Again as Golda Meir said: “We Jews have a secret weapon in our struggle…We have no place to go.”
Shabbat Shalom and may we have peace in our time and have our captives back home NOW.