Journey into Hamas mind: “We love death”

“We love death more than you love life”: this mysterious and dreadful expression haunts Europeans, Americans, Israelis, while in this region it is daily bread. This is the black flag of militant Islam, its breviary, as is for the Judeo-Christian culture the Biblical phrase: “Do not do to others what you would not want done to you”. Sometimes we like to think that this expression is a rhetorical, empty formula, but once again it has received another confirmation with the breaking of the truce last Friday: while Cairo was about to proceed along the path of international peace, a suicide bomber in Rafiah, emerged from a tunnel, exploded a bomb, killing three Tzahal soldiers, and also attempted to kidnap Hadar Goldin.

This mantra today, after Hamas’ even more barbaric and extreme gesture decided to separate itself with the breaking of the ceasefire supported by the majority of States, seems to be the programmatic design stated in a televised video by the charismatic religious and military leader of Hamas, 36 years old Mohammed Deif, whose extraordinary career, which follows the model of Bin Laden, includes the murder of women, children, and hundreds of Israeli civilians.

Deif is one of the three leaders to have dared speak to the people during the war: the first, Khaled Mashaal from 5-star hotels in Qatar, the second Ismail Haniyeh from his hiding place, which is thought to be under the Shifa hospital. Unlike Mashaal and Haniyeh, who have presented themselves as politicians, Deif, leader of the Izz a Din al Kassam Brigades assumes the priestly voice of the leaders of radical Islam. This individual leads 15 thousand men with an iron fist, and is comparable to the leaders of ISIS and of Jabat al Nusra; mutilated from the many attempts to kill him by the Israeli forces, he has threatened, cursed, and promised a great deal of death, while very often citing the Quran with Islamist and messianic fervor.

Deif ‘s video was released with another one, showing the attack via a tunnel and killing of five Israeli soldiers on the Nahal Oz kibbutz; this represented a very important victory for Hamas. The majority of the terrorists was then able to slip back into the tunnel and escape to Gaza. In fact, Deif in the video announces Hamas’ victory on Israel, declaring that there will be no ceasefire before the end of Israeli aggression and siege, and then he raises the bar: “You are destined to certain disaster, you have found your hell in Gaza, because we love death more than you love life”.

What does this statement mean in the context of isolation that characterizes Hamas’ present situation? Pinhas Inbari, Palestinian scholar at the prestigious think tank Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, provides the backstory: “Deif’s message is also addressed to Hamas. Mohammed Deif is a figure linked to Iran, which until a few days ago had kept silent believing that Hamas was wasting a huge amount of missiles, which with much effort it has managed to procure over the years. The Ayatollahs had been angry for a long time with the leadership of Khaled Mashal, the enemy of Assad and the Iranians. Deif instead plays on the opposing side to Assad. But then, here is the Khamenei declaration, topped by the usual death threats to Israel: we have, and we will provide free weapons to Hamas. Iran has realized that this is a war for the deployment of anti-Israeli hegemony, Iran, and moreover its sworn enemies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are playing an important role too. So Iran has pushed Deif forward, crowned by the success of the terrorist attack”. Therefore, from now on, Iran will be more and more present with Deif in command, and “certainly it has played a role in recent developments”.

The American Dr. Harold Rhode, one of the most renowned Middle East experts at the school of Professor Bernard Lewis who has served for decades as a Pentagon analyst, provides the key: “Here there is a double reason. The main purpose of terrorism, and therefore of Hamas, is to terrorize, instilling fear in its enemy, so as to see him flee before engaging in battle. But with the use of such bombastic terms, Deif actually reveals the great difficulties in which Hamas finds itself; the loss of many leaders, of essential war facilities, tunnels, missiles, shelters… So this is why he is showing his peacock feathers. And this has also an internal purpose, because the citizens of Gaza, slaves – who are now aware that all the money has been spent to build tunnels and stock missiles – must be kept favorable. In recent weeks, Hamas has also sentenced to death many Palestinians, and executed them. Finally, Hamas knows it cannot defeat Israel, and so it tries to make people and soldiers escape by terrorizing civilians”.

Harold Rhode is ironic and succinct: “Actually, they do not love death as much as power… in fact, we have never seen one of their commanders openly lead a battle, they hide themselves and use civilians, they strike out from galleries, and then flee. The leadership are hidden beneath hospitals. When they say “we love death”, they also communicate this concept: ‘I’m terrible, if you do not give me something to stop me (or, in this case, a convenient truce) I will destroy you’. Deif also spoke of why he fears to lose power. They don’t want to die, they want a truce on their terms: power, aid, control of access roads”.

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.