TO WHAT CAN WE COMPARE HAMAS?
Three Manifestations of Enmity
Through the long course of our unique history, our enemies have manifested themselves in three ways.
On Chanuka we celebrate victory over an adversary, the Greek Empire, which sought to destroy our soul. It had no designs on our physical existence. It required us to embrace Hellenism with allowance for a Jewish-style cultural veneer – it would have had no problem with us munching on potato latkes but could not tolerate our Shabbat, our circumcising our babies, our oral Torah, or, for that matter, our G-D. It sought to crush our spirit. By the grace of G-D, it failed spectacularly and the ancient Greek nation is long gone. Thus we celebrate Chanuka in a spiritual way – with light, with song, with cute Torah riddles and with Hallel.
Purim is a very different celebration. It commemorates the downfall of a Persian enemy who craved our national extinction. Haman the Amalekite did not differentiate between Torah Jews and renegade Jews. His was not a religious persecution but a racial one. Mercifully his plot was miraculously foiled. Since his desire was to eradicate us as a nation physically, our mode of celebration is a physical one – through food, wine boisterousness, outlandish dress and the bestowing of tangible gifts to friends and the poor.
There is also a third type of foe to which we have been victim – the political foe. The ancient Romans who destroyed our Second Temple were archetypical of that kind of enemy. The primary aim of Rome at that time was political conquest and, most especially, hegemony over the land and the nation of Israel. (It was only later, after Emperor Constantine converted himself and his regime to Christianity, that the Roman persecution became an overtly religious one.)
In his classic Sefer haToda’a, R’ Eliyahu Kitov (1912-1976) brilliantly propounds that different struggles call for different approaches. When we are endangered physically, when our light is in danger of being extinguished, our primary weapons are to be prayer and teshuva in order that G-D will strengthen and protect our light. That is why Mordechai called for fasting and prayer when Haman’s evil decree was promulgated. When, on the other hand, we are endangered spiritually, when G-D’s light is, so to speak, threatened – as at the time of Chanuka – our recourse is to take up arms to protect G-D’s light, which is what the Maccabees did to such glorious effect.
Jacob’s Three Approaches
The classic Scriptural guide to how to confront an enemy is provided in Genesis chapters 32 and 33. When Jacob prepares to meet his brother Esau after decades of hostile separation, he readies himself, as Rashi (citing Midrash Tanchuma) relates, for three approaches: le-daron, gift-giving and diplomacy, li-tefila, prayer and le-milchama, war.
We have seen above that taking up arms is deemed most appropriate when our spiritual and ideological way of life is threatened, while prayer is the primary weapon when dealing with an enemy that seeks to destroy us bodily. We also know from the Talmud (Gittin 56a) that the clear response of our Sages to the 1st-century CE threat of Rome – whose aim then, as we said, was political, as opposed to religious or racial domination – was to pursue a diplomatic option. This the oppositional extremist biryonim (zealots) could not agree to, with disastrous results. We ruminate mournfully over the story each Tisha b’Av.
Modern Day Parallels
Ma’asei avot siman le-banim, as Ramban reminds us time and again. “What happens to our ancestors is a signpost for their children.” We have sadly experienced modern-day parallels for each type of persecution experienced in our more distant history.
The Holocaust was clearly a re-run of Haman’s racial genocide plan. Indeed, the Nazis modeled themselves on the evil Amalekite villain of the Purim story. When, on October 16th 1946, Julius Streicher mounted the gallows to be hanged in Nuremberg, he dramatically shouted out the words “Purimfest 1946” (Newsweek Oct 28 1946) as if to say “this will be another Purim for the Jews!”
The denial of the right to live as Jews in the Former Soviet Union was Hellenisation in modern dress. In the FSU, provided a Jew accepted the atheistic, totalitarian doctrines of the Communist regime, he or she could live unmolested. Judaism, not Jews, was targeted. Jewish status was recognized as purely an ethno-cultural, not a religious, identity. A Jewish autonomous region, Birobidzhan, was even created. Jews could perform in Yiddish theatre and sing Yiddish songs to their hearts’ content – but woe betide they who would be caught affixing a Mezuza, baking matsa or teaching their children Torah.
Until very recently, the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the “Palestinian” question, was widely regarded as the ideological heir to the Roman conquest of Judea. It was seen as a political conflict and, as such, resolvable optimally by diplomacy, dialogue and compromise. After all, hadn’t Israel already forged diplomatic relations with neighboring Egypt and Jordan and latterly with the UAE and Bahrain?
That belief was well and truly laid to rest on October 7th this year, or, as I prefer to label it, 22/7 (the 22nd of the seventh Hebrew month of Tishri).
On That Day
On that day, Shemini Atseret 5784, Hamas revealed itself in its true colors.
On that day, crazed beasts in the guise of humans murdered, raped, dismembered and cannibalized, and there was nary a murmur of protest among the “civilian” population of Gaza.
On that day, a nameless, faceless, heartless Hamas terrorist bragged proudly to his parents that he had murdered ten yahud (note “Jews”, not “Israelis”) in cold blood. His (civilian) father called him a “hero” and his (civilian) mother told him “I wish I was with you! All-h Aqbar!”
With hindsight, we should have understood that the die had been cast already in 1988 with Hamas’ foundational charter which contains these chilling words: Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people.
Thus the war of Hamas is not only against Israel – politically – but also against Judaism, our sacred way of life, and Jews, i.e. the totality of our nation. Hamas oppose us politically, spiritually, ideologically, physically, racially, civilizationally, existentially. Every which way. As such, Hamas is the most absolute and comprehensive enemy the people of Israel have ever faced in her 3,300-year history. It would outdo Hitler’s Third Reich if it only could!
It would be nice to suppose that the genocidal aims of Hamas are not shared by the majority of Palestinian Arabs. However when the representative leader of the Palestinian Authority, the largest and supposedly most moderate Palestinian Arab Fatah-controlled wing, namely Mahmoud Abbas, goes on record (prior to October 7th) as justifying the Holocaust, proclaiming outrageously that it had nothing to do with the victims being Jews per se but everything to do with them being Jewish saboteurs, we would be naïve if we did not conclude that the whole Jewish population of Israel is likewise widely seen even by Fatah as sabotaging Palestinian Arab claims to sovereignty over not merely post-1967 borders but post-1948 – in other words “from the river to the sea”.
Hamas and Fatah are not ideologically far apart. Palestinian Arab political scientist, Dr. Amjad Bushkar was quoted just a week or so ago as having declared: “Both Fatah and Hamas are well aware that they are complementary to each other, and I think we’ll see real integration between the two movements”.
So where is our “peace partner”? Sadly it resides only in the imaginations of the dreamers who do not care to stare reality in the face. October 7th ought to have awakened even those dreamers.
The Only Conclusion: RIP, Two-State Solution!
We are drawn to the inevitable conclusion that the so-called Palestinian-Israeli conflict has little to do with politics. It only marginally has to do with conquest. It has to do with hate. Pure, unadulterated hate. Hatred of Jews. Hatred and contempt of Judaism. (After all, didn’t Hamas name their massacre “Operation Al-Aqsa Deluge”?) And an unquenchable desire to destroy the State of Israel.
We must remove our blinders and understand that the conflict not only against murderous Hamas, Hezbollah and their Iranian sponsors but even against the so-called-moderate Palestinian Authority cannot be resolved at present by diplomacy, by compromise, by talk of two-state solutions. It can only be addressed by our other two weapons. Armed self-defense. And impassioned prayer and connection with the One Above! And it will be resolved with the surely-imminent coming of Mashiach and the embrace of true peace across Israel and the globe.