Jerry Hersh

What Hamas Leaders Actually Want — In Their Own Words (Part 2)

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The first part of this essay, What Hamas Leaders Actually Want — In Their Own Words (Part 1), demonstrates that Hamas is, has always been, and continues to be laser-focused on its singular goal—its eternal, Islamist quest to destroy Israel by murdering Jews. As discussed, Hamas’s massacres and rapes on October 7, 2023, coupled with the subsequent international outpouring of antisemitic rhetoric and acts, has deeply shaken many Jews. Part 1 situates Hamas’s anti-Zionism as the latest effort in a centuries-long pattern of expulsion and/or violent persecution of Jews in any place that their neighbors concluded they did not belong.

This final portion of the essay concerns Hamas’s concurrent, secondary goal: according to its leaders and its many actions, it unabashedly seeks to maximize the number of deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza by sacrificing them as “martyrs” for the grand cause of destroying Israel.

How does Hamas actually treat Palestinians in Gaza?  

Tragically, many of us incorrectly assumed—or still assume—that Hamas represents the interests of average Palestinian civilians in Gaza, wants to improve their lives, or remotely cares about their well being. Horrifically and heartbreakingly, the opposite is true. What sets Hamas apart from other genocidal antisemitic movements is its ideological, religious conviction that Palestinians in Gaza must suffer and die for Hamas’s cause.

Hamas has controlled and “governed” the Gaza Strip—on the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent to Israel—since 2007, following the last time Palestinian elections were held there. Fanatically dedicated to its mission to destroy Israel by killing Jews, Hamas does not spend much time or resources on Palestinians in Gaza.

As senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya explained on November 8, 2023, “Hamas’s goal is not to run Gaza and to bring it water and electricity and such.” He confirmed that Hamas’s October 7 massacres of Jews had nothing to do with “improv[ing] the situation in Gaza.”

Hamas is well aware that the more dead Palestinian civilians and destroyed structures in Gaza, the more Hamas is rewarded—with international condemnations of Israel; with calls for Israel to stop defending itself against Hamas; and with substantial aid to Gaza (from the U.S., Iran, Qatar, and other countries, in addition to international bodies and nonprofits) that Hamas largely has used to replenish its weapons cache and support its terrorist operations. Hamas also has benefited for 16 years from keeping large portions of the Gazan population miserable and hopeless. The worse the humanitarian crisis, the more aid provided to Gaza, which almost inevitably ends up in Hamas’s hands.

Shockingly—and unfathomably to most of us—Hamas leaders not only welcome but covet deaths of Palestinian civilians because of their professed fanatical belief in martyrdom. Hamas’s charter commands that it is a religious duty for Palestinians to be martyrs in the quest to destroy Israel. In cult-like fashion, Hamas leaders constantly communicate this to Palestinians in Gaza.

As Senior Hamas official Ali Baraka explained the day after the October 7 massacres:

The Israelis are known to love life. We, on the other hand, sacrifice ourselves. We consider our dead to be martyrs. The thing any Palestinian desires the most is to be martyred for the sake of Allah, defending his land.

Likewise, on November 8, 2023, senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad proclaimed that Hamas is “proud to sacrifice” Palestinians in its quest to exterminate the Jews in Israel because “[w]e are called a nation of martyrs.” Hamas views each of the more than 2 million Palestinian civilians in Gaza—approximately 1 million of whom are children—as potential human sacrifices in its enduring journey to annihilate Israel.

How does Hamas sacrifice Palestinian civilians? The terrorist organization actively commits ongoing inhumane, massive crimes against Palestinians in Gaza to create the maximum number of “martyrs,” ensuring that Palestinian civilian death tolls are much higher than they would have been. Over the years, Hamas chose to launch tens of thousands of rockets and missiles at Israeli civilians from schools, apartment complexes, and mosques in the most densely populated portions of the Gaza Strip. During that time, Israel, while attempting to eliminate imminent threats from Hamas, has tried to avoid civilian casualties. Knowing that Israel will target missile launchers and Hamas’s terrorists, Hamas leaders intentionally put Gazan civilians in harm’s way and tell them to stay there.

On October 7, Hamas slaughtered Israelis knowing Israel, like any sovereign country, would have to respond to protect its citizens by trying to eliminate Hamas. Hamas has spent years and a great deal of resources constructing an “underground city” of tunnels in which to hide, smuggle weapons and attack Jews. Following October 7, Hamas terrorists have hidden in these tunnels, which are “embedded in civilian infrastructure.”

After October 7, rather than slaughter as many civilians as possible—like Hamas did to Israelis—Israel has worked to eliminate Hamas and its capability to murder while also trying to minimize civilian casualties. But with its operations and weapons in and under Palestinian civilian structures, Hamas was well prepared to sacrifice the lives of thousands of Palestinian “martyrs,” which it apparently has accomplished.

When Hamas slaughtered Israelis on October 7, its leaders also knew it would create a humanitarian crisis for Palestinian civilians in Gaza. After October 7, Hamas reportedly used a stockpile of fuel not to address the humanitarian crisis it caused in Gaza, but to support its weapons in further missile attacks on Israel. Meanwhile, Hamas’s top leadership, which siphons cash from civilians, is reportedly worth $11 billion and lives in Qatar.

This is to say nothing of the appalling crimes the theocratic, totalitarian Hamas government inflicts on Palestinian civilians in Gaza—where gay sex is illegal—such as jailing, torturing or murdering suspected LGBTQ+ individuals or Palestinians suspected of criticizing or undermining Hamas. In addition, Hamas fails to address rampant, extreme domestic violence against women. In 2019, a UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process condemned “the Hamas violence in #Gaza against protesters, women, #children; journalists & human rights activists.”

What can we do about Hamas?

This is Hamas. We know exactly what Hamas is, what Hamas wants, what Hamas does, and what Hamas will continue to do. Some things about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are complex, nuanced or confusing. Hamas is not one of them.

Hamas leaders do not just believe Jewish lives do not matter; they believe Jews must die. Hamas leaders believe Palestinian lives matter—but only to be sacrificed as “martyrs.”

So how has the international community dealt with a terrorist organization/government that celebrates sacrificing the lives of Palestinian civilians almost as much as it celebrates killing Jews? Has the international community been trying method after method to hold Hamas accountable, disband the terrorist group and release Gazan Palestinians from Hamas’s horrible grasp? Has the international community recognized that Israel is doing what any country must attempt to do after what Hamas did and promises it will do again?

Catastrophically, no. The vast majority of the international community keeps the spotlight on Israel, condemning it in its fight to eliminate Hamas, with not even a mention of Hamas. And leaders of the increasingly popular anti-Zionist movement in the U.S. and around the world, by definition, share Hamas’s anti-Zionist vision of terminating the world’s only Jewish state. That is why anti-Zionist leaders never mention the words “peace,” “coexistence,” “two states,” or a future with Israel in it.

Looking away from Hamas demonizes Jews and ignores their suffering and humanity.  Looking away from Hamas legitimizes its quest. Their members may hide under and in schools, mosques, hospitals, and apartment buildings, but their acts are plain to see. Their leaders’s goal is plain to see. If it survives, Hamas’s anti-Zionist mission of death will continue to produce what it craves—dead Jews and dead Palestinians.

Yet I am optimistic that enough people will come to see that antisemitism, not the existence of Jews, is harmful, destructive and evil. We need a movement, ideally with university presidents serving a prominent role, that sees calls by anti-Zionist students and professors for murdering Jews as an absolutely unacceptable, dangerous, extremist, genocidal, fringe worldview with no place in our society. We need a movement that does not support Hamas’s conviction that peaceful coexistence is akin to hell.

We can no longer look away from Hamas. To save the lives of Palestinians and Jews, the human and humanitarian path is clear: rather than any ceasefire or truce that would allow Hamas to survive and continue to thrive, the international community must absolutely isolate Hamas and demand that Hamas members emerge from their tunnels and hideouts—and that their top leaders leave their luxury apartments in Qatar—to immediately and unconditionally surrender. More than 10 weeks after Hamas’s hideous massacres, the U.S. suggested exactly that.

We must demand that Hamas release all remaining hostages. We must demand that Hamas permit humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians in Gaza and that it use its vast resources to aid its own civilians. We must demand that Hamas no longer intentionally sacrifice Palestinian lives for its own benefit.

If and when this occurs, Israel will no longer need to fight to dismantle Hamas—and the bloodshed will end. The necks of Palestinians in Gaza will finally be released from the grip of Hamas’s bloody hands. No more Palestinians or Israelis will be killed because of Hamas.  And those who value life will achieve a victory.

About the Author
Jerry Hersh is an antisemitism awareness advocate. He presents and writes about current antisemitism. Jerry developed and presented a talk, “Online Disinformation and Antisemitism,” at the 2022 Limmud Bay Area conference for Jewish learning. He believes that, to alter common misperceptions and beliefs about Jews, Zionism, and Jewish identity, we must understand the repeating patterns of demonization of Jews and the damage it inflicts on society. Jerry addresses why antisemitism, like other forms of disinformation and misinformation, is so powerful and compelling to so many minds in the digital and social media age. An attorney, Jerry seeks to help inform public policy and help others recognize potential civil rights violations. More broadly, he seeks to assist in fostering a healthier democracy and society by addressing the flood of online disinformation and misinformation.
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