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Hamas’s Big Lie

C. Gourgey, Ph.D.

Recently Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American and outspoken critic of Israel, was censured by the House of Representatives “for promoting false narratives regarding the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.” In a statement Tlaib issued the day after the massive Hamas massacre of over one thousand Jews, she characterized the event as “resistance” and essentially blamed it on Israel. She cited the “occupation” as somehow being a causal factor. Concerning false narratives, she perpetuated the lie that Israel intentionally bombed the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital even after evidence surfaced that the damage, much less than originally reported, was caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket. She also promoted the infamous slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

This slogan has become a flash point. Tlaib responded to criticism with an emotional defense: she labeled the expression “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.” But is it really?

“From the river to the sea,” very often heard these days, has become a battle cry for Palestinian maximalism. It clearly states that Palestine covers the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea - including the area Israel now occupies - and calls for that area to be “liberated.” It is an unequivocal cry for the end of the State of Israel, and is openly antisemitic. Ms. Tlaib is not stupid. Surely she must know this.

And it is precisely here where the big lie behind these defenses of Hamas and its violence becomes apparent. And this is the big lie: Hamas’s violence and the atrocities it perpetrates are “resistance” to the “occupation.” Hamas’s big lie is true in one sense only: if by “occupation” one means the very existence of the State of Israel. And that is what Hamas does mean. It calls all Jews living inside Israel “settlers.” It is precisely this insistence on taking all of the land, rejecting proposed compromises in 1937 (Peel Commission), 1948 (UN partition plan), 2000 (Camp David), and 2008 (Olmert proposal), that has led to the current constricted existence of Palestinians and strongly contributed to perpetuating the violence.

What Hamas did on 10/7/2023 had nothing to do with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank (and despite what Israel’s critics falsely proclaim, Israel no longer occupies Gaza - Hamas is the government of Gaza, complete with its own army). Hamas makes this exceedingly clear in its charter.

The Hamas Charter

Right from the beginning one notices that this is a very religious document (Reference: Hamas Covenant 1988, The Avalon Project, Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library):

In The Name Of The Most Merciful Allah: “Ye are the best nation that hath been raised up unto mankind: ye command that which is just, and ye forbid that which is unjust, and ye believe in Allah. And if they who have received the scriptures had believed, it had surely been the better for them: there are believers among them, but the greater part of them are transgressors.” (Preamble)

The Islamic Resistance Movement: The Movement’s programme is Islam. From it, it draws its ideas, ways of thinking and understanding of the universe, life and man. It resorts to it for judgement in all its conduct, and it is inspired by it for guidance of its steps. (Introduction)

Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes. (Article 8)

Its intentions toward all of Israel, not just the occupied territories, are clearly stated:

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it. (Preamble)

The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [endowment] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?

This is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Sharia (law) and the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgement. (Article 11)

Nationalism, from the point of view of the Islamic Resistance Movement, is part of the religious creed. Nothing in nationalism is more significant or deeper than in the case when an enemy should tread Moslem land. Resisting and quelling the enemy become the individual duty of every Moslem, male or female. A woman can go out to fight the enemy without her husband’s permission, and so does the slave: without his master’s permission. (Article 12)

Note: Not “Palestinians” but “Islam” will destroy Israel. And not only Israel, but Jews in general:

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 realised. (Introduction)

The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” (Article 7; the quotation is from the Hadith, traditional collected sayings of Muhammad)

Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people. “May the cowards never sleep.” (Article 28)

Peaceful coexistence is absolutely ruled out (and note once again the religious emphasis):

Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that. For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight. “Allah will be prominent, but most people do not know.” (Article 13)

Now some might point out that Hamas issued a new Document of General Principles and Policies in 2017. This document is not a “kinder and gentler” Hamas Charter, as some might wish to believe. It is full of religious language, as well as affirmations of the right of armed “resistance” to overthrow the “Zionist entity.” It defines Palestine as extending “from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean [Sea] in the west” - including the territory comprising the State of Israel. The language is unequivocal: Palestinians have a right to take all of it, even by force of arms if necessary. This is precisely what “from the river to the sea” actually means.

The document does contain one clause that sounds like a concession: “Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion.” Nevertheless it continues: “Yet, it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity.” So Israel, Jews, and Judaism are inextricably linked. It is a distinction without a practical difference. Jews all over the world, who do not live in Israel yet have become targets of Muslim violence, know this. The rioters who stormed the Dagestan airport were not just looking for Israelis. They wanted Jews.

This is why anti-Zionism and expressions like “from the river to the sea” are profoundly antisemitic. These go far beyond criticism of the Israeli government, which is as legitimate as criticism of any other government. I certainly have my own criticisms of Israel’s present government. But Anti-Zionism advocates the destruction of Israel, leading to the subjugation of a Jewish minority inside the Arab world. And we now know the kind of violence likely to be inflicted upon them. in its charter Hamas blames antisemitism on “European history,” but this denies all the incidents of Muslim anti-Jewish violence that occurred before the State of Israel was created. And the proliferation of antisemitic incidents all over the world is further proof that this jihad is not directed against Israelis only.

In addition, Hamas never officially rescinded the original 1988 Covenant. Both documents make abundantly clear that Hamas considers the destruction of Israel by force of arms the core of its program. Hamas will never be satisfied with only Gaza and the West Bank. Even if the West Bank were not still occupied, Hamas would be acting the same way. (There will be more to say about the occupation of the West Bank later on.)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog holds up copy of<br />Mein Kampf found in children’s room
Israeli President Isaac Herzog holds up copy of
Mein Kampf found in children’s room
(Credit: Times of Israel)

In a children’s room terrorists had been using as a base of operations Israeli soldiers found a heavily annotated (and thus well studied) Arabic copy of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s manifesto for hating and killing Jews. Anyone want to bet this is the only copy? So much for any notion that the Islamic extremist agenda Hamas exemplifies has to do only with Israel and not the Jewish people. Hamas has already telegraphed its intention to create a second Holocaust by repeating what it did on October 7 until Jews can no longer live in the land.

The Nature of the Violence

The religious nature of Hamas’s anti-Israel jihad may help explain possibly the most horrific aspect of the violence of 10/7 - the consummate sadism and exquisite joy with which it was carried out. The Hamas terrorists were not satisfied simply with killing Jews. They did it with a euphoric lust for cruelty. They did it laughing. Dismembering children, raping women and parading them in the streets, burning people alive. Killing parents in front of their children, children in front of their parents, and streaming the action on social media. A six-year-old boy was forced into a circle of Gazan children who terrorized him. A woman cowering in a corner was slowly shot to death so that her agony would last. A young Hamas gunman called his parents on the phone of a woman he had just killed, bragging that he was a hero because he had murdered ten Jews, showing them pictures of the bodies. These examples do not even begin to capture the magnitude of the horror that transpired.

This is why they are called “terrorists.” The horror they strike into the hearts of their victims and their families is one of their most potent weapons. It is intentional. And the erotic gratification it offers the perpetrators is an additional benefit.

Hamas is waging a concentrated war against Jewish civilians. Instructions were issued to kill as many civilians as possible. In contrast, Israel has tried to minimize civilian casualties by issuing evacuation orders. Incredibly, Hamas does not want to diminish its own civilian casualties. It wants to increase them, because they are a potent public relations weapon against Israel. Hamas uses its own civilian population as human shields, intentionally putting them in harm’s way, hiding weapons and command centers underneath schools and hospitals, firing rockets from locations within residential areas. Hamas forces people not to obey evacuation warnings, by throwing up roadblocks and even at gunpoint if necessary. Hamas has even fired on Israeli troops trying to maintain safe-passage corridors for Gazan civilians, and has blocked fuel supplied by Israel from reaching Shifa hospital. While civilian deaths are inevitable in war, Israel wants to minimize them, but Hamas wants as many as possible, even from among its own people, using Palestinian deaths as weapons in its public relations war. And yet it is Israel, not Hamas, that is accused of genocide.

The Role of Religion

The intensity of this hatred against Israel and Jews is almost metaphysical. It is very difficult to explain, and there may be no coherent explanation. The only thing comparable is the long history of Christian antisemitism, especially in Europe and eventually leading to the Holocaust. Perhaps only a demonic form of religion can inspire a hatred so profound it transgresses all bounds of rationality. In regard to the Jews, Islam and Christianity have something in common. Not only have they borrowed extensively from Judaism during their own formation, they appropriated Jewish history and scripture as their own. The New Testament was written largely if not exclusively by Jews. The Qur’an too is permeated throughout with references to the Hebrew scriptures. Both were envious of the Jewish covenant, and each wanted it as their own. So to take the covenant away from the Jews and make it their own instead, they had to demonize the Jewish people. It is as if to say, “The Jews broke their covenant with God, so now they are a cursed people, and their covenant belongs to us.” Historically both Christianity and Islam have used Jewish scripture to say exactly this, exploiting Jewish biblical self-criticism: “See, your own prophets condemn you, and God has rejected you.” Such sentiments may be found in both the Qur’an and New Testament.

It will be pointed out that at various times in history Muslim-Jewish relations were very good - at least relatively speaking. And Albanian Muslims did save many Jews from the Holocaust, as did many righteous Christians. There are always good people in any society or religion. But this does not negate the influence of the dark side of religion on perceptions of Jews. Even when Jews were accepted in Muslim society - which was not always; at times they were actively persecuted - it was never as equals. At the best of times, Jews were OK as long as they accepted their dhimmi (second class) status. What so much of the Muslim world cannot stand is a sovereign Israel where Jews are not subordinate to Muslims but can govern themselves as their equals.

As we have seen, religion plays a major role in Hamas ideology. Hamas considers the very existence of Israel an offense to Islam, not just to Palestinians. According to Islamic sources, Muhammad engaged in very bitter and violent conflicts with the Jews of his day. He exiled two Jewish tribes, exterminated a third, and then attacked and plundered a fourth. This early history is part of the self-defining religious consciousness that motivates Hamas. Jewish opposition to the Prophet makes Jews evil, and so no punishment is too terrible for them. Inflicting maximum suffering on Jews is actually seen as doing God’s will.

These considerations make the double standard by which Israel is judged at least fathomable. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been killed in Syria. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been killed in Yemen. Yet not a word of protest from the Muslim street. It is only the involvement of Jews that galvanizes the Muslim world, and the massive protests that result are more likely to celebrate Hamas than to condemn it.

A similar anomaly, for different reasons, exists on the political left. There is real genocide going on with the Russians in Ukraine, and with China and the Uyghurs. One might also mention the Yazidi genocide, and others. Not a word of protest from the left; only Israel gets their attention. There is no denying the antisemitism in this double standard. Israel has been painted as some Western colonialist entity, in spite of the fact that Jews have lived there since before the Muslim conquests, and also many refugees from the Arab countries whose brutality Israel’s antagonists defend.

The Occupation

There is indeed an Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Hamas’s big lie is that this occupation justifies the brutality of 10/7, or that the two are even in any way related. As we have seen, Hamas’s agenda was and still is the conquest of all territory “from the river to the sea.” If there were a Palestinian state in place on the West Bank, not only would this agenda still be active, Hamas’s prospects for fulfilling it would be far more favorable.

I have been a consistent critic of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its placement of numerous settlements there. Nevertheless, we need to put this occupation in context. It came about as a result of the Six-Day War, a war of annihilation planned by the Arab states but thwarted by Israel in a preemptive strike. Israel found itself in possession of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and wanted to trade this land for peace with the belligerent states. But in 1967 the Arab League Summit in Khartoum issued its emphatic “Three No’s”: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel. Arab rejectionism never wavered.

With greater foresight Israel might have withdrawn unilaterally, but it didn’t. Instead, the subsequently more conservative Israeli administrations expanded the construction of settlements in both Gaza and the West Bank, and the occupation became more entrenched.

But in 2005 Israel did withdraw unilaterally from Gaza and dismantled all the settlements there. In 2006 Hamas won the legislative elections in Gaza, and in 2007 ousted Fatah, the Palestinian nationalist party, in a violent conflict. Hamas was left completely in charge. It used its power not to improve conditions for the Palestinian people, but to conduct acts of aggression against population centers in southern Israel. This began with repeated rocket fire, until eventually, with Iranian backing, those rockets became missiles with increasing power and range, capable of reaching major Israeli cities. Hamas’s aggression escalated until it created an extreme crisis with the massacre of October 7.

No country can or would tolerate such a threat right on its border. And so Israel had to act. Now there are calls for a “peaceful” solution, with “two states.”

But such a solution is more remote than ever. The Israeli settlers are indeed an obstacle. They will not withdraw from the West Bank willingly. And for a while this gave the impression that Israel, with its support of its settlement project, was the major, if not the only obstacle for peace.

Hamas decisively shattered this illusion.

When Israel withdrew from Gaza, it found out what “ending the occupation” really means. The first thing the Palestinians did after all the settlers left was to destroy the greenhouses they had built. Then, once Hamas took over, instead of building a society that would benefit the people and that might even thrive, it used virtually all of its resources and imports to build a war machine. This was the reason for the infamous “blockade”: not to make the lives of Palestinians miserable, but to make it difficult for Hamas to build its military infrastructure, which it had been using to attack and kill Israelis. Critics of the blockade, who incorrectly and provocatively call it a “siege,” never take this into account.

What Israel got in exchange for withdrawing from Gaza was a steadily escalating war by Hamas against Israeli civilians, culminating in the atrocities committed on October 7. And as if that were not enough, Hamas has openly vowed to perpetrate more such massacres and worse, if given the chance. Hamas’s game plan is now clear: make Israel so unlivable that the Jews will flee. But to where? Many are indigenous to the region, and many are refugees from Arab states who would not want them back even if for some unfathomable reason they would wish to return and subject themselves to conditions there. Israeli Jews belong in Israel. The demand “Jews go back where you belong” is ahistorical, antisemitic, and racist.

This is why there can be no Palestinian state on the West Bank until this threat is entirely removed, if indeed it ever is. Left intact, Hamas would wrest control of such a state as surely as it did in Gaza. The damage done to the Israeli population by the de facto Palestinian state in Gaza was incalculable. The damage that could be done by a similar entity on the West Bank, jutting into Israel’s heartland, would be existential.

It is not a good thing for Israel to exercise control over the lives of disenfranchised Palestinians on the West Bank. I wish there could be an end to it. But far worse would be a jihadist state in that location, doing to the entire population of Israel what was done in this recent onslaught. Thus Hamas has achieved something actually unthinkable: it has given moral sanction to the continued occupation of the West Bank. Those who believe a new Palestinian state will solve anything as long as Hamas is alive are fooling themselves.

And the threat is not limited to Hamas. Hezbollah in the north is also Israel’s sworn enemy. And both are proxies of another implacable adversary and driving force, Iran. And Iran can be counted on to continue its proxy war until Israel is exterminated. International pressure must be brought to bear against these disruptive influences, because short of that this conflict will be interminable. As long as the Muslim world keeps crying out for Israel’s liquidation, there will never be a Palestinian state. The Jews of Israel have nowhere else to go, and they are not about to sign their own death warrant.

Conclusion: The Lie Must Be Called Out

Those who question Israel’s legitimacy claim that its territory was Palestinian land, upon which Jews intruded in some colonialist invasion. Nothing could be further from the truth. There never was a state of Palestine. Before it became Israel, that territory was a fragment of the shattered Ottoman Empire, and both Jews and Arabs were living there. Both had the right to determine the course of their own lives. The most reasonable solution was partition, which the Jews accepted and the Arabs rejected. Notably, Pakistan was also created by partition, but no one seems to be questioning the right of Pakistan to exist. Only Jews seem to rate that kind of attention.

If Palestinians are in any sense victims, they have contributed mightily to their own victimhood. One cannot reject one peace offer after another after another, responding with violence instead of continuing negotiations, and call oneself a victim. The maximalism of Hamas and other Palestinian extremists is not a legitimate goal. It must be repudiated worldwide, and both sides induced to accept compromises. But instead we hear incessant chants of “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea.”

That is not an aspirational call for freedom. It is a call for genocide.

November 2023