Preventing the next round of violence

Although Israelis consider Hamas to be horribly brutal, the comparison with Islamic State is imprecise.

By YEHIA KASSEM
September 8, 2014 21:27
3 minute read.
Hamas tunnels

Hamas terror operatives in Gaza tunnel. (photo credit: REUTERS)

With the signing of the most recent ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, a window of opportunity has opened up for the resumption of negotiations. But it appears that the Israeli government is not ready to accept the fact that, despite all the challenges, the Palestinian people has a leadership with which Israel can negotiate and maybe even reach a political agreement.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other ministers have recently claimed that Islamic State and Hamas are identical. Netanyahu opened a recent cabinet meeting saying, “Hamas is Islamic State and Islamic State is Hamas. They operate in the same way. They are two branches of the same poisoned tree. Both of them are extremist Islamic terrorist organizations that kidnap and murder innocent civilians, that execute their own people, and that do not hesitate to use even the most evil methods, including the deliberate murder of children.”

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Similarly, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett explained in an article that was published in The Chicago Tribune that, “These organizations are motivated by religious belief, not national fervor, and they are not afraid of using extreme violence in order to achieve their goals.

“While Islamic State chops off the heads of journalists and its opponents, Hamas kidnapped and murdered young yeshiva students. While Islamic State focuses on destroying minority groups in Iraq, Hamas Islamic thugs have almost completely obliterated the Christian community in Gaza.”

Although Israelis consider Hamas to be horribly brutal, the comparison with Islamic State is imprecise.

Hamas’s charter recognizes the legitimacy of all Arab countries, whereas Islamic State calls for an Islamic caliphate to be established that would be “free” of impure peoples, such as Christians, Shi’ites and, of course, Jews. Granted, the Christian community in Gaza lives in fear and often times suffers from persecution, but this is still far from what is happening in Syria and Iraq where Christians are being beheaded and hanged in the most gruesome ways.

The conditions under which the Christian community in Gaza lives are similar to those experienced by the Christian population in east Jerusalem, where people live in constant fear. As a result, over the years thousands of Christians have moved away to other places. If Bennett’s heart lies with the Christian community, as he claims, then why doesn’t he make his voice heard and condemn the “price tag” attackers who don’t hesitate to harm holy sites such as mosques and Muslim and Christian cemeteries? The reason Netanyahu and Bennett compare Islamic State with Hamas is to draw the attention of the international community to how dangerous Hamas is for Israel and to show that there’s no one among its ranks to negotiate with. But the problem is that when you compare an organization – no matter how violent it is – with Islamic State, this only serves to minimize Hamas’ atrocities.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has claimed more than once that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is a political terrorist. This is a new term in diplomatic jargon. In addition, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz blamed Abbas for playing a “double game” and said that while Hamas was launching rockets at Israel, Abbas was launching “diplomatic rockets” in the form of threats to turn to the UN and to join the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

So, Mr. Steinitz, I have a few questions for you: If Israel did not defy international law, then what does it have to be fearful about if Abbas appeals to the UN? And if Israel did violate the law, then what else should the PA do? And since when is diplomatic activity considered terrorism? The Israeli government, which was chosen by the Israeli people to bring about security and peace, cannot manage to find a Palestinian partner it’s willing to talk with. If Islamic State and Hamas are one and the same, and Abbas and Hamas are also the same, then who does the government want to talk to? Is it waiting for the Palestinians to turn into Zionists before it will sit down together with them at the negotiating table? Israel can control its borders, the ports and the merchandise going in and out of Gaza, but it cannot determine who the Palestinian leader will be.

If the current government refuses to reach an agreement with moderate Palestinians – just as all the previous Israeli governments have – then unfortunately it is more than likely that this cycle of violence will continue to rear its ugly head every few years, taking the lives of more Israelis and Palestinians in vain.

Not only will the Israeli people not have achieved peace, they won’t even have achieved quiet or security.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.


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