Not long after Israel’s prime minister compared Hamas and the terror group ISIS (or IS for Islamic State) during a recent press conference, debates erupted on social networks like Twitter about the validity of this comparison. As a number of op-eds illustrate, Netanyahu was right when he concluded his remarks by pointing out that he was “not the only one who believes” that “Hamas is like ISIS. ISIS is like Hamas. They’re branches of the same tree.”
But the Arab-American analyst Hussein Ibish dismissed the comparison as an “Israeli hasbara campaign” that he characterized as “beyond pathetic. Really miserable stuff, and no need for it. Hyperbole is transparently idiotic.” When he was challenged by Clifford May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Ibish didn’t quite succeed in showing why the comparison was supposedly so “pathetic,” and in the meantime, the reason for his failure was graphically illustrated by blogger Elder of Ziyon.
Elder’s graphic includes one line on ruthlessly murdering enemies, and this is actually the point Netanyahu largely focused on:
“I can say that the entire world has been shocked by the atrocities of Isis. You saw this, the beheading of an American journalist, Foley. It shows you the barbarism, the savagery of these people. Well, we face the same savagery. The people who wantonly rocket our cities and want to conduct mass killings, and when they can they murder children, teenagers; they shoot them in the head, throw people from the sixth floor - their own people; and use their people as human shields.”
What groups like Hamas and ISIS do to their own people should arguably be the most important criterion, because how a society or a group treat their own people when they see them as opponents or enemies tells us a lot about the inhumanity we can expect once they confront enemies with whom they have no ties whatsoever.
In this regard, Hamas has just given a gruesome demonstration that there is indeed very little that distinguishes the Islamist Palestinian terror group from the brutal jihadists of ISIS. As widely reported in the media, Hamas has once again summarily executed Gaza citizens accused of collaborating with Israel. According to a report by the Jerusalem Post, 11 suspected collaborators were executed at a Gaza police station, and a short time later, “Hamas killed seven more Palestinians in a public execution in a central Gaza square.” News agencies Reuters and AFP captured some disturbing photos of the Hamas prisoners being lined up for execution; according to the Jerusalem Post, the “victims, their heads covered and hands tied, were shot dead by masked gunmen dressed in black in front of a crowd of worshipers outside a mosque after prayers.” Apparently, the crowd of onlookers also included children, and a clip of the bloody aftermath of the executions shows young boys gathering to look at the puddles of blood on the pavement and snap some pictures.
Of course, Hamas has executed accused collaborators before, and like the images from the recent executions, also the previous ones can hardly fail to remind viewers of similar savagery by ISIS.
But there is a big difference between Hamas and ISIS, because it would be difficult to find anyone who wants to be taken seriously defending ISIS, whereas quite a few activists who pretend to care about human rights are eager to defend Hamas’ display of brutality against the citizens they rule. Prominent “pro-Palestinian” activist Ali Abunimah noted on Twitter that he was opposed to the “death penalty,” but suggested that it was hypocritical to “feign outrage about Hamas killings while supporting [the] Israeli massacre.”Abunimah’s reasoning here seems to be that if Gazans are killed in the current war between Hamas and Israel, it doesn’t really matter if Hamas kills a few more. In another tweet, Abunimah even implied that it was only normal for Hamas to execute Gaza residents suspected of collaboration:
“In every society war time collaboration is seen as the most heinous crime and mortal threat to resistance. Not unique to Palestine.”
In other words, the author of “The Battle for Justice in Palestine” has apparently no problem with Hamas meting out deadly “justice” as a public spectacle without anything remotely resembling due process. By contrast, the Palestinian Authority (PA) – which issued a moratorium on death sentences in 2005 – condemned the “random executions” as “reminiscent of the summary executions carried out by Wahhabi militant groups in other parts of the Middle East.” A PA spokesman also noted that Hamas was persecuting “political dissidents” and that some of those now executed as collaborators had been detained by Hamas for years. Abunimah’s eagerness to gloss over the gross abuses of Hamas is hardly surprising given his open disdain for the PA and his often expressed support for Gaza’s “resistance” groups like the Al Qassam brigades and Islamic Jihad – indeed, Abunimah likes to refer to them as “Palestinian defense forces.”
Several contributors to Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada were as eager as Abunimah to shrug off the executions or justify them as normative and fully deserved.
While I noted earlier that it would be difficult to find anyone who wants to be taken seriously defending ISIS, I should point out that anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal (who perhaps has given up hoping he will be taken seriously) decided that if ISIS was becoming a symbol of absolute evil, it was time to do what antisemites have always done: somehow associate the Jews with this absolute evil.
So Blumenthal took to Twitter and declared: “ISIS beheadings by dagger are barbaric. So are Israeli beheadings by GBU-28 5000 lb bunker buster. Both must be stopped at all costs.” Blumenthal’s attempt to equate the beheadings of an American journalist and other hapless victims seized by the savage jihadists of ISIS with Israel’s efforts to target the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in their hide-outs seems to reflect not only his intense hatred of Israel, but also his heartfelt enthusiasm for the kind of “true resistance” that these Gaza terror groups like to boast of.
Later on, Blumenthal doubled down on his ridiculous comparison, claiming that there is little difference between the Islamic State created by jihadists who impose a brutal medieval rule on the populations they subjugate and modern democratic Israel.
The obscene defense of Hamas offered by Ali Abunimah and his Electronic Intifada contributors and Blumenthal’s pathetic attempts to equate ISIS and Israel illustrate once again how little anti-Israel activism has to do with any sincere efforts to improve the situation of Palestinians in Gaza.