Israeli journalist Roi Ben-Yehuda (I’ve mentioned him before – here and here) has just published a piece in Haaretz on the Muslim response to Hamas. He quotes me, but the most important reason to read his article is that voices like his are the kind we need to bring hope, peace, and reconciliation into the new year.
A couple of days ago, Roi emailed me to ask: why does it seem as though more Muslims are speaking out against Hamas these days? Good question. Here’s the very short answer I sent him from my BlackBerry.
“The simple reason we see Muslims speaking out against Hamas is this: the organization has proved itself to be terrorist by nature and function, and while the larger Muslim community has always stated its rejection of terrorism, we see the pressing need to make our voices louder in these especially contentious times. The past near-decade in particular has placed the Muslim community at the center of most all public discourse on conflict, terror and violence. To engage the power of peace, we must also speak to the viral nature of violence from even the smallest factions of our own. In short: supporting innocent Palestinians is not the same as supporting Hamas; just as believing in meaningful dialogue with Jews doesn’t mean support for the deplorable way in which Palestinians have been treated in Hebron.
Further, our dissenting and even outraged voices are nothing new. Recent history shows that over 80% of Palestinians distrust Hamas. Surrounding Arab states aren’t Hamas sympathizers: in fact, the Iranian government is one of Hamas’ only supporters in the region.
One cannot watch the scene unfold – Hamas hiding rocket launchers in residential neighborhoods, for example – and not see that they are effectively using Palestinians as human sacrifices to further their own aims. Muslims who care about Palestinians would never want them sacrificed in such provocations as Hamas’ recent violation of the ceasefire.
Unfortunately, the Arab world has left the Palestinian people without a reasonable force to look to for help. As Israel obliterates civilians – including children – we run the risk of Hamas emerging as the “freedom fighters” they believe themselves to be. In other words, when a mother has lost her husband and child, when Palestinian children must identify their parents from a pit of 100 bloodied bodies, they understandably look to see who is fighting for them. If Hamas presents itself as the only hope to stop the destruction, that 80% will decrease out of desperation. If the world does not sufficiently aid the Palestinian people, a terrorist may inevitably appear to be a freedom fighter – and it is up to the rest of us to stop disempowering and dehumanizing Palestinians into this non-choice.”
“The formation of a free Palestine is not in the interest of the tyrants and despots that rule the Arab world… If the Arab rulers do not have Israel to demonize, they will have to deal with their own human rights violations.” – El-Farouk Khaki