Love for the Palestinian people – not sympathy for Hamas

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.

A Palestinian man cries over the body of his son. (REUTERS / Ismail Zaydah, Gaza)
A Palestinian man cries over the body of his son. (REUTERS / Ismail Zaydah, Gaza)

“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

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14 thoughts on “Love for the Palestinian people – not sympathy for Hamas

  1. i just read u and again i wanna ask u what kind of scholar are you ? Coz u did not reply so tell me

    Hamas is not terrorist it is resistance
    Hamas incarnates the resistance of colonized people
    In Gaza, the Palestinians are private of food and locked up on a narrow strip of land that Israel transformed into ghetto, in a camp of death. It is people under colonial occupation which Israel assassinates and not, as it hammers it, of the “terrorists”. According to the charter of the United Nations the Palestinians have any legitimacy to resist to obtain freedom
    Israel have army TSAHAL with weapons military formation, Gaza have HAMAs just some rockets made by hand
    What Israel and USA wants is divide and reign and it seems to works the most important is UNITY
    i personaly have sympathy for all victims no matter which side they belong

  2. Hello Raquel,

    Very well put. I have yet to read the links but will get to those as soon as I can. However, I did take a few minutes to read your response to Mr. Ben-Yahuda’s question and I must say from what I know as of now about the feelings within this particular community I have to say I agree with your opinion.

    However, you stated “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.” I’m a little curious to know where you found that stat. Honestly, I just like to read about the straight up facts and see the cold hard numbers with respect to this conflict and the opinions given on it.

    Anyway, I hope the trend continues. That is, I hope other young Muslims, Jews and everything else in between continue to speak loudly about this and make our voices heard that we all want the pointless fighting to end and we all demand effective results and solutions (i.e. PEACE) for the present and the future of Israel and The innocent Palestinian people.

    Side note ( I hope you don’t mind me mentioning this on your blog Raquel but I just had to point this out):
    The last paragraph of your response to Mr. Ben-Yahuda almost sums up an article written by one of my favorite journalists and minds, Mona Eltahawy. Her article has sparked quite a heated debate on her blog alone. In addition to reading this entry and the listed links I encourage you all also take a look at that article.

  3. “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.”

    Thank you for the post. Israel is doing its very best to minimize these casualties by calling Palestinians and using the newest highly targeted bunker buster bombs….

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/01/world/middleeast/01mideast.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all

    “Tens of thousands of Gazans have received recorded phone calls from the Israeli Army warning them that their houses have been marked as targets because they harbored either militants or weapons facilities like rocket workshops. Noncombatants were urged to clear out. Hundreds of thousands of leaflets gave the same message.”

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1230456505080&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

    “The GPS-guided GBU-39 is said to be one of the most accurate bombs in the world. The 113-kg. bomb has the same penetration capabilities as a normal 900-kg. bomb, although it has only 22.7 kg. of explosives.”

    “Palestinians reported that they received phone calls to their cellular phones and landlines from the IDF. The phone call, the Palestinians said, conveyed a recorded message ordering the immediate evacuation of homes that were next to Hamas infrastructure or being used by the terrorist organization.”

  4. Flifla: Merriam Webster provides these definitions for “scholar”:

    1. One who attends school or studies under a teacher;
    2. A person who has done advanced study in a special field
    3. A holder of a scholarship.

    I am all three (or have been in the case of the scholarship). I hold a college degree and have had mentors and teachers from poets to ambassadors. My specialty in college was international relations with a focus on diplomacy and conflict resolution. That should be enough to answer a logical mind, but your previous inquiry about my credentials suggested to me that perhaps paranoia is your game. To assuage your fears – no worries. I’m not under the tutelage of the Mossad, Shin Bet or Aman.

    The remainder of your comment is largely incoherent. Hamas incarnates the resistance of colonized people? If I’m accurate in what I assume you mean – perhaps you can explain how their current practices are helping the civilians being bombarded by Israeli fire?

  5. DT Gamble:
    Thanks for your many constructive and interesting comments of late!

    The 80% was taken from a 2005 report on the region; and while it has been a tenuous relationship, there have been multiple periods of time in which the Palestinians – especially in the West Bank – have nade their distrust of Hamas known. I could cite until I am blue in the face, but I suggest perusal of the BBC and other sources for further documentation (I linked to the BBC’s section on Israel/Palestine in a previous entry). You may find this interview, with Richard Engel, very interesting:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28438551/

    Also, thank you for mentioning Mona Eltahawy. I quite enjoy her work, and as you can see she has a home on my blogroll. 🙂

    Raquel

  6. David:

    I appreciate what you’re saying, and am not joining in on any knee-jerk condemnation of Israel. I believe Hamas to be exactly as I described in my post. However, I cannot for a second buy arguments for “smart bombs”, especially in what we know are densely populated areas. (And also after having watched use of the same weaponry in Afghanistan and Iraq!) You’ve cited it yourself – the smaller smart bomb, at 113 kg – has the same penetrative capacity of a 900 kg bomb.

    When buildings fall, when infrastructure is destroyed – only mass death can ensue. Clearly, if the offensive continues as it has, and escalates as Israel claims to intend – many, many more innocents will die. This is not the way to peace. I don’t claim to have the solution, David, and I hope you hear my sincere concern for innocents on both sides.

    A further question – I have just read that foreigners residing in Gaza are being permitted to leave.

    Now, I sincerely ask you the following:

    If this offensive was months in the making, as we have started to hear – and Israel, as you claim, is interested in doing its very best to reduce civilian casualities – why weren’t these foreigners pro-actively advised to leave the area BEFORE the air offensive began? Israel knew the offensive would be massive. Shouldn’t travel to the area have undergone profound restriction? I ask this constructively, in the spirit of collaboration for a reasonble resolution to an unreasonable conflict.

  7. as salam aleykoum

    thank you for ur reply i do not know why u speak to me in that impolite and ironic way, “paranoia is your game ” ??? u jump into conclusions, and u are on the defensive i did not attacked u
    what u did it is putting words into my mouth which i really dislike and i do not appreciate but any way i forgive u

    now about my comment there is no incoherance in the fact of saying that HAMAS IS THE RESISTANCE OF A COLONIZED PEOPLE

    Hamas helped the palestinians to survive during the embargo, i do say that they are perfect but they are the only organization who really help from the inside thanks to the tunnels built Palestinians received food, medics those tunnels are the only way to escape from the Israeli blockade

    what is the difference between HAMAS and TSAHAL: The disproportion of logistics mean, that’s all : uranium bomb against artisanal rockets

    u asked me :”perhaps you can explain how their current practices are helping the civilians being bombarded by Israeli fire?”

    there is no explanations to give war is war , they are colonized by Israel and Palestinians are straving it is normal to resist and to fight against the colonizer
    if palestinians do not die of Israeli fire they will die of Israeli embargo they do not have choice

    what i found incoherent in ur article is that u used old stats to justify ur theory
    “The 80% was taken from a 2005 report on the region”, yet in 2006 HAMAS won the elections, so please at least use recent stats

  8. Dear Fifla,

    I apologize for speaking to you in a way that feels impolite and defensive. The tone of a previous comment you left me led me to believe that you were asking the question in a different manner. Your contributions are welcome and varied opinions on issues like Hamas/Gaza/Israel/Palestine are necessary for us all to understand one another better.

    Regarding popular support for Hamas, the research I’ve done certainly isn’t the only source you’ll find discussing the displeasure of the average Palestinian with Hamas’ tactics re: violence. To say that every innocent in Gaza wants to solve the situation in the way that Hamas militants see fit is just unreasonable. It is also a surefire way to further compromise Palestinians themselves.

    Hamas’ support in the social sector (it funds mosques, schools, etc) has fluctuated but is worth noting. The issue here is that Hamas has funded some social welfare initiatives not previously offered by the Fatah government. However, the desire for welfare programs and reasonable educational programming is not the same as support for Hamas’ violence. There has been enough internal conflict within Gaza itself to speak to the fluctuating and fragile relationship between the people of Gaza and Hamas.

    Most important to keep in mind, however, is that the Palestinians have been offered precious little by way of alternatives. I speak again to what I mentioned in my post — as Israel continues its bombardment of Gaza, civilians have nowhere to look for real, material support. Hamas quite easily becomes the only force there – and this is not a fair “choice” for Palestine. The Arab world must come up with a way to advocate for Palestine – or see the ultimate demise of every last man, woman and child. By advocacy I do not mean terrorism and I do not mean warfare. It is up to the Arab world and the rest of us as well to come up with a reasonable, sustainable solution for peace – rather than continuing to use Palestinians as pawns in this larger, more global conflict.

    Best,
    Raquel

  9. THANK YOU FOR YOUR REPLY Raquel
    I participated to manifestation for GAZA yesterday in Paris, and believe me there were a lot of banners against the Arabs leaders especially against MOUBARAK, and i saw HEZBOLAH flag
    we were suposed to go in front of Israeli embassy but guess what we were not allowed by police
    And here what we see on french news is just BS according to them HAMAS and then GAZA deserve this dirty war, and are the only to blame
    take care and forgive me too if i upset u

  10. Flifla:
    It is certainly interesting to hear about the protest! Would you consider posting photos on your blog at some point? Here in the States, protests in front of embassies have been permitted. I haven’t been able to engage in any of the demonstrations happening around this latest conflict, but several years ago I did participate in a rally outside of an Israeli embassy. I’ll have to find and post some of those photos – which would not look unlike some of the civil disobedience I’ve been seeing on the news networks.

    To the rest of your comment – again, I maintain what I said above about Hamas. However, for anyone to claim that Gaza deserves this, or that the Palestinians are entirely at fault: no one with a conscience could say that and maintain any kind of integrity. It is becoming harder and harder to discuss the situation in a balanced manner, for the violence is not balanced. Even if it were – allow me to be so cliche as to state an overused (albeit modified) phrase: “bombing for peace is like having sex for virginity.”

    I can’t see any turnaround in this, and I wish I could say otherwise. Hanan Ashrawi spoke out about the situation last evening, and I think voices like hers are important ones to bring to light.

    A recommendation for you and others – I’m delving into a book that has said some poignant things about the situation in Israel/Palestine and elswhere. It is called “The Lessons of Terror – A history of warfare against civilians: why it has always failed and why it will fail again”. The author’s name is Caleb Carr. I’m not making an absolute statement about the book’s quality just yet, but it seems interesting enough to recommend at this juncture.

    Take care and keep your eyes focused on the increasingly distant point of peace.

    Raquel

  11. as salam aleykoum Raquel
    the meanning is to debate and speak about the palestinian issue,we all want peace the thing is we do not know how to reach this peace
    the visit of our president Sarkozy is useless, Olmert refused to stop fire and some media assume that Bush and Olmert are already negociating to keep the israeli army on the gaza strip nfo or intox?
    officialy no one negociates with hamas but it is obvious that hamans will not stop the fire neither
    BTW i already posted some pics on my blog
    take care

  12. Hi Raquel and flifla and others,
    If you want the war to end as I do we should all encourage Hamas to agree to the following:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/world/middleeast/07mideast.html?hp=&pagewanted=all

    “The endgame for us is threefold: that Hamas’s military machine would be substantially destroyed; two, Hamas understands that shooting rockets means paying a price they don’t want to pay; and three, there are mechanisms in place to prevent Hamas from rearming,” Mr. Regev said.

    This is a reasonable request on Israel’s part as Israel simply can’t allow missiles from Gaza being shot towards civilians regardless of the number of casualties caused (New York Mayor Bloomberg when visiting Sderot got a Hamas calling card in the form of a 15 second warning for a dash to the nearest bomb shelter. Thanks to the Iranians, the missiles now go as far as the major southern city of Bersheva and even as far as 20 miles outside of Tel Aviv. America or any other country would not allow this to happen to American citizens and Israel must in the same manner protect its citizens.

    As for helping civilians with foreign passports exit Gaza before the bombing, the bombing was a surprise attack to take Hamas by surprise to get the maximum number of targets….

    But I think that
    1) all civilians should have been allowed to exit Gaza both for their safety and well being and to minimize the use of civilian shields by Hamas and
    2) I would have let all casualties out of Gaza to be treated in Israeli hospitals.

    I wish both of these things were done.

    But if the world wants the Israeli action against Gaza/Hamas to stop then the international community must pressure Hamas to accede to Mr. Regev’s demands which seems reasonable enough.

    Instead of pressuring Israel to stop countries of the world need to have Hamas accede to Israeli conditions for the cease fire.

    I hope all agree with that….

  13. Dear David
    i am sorry i disagree and this is the reason why
    on ur comment i just read that Hamas needs to take some resolution, just like a war is between two countries, peace need two sides, thus resolutions from two sides
    but i did not read what are the conditions that Israeli governement need to honor in a way to reach this peace
    u can not ask unilaterally resolution, Hamas is not the only one to blame!
    u want Hamas to destroy their military machine? what about the israeli army ? u want them to disband their army ? it is imoossible u know that and i know that, so how an country can feel secure without his army? how palestinain can resist and fight against their unacceptable and inhuman condition of life if they do not have military leverage ?

    i want Israel governement to honor the cease-fire that international community reclaimed for, and to stop immediatly the embargo. U know Hamas always respected the cease-fire in the past, but what is the result ? nothing in return the same misery the same famine the same humiliations!
    Israel ask for impossible resolution why? because they do not want peace? where u write REASONNABLE i read IMPOSSIBLE RESOLUTION

    do not ask to Hamas to stop being Hamas which means a resistance movement against the occupation
    Hamas break the cease-fire but they do not have choice the most IMPORTANT RESOLUTION THAT ISRAEL PROMISED TO TAKE IS TO STOP BLOCKADE, they disrespected this MORE THAN RESONABLE RESOLUTION so the only way For PALESTINIAN IN GAZA to save their life was to attack i agree with u to say that it was maybe not the better way but as human being when ur life and dignity are jeopardize, threaten what are u capable of to save ur life and to regain ur dignity ?
    how far can u go to save ur life?

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