Over the years, we at the Investigative Project on Terrorism and many others have called on American Islamists to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization. They have steadfastly refused.
Fine. But if Palestinian advocates really want a better life for the people of Gaza, today’s events make it clear they must condemn Hamas for making the plight of the people there demonstrably worse.
For six hours, Israel stopped bombing Gaza, accepting a cease-fire put forth by Egypt. All Hamas had to do was stop firing rockets at Israeli civilians and the people of Gaza could start trying to resume their lives, confident that the latest conflict had ended.
For all the talk of disproportionate casualties on the Palestinian side, the decision to reject the cease-fire guarantees more Palestinians will die. Israel stopped, and would have stopped. But Hamas prefers to continue firing rockets that stand a better chance of being intercepted, or missing the civilians at which they are aimed, than doing anything to make life better today.
And it follows a Hamas official nonchalantly saying his group isn’t trying to bring destruction to the Palestinian people. Rather, “We are leading our people to death.” (Note to Palestinian politicians: do NOT let Sami Abu Zuhri write your campaign material. He’s terrible at it.)
Hamas objected because the cease-fire didn’t grant it any of its demands. Those include an end to a blockade on Gaza – imposed to stem the flow of weapons and materials used to make them – and the release of Hamas prisoners arrested by Israel after last month’s murder of three Israeli teenagers in what appears to have started as a kidnapping attempt.
It’s not clear why the guy who starts the bar fight, then gets punched out, should be the one to dictate terms of how the fight ends. It’s even less clear how more-of-the-same from Hamas does anything but increase Palestinian suffering. The immediate goal was an end to the violence. Israel accepted. Hamas did not.
Some in neighboring Egypt have lost patience. A compilation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) shows several examples in just the past week of television hosts blasting Hamas for bringing more damage to Gaza.
“But our people in Gaza must come to the realization that such idiotic decision-making pertaining to religion and politics forces the Gaza Strip and its people, as well as the entire Arab Nation in its entirety, to pay a very steep price in fragmentation, in humiliation, in martyrs and, unfortunately, in blood – shed in vein, with no prospects for victory,” host Khaled Salah said on Al-Nahar television last Wednesday.
“We pray for Allah to bestow upon the Hamas leaders a bit of common sense, so they will get a grasp of the map of the region, and of the degree to which the Arab nation is fragmented. Unfortunately, it was they and their ilk in other Arab countries who caused this fragmentation.”
Palestinian advocates will continue to blame Israel. But that’s just a knee-jerk reaction. The truth requires some painful introspection.