On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared ISIS (Islamic State) and Hamas, calling them “branches of the same tree.” The Obama administration, in the person of Marie Harf, declined to do the same. Yet while Hamas is focused on destroying Israel and ISIS is trying to build a new Sunni caliphate, there is little else to distinguish them, and several reasons both ought to be considered part of the same terror threat.
1. Hamas also abducts journalists. Alongisde to its constant efforts to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians, Hamas has been known, like ISIS, to abduct journalists. In April 2012, for instance, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported that Hamas had kidnapped and tortured a journalist in Gaza named Saher Aqraa. In the Gaza conflict, Hamas has threatened other journalists who dare to report the truth about its tactics and activities.
2. Hamas stages public executions. As the world reels in horror from the beheading of an American by ISIS, it is worth remembering that Hamas also uses public executions–albeit to send a message to Palestinians, not primarily to the outside world. In the recent Gaza conflict, for example, Hamas has executed dozens of alleged Palestinian collaborators with Israel, and is reported to have executed another three today alone.
3. Hamas attacks Americans. One of the more persistent myths about Hamas is that it does not attack Americans. However, when Hamas attacks Israel, Americans visiting or living in the country are often among the victims. Hamas has also threatened to target Americans more directly in the past, when U.S. policy has been seen to be at odds with the terror group’s interests. The group’s ideology is also profoundly anti-American.
4. Hamas has global ambitions–to kill Jews (and Rotarians). The Hamas charter does not confine the group’s vision to Israel alone, but rails against Jews all over the world, accusing them of being part of a global conspiracy that also includes Rotary Clubs, among other supposedly nefarious civic organizations. During the Gaza conflict, an imam linked to Hamas in Gaza called for Jews to be exterminated wherever they live.
5. Hamas persecutes Christians. The rise of Hamas in Gaza–and in the West Bank–has also meant the departure of many Palestinian Christians. Though rarely taking the form of the violent pogroms staged by ISIS, attempts by Hamas to “Islamicize” the Gaza Strip have sometimes meant violence against Christians. In the Gaza conflict, church property and Christian civilians have been used by Hamas as (unwilling) human shields.
True, there are some differences between the Hamas and ISIS. For example, Hamas has been more pragmatic, willing to work with Shia Iran despite its extremist Sunni ideology. And while Hamas has enough sense–or fear–to disavow certain attacks (even those for which it is actually responsible), ISIS takes perverse pride in its atrocities, broadcasting them over social media, partly to frighten its enemies and minimize their resistance.
Yet Hamas remains among the most brutal Islamic terror organizations. In its effort to dig terror tunnels into Israel, for instance, Hamas not only commandeered materials that should have benefited the people of Gaza through civilian uses, but actually employed child labor to do much of the work, killing hundreds of young Palestinians in the process.
Netanyahu’s comparison is valid. The question is why Obama declines to agree.
Image: Hatem Moussa/AP