Matt Johnson: Hamas’ backwardness and cruelty are the biggest impediments to peace

07/30/2014 4:57 PM

07/30/2014 5:59 PM

Here are a few things worth knowing about Hamas.

After launching indiscriminate barrages of rockets at Israeli civilians, Hamas tells Palestinian civilians to stay put as retaliatory fire descends on them — even when the Israeli Defense Forces issue warnings to evacuate.

A creepy Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, recently urged Gazans to clamber atop their roofs and “confront Israeli warplanes with their bare chests” — you know, if they really want to set a gleaming example.

Violent anti-Semitism is enshrined in Hamas’ charter — an ugly document that openly cites “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as the “embodiment” of nefarious Jewish designs. It invokes Quranic authority for perpetual warfare and the inculcation of hatred in young Palestinians. It gleefully looks forward to the expulsion and destruction of the Jewish people.

If you think this is an unfair characterization of Hamas in 2014, perhaps you just watched Charlie Rose’s interview with its leader, Khaled Meshaal, and now think of it as a “humanistic movement.” Ask yourself if you can picture Hamas repudiating its vile charter and apologizing to international Jewry for the pernicious filth it contains. Ask yourself if it will ever abandon its craven, cynical calls for martyrdom. Ask yourself what it would do with Israel’s arsenal.

This is an open letter to the Palestinian people. Do away with Hamas. Its leaders have nothing but savage contempt for the Israelis — as well as the Palestinians who want to live in peace with their neighbors.

While Hamas implores the embattled citizens of Gaza to heroically defy Israeli firepower on top of their soon-to-be-incinerated homes, its operatives scurry into their nexus of tunnels and go about the business of planting their rockets in hospitals and schools (the U.N. recently discovered a cache of rockets hidden in a school).

These facts must also be faced by those who brandish Palestinian flags at solidarity rallies and formulate Twitter hashtags to indict or impugn Israel. As long as Hamas remains in power, cyclical violence will remain ineradicable.

The unending debate about how Israel uses military force is necessary — and nowhere is it more impassioned or dynamic than it is in the Israeli press. But until you recognize the irrational, religiously motivated acrimony that underpins everything Hamas does, you’ll misunderstand a pivotal aspect of this nightmare.

In a November 2005 debate with Noam Chomsky at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Alan Dershowitz implored supporters of Palestine to “stop being more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves.” He then urged the same upon supporters of Israel. A recent poll suggests that the people of Gaza — unlike the bombastic Twitter trolls who roll out hashtags like #GenocideInGaza and #HitlerWasRight — don’t uncritically accept Hamas’ rule.

According to a survey conducted in Gaza in mid-June (published by The Washington Institute), 88 percent of respondents thought the Palestinian Authority should supplant Hamas and “take over administration” of Gaza. Moreover, 73 percent preferred nonviolent resistance to Israel and 70 percent hoped for a sustained ceasefire. Although the people of Gaza foolishly elected Hamas in 2006 — and what was waning support has probably increased in response to the recent Israeli onslaught — these numbers are unambiguously encouraging.

The daily horror that attends life in Gaza must be unbearable, but much of the outrage for its persistence should be pinned firmly on Hamas. Imagine watching as precious, dwindling funds are siphoned into a military vacuum while basic infrastructure remains nonexistent.

Arguments about the “asymmetry” or “unfairness” of the fighting are slimy red herrings. Some people have an instinctive revulsion to power, so Hamas’ incompetence and weakness make it seem less sinister, while Israel looks like a merciless juggernaut.

But imagine if Israel’s Iron Dome system didn’t exist. Thousands of rockets would have landed on schools, hospitals, apartments, and so on. At least Israeli aircraft and ground forces are aiming at military targets. The same can’t be said for Hamas, which is trying to kill as many civilians as possible. Is it immoral for Israel to defend her citizens by blasting the enemy’s rockets out of the sky? The question answers itself.

Of course, Israel isn’t guiltless in this conflict. Gross human rights violations (including torture) have been committed, airstrikes have killed scores of civilians, and dogged settlement construction continues to erode the prospect of peace.

But if Hamas surrendered its weapons and pledged to stop trying to infiltrate Israel with suicide-murderers, the Palestinians would have a strong moral foundation on which to build communication and trust. If international monitors declared Gaza artillery-free, on what basis could Israel maintain the blockade and economic sanctions? What reason would remain for invasion and occupation?

Hamas could gain a lot by abandoning its rapidly depleting stockpile of rockets and a few ratty tunnels. But the Palestinians could gain everything by abandoning Hamas.

To reach Matt Johnson, editorial page intern, send email to mjohnson@kcstar.com.

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