Condemning Terrorism in the Levant

[A listener to my interview with Scott Horton on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict submitted the following question.]

Q. I would like to know your views on Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah and if you denounce the groups as terrorist, genocidal organizations. Furthermore, I am also curious to know if you condemn all three group’s calling for the destruction of Israel and their simultaneous wanting to slaughter of the Jews.

A. The three organizations about which you ask are significantly different from one another.

Hezbollah has not engaged in any acts of terrorism in an extremely long time, so it could not be said to now be a terrorist organization.

Hamas did not engage in single act of terrorism until Baruch Goldstein massacred the worshipers at prayer in Hebron. Hamas broadened its target’s not so much for Goldstein’s slaughter of 29 innocents, but for the IDF murders of the noncombatant demonstrators protesting the massacre. Yes, I condemn Hamas’s decision to adopt the tactics of their oppressors. Yet defenders of Israel who condemn those acts by Hamas refused to condemn (or even mention, usually) the provocations that spawned them. In fact, Hamas has repeatedly offered to end all acts against civilians if Israel would end its policy of shooting down Palestinian civilians, an offer which has only elicited the consistent Israeli response, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

I condemn terrorism on both sides. However, I do not call either Hamas or Israel a terrorist organization because both insist that they do not intentionally target innocents. See, for example, the response of both to the Goldstone Report that charges that Hamas killed three civilians and the IDF killed over 1,000 civilians during the invasion of Gaza. Both insisted that the deaths attributed to them were not intentional. A real terrorist organization, like al-Qaeda, is not embarrassed by civilian deaths and makes no effort to mask it as a “mistake” (as does Hamas) or “collateral damage” (as does Israel).

I do condemn Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organization because it shows little or no embarrassment over the civilian deaths for which it is responsible. Even so, a massacre is not necessarily an act of genocide. None of these organizations is genocidal unless you wish to reduce the standard for genocide to the point that Israel itself, which kills ten times as many children as have all Palestinian groups combined, is also genocidal. In their own minds Palestinians may excuse the killing of Israelis as the defense against marauders and in their own minds Israelis may excuse the killing of Palestinians as defense against terrorists, but no little child was ever a marauder or a terrorist. I do not believe that even Israel, with its horrifying record of child-killing, is deliberately seeking to murder ALL Palestinians and thus their actions while morally reprehensible and ethically unjustifiable, they fall short of genocide. Of course, others may have a different threshold for what is genocide, but to have different thresholds for Muslims than for Jews is simply hypocrisy.

As to calls for the destruction of Israel, one must distinguish between the destruction of a state by democratic or peaceful means and destruction of a people by aggression. No state has any right to exist except by the consent of the governed. Israel came into existence not by the consent of the inhabitants of the land, by the pretense that the indigenous people of the land then called Palestine did not really exist and the enthusiastic endorsement by the founding fathers of modern Israel (Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett) of the policy of “ethnic transfer” to rid the land of its non-Jewish inhabitants.This policy is echoed in Netanyahu’s protests that allowing Palestinians to return to their homes would mean the “destruction of Israel.” Perhaps it would, but it would be by a peaceful and democratic means. It was Meir Kahane, the founder of the terrorist Jewish Defense League who embarrassed moderate Zioinsts by stating bluntly what those such as Netanyahu say by indirection: a state that is mostly non-Jews cannot be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time.

Your last question is a trick question, because it is the premised on the fallacy that Hamas calls for the slaughter of the Jews. I condemn Hamas’s charter because of its call that all Palestine be considered Islamic endowment, a mirror image of Israel’s appalling founding demand that the land be a “Jewish state” from the river to the sea. Hamas’s call for a prohibition of Jewish ownership of Palestinian land is as appalling to me as the Jewish National Fund’s call for the prohibition of Muslim (and Christian) ownership of land. However, the Hamas charter contains no call for the destruction of the Jewish people. Accusations to the contrary, like accusations that all Zionists advocate the slaughter of all Muslims, are unfounded, shameful,.and serve no purpose but to pose obstacles to peace and reconciliation. Despite the flaws in the Hamas charter, we must give acknowledge the fact that it explicitly permits Jews who wish to live in peace under a Palestinian state to be allowed to remain in the land. Like most Palestinians I do not agree with the second class status that it would impose on the Jews (the PLO charter gives equal rights to Christians, Jews and Muslims), but I don;t close my eyes to the fact that a similar second class status is imposed by Israel on its Muslim and Christian citizens, under the euphemism of “national rights. Not only does Netanyahu defend the class B citizenship implicit in “national rights,” he actually recently criticized Mahmoud Abbas for declining adopt such a policy for any future Palestinian state!

For a factual analysis of Hamas’s good and bad points, see the US Institute of Peace report by Paul Scham and Osama Abu-Irshid: “Hamas: Ideological Rigidity and Political Flexibility”.

May God guide you closer to the truth.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

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