When watching the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, many have held on to a profoundly mistaken idea. I heard it again just recently from an otherwise well-informed observer. The conflict, this acquaintance confidently declared, will not be resolved until Israel lifts the blockade of Gaza.
The trouble with this line of thinking is that it ignores everything Hamas itself has stated about its goals, beliefs and strategy.
To understand the dispute it is not necessary to listen to a single word Israel says. A good starting point is Hamas’ charter, easily found in many places online, including this one from Yale University at avalon.law.yale.edu/ 20th—century/hamas.asp.
The Covenant explains Hamas in great detail. It makes for a very educational read for anyone with an interest in understanding the tragedy that has befallen the people of Gaza.
For those uninclined to read the document, let me offer some highlights and a brief summary. Essentially, Hamas is committed, in writing, to Israel’s destruction. It opposes negotiations, and it considers Jews, not just Israeli Jews, the enemy.
The Hamas Covenant gets to the point quickly. “Israel will exist ... until Islam will obliterate it.” Then the introduction helpfully explains, “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious.”
Hamas rejects the existence of a Jewish state because it considers the land, as Article Eleven states, an “Islamic Waqf” a divine, unalterable endowment, “for future generations until Judgment Day.” That applies to every inch of the territory, as its leaders have frequently said “from the river to the sea.” So, we’re not talking about the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, what Westerners normally call the occupied territory.
Hamas considers every piece of land on which Israel stands, including Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Galilee, all of Jerusalem – all of it – as exclusively Muslim land, by divine grant, for which it must fight to the death.
Hamas leaders may occasionally agree to ceasefires, or talk in conciliatory tones to the Western media, but their objective, clearly stated, is that nobody has a right to negotiate. “Who could claim the right to represent Muslim generations until judgment day?” asks the charter.
So, the fight is not about negotiating a two-state solution; much less about lifting a siege.
Hamas considers all of Israel “occupied” Muslim land. And speaking of occupation, in 2005 Israel withdrew every single one of its soldiers, along with tens of thousands of Jews who lived in Gaza.
Many people still speak of the Gaza “occupation” although Hamas governs a territory without any outside forces – except for the occasional Iranian military advisor. They say it is occupied because Israel keeps control of the sky and at sea. That’s the sky, by the way, across which thousands of rockets fly towards Israel.
When Israel’s critics talk about the “siege” of Gaza, they have a puzzling tendency to ignore Gaza’s other international border, a border with Egypt.
“Humanitarian” flotillas challenge Israel’s sea blockade, a legitimate tool under international law, but they apparently don’t check their maps to realize anything Gaza cannot get from Israel it might obtain across its border with Egypt which, incidentally, is governed by the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian branch.
It’s disingenuous to demand Israel freely open a border to a regime that has proclaimed its intention to destroy it, and it’s dishonest to make that demand when borders are conduits for weapons deliveries from Iran to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Some of the most dangerous missiles fired by Hamas and other Iran-linked groups at Israel – at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – in the latest round were Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets.
It’s easy to stop noticing the stripes, to hear a purr instead of the roar, but anyone thinking of Hamas and other militant Islamist groups in Gaza as harmless pussy cats can easily be reminded of the sharpness of their claws. Hamas’ charter proclaims in Article Eight that “death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of wishes.”
Before Hamas’ rockets became a daily source of terror for Israelis near Gaza, the group sent scores of suicide bombers into Israeli cities killing hundreds of civilians, including children, fathers, mothers, grandmothers.
A commercial recently aired on Palestinian television addressed Israelis, saying, “We’ve missed suicide attacks. Expect us soon at bus stations and cafes.”
So, to anyone thinking that a lifting of Israel’s strict restrictions on Hamas-held Gaza would put an end to the tensions and the killing, I suggest a few minutes listening to or reading Hamas’ own words.
A real solution would require rescinding Hamas’ commitment to the destruction of the Jewish State, something Israel and other countries have long demanded of Hamas in exchange for lifting sanctions and moving to a constructive relation.
Now, that would really help the people of Gaza.Frida Ghitis writes about global affairs for The Miami Herald. Readers may send her email at email@example.com.