March 15, 2008 - To enlighten those who may have harbored any doubts, Fathi Ahmad Hammad, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said it loud and said it proud: Palestinians deliberately use women and children as human shields.
This is the transcript of his remarks (but it is worth watching the clip just to hear the hatred in his voice):
[The enemies of Allah] do not know that the Palestinian people has developed its [methods] of death and death-seeking. For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: "We desire death like you desire life."
Hammad is a leader of the Izzedeen al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, and in 2006 was elected to the Palestinian Parliament as a Hamas representative. He is also director of Al-Aqsa TV, which aired his comments on February 29.
You may remember Al-Aqsa TV. This is the TV station that fills dear little ears with hate, that brought Palestinian children Farfur Mouse and Nahoul Bee. Among its many poisonous features are music videos, such as one showing a four-year-old girl singing a song to her mom, who blows herself up and kills four Israeli soldiers. Afterwards the girl holds a bomb and sings: "I am following Mommy in her steps." Other videos feature children in military uniforms and holding guns.
Now Hammad discloses the Hamas strategy, which some have suspected but few have actually believed: use people, especially women and children, as human shields. If you won't believe me, will you believe a member of Hamas?
This strategy has been immensely successful. Fire at Israeli cities from schoolyards, and make Israel choose between allowing its own children to be targets or risking harm to others. Now we know beyond a doubt that Hamas knows what it is doing, and is doing it intentionally.
But people still will not believe. The prevailing attitude is typified in the words of Javier Solana, head of foreign policy for the European Union:
"I cannot imagine that the religious imperative, the real religious imperative, can make anybody destroy another country.... Therefore that is an abuse of religion.... I don't think the essence of Hamas is the destruction of Israel. The essence of Hamas is the liberation of the Palestinians, the liberation of their people, not the destruction of Israel."
This is the mistake Westerners, profoundly ignorant of history, make over and over again: to assume that all cultures everywhere hold the same values they do. This is a dangerous form of ethnocentrism.
Perhaps if Solana had been listening, he would have heard how Hamas repeatedly proclaims its intention to destroy Israel. He might have seen the following on the Hamas web site:
He might have read the following from the Hamas Charter:
Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it.
Our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave.
The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!
Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.
Solana's dangerous naïveté is a luxury the world cannot afford.
So what does all of this add up to?
The Palestinians have successfully sold the idea that they are resisting an occupation. Israel is the occupier, the Palestinians are resisting, so the problem can be solved by pressuring Israel politically, economically, and militarily. This is the big lie of the Israel/Palestine conflict.
For when we examine both Palestinian words and actions, we see that this is really something much different from what it seems. The rhetoric of hatred, the indoctrination of children, the Palestinians' willingness to use their own people as martyrs for the sake of blackening Israel's image, the constant threats to destroy Israel and to liberate "all" of Palestine, are all signs that this is no revolutionary movement in the Western mold. This is a jihad in the most traditional and most extreme sense of the word. This is a war for Israel's extermination.
The Palestinians say they want Israel to withdraw, but they punish Israel when it does. The most extreme factions have taken over Gaza and are threatening the same in the West Bank. And the influence of outside parties, particularly Iran, is growing.
The most disruptive force in this conflict is Iran, yet international attention is focused on Israel. The pressure on Iran to contain its nuclear program is totally ineffectual, but it is at least visible. There is no international pressure at all on Iran to withdraw its tentacles from the Palestinian territories, and to stop using Hamas and Hezbollah to torpedo any movement towards peace barely as soon as it begins. Meanwhile all the pressure in the world on Israel is not going to halt the forces trying to destroy it and push the world towards a global catastrophe whose reach will far exceed the Middle East.
When Fathi Hammad ran for the Palestinian Parliament in 2006, his campaign promise was that Hamas “will continue to develop its armed wings by recruiting more members and making more rockets and bombs.” And the people voted for him and elected him. His TV station is now helping to prepare the next generation of holy warriors. Samir Abu Mohsen, who directs one of the station's hate shows for kids, says that the character Nahoul Bee exists to remind Palestinian children that they are in exile and must commit themselves to getting back their land. What land? These children live in Gaza, and Israelis are gone from there. The land these children are being trained to reclaim by force is clearly Israel.
Note also how much of the imagery and rhetoric is not just anti-Israel but anti-Jewish: the poster of the Hasidic Jew, "our struggle against the Jews" from the Hamas Charter, "O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!" What's the meaning of all this?
Instead of yet another barrage of complaints about the irrelevance of "anti-Semitism," what we really need is to understand these expressions of hate in their historical context. They are nothing new. The pronouncement to kill the Jew hiding behind the tree comes from the Hadith, the teachings of Muhammad himself (Sahih Muslim, 41:6985). In one children's television episode, Nahoul Bee says "we will go as Islamic fighters” to fight "the enemies of Allah, the killers of prophets." The charge that the Jews killed their prophets is way older than the State of Israel and has been a mainstay of both Christian and Muslim anti-Semitism. It is indeed found in the Qur'an (2:61, 2:87, 5:70-71).
Anti-Jewish sentiment is deeply ingrained in Muslim tradition, and it comes from projecting forward through history Muhammad's conflicts with the Jews of his own time. Muhammad did speak in generalities about "Jews," and since his words are considered timeless, many Muslims apply them to the Jews of today. One can still hear Muhammad's words applied this way in countless Friday sermons from mosques around the world.
It is important to recognize this in order to understand why a Jewish state of all things is anathema to so many Muslims. The Jews were the tribes that Muhammad defeated and expelled when he unified Arabia under Islam. Jews are supposed to recognize the authority and dominance of Islam. They are not supposed to rule anything, especially not right in the middle of the Muslim world. A Jewish state in the heart of the Muslim world is a desecration of Muslim history. This feeling runs very deep. It is not me crying anti-Semitism like the boy cried "Wolf." It is history.
Therefore a historical consciousness is necessary in order to fathom what Hamas is doing. The symbols that Hamas uses, from the Qur'an, from the Hadith, and from later Christian anti-Jewish literature, all point towards a continuation of the original jihad. This is hard for Westerners to understand, but this is what the fight means to Hamas. They are completing the work that Muhammad started. It is not something about which they can compromise. And international condemnation of Israel only gives it more power.
For this cause Hamas is willing to sacrifice its own children as martyrs. And if Israel gets the blame for it, so much the better. If we do not understand the present Palestinian violence for what it is - not an effort to end an occupation of some territories but a continuation of the real, original jihad and a fight to the death - then attempts to force an end to the conflict will only help make inevitable the catastrophic conclusion that all but the religious fanatics are dreading.
We must at least respect the religious mind of Hamas enough to understand it on its own terms. It may seem too strange to us to believe, so like Solana we impose our own reality on it. That is foolish and perilous. We must not ever forget that in the Middle East the word "occupation" has a double meaning. To the West, it means Israel's presence in the West Bank and Gaza. That is not what it means to Hamas. To Hamas, "occupation" means the existence of an entity that defies Islam. And when Hamas fights to end the "occupation," obliterating that entity is precisely what it aims to achieve.
"Hamas MP Fathi Hammad: We Used Women and Children as Human Shields." Middle East Media Research Institute, MEMRI TV No. 1710, February 29, 2008.
"Terrorism: Al-Aqsa TV." Anti-Defamation League: ADL.org.
Horovitz, David. "Solana: 'Hamas Doesn't Want to Destroy Israel'." Jerusalem Post, October 26, 2006.
Shiloh, Scott. "Hamas Proclaims Victory, Promises to Destroy Israel." Israel National News, August 22, 2005.
Peace with Realism