In keeping this week with our last couple of weeks More than Meets the Eye digests, this week’s bog will include an article I wrote last year on Hamas and a little bit on the birth of modern day Israel and the Palestinian conflict. This will hopefully provide some context for my article next week on part two of “The Emperor has no Clothes.” This has been an interesting look into the recent Golan Heights fiasco and the potential continuing clashes between Israeli forces in the region and just about everybody else, save the US and its allies. The significance of the Golan Heights has been underestimated for years and its importance is once again coming to the fore.
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“Quiet for Quiet”
–Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s Defense Minister
“Deterrence needs an address.” an Israeli military analyst
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
My goal on this issue of “More than Meets the Eye” is not to bash HAMAS. My purpose is to briefly and simply inform you of what HAMAS is, how it came into existence and how it is conducting its activities in the Middle East. I will seek to clarify using non-main-stream media sources how HAMAS is perceived internally, within the Middle East and in the West. My analysis will be to simplify, not to be simplistic. The milieu of that small strip of land on the eastern edges of the Mediterranean has been hotly contested for the past several millennia. It is a strip of land that both Muslims and Israeli’s lay claim to and Christians revere as the birth-place of Jesus Christ and the future home of the millennial kingdom of God.
The milieu of that small strip of land on the eastern edges of the Mediterranean has been hotly contested for the past several millennia. It is a tiny piece of ground to which both Muslims and Israeli’s lay claim. Christians revere it as the birth-place of Jesus Christ and the future home of the millennial kingdom of God.
As I have researched current studies on this confusing state of relentless, on again off again conflict in the land of which we are discussing, one thing has resonated in my mind continuously. This land is one made up of ordinary people in a very unordinary situation. Ordinary people live on two sides of a wall. Both wish the violence would go away. Both wish the other would go away. Both see the other as occupier. What these ordinary people really want is peace. At the heart of their existence is a city called, Jerusalem, the city of peace. There may be no clearer picture of the state of humanity than this mural. It is a tapestry of uniquely different people who desperately want peace, but are unwilling to do the hard stuff to achieve it. It reminds me of a line in a book I once read, “…and so he hated; it was the only thing that was free.” Peace always comes at a cost. I am not only thinking about the peace that comes at the cost of human life due to war. Peace will only come when humans are willing to drop their fists, let go of their demands and lift their hearts and their neighbors to a God who longs for his creation to live in peace.
There are injustices on both sides of a wall, where clearly two wrongs never equal…right! Do the Israeli’s have the right to live in fear because of the determination of many well-armed Palestinians to exterminate them from existence? -Yes. Do the Palestinians have the right to live in fear because the Israeli’s continue to suppress, often violently, all the Palestinians because of the actions of a violent minority? -Yes. This is a cocktail made in hell. Fear always leads us down dark roads and causes us to make bad decisions. Nothing short of a miraculous solution will ease the pain or cease the struggle. Let’s determine not to be a part of the problem, but to be part of the solution. Many blindly support the Israeli cause. In doing so, they ignore the atrocities that are committed by them as well. I get that. I am reminded however, that we have a Father who loves the Palestinian people too. We would do well to remember that. Forgetting that truth will exempt us from being part of the solution. It will resign us to being part of the problem.
I went overboard on my references this week wanting to demonstrate for you that none of my conclusions were drawn from the mainstream media. Take a few minutes to look at some of these references and books I have recommended. You might find it fun.
Hamas, an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya was founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Palestinian cleric who became an activist in local branches of the Muslim Brotherhood. Yassin established Hamas as the brotherhood’s local political arm in December 1987, following the outbreak of the first intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli control of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. The following year, Hamas published its charter, calling for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic society in historic Palestine.
HAMAS, in early 2006 won legislative elections in the Palestinian territories, ending the secular Fatah party’s hold on the Palestinian Authority and challenging Fatah’s leadership of the Palestinian nationalist movement. Hamas is labeled by the U.S., European Union, Saudia Arabia and Egypt as a terrorist organization. It continues to fire at Israel, knowing full well that doing so will ensure Palestinian loss of life. It seeks to harm Israeli citizens. If not for the group’s provision of key resources and social services, labeling Hamas as unequivocally and exclusively a terrorist organization would be accurate, all-encompassing. But what is one to make of this damning label when Hamas is in fact responsible for providing a fair amount of social services for Palestinians who are largely cut off from many resources? To ignore the significant network of services offered by Hamas would be a mistake. Haim Malka, deputy director and senior fellow of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, found that that Hamas’ extensive social and welfare programs have an annual budget of between $50-70 million. The problem with these figures is that it disguises funds that are most likely funneled towards resistance purposes as well. The reasons behind Hamas’ charitable work are hotly debated. Some argue that the social services work serves as a veil for legitimacy, which supports its military operations and terrorism. Whatever the motivation behind HAMAS’ charitable work, it is unlikely that there will be an adequate solution to the conflict unless there is a commitment by Israel and the international community to step in to assist with the social welfare of the Palestinian people. Currently without HAMAS, there is little hope that the Palestinian people would be able to survive. Gaza’s unemployment rate is at a staggering 50 percent. A majority of Gaza’s population requires international humanitarian aid, but Israeli policies have limited the flow of these basic goods. When the situation is desperate, the population will turn to charities for aid, no matter who is behind those charities. It is simply a matter of survival for many.
Hamas has a host of leadership bodies that perform various political, military and social functions. According to the U.S. State Department, general policy is set by an overarching consultative body, often referred to as its politburo, which operates in exile. Local committees manage grassroots issues in Gaza and the West Bank.
HAMAS has a military wing known as the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades that has conducted many anti-Israel attacks in both Israel and the Palestinian territories since the 1990s. These attacks have included large-scale bombings against Israeli civilian targets, small-arms attacks, improvised roadside explosives and rocket attacks.
Let me once again define for you how I understand terrorism: “Violence—or equally important, the threat of violence targeting civilians—used and directed in pursuit of, or in service of, a political aim.” This definition is important for you to understand my consideration of HAMAS as a terrorist organization. Here are several reasons why I consider HAMAS a terrorist organization.
- Hamas has repeatedly called for the destruction of the State of Israel; out in the open. They aren’t even trying to hide it. Their founding document explicitly says that their goal is to establish a Palestinian state in the entire State of Israel. See this short video of Ismail Haniyeh calling for the destruction of Israel. https://youtu.be/y2m_gy-rD_s This satisfies the requirement for a political aim.
- Hamas specifically targets Israeli civilians. Between February and March 1996, Hamas carried out several suicide bus bombings, killing nearly 60 Israelis. From 2000 to 2004, Hamas was responsible for killing almost 400 Israelis and wounding more than 2,000 in 425 attacks. These are not collateral killings while targeting military targets. When people are killed in an ice cream shop, it is difficult to describe it as a strategic military target. (I don’t know that this sentence makes sense as it is..can we make it better? I can’t seem to come up with anything..) This satisfies the requirement to target civilians, two for two.
- Hamas uses violence and extreme measures to keep Gazan civilians under their control. Hamas publicly executes anyone who dares challenge the group’s policies. According to the 2016 Freedom of Press Index, the freedom of press in Gaza fell from 52% to 14% while under Hamas control. Hamas controls every broadcast and arrests and tortures journalists who voice diverging opinions. The Hamas military wing also controls all imports to Gaza. Between 2015 and 2016, Gazan taxes have gone up as much as 60%. On many products, the taxes are just as much as the cost of the actual product. Instead of using the tax income to build up the economy in the Gaza strip and to improve the quality of life for Palestinians, Hamas allocates 67% of its taxes straight to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades to continue funding terror. This once again satisfies both the targeting of civilians and the pursuit of political aims.
- HAMAS incites violence among the population at every level. It wants the Israeli population to live in fear. This is not how an organization acts that says it only wants to live in peace. Here is a video (somewhat graphic) of how HAMAS is inciting Palestinians to kill Israeli’s at every opportunity. https://youtu.be/9rY-1YGAk2Q
Listed above are just four reasons that I believe HAMAS is a terrorist organization and is a considerable part of the problem in the Middle East. The reasons are a reflection of HAMAS’ activities and not of all Palestinian people. I do not believe that all Palestinians are terrorists. We must stop painting one another with big broad brushes and consider the actions of those who are guilty of their commission.
Why is the truth written in this article important to us? It seems vogue to paint all Palestinians with a terrorist brush, but I have personally met many Palestinians, of which most are appalled at HAMAS’ actions and ideology. They want peace. They want a solution to the problem that will allow them to have a job, educate their children, eat, drink and be merry. Most are not war-mongers and are not filled with hatred and venom. They are as confused as anybody else and are living in fear because even openly discussing the activities of HAMAS can get them tortured and killed.
I would recommend the movie entitled, “The Green Prince.” It will help you understand the dilemma that many Palestinians and Israeli’s have towards the galactically huge problems they face everyday in their country.
- Educate yourself on the birth and life of the ancient and modern State of Israel. Educate yourself on the State of Palestine. Read from a variety of positions and not from just one perspective. I try to read from perspectives of both Israeli’s and Palestinians. A refusal to hear both sides is a sign of ignorance and a sign of intellectual insecurity. I will recommend some books and articles in the reference section.
- There are many Palestinians in your country, whether you are in the USA or Europe. Look for them, befriend them, pray with and for them. Take time to get to know them. You will discover that what I am saying is true. They are ordinary people, born in the midst of an extra-ordinary problem. Love them. Serve them. You may make some very special friends.
- There are many Israeli’s and/or Jews in your country. Find them; befriend them. Pray with and for them. Take time to get to know them. You may be surprised at the responses you will get due to your curiosity.
- Rest. I read a great quote this morning by Lewis Smedes: “If we cannot locate energy to accept grace for ourselves, we surely cannot feel it for others; not because we are evil, but because we are exhausted.” Many will read this week’s digest with an existential yawn, not because you don’t care or because you are evil, but because your pace of life leaves you with little energy to really empathize with the plight of these peoples. Rest.
- Pray. Few things will impact the world more than when you believe with conviction that your prayers change things. Are you praying for the impossible to become possible? If you aren’t praying for these things, I often wonder…are you a part of the solution or a part of the problem?
Books on the Modern History of Israel and Palestine:
1. Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis: https://www.amazon.com/Israel-Concise-History-Nation-Reborn/dp/0062368745
2. Israel and Palestine: The Complete History by Ian Carroll… https://www.amazon.com/Israel-Palestine-Complete-History-2018-ebook/dp/B078ZWV3QY/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1532345849&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=History+of+Palestine&psc=1
3. Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History by Our Masalha…https://www.amazon.com/Palestine-Four-Thousand-Year-History/dp/1786992728/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1532345986&sr=1-4&keywords=History+of+Palestine&dpID=51Qpb2jCzgL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch
4. Israel and Palestine: Competing Histories by Mike Berry and Greg Philo… https://www.amazon.com/Israel-Palestine-Competing-Greg-Philo/dp/0745325653/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1532346130&sr=1-3&keywords=History+of+Palestine+and+Israel