'What Does Hamas Want?'

The charter of Hamas, the controlling faction in the Gaza Strip, states, “[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion[.]”

Suddenly, the current conflict between Israel and the Hamas faction in the Gaza Strip comes into striking clarity.  In evaluating the violence currently going on in Gaza, it is informative to understand not only how both sides operate, but how both sides define themselves and their purposes.

Although Hamas rejects the peace process, its charter, written in 1988, proposes an acceptable alternative solution to the conflict: “There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.” 

Hamas’s enmity toward Israel is not because of Israel’s policies or actions.  It is because of Israel’s identity and existence.  The charter continues, “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.”

The charter is not vague about how it will deal with the Jews or the state of Israel.  It further states, “The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: 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!”

It adds, “I swear by that who holds in His Hands the Soul of Muhammad! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill (told by Bukhari and Muslim).”

In the recent conflict in Israel and Palestine, Hamas stands as the organization committed to the destruction of its neighboring state.  Hamas launched rockets toward Israeli population centers, aiming for civilians rather than military targets.  Hamas continued to launch rockets toward Israel during a humanitarian ceasefire, and Hamas rejected the opportunity for a truce.

Only after ten days of being bombarded by Hamas, and responding through missile defense systems and air strikes, did Israel finally respond with a ground offensive.  Yet during this offensive and during the retaliatory air strikes that preceded it, Israel has exercised every power within its ability to show restraint and minimize Palestinian civilian casualties.

As confirmed by the New York TimesIsrael has attempted to reduce civilian casualties by dropping leaflets warning citizens to evacuate, by calling phones in target buildings, and even by firing flares or dummy missiles at Palestinian roofs to ensure the occupants that the military is serious about an imminent strike.

How has Hamas responded?  “To all of our people who have evacuated their homes – return to them immediately and do not leave the house,” a statement by the Hamas Interior Ministry commands.

In commenting on this issue in the same article, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “[O]ne must understand how our enemy operates. Who hides in mosques? Hamas. Who puts arsenals under hospitals? Hamas. Who puts command centers in residences or near kindergartens? Hamas. Hamas is using the residents of Gaza as human shields and it is bringing disaster to the civilians of Gaza. Therefore, for any attack on Gaza civilians, which we regret, Hamas and its partners bear sole responsibility.”

As tragic as Palestinian civilian casualties are, there is no question that Israel is doing everything within its power to prevent casualties in its offensive against Hamas, while Hamas is actively endangering its own civilians’ lives.

If anyone has the moral high ground in this conflict, it is Israel.  Israel is not an oppressive, racist state.  Rather, it provides freedoms for citizens of all ethnicities, and allows religious freedom for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  In response to the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated, “Courageous Arab protesters are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies.  We’re proud in Israel that over 1 million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades.  Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights.”

In the same speech, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated, “[A]ll six Israeli prime ministers since the signing of the Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state, myself included. So why has peace not been achieved?

Because so far the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it means accepting a Jewish state alongside it.

You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state.  It’s always been about the existence of the Jewish state.

A 2012 television ad by Hamas captures this truth with precision.  The ad says, “The price will be high, Sons of Zion. Are you willing to pay the price...? All of Palestine is ours. There's nothing here for you but death.  There's nothing here for you but to be killed and to leave… If your arms reach [us], they will be cut off.  If your eyes look [at us], they will be gouged out… In the land that you came to alive, you will end as body parts. That is Allah's promise."

It would be false to claim that Israel is perfect, or incapable of doing wrong.  But the balance of moral authority between Israel and Hamas is clear.  Israel is a beacon of democracy and freedom within the turbulent sea of the Middle East.  Hamas is a group of terrorists whose stated goal is to destroy the state of Israel.

Israel, on the other hand, is willing to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution.  In a call to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a member of the Fatah faction rather than Hamas, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “So I say to President Abbas, ‘Tear up your pact with Hamas, sit down and negotiate, make peace with the Jewish state. And if you do, I promise you this: Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as the new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so.’”

Let us not make the mistake of putting Israel and Hamas on the same moral ground.  Let us no longer condone Hamas by our silence. 

Rather, let us speak the truth about Hamas, as contained within their own stated purpose for existence and in their own observed actions, and let us stand firmly beside Israel as it defends its nation from terrorism. 

Mr. Headrick is a research assistant for Ken Blackwell, a former  U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council.  He attends Louisiana College and is an intern at the Family Research Council.