Obama Must Resist ISIS and Hamas

As a result of the videotaped brutal beheading of the American journalist James Foley by the terrorist group ISIS or ISIL, the political leaders of the Western world are beginning to see the light through the glass, if darkly.  All responsible leaders now recognize that Islamic militant and extremist organizations are ruthless, have surprisingly sophisticated military units, and relish a fanaticism and mindset that is unacceptable in the civilized world.

United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has characterized the ISIS group as “barbaric.”  British Prime Minister David Cameron has understood the world is in a generational struggle against a “poisonous and extremist ideology” that needs to be fought.  Part of that struggle has meant that the U.S. has sent American military advisors to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces battle the terrorists, and has delivered air strikes for humanitarian reasons to help the thousands of Yazidis who were forced to flee from the ISIS and were stranded on a mountaintop.  European countries have sent some military supplies to Kurds fighting in Iraq.

The essential questions are two: the nature of the struggle that must be fought and whether the opponents of Islamic extremism have the political will to defend democratic values and way of life.  It was not reassuring that both the U.S. and British leaders, after strong speeches castigating the terrorist threat, quickly left to continue their vacations.  President Obama went to tear round a game of golf on Martha’s Vineyard, and Prime Minister Cameron, who had been distressed by the apparent British accent of Foley’s executioner, left after 19 hours in London, only to return to a seaside resort in Cornwall.

While the Western world now recognizes the seriousness of the Islamist threat, its leaders still do not understand that the menace is not simply ISIS or ISIL, and the so-called caliphate state it has created, but is embodied in other Islamist groups.  The most blatant is Hamas in the Gaza Strip with its mission to kill all Jews and destroy the State of Israel.  We now know that American, British, and other European young men, perhaps because they are mentally unhinged or have an image of their self-importance, have enrolled in ISIS.  It seems logical to assume that some individuals from those countries have joined Hamas as well.

Everyone sickened by ISIS’s acts of genocide and ruthless destruction, and now the brutal beheadings of Foley and others, should be equally horrified by the disregard of human life demonstrated by Hamas.  The comparison between ISIS and Hamas in their objectives, their apocalyptic vision, and ruthlessness, show their similarity: differences are a matter of degree.  Understandably, less attention has been paid to Hamas activities than to ISIS since the murder of Foley.  Yet, on August 22, 2014, Hamas executed 18 Palestinians in Gaza suspected of “collaboration with Israel.”  Seven of them were executed in public exhibition in a Gaza square; their heads were covered and their hands were tied. 

Hamas supporters echo its bloodthirsty behavior.  A demonstration on July 20, 2014 in Miami, Florida, mostly sponsored by a number of Muslim associations, supposedly about the Gaza war, flaunted the slogan “We are jihad…we are Hamas.”  The response to support of Hamas, and to anti-Semitic attitudes and behavior has been shown by two events in London in August 2014.

Courage was shown by vigorous public protests in challenging prejudice in these two events, admittedly less dramatic than the events relating to ISIS.  Both protests were successful in shaming the perpetrators of injustice.  The first was the strong reaction against the London Tricycle Theater for causing the cancelation of the U.K. Jewish Film Festival, ostensibly because the festival had received the token sum of $2,000 from the Israeli Embassy in London to help its expenses.  This event was a Jewish one,  not an Israeli one.  As a result of the protests, the Tricycle reversed its bigoted decision, though it was too late to include the UKJFF in its program.

The second event concerned the action by one of the London branches of the Sainsbury supermarket chain of 1,200 stores, the third largest chain and one that accounts for 16 percent of the market share.  The manager had removed kosher products, fish and meat, most of which came from the U.K. and Poland, not Israel, from its shelves, fearing a pro-Hamas demonstration against the shop.  Again, after a strong protest against this prejudicial anti-Semitic action, the head of Sainsbury rescinded the action and pledged that it would not happen again.  The manager of the branch store confessed he had made an error of judgment.

The problem is that it was more than an item of bad judgment.  It was succumbing to hatred and bigotry.  Not even a rocket scientist could trace the link between kosher fish and meat, especially that not coming from Israel, and Israeli actions against Hamas aggression from the Gaza Strip.

What is important is that this bigotry and the nonexistent link is being propounded irresponsibly by people who should know better, and who have been rightfully reprimanded for their bigotry after protests were made.  One can take three examples of such people.  One is Shabana Mahmoud, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood.  Mahmoud is not simply a Labour MP, but is the Shadow Treasury Minister, one of the leaders of the opposition Labour Party, and one of the first two female Muslims to be elected to the House of Commons.  

Mahmoud has made no secret of her views on Israel, including the view that Israeli settlements are illegal.  Nor has she refrained from aggressive activity, taking part on August 2, 2014 in a protest in Birmingham calling for boycott of Israeli goods.  She bragged that “we laid down in the street and we laid down inside Sainsbury’s…our action closed down the store for five hours at peak time on a Saturday.”  She is perhaps the only female MP who has laid down her body, if not her life, for her cause.

Mahmoud is following the even more aggressive action of George Galloway, the flamboyant and controversial MP who was thrown out of the Labour Party and then founded his own party, the Respect Party, which he represents as MP for Bradford in the House of Commons.  Galloway, a fervent critic of Israel, has long made irresponsible statements, some insulting to Jews.  In 2009, he said, “[T]he Palestinian people in Gaza are the new Warsaw Ghetto, and those who are murdering them are the equivalent of those who murdered the Jews in Warsaw in 1943.”

In his most recent speech in Bradford in August 2014, he declared that the city would not have any Israeli goods, Israeli services, Israeli academics, or Israeli tourists.  Again, it is encouraging that protests against this bigotry led to his being interviewed by the Leeds police.  The matter has now been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for its consideration.

In the city of Bradford, more than one quarter of the population identity as Muslim, a proportion that has been increasing.  It contains the largest proportion of people of Pakistani ethnic origin in any city in England.  David Ward, a Liberal Democrat, and the MP for another of the parliamentary constituencies in Bradford, is conscious of this statistical fact.  Ward is an incorrigible critic of Israel.  In July 2013 he asked, “[H]ow long can the apartheid State of Israel last?”  Though reprimanded by the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ward continued his diatribe in November 2013 stating that Israel should never have been created.

Ward’s hostility is relentless, and borders, though he is careful in this matter, on anti-Semitism.  Referring to the Holocaust, he observed, “[T]he suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated.”  Ward was temporarily suspended by his party for offensive remarks, but his comment in July 2014 was defiant: “The big question is, if I lived in Gaza would I fire a rocket? Probably yes…ich bin ein Palestinian.”  His view of the hostilities waged against Israel is based on his view: “Israel continues to oppress the Palestinian people.”  Whether Ward is anti-Semitic or not, his views are morally abhorrent and irresponsible with his implied parallel between the Holocaust and Israeli policies, and are a disgrace to any kind of rational political discourse.  It is appropriate that his political party is considering disciplining him.

The brutality of ISIS must be ended, and so must Hamas’s aggression against the State of Israel, and the accompanying disease of anti-Semitism.  Palestinians, including people from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority as well as Hamas, are prone to compare actions of Israel with those of the Nazis.  Speeches by their leaders and news reports speak of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza as a Holocaust, and of the Israeli Nazi mentality.  This rhetoric provides the excuse for Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens, and for anti-Semitic actions.

American and European leaders are dramatically aware of the horror of ISIS and are preparing to take some further action against its rise.  They must now assess the aggressive nature of Hamas and act accordingly.  Both ISIS and Hamas must be defeated.

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