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The Truce: Can Hamas Be Trusted? By: Robert Spencer
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, June 30, 2003


Has Hamas seen the light? Has this determined band of killers finally grasped that its suicide bombings and jihad rhetoric make its goal of a Palestinian state ever less likely to be realized?

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher hopes so. About Hamas’s proposal of a three-month cease-fire, he said: “We certainly would welcome that first step towards the end to violence and terror. It would need to be followed by other steps to dismantle the capabilities but we certainly believe that that could be a useful step to see in the coming days.”

Dismantle the capabilities of what? Of Hamas itself: “The leadership of the Palestinian Authority,” says Boucher, “have made clear that their goal is to establish a Palestinian state. A state can have only a single armed authority and cannot have to compete with armed authority from other groups.” Such as Hamas and its partner in mayhem, Islamic Jihad.

But a spokesman identified by Reuters as a “senior Israeli government source” was less welcoming of this “first step.” He dismissed Hamas’s proposed truce outright: “It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”

Why can’t this official meet good faith with good faith? Probably because everyone in the Israeli government knows why Hamas has stayed outside the governing apparatus, such as it is, of the Palestinian Authority in the first place. Despite all the grievances held by both sides, there have already been (often at the prompting of the United States) endless hours of negotiations and numerous settlements. Why have even the most ballyhooed of these settlements accomplished nothing? In great part because the trafficking in jihad rhetoric by Hamas and its allies has a corrosive effect on any settlement. In accordance with classic Islamic theology, Hamas (Harakat Muqawama Islamiyya — the Islamic Resistance Movement) sees the territory of the current State of Israel not just as the Palestinian homeland, but as rightfully part of the House of Islam. In this view it can never — never — rightfully become the home of a non-Muslim majority, and no negotiated settlement can take away the right of Muslims to take it back — all of it.

The chief difference between Hamas and the PA leadership lies here, not in their attitudes toward terror. After all, both groups have abundant ties to terrorism. But Hamas holds a vastly different vision of the nature of the conflict and its resolution from that of the PA. Yasir Arafat, although he himself has called for jihad on many occasions and is notorious for saying one thing to the West and something very different to the Muslim world, still keeps a cross on his desk (as well as a paperweight replica of the Dome of the Rock) and is careful, especially when speaking on the international stage, to call (as he did at the UN in 1974) for “one democratic state where Christian, Jew, and Muslim live in justice, equality, fraternity and progress.” This kind of statement, however contravened in practice, demonstrates the PLO’s ideological provenance in enlightenment thinking that abhors religious divisions and envisions a secular state. This, of course, is just what numerous American analysts of the Middle East want to see established for the Israelis and Palestinians.

Hamas was founded in 1988 in direct opposition to such ideas. The Hamas charter confronts this problem directly, describing the idea of a secular state as a Western colonial imposition upon the Muslim world: “Under the influence of the circumstances which surrounded the founding of the PLO, and the ideological confusion which prevails in the Arab world as a result of the ideological invasion which has swept the Arab world since the rout of the Crusades, and which has been reinforced by Orientalism and the Christian Mission, the PLO has adopted the idea of a Secular State.”

Such a state, in Hamas’s view, must be rejected: “Secular thought is diametrically opposed to religious thought. . . . Therefore, in spite of our appreciation for the PLO and its possible transformation in the future, and despite the fact that we do not denigrate its role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, we cannot substitute it for the Islamic nature of Palestine by adopting secular thought. For the Islamic nature of Palestine is part of our religion, and anyone who neglects his religion is bound to lose.”

In line with all this, and in contrast to Yasir Arafat’s frequent public overtures to Christian Arabs (which are not necessarily matched by his less-publicized behavior), Hamas is an exclusively Muslim movement. “As the Movement adopts Islam as its way of life, its time dimension extends back as far as the birth of the Islamic Message and of the Righteous Ancestor. Its ultimate goal is Islam, the Prophet its model, the Quran its Constitution.”

Nor is its mission restricted to Israel only. Of its Islamic mission, the Hamas charter says: “Its spatial dimension extends wherever on earth there are Muslims, who adopt Islam as their way of life; thus, it penetrates to the deepest reaches of the land and to the highest spheres of Heavens. . . . By virtue of the distribution of Muslims, who pursue the cause of the Hamas, all over the globe, and strive for its victory, for the reinforcement of its positions and for the encouragement of its Jihad, the Movement is a universal one.”

Also in contrast to Arafat’s taste for negotiations, feigned as it may be, is Hamas’ disdain for peace talks: “[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; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad.”

In laying out its aims in this way, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which holds similar views, have painted themselves — and the Middle East — into a corner. How can they negotiate with Israel without denying their religion as they see it?

After all, the Prophet Muhammad himself warned Muslims that “the last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.” This tradition is repeated, with small variations, numerous times in the Hadith, and is well known among Palestinian Muslims. On April 12, 2002, an employee of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, preached in a sermon carried on Palestinian Authority television and helpfully made available in the West by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI): “A reliable Hadith [tradition] says: ‘The Jews will fight you, but you will be set to rule over them.’ What could be more beautiful than this tradition? ‘The Jews will fight you’ — that is, the Jews have begun to fight us. ‘You will be set to rule over them’ — Who will set the Muslim to rule over the Jew? Allah . . . Until the Jew hides behind the rock and the tree. But the rock and tree will say: ‘“Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, a Jew hides behind me, come and kill him.” Except for the Gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews.’ We believe in this Hadith. We are convinced also that this Hadith heralds the spread of Islam and its rule over all the land.”

Madhi declared: “We are convinced of the [future] victory of Allah; we believe that one of these days, we will enter Jerusalem as conquerors, enter Jaffa as conquerors, enter Haifa as conquerors, enter Ramle and Lod as conquerors, the [villages of] Hirbiya and Dir Jerjis and all of Palestine as conquerors, as Allah has decreed . . .  Anyone who does not attain martyrdom in these days should wake in the middle of the night and say: ‘My God, why have you deprived me of martyrdom for your sake? For the martyr lives next to Allah’ . . . Our enemies suffer now more than we do. Why? Because we are convinced that our dead go to Paradise, while the dead of the Jews go to Hell, to a cruel fate. So we stand firm and steadfast, in obedience to Allah.”

Like Hamas, Madhi also predicted the ultimate worldwide supremacy of Islam, in accordance with the ultimate goal of all jihads: “Oh beloved, look to the East of the earth, find Japan and the ocean; look to the West of the earth, find [some] country and the ocean. Be assured that these will be owned by the Muslim nation, as the Hadith says . . . ‘from the ocean to the ocean.’ . . . Oh Allah, accept our martyrs in the highest heavens . . . Oh Allah, show the Jews a black day . . . Oh Allah, annihilate the Jews and their supporters . . . Oh Allah, raise the flag of Jihad across the land.”

For someone who believes all this, the only prospect for peace is the death of Israel. Jihad has poisoned the prospect of peace.

Is all this merely religious window dressing for Hamas’s political goals? The Charter itself rules out that interpretation. Against Palestinians and others who may place their hope in socialism, or democracy, or the United Nations, or some other imported Western utopia, the Charter asserts that Islam and jihad represent “the only way to liberation, there is no doubt in the testimony of history. That is one of the rules of the universe and one of the laws of existence. Only iron can blunt iron, only the true faith of Islam can vanquish their false and falsified faith. Faith can only be fought by faith. Ultimately victory is reserved to the truth, and truth is victorious.”

Similarly, in a sermon broadcast on official Palestinian Authority television in 2000, Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, a member of the Palestinian Authority’s Fatwa Council, declared: “Allah the almighty has called upon us not to ally with the Jews or the Christians, not to like them, not to become their partners, not to support them, and not to sign agreements with them. And he who does that is one of them, as Allah said: ‘O you who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies, for they are allies of one another. Who from among you takes them as allies will indeed be one of them.’ . . . Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them.”

In this Abu Halabiya recalled the words of the Qur’an: “. . . slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush” (Sura 9:5). He applied these words to the contemporary political situation: “Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them — and those who stand by them — they are all in one trench, against the Arabs and the Muslims — because they established Israel here, in the beating heart of the Arab world, in Palestine. They created it to be the outpost of their civilization — and the vanguard of their army, and to be the sword of the West and the crusaders, hanging over the necks of the monotheists, the Muslims in these lands.”

The remedy, once again, is jihad: “Let us put our trust in Allah, close ranks, and unite our words, and the slogan of us all should be, ‘Jihad! Jihad!’ . . . Allah, deal with the Jews, your enemies and the enemies of Islam. Deal with the crusaders, and America, and Europe behind them, O Lord of the worlds.”

In light of how Hamas perceives its differences with the PA, it’s interesting that this sort of thing is broadcast on PA television. It’s a wonder that the Israelis have ever trusted negotiations to bring about any real improvement.

Meanwhile, even many imams among our friends and allies the Saudis speak this way. During an April 2002 telethon to raise money for the Palestinians, a cleric employed by the Saudi government, Sheikh Saad Al-Buraik, said: “Oh Believer, it’s a wish, as much as it is pains, but we have hopes that the situation in Palestine will explode. No one dies before their day. How many Muslims have died in Chechnya, Bosnia, Kashmir, and Kosovo!! Is it too dear to us that among our honorable beloved die as martyrs? . . . Which is better to suffer a slow death, or die as a martyr in your way to heaven? A death that you will be forgiven on the first drop of your blood.”

Then he addressed the Palestinians directly and criticized peace efforts in the name of jihad: “Oh Palestinian Authority, don’t you see that you are tested once or twice a year? . . . Isn’t [it] time yet to wage jihad, and call for holy war? Isn’t [it] time that Muslim countries which normalized relations with the Jews to cancel everything that happened from Madrid to Oslo, and [Wye] River, which forbids the supplying of weapons to Muslims in Palestine? The agreements which canceled jihad, and disassociation from non-Muslims, should all be demolished. It’s a call to close all embassies opened for the Jews in the land of Islam; it is call to end normalization with Israel.”

In accordance with Qur’anic directions to be “harsh” or “ruthless” to unbelievers (Sura 48:29), particularly those who war against Muslims, Sheikh Saad, who has accompanied Crown Prince Abdullah as a member of Saudi government delegations, concluded: “Muslim Brothers in Palestine, do not have any mercy neither compassion on the Jews, their blood, their money, their flesh. Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don’t you enslave their women? Why don’t you wage jihad? Why don’t you pillage them?”

Even the goal of the conflict for Palestinians has been obscured by jihad ideology. On Palestinian Authority television in June 2002, two eleven-year-old girls who had been thoroughly indoctrinated by the warriors of jihad even went so far as to exclaim that they would prefer death by suicide bombing to justice and peace for the Palestinian people. One was asked by the show’s host, “What is better, peace and full rights for the Palestinian people, or Shahada [martyrdom]?” She replied readily: “Shahada. I will achieve my rights after becoming a Shahida [martyr].” Her companion added: “Of course Shahada is a good thing. We don’t want this world, we want the Afterlife. We benefit not from this life, but from the Afterlife . . . The children of Palestine have accepted the concept that this is Shahada, and that death by Shahada is very good. Every Palestinian child aged, say 12, says ‘Oh Lord, I would like to become a Shahid.’”

Has Hamas renounced all this — suicide bombing, martyrdom, jihad, extinguishing Israel, spreading Islam to the four corners of the globe? No, it hasn’t. Its three-month cease-fire isn’t even in any meaningful way a first step to doing so. Consequently it is still dead set against the old Arab nationalism on which the Palestinian Authority is now ostensibly based. The successor of this nationalism, if Hamas remains true to its Charter and has its way, will be its intransigent and bloody form of Islamic radicalism. Nothing indicates that this is no longer its goal.

That’s why the Hamas truce is not worth the paper it’s printed on.


Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.



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