History records a long strategy of dehumanizing the Jews as the first step toward their genocidal eradication. The Egyptians of Moses’ day did this by enslaving them and treating them “ruthlessly” (Exodus 1:14). The Qur’an does this by describing them as “apes and swine” (5:60; 2:65; 7:166). Hitler did this by calling them a “race-tuberculosis of the peoples.”
Hamas does this when it claims that Jews control “the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others.” They blame Jews for “the French Revolution, the Communist revolution, and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about.” And they claim that the Jews were behind World War I And World War II. In short, they state, “There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.”
Accordingly, they are convinced that Jews are hostis humani generis, the enemies of humankind itself. Hamas leader Khaled Mashal said in 2005, “The so-called peace process is futile. There is no peace. Only the path of jihad, sacrifice, and blood.”
Mosab Hassan Yousef, the eldest son of a founding Hamas leader, told a reporter in response to the October 7 atrocities: “I was born at the heart of Hamas leadership . . . and I know them very well. They don’t care for the Palestinian people. They do not regard the human life.”
He explained: “Hamas is not a national movement. Hamas is a religious movement with a goal to establish an Islamic state.” In his view, “Hamas does not serve the Palestinian people. Hamas serves Iran. . . . They are using the Palestinian people as a human shield.”
Yousef views Hamas in the context of “tribalism, which is a seventh-century mentality, where a tribe used to fight a tribe for one hundred years until they get annihilated, or they annihilate the tribe . . . It’s the Arabian mentality that they view Israel as a tribe. They want to keep trying until they annihilate Israel or get annihilated in the process.”
Accordingly, one of Hamas’s leaders said, “I hope that the state of war with Israel will become permanent on all the borders.” He admitted that the battle “did not seek to improve the situation in Gaza. This battle is to completely overthrow the situation.” The people of Gaza are merely a means to this end: Hamas provoked Israel into responding to its atrocities in ways that lead to civilian deaths it can use in a propaganda war against the Jewish state. It controls the Gaza media in ways that are highly deceptive and advance this jihadist narrative.
Its massive expanses of tunnels beneath hospitals, schools, mosques, and residential areas allow their fighters to move around and to stockpile food, water, and weapons. They are situated to use the civilian areas above them as shields, knowing that Israel cannot destroy the tunnels without causing civilian casualties. They are reportedly being used to hide the hostages they seized on October 7 as well.
Unsurprisingly, Hamas was deeply unpopular in Gaza before the invasion. But this did not deter the terrorists since their purpose is not to govern Gaza but to use it for their ideological jihadist purposes.
NOTE: This resource article belongs to a series regarding the foundational issues behind the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. The full series is also available as a free ebook.
Is Israel as bad as Hamas?
I understand that Palestinians and Israelis have a fundamental conflict over who should own the same land. I believe strongly that both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to live in peace and autonomy. I have dear and trusted friends of many years—both Jews and Arabs—who live in the Holy Land, some in Israel and others in Bethlehem and other areas of the West Bank. And I know beyond question that God loves Israelis and Palestinians equally (Galatians 3:28) and that he is grieving for the victims on both sides of this conflict.
However, I need to voice my strong objection to a sentiment I am seeing after Hamas’s horrific invasion: the claim that the two sides are morally equivalent to each other and that both commit similar atrocities against each other.
It is a tragic fact that some Israeli settlers have acted with indefensible violence against some Palestinians in the West Bank. And it is a fact that when Israel targets Hamas’s military installations in Gaza, since Hamas hides them behind human shields in schools, homes, and hospitals, Palestinian civilians are sometimes injured or killed.
Hamas terrorists decapitated babies and slaughtered children when they raided Israel. According to Israeli soldiers who discovered one massacre, “They have butchered women and children in worse ways than ISIS.” They kidnapped and killed elderly civilians as well, some of them Holocaust survivors, leaving what the New York Times calls a “trail of terror.”
By contrast, when Israel last had to go into Gaza to stop Hamas, it first warned residents by cellphone and leaflets. It also used small “warning rockets,” usually sent from drones, to identify buildings it was targeting so people had time to evacuate.
Prime Minister Netanyahu summarized the difference between the two this way: “We are using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”
Since October 7, this is what we have learned about Hamas and Israel in the context of their worldviews:
- Hamas attacks noncombatants, intentionally targeting young children, elementary schools, and a youth center. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote: “Butchering people was the aim. It was what they set out to do.” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Hamas “vividly reminds me of ISIS: bloodthirsty, fanatical, and hateful.”
- Israel has sought to protect civilians in past conflicts with Hamas and is doing the same now, warning Palestinians in Gaza ahead of military advances there. Israel Defense Forces seek to follow the law of armed conflict against targeting noncombatants, while Hamas uses civilians (and often disguises its soldiers like them) to shield its forces and weapons.
Regarding the future of the other state:
- Hamas is pledged to the annihilation of the Jewish people, which is why they staged the largest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. Andrew Sullivan compared them to the Nazis’ quest to exterminate the Jewish race: “The same ethno-fascism; the same blood-and-soil ideology . . . the same internalization of an entire group of humans as subhuman, to be treated like dangerous vermin; the same hideous sadism; the same eliminationist ideology; the same glee.”
- Jewish leaders accepted the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan that would have created an independent state of Palestine (with more land than the West Bank and Gaza Strip today), but the Arab nations rejected it. Every Jew I know in Israel believes the Palestinians deserve to have their own homeland.
Regarding their leaders:
- After Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2007, there have been no more elections. More than 65 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, but the party’s leaders are wealthy, some estimated to be billionaires. They are currently living in Qatar in what the Telegraph calls “five-star luxury.”
- Israel’s democracy is often divisive and chaotic, as recent months have shown, but its leaders are ultimately responsible to those who elect them.
In addition, Hamas wants Israeli soldiers to harm Gazan civilians. It wants to inflame the larger Muslim world, perhaps sparking an intifada (“uprising”) in the West Bank and drawing Hezbollah in Lebanon into the conflict. It wants to use civilian casualties to turn world opinion against Israel, perhaps lessening its military support from the US and other Western nations.
Nonetheless, Israel is often accused in the media, on college campuses, and at other pro-Palestinian rallies of committing “genocide” against the Palestinians. Is this true?
In December 1948, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It defines genocide as acts intended “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.”
By this definition, Hamas is a genocidal group. Its founding charter, published in 1988, explicitly calls for the obliteration of Israel. As Bret Stephens writes in the New York Times, “Had the Hamas terrorists been able to kill one hundred or one thousand times as many [Jews] as they did on October 7, they would have done so without hesitation.” He adds that Hamas’s goal is “homicidal: to end Israel as a state by slaughtering every Jew within it.”
By contrast, Israel wants to destroy Hamas, not the Palestinians. When Hamas uses civilians as human shields, their deaths are the fault of Hamas, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu: “I think any civilian loss is a tragedy . . . and the blame should be placed squarely on Hamas.”
Cultural commentor Andrew Sullivan noted: “If Israel were interested in the ‘genocide’ of Palestinian Arabs, it has had the means to accomplish it for a very long time. And yet, for some reason, the Arab population of Israel and the occupied territories has exploded since 1948, and the Arabs in Israel proper have voting rights and a key presence in the Knesset.”
He concludes: “The only people actively and proudly engaged in genocide are Hamas.” Those who march for Hamas are not opposing genocide but “defending its perpetrators.”