The Palestinian Jihads against Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh
December 13, 2016

The Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, which is currently celebrating the 29th anniversary of its founding, misses no opportunity to broadcast its stated reason for being: to wage jihad (holy war) in order to achieve its goal of destroying Israel. Those who allege that Hamas is moving toward pragmatism and moderation might take note.

Last week, tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of the Gaza Strip to participate in rallies marking the anniversary of the founding of Hamas. As in previous years, the rallies were held under the motto of jihad and “armed resistance” until the liberation of all Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Another message that emerged loud and clear from the rallies: Hamas will never recognize Israel’s right to exist.

This year’s rallies once again also served as a reminder of the enormous popularity that Hamas continues to enjoy among Palestinians — not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in the West Bank, where supporters of the Islamist movement celebrated the occasion, but on a smaller scale and with a lower profile, out of fear of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israeli security forces.

Khalil Al-Haya, a senior Hamas official, outlined in a speech before his supporters in the Gaza Strip his movement’s strategy, namely to pursue the fight until the elimination of Israel. “We will not recognize Israel because it will inevitably go away,” he declared.

“And we will not backtrack on the option of armed struggle until the liberation of all Palestine. Since its establishment, Hamas has been — and will remain — a Palestinian Islamic national and resistance movement whose goal is to liberate Palestine and confront the Israeli project. The liberation of the Gaza Strip is just the first step toward the liberation of Palestine — all Palestine. There is no future for the Israeli entity on our homeland.”

When Hamas leaders talk about the “liberation” of the Gaza Strip, they are referring to the total unilateral Israeli disengagement from that area in 2005. Hamas and many Palestinians have never viewed the full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a gesture on the part of Israel. Nor have they ever considered the disengagement as a sign that Israel is no longer interested in controlling the lives of nearly two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

On the contrary, Hamas and many Palestinians continue to see the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip as a sign of weakness. In fact, this disengagement is why Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006, when it took credit for driving Israel out of the Gaza Strip through suicide bombings and rockets. Back then, this abandonment of land by Israel drove the Palestinian vote for Hamas. It also explains why many Palestinians continue to support Hamas — because they still believe that violence is the way to defeat Israel.

Many Palestinians see Israeli concessions, gestures and unilateral moves as proof of capitulation, rather than positive signs testifying to Israel’s peaceful intentions. These “concessions for peace” by Israel further increases Palestinians’ appetite for launching armed attacks against Israel. Today, many Palestinians are convinced that they can achieve more through stabbings, vehicular rammings and shooting attacks than sitting with Israel at the negotiating table.

The Qatar-based Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, seized the anniversary as an opportunity once again to remind everyone of his movement’s real goals. Speaking on the Al-Jazeera TV network, which serves as a platform for the Muslim Brotherhood organization (Hamas is an offshoot of Muslim Brotherhood), Mashaal said:

“We are moving forward with our resistance to achieve our national project… We are looking forward to liberating Palestine and cleansing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and protecting it from division and demolition. We also seek the return of the refugees to their homeland and the liberation of our prisoners from Israeli jails.”

When he talks about “cleansing” Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Hamas leader is referring to Jewish visits to the Temple Mount. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have been exploiting these visits to incite their people against Israel. They claim that Jewish visitors are “desecrating” the holy site and should not be allowed to set foot there. These words mirror those used by President Mahmoud Abbas, who said that Palestinians will not allow Jews to “defile with their filthy feet” the Al-Aqsa Mosque (although no Jew has entered the mosque itself).

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