As most of us know, the international media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict generally portrays Israel as an aggressive occupier and militant state.

Not to mention the headlines that appeared following this week-end’s Gaza operation, take a look at some of the headlines and articles that made the international news scene in the coverage following the recent Hamas-Israel ceasefire which expired on Dec 19. Yousef Munayyer writes for the Boston Globe (Dec. 21) that “The lights are out in Gaza again and few are paying attention. The 1.5 million Palestinians living in the densely-populated strip are being collectively punished once more, while Israel attempts to strangle the Hamas government.”

Swiss Info, (Dec. 19) a leading news source from Switzerland, recently interviewed Issam Younis, Director of AL Mezan Center for Human Rights, where he compares Gaza to a caged cat, in an article entitled “Concern Mounts over Gaza crisis as Truce Ends.”

Aron Heller of Associated Press for Yahoo News (Dec. 25) writes this past week that the massive barrage of Palestinian rockets slamming into Israel during Hanukkah, “caused no injuries but generated widespread panic.” The headline for his article–“Israel warns Hamas will pay heavy price,” simply implies that Israel plans to act because of widespread panic.

Heller makes no mention of the Israeli homes destroyed by the Palestinian rockets, the 60 plus Israelis who were hospitalized for shock and trauma, including 12 Ashkelon children, or the thousands of dollars in damages that the Palestinian rockets caused to Israeli properties and businesses.

The international media ignores far too often another critical player in the Arab-Israeli conflict and its role in continuing the conflict. Hamas, the ruling party who took over Gaza in 2006, is a terrorist organization that was established in 1987, an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas has led a brilliant public relations campaign that has consistently de-legitimized the actions of Israel, as we find in the media coverage of the conflict, while simultaneously legitimizing its own regime in Gaza.

What the international media and world community often fail to see is that Hamas has its own interests in mind – whether it be the starvation of its people or the launching of rockets at Israeli civilians. In other words, the critical role that the ruling regime of Gaza, known as Hamas, has played in contributing to the continuation of the conflict, has been too often overlooked.

In order to understand the current state of the Arab-Israeli conflict, one must first understand Hamas. The Hamas charter of 1988 states that “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.” ( The epilogue of the Hamas charter reads “Hamas posits Islam as a way of life, it is its faith and its yardstick for judging.”

The charter also offers Hamas’s perspective on the history of Middle East:

Hamas has learned from the current Zionist invasion which had been preceded by a Crusader invasion from the West; and another one, the Tatars, from the East. And exactly as the Muslims had faced those invasions and planned their removal and defeat, they are able to face the Zionist invasion and defeat it. This will not be difficult for Allah if our intentions are pure and our determination is sincere; if the Muslims draw useful lessons from the experiences of the past, and extricate themselves for the vestiges of the [western] ideological onslaught; and if they follow the traditions of Islam.” (Part V, The Testimony of History)

Much of Hamas’s Charter is virulently anti-Semitic and uses the Protocols of Elders of Zion as a source to back its ideology and goals.

Indeed, anyone who paints the Arab-Israeli conflict as one that is exclusively territorial, one that will end when Israel returns to the 1967 borders, has failed to take into account that the conflict is a religious one, formulated upon the precepts of Islamic fundamentalism and a hatered of the Jewish people. As the article in the Hamas Charter states, “There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” (Article 13: Peaceful Solutions, [Peace] Initiatives and International Conferences).

HAMAS’s military wing, Izzedeen Al Qassam Brigades, recently published an article on their English website describing the current strategy of Hamas in regard to rocket terror and a possible Israeli response. The article relates to how an Israeli military defense operation in Gaza will best serve the interests of Hamas. Such a response, the Izzedeen article states, will help Hamas gain further support from the Palestinian people. Hamas has time and time again, construed a scenario which depicts the Israeli army intending to fight the Palestinian people and not the terrorists who fire the rockets. And most importantly, the article makes clear that an Israeli military response will garner Israel further international condemnation, giving Hamas the legitimacy it needs to make it “an important regional and international player.”

The article also points out that Hamas will no longer recognizes Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas’s presidency when it ends on January 9th.

Hamas has proved time and time again that it is willing to sacrifice its own people’s basic needs to further its political goals and terrorist agenda.

As the article on Hamas’s military wing website goes to show, Hamas’s primary objective in the current escalation of rocket attacks is to gain international support as Israelis are forced to respond with either economic or military measures. Of course, one can be critical of the Israeli government’s policies in handling the situation. But the fact remains, that as long as Palestinian rockets continued to target and terrorize innocent Israelis, from Sderot to Kiryat Gat, Israel had no choice but to act. And no matter the actions Israel would have taken, they were already calculated to serve Hamas’s iron grip on Gaza.

Photo: Anav Silverman, Sderot Media Center
Sderot home destroyed by Palestinian rocket attack last December 2007.

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  • How has Hamas “led a brilliant public relations campaign” when other members of the Arab League turned their back on them? When Abu Mazen’s comment, current PLO leader, is a mere “But told you so”. When there is only lukewarm solidarity manifests from the usual rogue states. And when also the usual suspects of the international press don’t come up with their ready-made text blocks about “zionist crimes” and their political correct versions of the famous jewish blood libel? Since Hamas became a terror organization and made a megalomanic death cult their only program as a political party, it became a gigantic failure (not to mention their own roots in Al Banna’s لإخوان-Movement, which promotes fascist supremacy ideology and failed in nearly all it’s goals).

  • To play devil’s advocate for a moment, Israel has had some role in creating this media environment because Israel’s actions– armed retaliation in response to attacks– is viewed, correctly or not, as not working. There’s a large segment of the international community that thinks, ‘isn’t it time to try something else?’

    That’s why ineffectual performances like that in Lebanon really hurt Israel and its international standing. Even the lefty media will accord an atavistic respect to power, if it’s effectively exercised. That’s why criticism of the US is muted if civilians are killed in Iraq, for example, and why the press is prepared to blame last summer’s Caucasus conflict on Georgian provocation. Respect will be earned if Hamas is decisively defeated. If it isn’t, someone will try to get Barack indicted for war crimes at the Hague. And the bad press will continue unabated.

  • I think you’re quite perceptive to point that out, Tom.

  • “Isn’t it time to try something else?” is a flawed line of reasoning. No country in the world recognizes the legitimacy of the Hamas takeover of Gaza, and no country carries on normal relations with it. So there are essentially no diplomatic options. The only two options are to ignore Hamas, or to fight it. Ignoring it has been tried already.

    And of course, Hamas have no interest in “trying something else” (e.g. recognizing Israel) but they understand that it’s in their strategic interest for other nations, especially European nations, to perceive those options as being on the table because it might lead to their de facto recognition at some point down the road. Eventually, if Europe wants to continue having a say in what Israel does or doesn’t do vis a vis Hamas, then it’ll either have to drop their boycott of Hamas and engage it diplomatically, or get involved militarily (peacekeeping troops, direct support for Israel …). And when push comes to shove, it’s pretty obvious which side of the fence they’ll fall on, and Hamas knows this, which is why they’ve been content to play a waiting game for the past two years.

    Once that happens, Israel will have plenty more options for dealing with Hamas instead of just two, and military action against it will become less and less reasonable. So whatever Israel’s full plans are for Cast Lead, it had better see them through to completion right now because they probably won’t have another chance (see: Second Lebanon War).

  • The only reason people give Hamas any sympathy – other than a misunderstanding of what “justice” is – is because Hamas is attacking Jews. If Hamas were attacking a non-Jewish Western Nation, then any response to Hamas would be viewed as legitimate. America’s response to Al Queda by invading a nation, displacing the government, and occupying it is a perfect example. There is no international outcry that America overreacted or was disproportionate in her response – people accept that America had a right to invade Afghanistan. Israel, alternatively, can’t arrest a Palestinian without getting some type of condemnation. Israel has lost far more people per capita due to terrorism than any other nation (if we apply the same rate of death to the United States, it would be somewhere around 40,000+ killed in Terrorist attacks on domestic soil). Yet, they are condemned for responding.

    The international community hates terrorists, but they hate Jews more.

  • Hmm, I don’t think it’s that simple. Many of Israel’s doubters internationally simply think that the current operation won’t put an end to Hamas, Palestinian radicalism, or the political impasse that helps fuel terrorism. For many observers, it’s costly in human lives while failing to buy Israel genuine peace and security.

    In Afghanistan, by contrast, the US had both a military strategy and a political one, the latter involving installing Kharzai. In Israel, you’ve got a prime minister who hasn’t identified his war aims or outlined a post-Hamas landscape– if such a thing is even contemplated in Israel at the moment.

    Israel can and should defend itself vigorously, but this crisis merely underlines the profound nature of its strategic dilemma. Does anyone think that 300 deaths, or 30,000, will end terrorism or make Hamas and its supporters finally cry uncle?

  • What other solution is there? Sanctions/embargoes don’t work. Discussions don’t work. Giving land doesn’t work. Treaties don’t work.

    Attacking Hamas – though it won’t break Hamas – can help to give temporary alleviation from the rocket attacks. Unfortunately, the pragmatic way to win the war is to take as many lives as possible and/or to take away the enemy’s will to fight. Though this always works pragmatically, there are major ethical problems with it.

    Likewise, Israel can set up a government in Gaza (their own) and not worry about giving any concessions to the Palestinian people if they so choose. This can solve a problem, but again, it raises ethical problems as well.