An in-depth examination of its founding principles
If Israelis expected the world to be horrified at the atrocities committed by Hamas and by Gazan civilians against Israeli citizens, they were quickly disabused of such a hope. Shockingly, celebrations of the Hamas attacks were widespread, followed by justifications of the atrocities offered by officials, politicians, academics, and mobs of Arabs, Muslims, and leftists around the world.
Many justifications for these actions portrayed Israel as a colonial settler state practicing apartheid and committing genocide against the Palestinians. These assertions essentially oversimplify complex academic postcolonial theory into simplistic political slogans. Despite their widespread use, these claims lack factual support. However, I won’t delve into the details that counter these assertions, as they are not rooted in reality but serve as identifiers of opposition to Israel. It’s worth noting that suggesting Israeli Arab citizens might contemplate changing borders and leaving behind Jewish Israel to live under Palestinian Authority rule often triggers strong reactions, indicating the complexity of the situation and raising concerns related to apartheid and genocide.
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It is worth remembering that Arab culture, and the Islamic culture built on it, rely on the fundamental concept of structural opposition that is at the heart of foundational Bedouin culture. The rules of Bedouin politics are twofold: Always uphold solidarity with your kin and always side with the closer relative against the more distant. Arabs should always side with Arabs, and Muslims should always side with Muslims, no matter what. In conflict, you use whatever weapons you can. In propaganda wars, you use whatever claims advance your case. Truth doesn’t come into it. Progressives and the far left, their tribes being identity classes, have adopted these principles.
Some non-ethnic apologists for Hamas formulate general arguments. For instance, Laura Mullen, the chair of the literature and creative writing department at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and a self-described “progressive” academic, justified the atrocities in this manner: “So it’s kind of a Duh but if you turn me out of my house plow my olive grove and confine what’s left of my family to the small, impoverished state you run as an open-air prison I could be tempted to shoot up your dance party yeah even knowing you will scorch the earth.” She went on to explain, “When 9/11 happened, I was asking myself and others, ‘What did we do to make people want to come and do that to us?’ That is how my mind works.” Finally, Professor Mullen summed up her justification: “… despair leads to violence … human truth.” It’s worth noting that Professor Mullen’s approach has been likened to asking an abused spouse, “What did you do to deserve being physically harmed?”
As both a general truth and as an explanation for Hamas’ exterminationist antisemitism, “despair leads to violence” is profoundly inadequate. As a justification for burning families alive, beheading infants, roasting infants, and violently raping girls and women and then murdering them, it is obscene. The most superficial knowledge of history proves that the causes of violence are multiple, and that despair can lead to a variety of non-violent responses.
Let us consider a few examples of notable historical cases of violence. In 63 BC, the Romans invaded ancient Israel and besieged Jerusalem. The indigenous population of Jews continued to resist Roman control and, for two centuries, fought off and on against the Romans, ultimately losing to them and being forcibly dispersed throughout the Empire. Was this invasion the result of Roman “despair”? To suggest such a thing would be absurd. Rome was an expansionary empire that used its power to control people and resources. Remember, prior to the 18th century, production was so arduous and ineffective that the easiest way to gain wealth was to take it from others. Rome collected everything valuable, including slaves, to provide cheap labour to raise its own standard of living.
Countless historical invasions, both on a small and large scale, were driven not by despair but by the pursuit of power, greed, and the desire for adventure and triumph. The Persians, the Aztecs, the Mongols, and many others all conquered vast territories and slaughtered and enslaved great numbers. There was no justice in their conquests, only the exercise of power.
The historical example most pertinent to the Hamas case is the Arab Islamic Empire that conquered half the world beginning in the seventh century. (Please have patience; this is highly relevant to Hamas today.) Inspired by Islam, Bedouin armies, initially organized by tribe, invaded Persia (Iran) to the east and continued through Central Asia and to India in the south. They brought devastation, defeating local armies, executing males, and capturing women to be sex slaves and, in the case of the poorer soldiers, wives. Altogether, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Indian men were slaughtered, and hundreds of thousands of women, including those of royalty, were enslaved.
One of the keys to military success was the Islamic belief that soldiers killed fighting for Islam would go directly to heaven, where they would be comforted by 72 virgins available to each of them. When Islamic militants say that they love death, this expectation is what they mean.
Islamic Bedouin armies invaded northward and conquered the Levant, Israel/Palestine (as the Romans named it). From there, they began their westward invasions, first taking control of Christian Egypt, then on to Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, imposing Arab domination, Islam, and Arabic language on the local Berbers. Next, Arab and Berber Islamic armies turned north, invading and conquering Sicily and Iberia (Spain and Portugal), defeating local armies and occupying the towns. A standard practice was turning churches into mosques.
A basic military strategy involved establishing forward bases along the frontier, allowing army units to conduct raids and instill fear among the local population in the targeted area for invasion and occupation. As part of this strategy, they would often burn crops and buildings, seize or kill livestock, and compel the local inhabitants to abandon their land, making it easier for expansion. This tactic was employed, for example, in France. However, in the year 732 AD, Charles “the Hammer” Martel and his Frankish army successfully confronted and defeated the Arab/Berber army at the Battle of Tours. This marked a significant turning point. After nearly seven centuries of Islamic dominance and occupation, the Reconquista in 1492 led to the expulsion of Muslims from Iberia. Furthermore, prior to this, the Normans had already reclaimed Sicily for Christianity and Europe between 1060 and 1091.
The invasion of the northern Middle East by Turkish tribes from Central Asia, which had been converted to Islam, led to a shift in power away from the Arabs. It was the Turks who invaded Greek Anatolia, and Ottoman Tribes that conquered the Byzantine Empire and occupied the capital, Constantinople, renaming it Istanbul in 1453, and turned its churches into mosques. The Ottomans then turned north, invading and conquering the Balkans.
All of these invasions and occupations were attempts, many successful, to bring the world under the authority of Allah, as Islam demands.
The recurring strategy of establishing forward bases designed to terrorize local populations – softening them up for future invasion, conquest, and occupation – used during the Arab, Berber, and Turkish Islamic conquests, is now being employed by Hamas. Hamas, which has articulated its commitment to the conquest and occupation of Israel in its founding charter, upholds the principle of Muslim dominance, leaving no room for Jews in their envisioned world. Their stated objectives include not only the complete destruction of Israel but also the targeted killing of Jews in Israel and around the globe.
The absurd justification for Hamas’ atrocities against civilians that Hamas is fighting for land and orchards taken from them ignores the entire history of Islamic imperialism and the exterminationist approach that Muslims take toward people they define as enemies. Yes, genocide is an issue here, but it is the genocide that Hamas plans for Israelis and Jews around the world.
Philip Carl Salzman is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and past president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.
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