Hamas wants to see an increasing death toll on its own side

13 July 2014

Palestinians need to change their ways. Only then will they be able to escape the cycle of violence which they are forced to sustain because of hatred and the desire for revenge. King Hussein of Jordan could serve as a role model.

Warlike conditions are taking hold in the Middle East. The terrorist organisation Hamas is contributing to this in every way possible -- especially with propaganda. In the last few days, these are the images which have been appearing on Palestinian websites: a helpless child, its hand reaching up to the sky, is burning in the candle flames of a stylised menorah. The caption reads, “Don’t burn our boys!”

The image alludes to the horrific murder of a Palestinian boy. He was killed by fanatical Israelis who took justice into their own hands to avenge the deaths of three Torah students -- killed by fanatical Palestinians. Both of these acts were horrific and senseless. But the picture, produced in the style of a silhouette, is as graphic as it is dangerous. The image is sadly quite typical in a time where the internet is inundated with fake propaganda videos – taken from the Syrian civil war –showing “Jews committing atrocities.”

Social media is overflowing with hate-inducing messages. “May Allah destroy the Jews,” “May Allah protect Gaza and wipe out Israel” – the recurring litany of a “satanic” Israel always sets the tone. Criticising Israel has become a kind of international sport -- perhaps rightfully so. But now more than ever, we have to do the most difficult thing: we have to cast a brutally honest look at our own ranks, and see “our” contribution to this misery for what it is. Where are the other Arab voices; the reflected ones? Are there any?

Israeli society is at least democratic

Among Palestinians in the Middle East there is as good as no democracy. And that is one of the biggest problems. Israeli society is, of course, far from perfect, but it is heterogeneous. There are people who condemn the murder of the teenager, and there is a justice system which is pursuing the perpetrators. From the Palestinian side, all that can be heard is chanting in unison: “Death to Israelis.”

In the authoritarian, patriarchal structure of Hamas – indeed, a structure in which almost all Palestinians live, anyone who thinks differently is considered a “traitor.” There is only black and white, as though colours were forbidden. Hamas, whose ideology is not far from that of al-Qaida and ISIS, allows only for voting to be blocked.

I was not surprised to see Palestinian hatred erupt again in such an explosive way. Among other things, a likely cause is the terror currently being spread by ISIS militia in Syria and Iraq. The conflicts – Sunni against Shia – which claim thousands upon thousands of lives, are particularly shocking for those in the Middle East. There are images of blown-up minarets, destroyed Islamic works of art. Muslims killing Muslims – it is a highly unsettling situation.

Hamas‘ delusional logic

What better distraction from this than the re-emergence of the old enemy, Israel. By firing rockets at Israeli cities, Hamas drives Israel’s military to a robust retaliation. Had there been no reaction from Israel, Hamas would have considered this a victory. But as soon as the bombs fall on Gaza, Hamas gains a new surge of popularity.

That is how the delusional logic works, and both parties are caught up in it as if caught in a madhouse. One blogger has aptly called the resulting situation a “stupor of affliction.” Only when a fundamental change occurs will we be able to break away from this dynamic. We could bring about that change by establishing a culture of self-reflection and empathy among Arabs, especially among Palestinians who hold positions of power in the Middle East.

At present, harbouring personal doubts, fears and objections is as taboo as discursive thinking, political arguments and the fantasy of peace. But those are the very things that are needed. And that means that we Palestinians need new, democratic media, we need new textbooks for our schools, new teachers, new courts, new imams. We have to enable the next generation to learn self-reflection, democracy, equality, and to overcome prejudice. Because this cycle of death and revenge followed by death and revenge is not achieving anything. It just stacks trauma upon trauma. Where can this cycle of violence possibly lead us?

Hamas needs victims from its own camp

It will lead to nothing. Hamas must understand: Israel will continue to exist. Hamas will never “conquer” Israel, “the Jews”, or the West. This dream is not only destructive, it is also a complete delusion. A people which bases its self-image on the fantasy of destroying another people traumatises both those who are threatened, and those who are issuing the threats.

It is a deeply sad testament to Hamas’ cold, rigid stance that it requests families to position themselves as living targets on Gaza’s roofs while the Israeli military fires its reactionary shots. Hamas wants to create more victims in order to retain its victim status. It then uses its victims generate publicity, which once again proves frighteningly effective, also in the West, and also in Germany.

But whoever joins in with Hamas’ victimised cries is failing the Palestinian youth. They are also encouraging the rising anti-Semitism among young Muslims in Germany, and across Europe. And that is one of the greatest challenges we currently face.

Tackling these issues requires a true Arab Spring – an actual revolution against the fathers who have led us into misery. They taught us to hate. We now need alternative role models like King Hussein of Jordan, who personally apologised to the parents of seven Israeli school girls who had been killed by a Jordanian soldier. That was a courageous gesture, but sadly of a kind which we very rarely see in the region. Those who encourage Palestinians to rely on their mythical victim status are not doing Palestinians any favours. This is a myth which we need to move away from. Both in the Middle East, and here in the West.

This article originally appeared here in German.