Should Israel Agree to a Cease-fire?

A truce now will only give Hamas time to gather strength.

The Jerusalem Post reported Monday that “Israel agreed to briefly hold off on sending ground forces into Gaza to allow time for cease-fire efforts to continue.” Meanwhile, Hamas top dog Khaled Mashaal demanded that Israel initiate a cease-fire if it wants a truce, and even claimed that Netanyahu asked for one: “Netanyahu was the one who requested a cease-fire from the Americans, Egypt and the Europeans. We were not the ones to ask for a cease-fire.” Israeli officials denied this, but did avow that “Israel prefers a diplomatic solution,” and was postponing a ground invasion in anticipation of one. Meanwhile, according to the Post, “Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair told President Shimon Peres that Egypt, Qatar, America and the UN were working to put in place a ceasefire.” And so here we go again.

In all negotiations that may transpire, Israel will insist that the rocket attacks from Gaza must cease. But no cease-fire or previous negotiated settlement of any kind has ever accomplished this; why will this one be different? For that matter, no state has ever successfully reached a negotiated settlement with an enemy who had vowed to destroy it; why is Israel constantly expected to be different? Blair and all the others who are calling for an immediate cease-fire and negotiations seem to have forgotten, if they ever knew, what Hamas is, what its goals are, and who forms its leadership.

Many analysts continue to view Hamas as a nationalist group that will ultimately be pacified once a Palestinian state is set up. And to be sure, the Hamas Charter of August 1988 addresses nationalism, but not quite in those terms. It declares: “nothing is loftier or deeper in Nationalism than waging Jihad against the enemy and confronting him when he sets foot on the land of the Muslims.” When will it end? The Hamas Charter quotes Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood: “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.”

Hamas identifies itself in the Charter as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a world organization, the largest Islamic Movement in the modern era.”

In keeping with this guiding idea that Islam must be and will be the force that ultimately eliminates Israel, and that Islamic principles must rule all aspects of life, Hamas states its membership and its mission in the broadest possible terms, complete with copious quotes from the Qur’an: “the Islamic Resistance Movement consists of Muslims who are devoted to Allah and worship Him verily [as it is written]: ‘I have created Man and Devil for the purpose of their worship’ [of Allah]. . . . They have raised the banner of Jihad in the face of the oppressors in order to extricate the country and the people from the [oppressors’] desecration, filth and evil. ‘Nay, but we hurl the true against the false; and it does break its head and lo! it vanishes’ Sura 21 (the Prophets), verse 18.”

Hamas sees its Islamic mission as universal: “Its spatial dimension extends wherever on earth there are Muslims, who adopt Islam as their way of life; thus, it penetrates to the deepest reaches of the land and to the highest spheres of Heavens. . . . By virtue of the distribution of Muslims, who pursue the cause of the Hamas, all over the globe, and strive for its victory, for the reinforcement of its positions and for the encouragement of its Jihad, the Movement is a universal one.”

Hamas disdains peace talks: “[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad: ‘Allah is the all-powerful, but most people are not aware.’”

In laying out its aims in this way, Hamas and similar groups such as Islamic Jihad have painted themselves — and the Middle East — into a corner. The Muslim militants who see their struggle against Israel as part of their religious responsibility cannot and will not ever recognize Israel’s right to exist, or reach any kind of negotiated settlement with “the Zionist entity,” without denying what it has identified as “part of its faith.” After all, the Muslim Prophet Muhammad himself warned Muslims that “the last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him” (Sahih Muslim 6985).

This tradition is repeated, with small variations, numerous times in the Hadith, and is well known among Palestinian Muslims. In January 2012, Muhammad Hussein, the Mufti of the Palestinian Authority, quoted this notorious hadith at a Fatah event: “The reliable Hadith,” noted Hussein, “in the two reliable collections, Bukhari and Muslim, says: ‘The Hour will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. Then the stones or trees will call: “Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”’”

For someone who believes all this, the only prospect for peace is the death of Israel.

Hamas announces its intention to fight “until the Decree of Allah is fulfilled, the ranks are over-swollen, Jihad fighters join other Jihad fighters, and all this accumulation sets out from everywhere in the Islamic world, obeying the call of duty, and intoning ‘Come on, join Jihad!’ This call will tear apart the clouds in the skies and it will continue to ring until liberation is completed, the invaders are vanquished and Allah’s victory sets in. ‘Verily Allah helps one who helps Him. Lo! Allah is strong, Almighty.’ Sura XXII (Pilgrimage), verse 40.”

Is all this merely religious window dressing for Hamas’s political goals? The Charter itself rules out that interpretation in the course of a fervently pious reading of history. “The greedy,” it asserts, “have coveted Palestine more than once and they raided it with armies in order to fulfill their covetousness. Multitudes of Crusades descended on it, carrying their faith with them and waving their Cross.”  While the Crusaders met with some success, they weren’t able to withstand the Muslims once they returned to the full practice of their religion: “They were able to defeat the Muslims for a long time, and the Muslims were not able to redeem it until they sought the protection of their religious banner; then, they unified their forces, sang the praise of their God and set out for Jihad under the Command of Saladin al-Ayyubi, for the duration of nearly two decades, and then the obvious conquest took place when the Crusaders were defeated and Palestine was liberated.”

Against Palestinians and others who may place their hope in socialism, or democracy, or the United Nations, or some other imported Western utopia, the Charter asserts that Islam and jihad represent “the only way to liberation, there is no doubt in the testimony of history. That is one of the rules of the universe and one of the laws of existence. Only iron can blunt iron, only the true faith of Islam can vanquish their false and falsified faith. Faith can only be fought by faith. Ultimately victory is reserved to the truth, and truth is victorious.”

Not that Hamas doesn’t offer its own vision of peace. “Under the shadow of Islam,” its Charter asserts, “it is possible for the members of the three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism to coexist in safety and security. Safety and security can only prevail under the shadow of Islam, and recent and ancient history is the best witness to that effect. . . . Islam accords his rights to everyone who has rights and averts aggression against the rights of others.”

In this the Charter is referring to the laws that designate Jews and Christians as dhimmis, protected people who are accorded certain rights and restrictions in Islamic society. This means that the peace that Hamas offers “under the shadow of Islam” is nothing like the unfettered tolerance of secular society. The laws of dhimmitude only allow Jews and Christians to “coexist in safety and security” with Muslims under conditions that relegate them to second-class citizenship. “The subject peoples,” according to a manual of Islamic law, must “pay the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya)” and “are distinguished from Muslims in dress, wearing a wide cloth belt (zunnar); are not greeted with ‘as-Salamu ‘alaykum’ [the traditional Muslim greeting, “Peace be with you”]; must keep to the side of the street; may not build higher than or as high as the Muslims’ buildings, though if they acquire a tall house, it is not razed; are forbidden to openly display wine or pork . . . recite the Torah or Evangel aloud, or make public display of their funerals or feastdays; and are forbidden to build new churches.” If they violate these terms, the law further stipulates that they can be killed or sold into slavery at the discretion of the Muslim leader.

A negotiated peace allowing Israelis and Palestinian Muslims to coexist peacefully as equals on an indefinite basis is not possible in light of this. A ceasefire under these circumstances will only give Hamas time to gather strength. Israel faces no good choices. But those who profess to be allied with her should stop offering false hopes.

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