Today everyone's talking about a ceasefire in Gaza. With the UN proposing one and Israel demurring, the public, unaware of anything much about Gaza, Hamas, or Israel, blithely puts Israel in the dock. Yet during the last "ceasefire," when rockets continued to land in Israeli civilian centers, there was a noticeable silence on the part of the international community. It seems it's okay to drag Israel back from an attack on a massively financed and armed terrorist entity (and if Hamas isn't a terrorist entity, it's hard to know what it is), but just not right on to demand the same sort of action on the part of the terrorists. Don't forget, Israel isn't the only one refusing a ceasefire at this point: Hamas is rejecting one too, and for dishonest reasons.
There are things going on here that half the world just doesn't get. All those clamoring for a ceasefire think all other parties understand the word just like they do. They'd be wrong. The secular Arabic press, such as the international newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat, uses the standard Arabic term for a cessation of fire: waqf al-nar or waqf itlaq al-nar. That is a literal translation, and it means exactly what ceasefire means in English and other languages. But Hamas don't talk about a cessation of fire, because that would be to introduce a term from the Western political vocabulary into their discourse, and they can't do that.
Why not? Because Hamas is a deeply-grounded Islamist movement that follows the principle that Muslims must never do anything that resembles what the non-believers do. That's why many Muslims here will only wear Muslim clothes and refuse to join in Christmas, birthday or other celebrations with their Christian neighbors.
Hamas is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, the Islamic Resistance Movement, and, unlike Fatah, it prioritizes religious values and aims. A Hamas council has just introduced the implementation of severe punishments, such as amputations and crucifixions for breaches of Islamic law in matters like theft or adultery. Read their 1988 Covenant (al-Mithaq) and you will grasp the fact that their struggle against Israel has nothing to do with land in the sense that is understood in international law. Their gripe is that the whole of what they anachronistically term "Palestine" (the old Southern Syria) was conquered by Islam in the 7th century and not an inch of it must pass out of Muslim hands forever.
As their Covenant makes clear, they are fighting a Jihad, and the rules they observe are Jihad rules, based on centuries of legislation about the waging of war against unbelievers. The problem with Jihad rules is that they simply don't recognize all the elements of international law that modern states base their treaties and international conventions on. Jihad law includes rules on how and when to deceive the foe, and envisages no outcome other than the death or submission of non-Muslims.
When Hamas announces a temporary cease-fire (a hudna or, recently, a tahdiyya or lull), it does so, not to have an opportunity to talk peace, but to regroup and re-arm. "Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement." The only solution to the Middle East problem is war: "There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."
Numerous times in the past, Israel has shown itself willing to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, on conditions similar to those propounded by the Quartet, first and foremost recognition of Israel's right to exist, followed by a guarantee that there will be no further resort to violence, including terrorist attacks on civilians (and that includes firing rockets at them). As time has passed, especially since the death of Yasser Arafat, a degree of pragmatism has entered the Palestinian mind, but not the thinking of Hamas. Not only will Hamas not make peace with Israel in order to create a viable Palestinian state, they are as ready to kill Palestinian Muslims in order to gain total control of Gaza and the West Bank.
A recent Hamas pronouncement boasted that the Palestinians (for which read Hamas) have made an industry of death and that everyone plays a part: "...the women exceed at this, and so too do the mujahideen [fighters in jihad] and the children. That's why they have formed human shields of the women the children the elderly and the mujahideen in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine." (My italics)
This is the only fighting force in history to boast that they have made human shields of their own people. There are films of "brave" Hamas gunmen dragging screaming children along to serve as shields, and of civilians sent onto the roofs of rocket launching sites, where, ironically, they know the Israelis will not fire on them. It is a mockery of military ethics, yet it goes barely noticed in the Western media.
Israel is not alone in fighting terrorism. Even now, this country fights al Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq or the Taliban in Afghanistan. If we ever gave up the fight against Islamist terror in Britain, we would reap the whirlwind in bombings on land and in the air. Why then do so many of us scorn what Israel does? A combination of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran could one day bring Israel down and result in the deaths of millions of Jews. Is there any good reason why Israel should acquiesce in this? Is our grass roots anti-Semitism still so ferocious that we cannot bear the thought of a Jewish state in the Middle East, even if that state was brought into being by a majority vote of the UN?
This war is not a pretty war, but, truth be told, no wars are pretty. If Hamas cannot be fought to a standstill or until it is a spent force, lulls in the fighting will be of absolutely no use. Beaten to a ceasefire, Hamas will return. They will return and they will fight to a standstill again, then they will regroup and attack once more. More deaths, of Israelis and Palestinians both. Ever-postponed statehood for the Palestinians, unending vituperation of Israel, which is only a democracy trying to defend its civilians from crimes this country would not bear for a week.
It's not a time for a ceasefire. When it comes, let the Palestinian Authority make it and keep to it, and let the PA police its own territories and rein in the madmen who cannot accept anything but their own right to rule everybody else, and their self-proclaimed right to kill Jews wherever they may be found. For Hamas has now announced that they will do exactly that: kill Jews, not just Israeli Jews, but Jews in any country where they may be found. And these are the people the UN and others would have Israel make a ceasefire with today.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Dr. Denis MacEoin has lectured in Arabic and Islamic Studies and is the incoming editor of Middle East Quarterly.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians | Denis MacEoin
receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free mef mailing list