On May 10, Hamas, an Iran-backed terrorist organization, started firing rockets into Israel. In retaliation, the Israel Defense Force launched “Operation Guardian of the Walls”, a mission aiming to eliminate terrorists from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Regarded as the deadliest Israel-Palestine confrontation since the 2014 Gaza War (or “Operation Protective Edge”), it has drawn international media to the smallest and most condensed part of the globe. Thus far, most conversations have centered on Israel’s role as an aggressor in the conflict. Few dialogues have emphasized the role of Hamas as an instigator in this conflict and how the terror group has undermined the opportunities and livelihoods of those living in the Gaza Strip. Going forward, if global actors really want to safeguard the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, they must take a stance against Hamas’ toxic role.
The latest outburst of violence was sparked by incitement and escalation of hostilities at the Nablus gate in old city Jerusalem during Ramadan. Shortly after, Hamas seized the opportunity to fire rockets into the holy city on Jerusalem Day, later sending barrages of rockets to the center and south of Israel. After 11 days of conflict, Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire.
Most media outlets and spectators criticized Israel with allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide. While these critics rightfully condemn the deaths of numerous Palestinian civilians, they fail to realize the core problem, Hamas hides behind its civilians in the hopes of exacerbating the death rate, making Israel appear as the aggressor in international media.
When Hamas was founded in 1987, it was considered an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which remained peaceful with Israel. However, the 1988 Hamas Charter changed the group’s direction, stating that Hamas’ primary purpose was to establish a Caliphate, therefore pushing out the Jewish people and ending the Israeli state.
Indeed, these principles have profoundly influenced how Hamas operates today. Like many other regional groups, such as Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, the Islamic State, and al-Qaeda, Hamas uses religion to justify engaging in violent attacks, intending to undermine and destroy Israel. In a recent interview, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s former defense minister and a current opposition leader of the Yamina party, noted that Hamas’ constitution includes elements that direct the group to attack Israel and use Islam as a foundation for any violence. Today, Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan, and the United States all consider Hamas, a terrorist organization that has wreaked havoc across the region.
While Hamas’ quest for violence has resulted in numerous deaths in Israel, the real consequences of the group’s actions are visible in the Gaza Strip. To emphasize the organization’s propaganda, Hamas has used its civilian population as human shields, often embedding their forces among civilian houses, hospitals, and schools. This has made it difficult for Israel to launch targeted attacks, resulting in innocent deaths. While Hamas claims that it advocates for the needs of the Palestinians, the terror group evidently prioritizes its military agenda.
According to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, using civilian populations as human shields is considered a war crime. Despite this and condemnation from the United Nations, Hamas sees its population as disposable.
In 2014, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East reported that it had identified rockets concealed in an empty school in the Gaza Strip — a clear violation of international law and a clear threat to the nearby refugee population. The school was located near two other UNRWA schools that housed 1,500 internally displaced persons at the time. Previous reporting has also indicated that the group stores and launches rockets and mortar shells, as well as operatives, in other civilian facilities, including hospitals and mosques.
When the group was given control of Gaza in 2007 by Israel, it promised radical change and prosperity to residents. However, under its current rule, Palestinians have only experienced continued violence and repression. Hamas has done little to invest in infrastructure and resource development. For example, during the latest conflict, Hamas began firing at Israeli soldiers who provided humanitarian aid to individuals living in Gaza, cutting off access to critical supplies during the violence. Further, Hamas has established numerous children’s camps in Gaza, designed to train and brainwash children as paramilitary fighters.
Under Hamas, the demographics and culture of the Gaza Strip have also changed dramatically. Throughout history, the Gaza region has been home to a sizable Christian population. However, over the past 15 years, Hamas has introduced numerous restrictions, which prevented the religious sect from freely practicing its faith. It also began placing pressure on Christians to convert to Islam. Fearing further discrimination, most of Gaza’s Christians have left the area. Current estimates suggest that only 1,000 Christians still live in the Strip.
As global attention turns to the recent ceasefire, left-wing media must stop reporting fake news that feeds Hamas propaganda and recognize that Israel, the only democratic country in the Middle East, is protecting itself from terrorism. The daily reality of Gazans exemplifies Hamas’ priorities of war over peace, and it is time international media wake up to this.
Author: Steven Friedman
He is an American-Israeli citizen, former business consultant, and now writer. He focuses on topics that address anti-Semitism and Israel-Diaspora relations.