Suddenly the Good Friday Prayer Doesn't Seem So Bad

The New York Times online version has a story today about the ways in which the mass marketed opinions of Hamas, including videos aimed at children, target Jews (and sometimes Christians) in unmistakably violent and bigoted terms:
At Al Omari mosque, the imam cursed the Jews and the “Crusaders,” or Christians, and the Danes, for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He referred to Jews as “the brothers of apes and pigs,” while the Hamas television station, Al Aksa, praises suicide bombing and holy war until Palestine is free of Jewish control.

Its videos praise fighters and rocket-launching teams; its broadcasts insult the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, for talking to Israel and the United States; its children’s programs praise “martyrdom,” teach what it calls the perfidy of the Jews and the need to end Israeli occupation over Palestinian land, meaning any part of the state of Israel.
And, just so as to leave no doubt:
For example, in a column in the weekly Al Risalah, Sheik Yunus al-Astal, a Hamas legislator and imam, discussed a Koranic verse suggesting that “suffering by fire is the Jews’ destiny in this world and the next.”

“The reason for the punishment of burning is that it is fitting retribution for what they have done,” Mr. Astal wrote on March 13. “But the urgent question is, is it possible that they will have the punishment of burning in this world, before the great punishment” of hell? Many religious leaders believe so, he said, adding, “Therefore we are sure that the holocaust is still to come upon the Jews.”
But what about the children? Are they really going to understand all of this complicated political discourse? Well, just in case they don't:
Another children’s program, “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” has become infamous for its puppet characters — a kind of Mickey Mouse, a bee and a rabbit — who speak, like Assud the rabbit, of conquering the Jews to the young hostess, Saraa Barhoum, 11. “We will liberate Al Aksa mosque from the Zionists’ filth,” Assud said recently. “We will liberate Jaffa and Acre,” cities now in Israel proper. “We will liberate the whole homeland.”

The mouse, Farfour, was murdered by an Israeli interrogator and replaced by Nahoul, the bee, who died “a martyr’s death” from lack of health care because of Gaza’s closed borders. He has been supplanted by Assud, the rabbit, who vows “to get rid of the Jews, God willing, and I will eat them up, God willing.”

When Assud first made his appearance, he said to Saraa: “We are all martyrdom-seekers, are we not, Saraa?” She responded: “Of course we are. We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our homeland. We will sacrifice our souls and everything we own for the homeland.”
Ahh, good old fashioned family values there! Why can't Sesame Street do a better job of getting our children to martyr themselves for our homeland? I mean, after all, that way our imams won't have to do it themselves.


moti said…
Hi Scott,

I think there are two points worth making here in response to the depravity reported by the NYT. The first is that when Hamas first appeared in the 1980's it was supported by Israel. The United States also met with Hamas at this time. Israel encouraged fundamentalist organizations like Hamas because such groups were competitors of what the Israeli government viewed as its real enemy at the time, the PLO, much in the same way that the United States supported jihadis like Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan during the Russian occupation. Hamas only fairly recently began to gain in popularity as an alternative to what many Palestinians saw (and continue to see) as the impotence of their leadership in the face of continuing occupation. Needless to say, none of this justifies the kind of opinions expressed by those quoted in the NYT.

Second, Hamas does not have a monopoly on expressions of vile racism and hatred. Although the New York Times does not report on it as frequently, there have been and continue to be political leaders and rabbis in Israel whose beliefs about Palestinians are equally depraved as some of the beliefs you rightfully condemn in your post. As you might have read recently, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Vilnai, threatened the Palestinians with a "shoah". Here are some other quotes from Israeli leaders:

"[The Palestinians] are beasts walking on two legs."

-- Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin

"We have to kill all the Palestinians unless they are resigned to
live here as slaves." Chairman Heilbrun of the Committee for the
Re-election of General Shlomo Lahat

"There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed."
Golda Meir

"When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do
about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a
bottle." Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces

"We must expel Arabs and take their places."
-- David Ben Gurion, 1937

"(The Palestinians) would be crushed like grasshoppers ... heads smashed against the boulders and walls."
-- Isreali Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir

"In the old city of Jerusalem they [Arabs] are swarming like ants. They should go to hell - and the Messiah will speed them on their way." Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

"Israel should have exploited the repression of the demonstrations in China, when world attention focused on that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the territories." -- Benjamin Netanyahu

After the recent murders of the yeshiva students in Jerusalem, a protest was organized by rabbis. Many people many of whom are young students showed up to march to East Jerusalem while chanting "Death to the Arabs".

Perhaps my sensibilities with respect to biological taxonomies are abnormal, but it does not seem to me that calling some ethnic or religious group “ants”or "cockroaches" or "two legged beasts" is all that different from calling them “the brothers of apes and pigs". And perhaps my moral sensibilities are abnormal, but it does not seem to me that the permissibility of calling for the expulsion of an entire political, ethnic, religious, or cultural group varies in accordance with whether that group is comprised of Jews or Christians or Muslims or…

Either racist, proto-genocidal rhetoric is morally wrong or it is not. Now, if it is (and clearly it is), then we have an obligation not to support those individuals and groups who engage in it. No American tax dollars are being funneled to Hamas, which is labeled a terrorist organization, and it’s quite beyond imagination that a Hamas leader would be welcomed by the American leadership. Of course the same does not hold with respect to Israeli leaders.

Scott Carson said…

You're going to either love this or hate this: I agree with you completely!

Having said that, I will point out that Israel is a state, Hamas a sectarian group. We can legitimately refuse to meet with any member of any sectarian group precisely because we do not want that group to come to have power in a state; however, even if the leaders of a state happen to belong to a group that we detest, we may have to meet with them anyway, in order to persuade them to lead their state in a more acceptable way. If the leaders of our own state don't detest the detestable group leading the other state, that hardly matters, since in this country, at least, it is possible to put pressure on leaders, and to remove them if necessary. I don't know whether the same thing is true in Israel, but I know for a fact that it is not true of groups like Hamas.
moti said…

I'm not sure I understand you. Hamas won democratic parliamentary elections. If the Canadian government (say) did not like the Republican Party here in the United States, could they claim that their unwillingness to talk to the leadership of the Republican Party is justified by that party's being a "sectarian group"? If a necessary condition for working with leaders who are democratically elected is that they be leaders of a formally recognized state, then discussions with ANY Palestinian leadership will never be justified since there is no formally recognized Palestinian state. And of course the existence of such a state is precisely the issue in question, right?

And what is it, exactly, that's possible here in the States but that you know "for a fact" is not possible with respect to Hamas? I don't see what you are getting at here.

Though meeting with leaders from group A is one way leaders from group B may show their support for the leaders from A, it is not clear to me that such meetings are always showings of support. Moreoever, a recent poll shows shows that a majority (64%) of Israelis believe the Israeli government should hold direct talks Hamas. And given U.S. pretensions of "spreading democracy" in the Middle East, and given that plenty of Israeli leaders espouse the sorts of disgusting opinions we find abominable when they come from Hamas, it's not clear how we can make a principled distinction between the Israeli leadership and Hamas's. Again, the fact that Palestine is not yet a fully recognized state is irrelevant, since that is the central issue with we which are concerned.
Darwin said…

While I agree with you in finding the quotes you list reprehensible, I think you may be over-equating a bit. As you point out, there's great diversity of opinion within the Israeli populace and government, and your quotes represent one (clearly nasty) end of that spectrum. Moreover, many of those quotes date back a very long time.

With Hamas, there does not appear to be any discernable spectrum. It's reason for existence at this point is to kill Jews.

At this point, if Hamas and other organizations like it were willing to stop lobbing morters and rockets into Israel, I suspect Irsael would be more than happy enough to crush those internal elements who want to continue the fighting for its own sake. But there has been no willingness to stop the bloodshet on the Palestinian side for nearly ten years now.
moti said…

I agree with you that that I’ve been “over equating” to some degree, but I don’t think I’ve been doing so in the way you think I have. Given the vast superiority of the Israeli military and intelligence services, and given the far, far higher number of Palestinian civilian casualties compared with Israeli civilian casualties, and given the fact that the U.S. government provides Israel with great quantities of arms and money, I think my previous post drew too strong of an analogy between the two sides with respect to where our condemnation largely ought to be directed.

As for there being a wide diversity of opinion within Israel but not within Hamas, it’s true but irrelevant. Opinions vary far more among the Palestinian population than among members of Shas, the Israeli political party started by Rabbi Yosef (whom I quote referring to Arabs as ‘ants’) and which exerts a strong influence in Israeli politics and forms part of the government. What does this show? You are right to say there is great diversity among Israelis, but of course that’s true of Palestinians as well. If you were to compare the degree of diversity in opinion among members of Shas with the degree of diversity in opinion among members of Hamas, you would be making the right kind of comparison, though it seems to me the question is pretty much irrelevant.

As for Hamas’s “reason for existence” being the killing of Jews, I don’t think this is true. Although there is plenty to dislike about Hamas, including many of their official positions that do seem to express the kind of motivations that you attribute to them, like any organization that is largely political Hamas’s leaders are pretty pragmatic. They’ve made it clear more than once that they are willing to end violence from their end, and to recognize Israel (whatever that means), in exchange, of course, for similar concessions on Israel’s part. This is an odd thing to do—repeatedly—when one is hell-bent on killing all the Jews.

As for your suspicions of Israel’s benevolent intentions and the Palestinians’ malevolent intentions, I wish you’d provide some evidence rather than merely regurgitating the narrative you’ve been presented by U.S. government officials and their apologists. Have you looked at the maps that show Israel’s “generous offer” to the Palestinians? Have you read the reports written by human rights organizations (including Israeli ones) regarding the occupation? Have you looked at the many U.N. resolutions that were vetoed only by Israel and its enabler the U.S.?

The idea that Israel has long been working for peace, only to be constantly frustrated by the uber-violent Palestinian terrorists, is a fiction. You are right that some of the quotes I provide are old ones; that was intentional. It shows how some of the most powerful leaders at the very top of Israel’s political community have long thought of the Palestinians—decades before Hamas was even formed, even before Israel was a state—and that they continue to do so.
Anonymous said…
Don't forget that "moderate" Palestinians have been systematically driven out into exile. Most of these are Christians.
A former member of an Antiochan
Orthodox church.

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