OpinionIsrael at War

A naive West must awaken to the jihadist threat

Hamas isn’t just after Israel, they’re coming for you too.

Israeli soldiers hold an ISIS flag found on the body of a Hamas terrorist at Kibbutz Sufa on Oct. 12. Credit: IDF Spokesperson.
Israeli soldiers hold an ISIS flag found on the body of a Hamas terrorist at Kibbutz Sufa on Oct. 12. Credit: IDF Spokesperson.
Dr. Eric R. Mandel
Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network, senior security editor of The Jerusalem Report and a contributor to The Hill and The Jerusalem Post. He regularly briefs member of Congress and their foreign policy advisers about the Middle East.

I awoke to sirens on Saturday morning, Oct. 7, in the sleepy community of Yerucham in the Israeli Negev. The sound of explosions could be heard in the distance. It was the holiday of Simchat Torah, when Jews worldwide celebrate the end of the annual reading of the Torah. This year, it coincided with the Jewish Sabbath, a day of peace.

I watched men with prayer shawls running from the synagogue towards cars to bring them to their army units or security duties. I heard the echoes of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Arab armies, in a surprise attack on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, sought to annihilate the Jewish state and commit a new Holocaust. Some, including the current Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas, deny the Holocaust ever occurred.

On Oct. 7, in the town of Sderot, I witnessed firsthand some of the fallout from the terrorist massacre in Israel’s Gaza envelope. The goal of Israel’s enemies in 1948, 1967, 1973, 2000, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2021 and 2023 remains the same. As Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad said in 1967, “Strike the enemy’s settlements, turn them into dust, pave the Arab roads with the skulls of Jews.”

However, the complexity of the Middle East and the death cult of radical Islamism eludes Western comprehension. The perplexing convolutions of regional Islamist alliances allow Iranian Shiite Persians to coordinate and support the Sunni Arabs of Hamas and the Shiite Arabs of Hezbollah, all of whom share a pervasive hatred of Jews and the Jewish state.

Many in the West are now afraid that if they speak critically of radical Islamism they will be labelled racist or be socially cancelled for failing the multiculturism test. They shouldn’t be afraid. Many Muslims, Persians and Arabs in Lebanon, Gaza, Syria and Iran long for the day they will no longer ruled by the tyrants of Islamism. This is not about being anti-Islamic but about being anti-jihad.

Although they have been far too mute during this war, the leadership of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman and more are desperately rooting for Israel to destroy Hamas and reduce the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood’s ability to infect their own societies and topple their governments.

To understand why Palestinians remain brainwashed, read the words of Ruth Lande Wasserman, former chair of the Knesset’s Abraham Accords Caucus, writing in The Jerusalem Post: “The Palestinian leadership in Gaza and the West Bank, in contrast to the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, has not agreed to changing a single word in the schoolbooks that poison the minds of the young generation every single day against Israel, Jews and Western culture. … This is the very leadership that cares very little for its own people and their needs.”

It is also why we witnessed ordinary Gazans handing out candy and celebrating as mutilated Jewish hostages were paraded in Gaza. It is no coincidence that my experience in the Gulf regarding the treatment of Jews was profoundly different from the antipathy I felt when I talked to the P.A., PLO and Fatah.

Americans may have forgotten about jihadists, but they haven’t forgotten about us. They have a growing presence in the West. Just watch the videos of the rallies in major Western cities over the past week celebrating Hamas’s massacre.

The Hamas charter is unambiguous in its goals and ideology. It states that the group is composed of Muslims who “fear God and raise the banner of jihad. … Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. … There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad … to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.”

Israel should treat Hamas no differently than America treated ISIS. Unfortunately, innocents cannot be protected in such a war, because the terrorists’ strategy is to embed themselves within the non-combatant population and attack from civilian locations. Hamas has perfected this technique in order to manipulate the Western world into choosing moral ambiguity.

Naïve American students on college campuses decide to be ignorant of the hard truth that, as President Joe Biden said, there is true evil in the world, and Hamas is part of it. As Bari Weiss of The Free Press noted, universities suspend professors for using the wrong pronoun but cannot condemn terror supporters on their campuses or physically protect Jewish students on campus.

There should be little dispute: Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad have been armed, trained and work in coordination with the Islamic Republic of Iran. One cannot ignore the Iranian fingerprint. Iran’s “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said openly, “We will support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime, and we do not hesitate to say this.”  Iran’s jihadist aims are enabled by American sanctions relief, which allows Iran to sell unlimited quantities of oil to China.

U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer told CBS News that Iran was “broadly complicit” in the Hamas attack on Israel. Iran openly admits to supporting Palestinian groups in Gaza. Leaders of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad regularly visit Tehran.

The U.S. should support Israel’s war against Hamas, which is ideologically identical to the U.S. war against ISIS. Indeed, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the actions of Hamas were “worse than what I saw with ISIS.”

But we were fighting ISIS thousands of miles away on someone else’s territory. Israelis are fighting on their own land, often within earshot of their homes and loved ones. I have seen this firsthand over the years when visiting IDF soldiers in the field.

In addition, America has a volunteer army. In Israel, service is near-universal, and everyone knows someone fighting in the war, especially with over 300,000 reservists called up in recent days. Within a day of the outbreak of the fighting, I heard from families I know whose relatives had already fallen in combat. My friend, a brilliant historian, told me on the evening of the fourth day of the war that his son, who was on the frontline, had the impossible dilemma of deciding which of his friends’ funerals to attend the next day—the one killed attending the Negev peace concert or a fellow soldier who had just fallen in battle.

A nation’s first duty is to protect its people, and Israel is no different from any other nation. That means ending Hamas as a military entity. Anything less invites the next war sooner rather than later. America needs to be there for its ally, no matter how much the American progressive left tries to play the moral equivalence game and call for an end to U.S. aid to Israel.

So, when the world stops remembering and sympathizing with the Jewish civilians who were murdered and raped, whose babies were slaughtered, whose teenagers were maimed for sport, whose children were forced to witness the slaughter of their parents, all of it too reminiscent of the Holocaust, don’t forget who initiated this war, what they believe and what they did. Know too that their brutality will not end in Israel. They are coming for you too.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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