OpinionIsrael at War

Why a humanitarian ceasefire will bolster Hamas

The Palestinians need a courageous leader to provide new direction to alleviate their plight.

Smoke rises after Israeli airstrikes as it seen from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 7, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Smoke rises after Israeli airstrikes as it seen from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 7, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
(Twitter)
Khaled Abu Toameh
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award winning Arab and Palestinian Affairs journalist formerly with The Jerusalem Post. He is Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

A so-called “humanitarian ceasefire” would only serve to bolster Hamas. A genuine ceasefire means both sides stop fighting. A “humanitarian” ceasefire means that only Israel will stop fighting. There is no way of separating Hamas from the Palestinian population since Hamas is an army without fixed bases that operates in residential areas and uses civilian infrastructure such as mosques and schools. A humanitarian “pause” would benefit Hamas and allow them to regroup. How can you declare war on a terrorist organization and then grant it a humanitarian pause?

There is also no guarantee that a humanitarian pause will translate into a complete ceasefire. Hamas has already tried smuggling terrorists out through the Rafah crossing to Egypt. There’s no guarantee that fuel sent into Gaza won’t be used to run equipment to circulate air in Hamas’s tunnels.

A few years ago, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced that they had found Hamas tunnels under schools in Gaza, a human rights abuse by Hamas. Yet human rights organizations have not reported these offenses as they are inherently biased and hostile to Israel. Lynn Hastings, the U.N.’s Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, for example, has not condemned Hamas but complains of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is fundamentally caused by Hamas.

Arab states express “brotherhood and solidarity” rhetorically while rejecting Palestinian refugees in reality, rationalizing their decision by saying that Gazans should hold their ground no matter the consequences. The international community has not condemned these Arab states’ refusals.

If Hamas wanted to, it could pause and allow civilians to depart, then confront Israelis, instead of putting civilians in harm’s way. When civilians tried to use the humanitarian corridor created by the IDF, Hamas opened fire on them. The bodies were caught on video by a motorbike rider, where it is clear the civilians were used as human shields.

Leaders reject protecting civilians

Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook unabashedly claimed that the Gaza tunnels are for “the resistance,” and that since 75% of Gaza’s population are considered refugees, they are the international community’s responsibility, not Hamas’s. Some Hamas leaders, such as Yahya Sinwar, stay in “luxury tunnels” underground, while others spend their days in Qatar, Lebanon and Turkey with their families, while also traveling around the Middle East.

Fake news

There are almost no foreign journalists in Gaza. Reports given by Palestinian journalists are taken directly from unreliable official Hamas media outlets. There is no way to verify the death tolls and injury reports issued by Hamas, which has complete control of its media, security forces and public information. Suspiciously, Hamas never reports the number of its fighters lost—only figures of women, children and journalists killed and injured. Likewise, the number of hostages held by Hamas is unclear, since Palestinian Islamic Jihad and even civilians may be holding hostages.

Senior Hamas officials have said they will not release Israeli hostages unless Israel releases all Palestinian security prisoners—about 6,000. Any prisoner exchange with Hamas would boost their popularity and give them more public credibility.

Can the hostages be released without the prisoners being released?

The good news is that not all Palestinians in Gaza support Hamas, though many do. Many are afraid to speak out but express dissent in private. This gives the impression that every Palestinian supports them. Even in the West Bank, Palestinians are saying that Hamas brought about a disaster and that its behavior was un-Islamic and worthy of condemnation. Palestinians who condemn Hamas need to be empowered and engaged to debunk the myth that “everyone supports Hamas.”

Even P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas has denounced Hamas in private meetings, though not in public since he fears the reaction. Abbas is eating the bitter fruit of his own radicalization of the West Bank populace. Abbas empowered Hamas and pushed West Bank residents into their hands.

In 1995, Abbas publicly proclaimed he would not allow “Jews to defile our holy sites with their feet,” referring to the Temple Mount compound, inciting and indoctrinating his own population. Similarly, and notably, “Al Aqsa Flood” is the name given by Hamas to its Oct. 7 massacre. Abbas’s antisemitic rhetoric, claims of Israeli apartheid and other extremist discourse have made Hamas seem heroic. The West assumes that the P.A. are the “good guys” while Hamas are the “bad guys,” but when examined, their rhetoric is nearly identical, as witnessed in their broadcast media.

The Palestinians need a courageous leader to provide new direction to alleviate their plight. Palestinians have been slaughtered in Lebanon and killed by the Assad regime in Yarmouk, Syria. Kuwait deported hundreds of thousands of Palestinians after it was liberated. Palestinians are also subjected to apartheid-like discrimination in schooling, employment and real estate purchases in the Arab world. The only state that has afforded citizenship to Palestinians is Jordan. Seeing the Palestinian cause as holding the Arab world hostage, Arabs view them as ungrateful and unwilling to make positive, decisive moves to advance their state ambitions in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli Arabs, though, are often satisfied with their status in Israel, and most, besides lip service, are not willing to help provide leadership to the West Bank or Gaza. Knesset member Mansour Abbas, for example, would be considered too moderate. PLO adviser MK Ahmad Tibi would have to give up his Israeli citizenship, which is unlikely. Many who call themselves Palestinian citizens of Israel—when it comes to assuming responsibility and Palestinian leadership—refuse.

None of the current leaders in the West Bank—and certainly not Gaza— say anything new. Fatah’s Majed Faraj was targeted by Hamas in 2012 for being critical of Hamas killing Palestinians. Abbas himself put economic sanctions on Gaza in 2018, before the “Great March of Return,” as retribution for Hamas’ refusal to come to a reconciliation meeting. Abbas cut Gaza’s electricity from 12 to four hours per day and suspended welfare payments to 70,000 needy Palestinians as a “collective punishment”—a term he now employs against Israel regarding Gaza.

Originally published by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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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