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Hamas’s Savagery Reflects Its Nihilistic Goal

Despite posturing as “freedom fighters” and champions of “liberation,” the Palestinian cause has always been about tyranny and destruction.

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“They shot indiscriminately, abducted whoever they could, burned down people’s homes so they’d have to escape through the window, where the terrorists would wait.”

They gunned down parents in front of their children, butchering toddlers and babies.

They randomly massacred civilians in the streets, gloating over the bodies.

“Horrifying” scarcely captures the savagery of Hamas fighters, in their land, sea and rocket war on Israel.

We’ve long been told that the Palestinian cause is about righting historical injustices, liberating Palestinians, seeking a better life. This narrative echoes throughout academia, politics, the media. It’s in the “Free Palestine” banners and the chanting at rallies in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere.

So, is the brutality we’re seeing from Hamas some kind of outlier? Are the grisly videos of hostages being humiliated, of blood-soaked homes, of desecrated corpses a departure from the goals and usual means of the Palestinian cause? No.

In its war, Hamas  —  a dominant Palestinian faction  —  has made clear a truth many refuse to acknowledge: From the beginning, what’s united the diverse factions of the Palestinian cause is a hostility to freedom, to justice, to human life, including the lives of Palestinians. Its brutal means flow from its true character and goals.

The Palestinian cause has been led by groups ranging from quasi-secular factions embracing watered-down socialism, nationalism, and Marxist-Leninism to the Islamic totalitarianism defining the aims of Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Their common goal: burning to the ground the Middle East’s only free society, Israel. Their purported goal of “liberation” is a euphemism for this actual annihilationist aim. There’s no way around it: this goal entails putting to death untold numbers of people.

Wherever Palestinian factions attained any semblance of self-rule and territorial control, they established militant dictatorships: in Jordan (1968–1970), in Lebanon (1970–1982), in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (1993 onward). The immediate victims were Palestinians themselves. Despite claiming to fight for that community, Palestinian leaders ruled with an iron fist, eradicating free speech, carrying out arbitrary arrests, expropriating property, persecuting atheists, Christians, gays.

And while subjugating their own people, Palestinian leaders fomented hostility toward Israelis and waged war on them. In speeches, radio programs, television shows, news media, classrooms the Palestinian cause glorifies the slaughter of Israelis. And it committed deliberate atrocities to terrorize them.

In 1974, for example, a cadre belonging to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine infiltrated the Israeli town of Ma’alot. In a foreshadowing of Hamas’s October 7 invasion, the Palestinian fighters pounded on the doors of several households. Time magazine reported:

Joseph Cohen, 48, opened his door  —  and was immediately cut down by automatic-weapons fire. His son Eliahu, 4, was also killed, and his daughter Miriam, 5, wounded. His wife Fortuna, seven months pregnant, tried to flee the intruders, but was machine-gunned. The only one in the family not killed or wounded was 16-month-old Yitzhak Cohen. He never attracted attention by crying; he is a deaf-mute.

Then, the fighters entered a school and took 115 hostages. When the two-day siege ended, there were twenty five dead. Among them, ten schoolgirls each executed with a bullet in the neck.

Factions within the Palestinian cause competed for prestige and recruits, by carrying out horrific attacks (even inflating their number of kills). The more militant, the greater their honor and legitimacy. Essentially, they jockeyed to prove who is more murderous.

Later, the signature tactic became suicide bombings  —  in discos, buses, shopping malls, restaurants. At a Jerusalem pizzeria, a Hamas “martyr” detonated a 5–10kg bomb, hidden inside a guitar case with nails, bolts, and screws to inflict maximum carnage. The explosion gutted the restaurant. Lying in the wreckage were strollers and baby carriers. Such attacks were part of how Hamas rose to prominence. It out-martyred its rivals. Through brutality, this Islamic totalitarian group demonstrated its commitment to destroying Israel.

READ ALSO:  ARI's Resources on Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East

Contrary to the prevailing narrative, the Palestinian cause is not about righting historical injustices, liberation, a better life for Palestinians. In my book What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, I show how this narrative exploited grievances of individual Palestinians in order to lend the cause a spurious legitimacy. Abetting that fraud, legions of American and European apologists have whitewashed the cause. Thus, we see apologists acclaiming Yasser Arafat, a murderous leader in the cause, as a “peace maker” (awarded a Nobel Prize); brushing aside his successor’s authoritarianism; dreaming up signs of Hamas’s “moderation.”

But you cannot “liberate” people by foisting upon them a dictatorship  — whether nationalist, socialist, or Islamic. You cannot right injustices by perpetrating actual injustices of your own. You cannot enable prosperity through theft and exploitation. You cannot foster a better life by turning men and women and children into human shields.

'You cannot “liberate” people by foisting upon them a dictatorship  — whether nationalist, socialist, or Islamic.' Click To Tweet

The cruelty, the brutality, the utter contempt for human life that Hamas fighters have paraded for the cameras since they attacked on October 7 — that is the true, nihilistic face of the Palestinian cause. Every individual in Israel and under Palestinian rule who truly values freedom, peace, and prosperity should seek the defeat not only of Hamas, but of the wider cause of which it is a leading faction.

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Elan Journo

Elan Journo is a senior fellow and vice president of content at the Ayn Rand Institute. His books include Illuminating Ayn Rand (2022), Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: What Went Wrong After 9/11 (2021) and What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (2018). Elan is a senior editor of New Ideal.

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