I was born in the Jordanian-occupied Old City in Jerusalem and lived in a UN refugee camp from 1966 until 1999. During the First Intifada, I worked for B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and in 1996 I founded the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring group. With my background in Palestinian campaigning and as a resident of East Jerusalem today, you might assume that I am against Israel’s current military actions. But this could not be further from the truth. The blame for this month’s bloodshed lies solely at the feet of Hamas.
Those who wish to divert attention from Hamas’s war crimes would like to blame the latest conflict on a complicated legal dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. But this was a private matter between Jews who have a property deed from the 1800s and the residents of four homes who have refused to pay rent. This cannot be framed as ‘ethnic cleansing’. It is little more than a landlord-tenant squabble. It should have been a matter for the local courts, but instead this small-time event wound up in an appeal at the supreme court and hit the press. Hamas quickly saw an opportunity.
Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Fatah party, is at his weakest point in many years. He had just canceled parliamentary elections because he knew he would lose. Hamas saw Sheikh Jarrah as an opportunity to show Palestinians in Jerusalem and elsewhere that they could ‘do something’ while Fatah could not. They spread lies and propaganda on social media, deliberately inciting violence among Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Hamas then ‘responded’ to the riots by firing rockets indiscriminately towards Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, guaranteeing an Israeli military response.
Hamas does not care where these missiles land: as many as one in seven, in fact, have been reported by the Israel Defense Forces to have crashed down within Gaza during this latest round of fighting, resulting in 20 casualties. They see a lopsided body count as a positive development, as it allows them to claim that Israel is the aggressive party in the conflict they started. This Islamist terror group is dangerous for our people: we cannot continue to be a conduit for their work.
Hamas is not fighting for a human rights cause; its members are committing war crimes to boost the group’s political standing. A recent video showed the Hamas leadership celebrating missile launches from a party in Qatar. These people are out of harm’s way. They leave their foot soldiers, often young and desperate men with no employment prospects, to launch the attacks from residential buildings. We recently saw an Israeli strike on a tower that housed Al Jazeera, AP and other news outlets. According to Israeli sources, Hamas maintained military intelligence offices in the building and had previously launched attacks from that exact location, using the foreign media as human shields. The Israeli intelligence was enough for the Americans to accept the strike head of the event. ‘We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building,’ a senior diplomatic source told the Jerusalem Post. ‘I understand they found the explanation satisfactory.’
You never would have heard about this in the western media though, because the reporting out of Gaza is not honest. Hamas tightly controls all press access and foreign media have the choice of reporting the news the way Hamas tells them to, or not being allowed into Gaza at all. Almost all of them choose the former.
Palestinians are forced to choose between the corrupt, ineffectual Fatah and the fanatical, genocidal Hamas. Of course, this is largely an academic debate. There is no real ‘choice’ — there has not been an election in 15 years. But there is another, more pressing issue than the depressing state of our current leadership: the refusal to recognize the reality that Israel and the Jews are here to stay.
Seventy-three years have passed since Israel was established. Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates all understand that Israel is not a temporary stain on the map, but a permanent feature of the Middle East. Unfortunately many Arabs, including most Palestinians, still deny this obvious truth.
Obsessing over the Israeli-Palestinian issue has been a disaster for the Arab world: it has held back our development for generations and cost the Palestinian people dearly. Israel is still here — and isn’t going anywhere. The Arab world is large and there is plenty of room for all of us. We have been blessed with natural resources that could provide bountiful opportunities. Instead of focusing our wealth and talent on creating a better life for us, our leaders have spent decades fighting Israel. It is long past time for all Arabs to stop wasting resources trying to conquer a tiny country that we will never defeat. Only then will we have peace and prosperity.
Bassem Eid is a Palestinian writer and human rights activist. This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.