Hamas are terrorists, not freedom fighters

by | Oct 11, 2023 | Editor's Blog | 5 comments

I’ve been dismayed to see so many organizations either blaming Israel for the Hamas attack or cheering the terrorists who perpetrated it. Most of the groups are led by young people, many in university settings. Their simplistic view of the situation ignores the history of the Middle East and the foundation of Israel as well as the nature of Hamas. 

First, Hamas is not a group of freedom fighters. They are a jihadi terrorist organization with antisemitic roots and a violent history. For years, they sent suicide bombers into Israeli cities to blow up civilians on buses and in cafes. They don’t want peace, freedom, or democracy for anybody. They want to eradicate all Jews and have vowed to destroy the country in the name of Islam. They are considered a terrorist organization by Arab countries as well as Western ones. They are more ideologically and tactically tied to ISIS or the Taliban than to democratic freedom fighters. There’s a reason that Egypt is enforcing the blockade, too.

Israel is a pluralistic society and the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. The country has about 10 millions citizens, including almost 2 million Arabs who share the same rights as Jews, though they certainly face some discrimination. Most of the Jews in Israel come from Middle Eastern and North African heritage, while a large portion are descendants of European refugees. We should be supporting a diverse country that gives its citizens a voice in choosing its government, even if we sometimes harshly criticize the policies of that government.

Protesting Netanyahu’s right-wing government is fine, but cheering for the destruction of Israel or excusing the deaths of innocent Israelis is not. Nobody has been more angry or dismayed by the direction of current government than Israelis themselves. Until the attack, Israelis have staged ongoing protests of the government for months. They can do that in a democracy.

Most Israelis want a two-state solution to give Palestinians a homeland. However, they do not want a country led by groups committed to the destruction of Israel on their border. The Palestinians themselves have a responsibility to find leaders who will move them toward peace and away from armed conflict. Israel will not accept a country on their border run by the likes of Hamas terrorists.

The attack happened, in part, because Israel was loosening its restrictions on Gaza, albeit slowly. The government was allowing more Palestinians to cross into Israel for work, improving the economic circumstances of Gazans. The Israeli government naively believed that Hamas was moderating, focusing more on improving the economic lives of Palestinians than killing more Jews. They won’t make that mistake again. 

The story of Israel is not an easy one. The country was borne of systemic oppression of Jews throughout the world. It’s history is complicated by European colonial rule, two World Wars, and the rise of fascism in Europe. The Jews who populate Israel today aren’t just refugees from the Holocaust. Many, if not most, are people of Middle Eastern descent whose parents and grandparents were stripped of their land and homes and faced brutal discrimination in the years after the Holocaust. At the time Israel was formed, more than a million Jews lived in the Middle East outside of the 1948 borders of Israel. Most emigrated to Israel for security and hope for a future. If the United States is country of immigrants, Israel is a country of refugees. 

Israel was established in the wake of the Holocaust when Nazis killed more than 6 million European Jews, about two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe. While the area that is today Israel had a substantial Jewish population for centuries, Jewish emigration from Europe increased in the late 19th and early 20th century because of oppression and pogroms in Russia and eastern Europe. With the rise of fascism and the refusal of western countries, including the US, to take in Jewish refugees, the Jewish population in the region grew rapidly in the 1930s and 1940s. In the aftermath of the war, Jews who survived the horrors of concentration camps flooded into the area. 

The period from 1945 to 1948 was marked by wars between Jews, Arabs, and the British colonial powers. The United Nations tried to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The Jews accepted the measure but the Arabs rejected it. As soon as British troops left region in May 1948, the Jewish leaders declared the state of Israel, accepting the UN borders for the most part. The new country was recognized by countries across the world.

The armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon immediately attacked the new state. Over the next year, Israel managed to push the Arab armies out and, along with them, many of the Palestinian Arabs. About 700,000 Palestinian refugees ended up in camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan while about 150,000 stayed in what is today Israel. 

Today, there are about 6 million Palestinian refugees living mainly in the West Bank, Gaza, or in the countries bordering Israel. Most have never lived on the land that makes up Israel. For its own survival, Israel needs to work toward a solution for the Palestinians. They have lived under oppressive conditions for too long. However, the responsibility also lies with their Arab neighbors who refused to accept a Jewish state for far too long and whose attacks 75 years ago led to the refugee problem today. 

Since the end of colonial rule in the Middle East, only one country has established a liberal democracy—Israel. Like all countries, it’s far from perfect, but it aspires to have more respect for human rights than its neighbors, in spite of the seemingly obvious contradictions. It’s fair, and even right, to criticize Israel for its failings, for its mistreatment of Palestinians, for its constant incursions into Palestinian land. Israelis sure do.

However, it’s not acceptable to cheer for Hamas terrorists who are not only killing Israelis but bringing death to their own people. It’s not okay to say Israel had it coming. We need to condemn those groups who do.


  1. cocodog

    There is little doubt Hamas and similar groups like Hezbollah are terrorists. They all share the common theme of imposing their religious views on others by promoting violence and fear. To praise these groups as the ex-president Donald Trump did by his statement last night the “Lebanese militant group Hezbollah very smart” demonstrates how totally unfit Trump is to serve as president. To praise a group that murders civilians, beheading children, rape and burning folks alive as “smart” depicts a person whose mental capacities have decayed to a level where there is no clear line between good and evil. The notion these terrorists are fighting to restore lands wrongfully taken shows a total lack of understanding of the situation in the middle east. I am not sure where folks who entertain the notion spend their days, but it is not in reality.

  2. Shan T.

    Hi Thomas,

    Thank you for writing such a nuanced and well researched article about the situation. It seems the people who have qualms with your article take the position that the rape and intentional murder and defilement of Israeli woman, children, babies, elderly and unarmed civilians is best explained as a natural reaction to Israeli policies. I doubt these people would argue that there are “two sides” when it comes to ISIS or Al qaeda and that the atrocities committed by them are an understandable result of legitimate grievances.

    I appreciate your moral clarity in condemning terrorism. Sad to see so many on the left are brainwashed to believe even the worst atrocities committed against the world’s only Jewish country, must be deserved. I can see how so many seemingly good people stood by and allowed the Holocaust to happen; they had also been brainwashed to believe the Jews were an oppressive, dangerous people who deserved what they got.

    Just to clarify some of the misconceptions in other comments, Arab Israelis vote at much lower rates than other Israelis and their political parties often refuse to form coalitions with other Israeli parties. These are the main reasons why they have less representation, politically. Also, the only reason why the violence erupting from the West Bank is because of the military occupation of that area. In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip as a gesture of peace, and the Gazans responded by democratically electing Hamas and using the withdrawal to fire rockets at Israel from closer range. I believe you know these things already, but wanted to correct the misunderstanding expressed by a previous commenter.

    I wholeheartedly agree that it is ok to levy reasonable criticisms against Israel, similar to ones levied against other countries. As you point out, the Israelis frequently exercise their unique right in that region to criticize their own government. Unfortunately, much of the hatred directed at Israel, is not reasonable, and is not based in fact or an accurate understanding of the situation.

    In any case, your article was a breath of fresh air. Thank you again for writing it.

  3. TC

    The same patch of sand they’ve been fighting over for the last 3,000 years. All because a benevolent Supreme Being declared it their respective homeland and ‘gifted’ it to them.

    And, it’s not going to stop any time soon. Is that a gross oversimplification? You know it is. Does it tell the underlying story of animosity between the groups who have a stake in the lands that comprise that part of the Middle East? Unequivocally. This group oppresses that group. That group is trying to regain its’ ancestral homeland from this group. This group regained its’ ancestral homeland from _________. Replace the pronouns and fill in the blank. The picture changes on the whim of the observer. The bottom line doesn’t.

    More people are dead. More will die. Jew, Arab, and Gentile. At some point, perhaps, they will realize that agreement among themselves will determine how they are to live. Not a beguiling promise of a benevolent Supreme Being that they have all lost sight of anyway. When the people, all of the people, of that region quit using the word “my” and starting using “our,” perhaps there will be light and hope for the region.

    Until then, blood will continue to flow in the street.

  4. Christopher Whitaker

    Thomas, you should stick to NC politics because in that realm you’re an expert. Regarding Middle East politics, you should consult a number of the experts who are readily available to you, people who speak the languages of the region and have lived there. This post is highly disappointing in so many ways it is too depressing to describe them all.

    But to start, what if me and a bunch of TN bros came to NC and decided to partition it by ordering all of the residents of Anson County to move to SC so we could move unwanted Tennesseans there to get them out of our hair and, if they refused, we began knocking down homes, poisoning wells, and destroying agricultural livelihoods where families had lived for centuries while imprisoning women and children and killing the men? Do you think the passage of 75 years would heal the wounds for people who live in Anson County and that everything would be just fine?

    I condemn the actions of Hamas as strongly as possible, but there are two, or more, sides to the story.

  5. Joseph Sandoval

    I applaud your research into the region. You have details galore in your article. Still your assessment is simplistic in a few ways. Arabs are 21% of the population in Israel proper. If you include the West Bank, Arabs are the majority in the region. They are granted only 4 seats in the 120 seat Knesset. I don’t believe their representation (approximately 3%) reflects having the same rights as Israelis. Hamas is more than its military wing, it has provided the infrastructure for the Gaza Strip since the Israelis left them the land and formed the blockade. It is the municipal government, providing services to an area that should be lush and beautiful were it not for the blockade. It is true that Hamas is responsible for what has happened. Many in Hamas have vowed Israel’s destruction, but painting the entirety of Hamas as a terrorist organization is not very nuanced. The two-state solution is a myth and could have been regarded as so by the Israelis from the moment it was conceived. In the last 20 years or so, it served the Israeli government well as a ruse while it systematically poached the land of the West Bank. There is no unbroken Palestinian territory available to the Palestinians in which to form a homeland. Moving the settlements back into Israel’s pre-1967 borders is something that the Israelis will never do. And yet the West Bank is relatively peaceful compared to Gaza, even considering the recent uprisings. However, once Israel announces that the two-state solution is unworkable that area will become just as militant. You can cry out against Hamas’ decision to lash out against the Israeli’s but you cannot act as if it were a total surprise given the oppression the region has felt at the hands of the Israeli government. You mention Jews being displaced after WWII as if that were justification for them to displace Palestinians. This underlines the hypocrisy that Israelis are living. They cannot justify their acts of moving Palestinians off their lands by saying it was done to them. Your statement about Palestinians never having lived on the land that would be their homeland is surprising. Those Palestinians are no longer on that land because of Israeli action. The right of return doesn’t get erased because the generations displaced are no longer alive.

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