IN THE MEDIA

If you cheer for Hamas, you should understand it wants Israel wiped from the map

May 27, 2021 | Paul Rubenstein

Pro-Palestinian protest in London (credit: PA)
Pro-Palestinian protest in London (credit: PA)

Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – 27 May 2021

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” So goes the catch-cry chanted by anti-Israel demonstrators around the globe over the past 10 days.

Let there be no doubt about what these words mean to the people who coined them. They do not represent a call by everyday Palestinians against what they view as unjust policies of Israel. Nor is it an appeal for a Palestinian homeland to be established as part of a two-state settlement.

The slogan is an aspirational bid for the state of Israel, which lies between the Jordan river on the east and the Mediterranean to the west, to be wiped off the map of the world.

To quote from the original Hamas charter: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it just as it obliterated others before it … The day of judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.”

While the charter has been supplemented to soften its impact, only this week Hamas deputy political chief Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk said his group’s war against Israel would end with “their [the Jews] leaving Palestine”.

Even more distressing is the adoption of this slogan as part of antisemitic outpourings against local Jewish communities in the streets of Europe and the United States. The car parade by Hamas supporters in London last week, calling for the killing of Jews and the rape of their daughters, was sickening.

Yet this and other dangerously loaded language is not being voiced solely by radicals or extremists. It has become a regular feature of mainstream political debate in Western societies. From journalists in major media organisations, trade unions, acclaimed intellectuals in universities, in the halls of the United Nations and, more disturbing still, from elected members of parliaments across the Western world.

They include members of both the Democrat “squad” in the United States and the British Labour Party, politicians across Europe and even certain elements of the ALP and the Greens here in Australia.

Take this recent Facebook post from the ALP Club at Melbourne University: “We’re proud to see progressive politicians like Ged Kearney join us in our activism. The current attacks upon Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have seen 65 children and 232 Palestinian civilians murdered by the settler-colonial power of Israel. These attacks upon Palestinian civilians are part of Israel’s ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Jewish people did not “colonise” Palestine. They returned to their homeland, in which Jews have had a continuous presence for more than 3000 years.

And what does “illegal occupation of Palestine” even mean? If it’s the “river to the sea”, the implication is that the whole of the state of Israel is illegal. This is clearly ridiculous. And Israel evacuated Gaza in 2005 and remains in military control of large parts of the West Bank only because the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly rejected offers to negotiate a two-state settlement on terms similar to those the international community has long demanded.

Through this latest period of violent conflict, Israel did not “murder” Palestinian civilians. According to Hamas, the number of Palestinians killed is 227, of whom 160 have been credibly identified as Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists. It is a human tragedy that civilian Palestinians were killed, some by Hamas rockets, others who had not heeded the warnings issued by the Israeli military in advance of every strike – a practice unheard of in other conflicts.

How has it come to be that supporting the destruction of Israel and the creation of a Jew-free zone within its current borders has not only become something acceptable to express in public, but has almost become a necessary credential for many on the progressive side of politics?

How can it be that “progressives” openly identify with Hamas, a terrorist, genocidal organisation which cynically instigated this latest war as another step in its campaign of incessant and remorseless violence towards Israel and the Jewish people?

I am not sure of the answer. However, I do know that for the first time in my life I am fearful we may be entering a cycle that has been repeated for millennia: Jews being successfully integrated into a society, but then ultimately being turned on, despised, denigrated and in many cases expelled or annihilated.

Having succeeded in not only defending itself but prospering beyond all expectations, the Jewish state is being vilified and denigrated in irrational and discriminatory ways. I grew up believing these cycles to be patterns belonging in the dustbin of history and it is alarming to think it could be happening again. Unfortunately, one cannot ignore the sense that, for many critics of Israel, their rhetoric around the nation state is interchangeable with their attitude towards Jewish people in general.

And what does this mean for the Jews of the diaspora, whose support for Israel forms a vital plank, both in their Jewish identity and their confidence that nothing like the Holocaust can happen again so long as Israel exists?

Despite these disturbing reflections, I remain hopeful that the dream of many Israelis and many Palestinians to co-exist in peace is achievable. But we need people of good will to make sure that their views are based on facts, not on slogans.

Paul Rubenstein is NSW chairman of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

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